Salihu Moh. Lukman
Your Excellencies, I want to sincerely express my gratitude many party leaders for tolerating me all these years. Conscious of the fact that I have often taken provocative positions regarding developments within the APC, but despite that many party leaders have been very receptive. I am very humbled and challenged to remained committed to the growth and development of our party. I am convinced beyond all doubts that our party, APC, represent both the present and the future of democracy in Nigeria. APC is not just the ruling party, as it is today, it is about the only party that permit strong internal contests, not just during elections, but even when there are no elections.
Without going into details, this was what defines our experiences between 2019 and 2023. In fact, those strong internal contests were the critical success factors for the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria today. No doubt, President Asiwaju Tinubu provided the needed leadership both as a National Leader and as our Presidential candidate for 2023 elections. The expectation of many party leaders and members is that the emergence of President Asiwaju Tinubu as the successor to former President Muhammadu Buhari would enable us to reform the party and return it to its founding vision of becoming a progressive party.
I wish I can say with confidence that our party is going through such a reform. Sadly, instead of reforming the APC to return it to its founding vision, we are consolidating and emerging as a malfunctioned and despotic party organisation, which is increasingly becoming a replica of the PDP by every passing day. In addition, we today have an APC that is completely in contempt with its own rules. None of the organs of the party is functioning in line with the provisions of the Constitution. Partly because structures of the party are not functioning in lines with provisions of the APC constitution, leaders of the Party are not accountable.
Recall that issues of lack of accountability and refusal to allow structures of the APC to operate in lines with provisions of the APC Constitution were the main disagreements we had with Sen. Abdullahi Adamu when he was the National Chairman between April 2022 and July 2023. These are issues that are again rearing their ugly heads under the leadership of Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje. Beyond these issues, there are also the problems of funding facing the leadership Dr. Ganduje.
At personal level, I have tried to present recommendations to Dr. Ganduje, including a funding proposal for the party. Painfully, I am not able to convince him and the leadership of the party to consider some of the recommendations and proposals. Or, at least, I am not able to get any feedback that my proposal is worthy of consideration. As things are, it is also very clear that access to Dr. Ganduje is becoming narrower and narrower. In the circumstance, one is left with no option but to conclude that I am only being tolerated.
I have been a member of APC since its formation. I was privileged to be a member of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) before the merger and was one of those who started public advocacy for the merger as far back as April 2012. No doubt, because one had summoned the courage to give honest advises to our leaders, including former President Buhari and current President Asiwaju, I only had remote relationship with these leaders. Somehow, many people close to these leaders consider me antagonist, largely on account of many of the provocative recommendations one had make. For instance, I was one of those who campaigned that both the two leaders, former President Buhari and current President Asiwaju Tinubu, should not aspire to emerge as the Presidential candidate of APC in 2015, if the merger negotiation is to succeed.
After the merger, I was opposed to former President Buhari emerging as the Presidential candidate of APC for 2015 for the simple reason that combining moral authority with statutory responsibility of being President will undermine the capacity of party leaders to influence his decisions. That has come to pass and today, the model of leadership we are presenting to Nigerians is for serving Presidents to combine moral authority with statutory responsibility. Some may argue, this was also the operative model under PDP.
Possibly, yes. But was that not what we wanted to change? Again, recall that prior to the emergence of APC in 2013, problems of lack of internal democracy and the overbearing manipulation of candidates selection process for elections was a source of frustration for Nigerians. Almost all registered political parties, including our legacy parties, operate as closed shops whereby so-called Godfathers are the proprietors of the parties. These so-called Godfathers monopolised the emergence of candidates at all levels.
APC emerged with the promise of change. And most Nigerians interpreted this to mean changing the paradigm, which determines the emergence of candidates. Perhaps, in 2014, ahead of the 2015 general election, there was a slight shift in paradigm, which was more liberal and participatory. Between 2015 and 2023, increasingly, APC was corrupted, and Godfathers took over virtually all the processes of candidates emergence. The only exception was the case of the emergence of the Presidential candidate.
Of course, in the case of the emergence of the Presidential candidate, there were attempts to impose a candidate other than Asiwaju Tinubu for the 2023 Presidential election. Many party leaders and members rose to the occasion and resisted the attempt. Good enough, we succeeded in defeating the attempt to impose a Presidential candidate. Interestingly, even after that, forces of reaction within the APC attempted to both sabotage and undermine the electoral prospect of the APC and all its candidates, especially Asiwaju Tinubu who was the Presidential candidate. After that was defeated, with Asiwaju Tinubu emerging as the President-elect, we had the irritating experiences of cohabiting with a party leadership that was antagonistic to the leadership of Asiwaju Tinubu.
At a time when it was convenient for many to do sit-down-look, some of us rose to the occasion and campaigned for the removal of Sen. Abdullahi Adamu and Sen. Iyiola Omisore from the leadership of the party. Speaking for myself, I did so not based on any expectation of being rewarded. In fact, if anything, I thought the leadership of President Asiwaju Tinubu would prioritise returning the party to its founding vision of becoming a truly progressive party. This should have been the best reward for our sacrifices and courage to resist the reactionary attempt to undermine the leadership of President Asiwaju Tinubu. It was with this in mind that I expressed the ambition of remaining in the party leadership.
Events since the resignation of Sen. Adamu and Sen. Omisore on July 17, 2023, suggest that President Asiwaju Tinubu’s priority may be different and may not include returning the APC to its founding vision. Having openly expressed my disagreement about some of the decisions taken, including the emergence of Dr. Ganduje as the APC National Chairman, I don’t expect everyone, including President Asiwaju Tinubu to support all my actions. The least, however, I expect every party leader, including President Asiwaju Tinubu, to acknowledge my contributions both to the development of APC, as well as the emergence of President Asiwaju Tinubu as the APC Presidential candidate and eventually as President of the Federal Republic.
I am not making any claim and I am not demanding anything extraordinary. My expectation is that President Asiwaju Tinubu and all his appointees, especially those saddled with the responsibility of managing his relationship with party leaders and members, should do so with humility and respect to other party leaders and members. As things are, it would have been more rewarding if one had been antagonistic, or opportunistic to the person of President Asiwaju Tinubu. When, for instance, party leaders who were boisterously opposed to the Presidential ambition of President Asiwaju Tinubu are today appointees in the Federal Government, and in the case of Governors such as Sen. Hope Uzodinma, who financed the attempt to manipulate the emergence of Sen. Ahmed Lawan as the consensus Presidential candidate of APC, emerging as the Chairman of Progressive Governors beat the imagination of every founding leader of APC, and in every respect heartbreaking.
I have attempted to reach out to many people who are adjudged to be close to President Asiwaju Tinubu, in the hope that one can can make recommendations that can convince President Asiwaju Tinubu to prioritise reforming the APC. At the minimum, it should not be too much to have the expectation that returning the APC to its founding vision of becoming a progressive party should be the priority of President Asiwaju Tinubu. I am only able to succeed in meeting Dr. Ganduje, Chief Bisi Akande, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Dr. Ganduje is the current National Chairman, and the three others were all former National Chairmen.
Apart from explaining circumstances leading to my decision to resign as APC National Vice Chairman North-West, I presented to them my perspectives both in terms of recollections of the internal struggles within the APC leading to the emergence of President Asiwaju Tinubu, as well as what needs to be done to reform the APC. These are documented and contained in my forthcoming publication, APC and Transition Politics. I have shared the manuscript to these party leaders and was hoping that eventually President Asiwaju Tinubu will agree to write the Foreword to the publication. In fact, Dr. Ganduje agree to assist to convince President Asiwaju Tinubu to write the Foreword. With the hope that both editing the manuscript and negotiation to get the Foreword from President Asiwaju Tinubu will be concluded in about two months, I projected that the public presentation of the publication can take place around the end of November 2023.
The idea of the public presentation was more about facilitating some forms of public engagement around the future of our party, APC, and by extension, the future of democracy in Nigeria. As an active member of the party, and someone who has been in the forefront of the struggle for democracy in Nigeria since 1980s, one could see that gradually and systemically, we are crashing to the point where PDP was before 2015. Disappointingly, we are getting to a point whereby, once you are marked as someone whose views are not in agreement with the priorities of elected leaders, access is blocked.
As things are, work on the manuscript APC and Transition Politics has been concluded and I am confronted with a brick wall. Access to both President Asiwaju Tinubu, Dr. Ganduje and many of the appointees close to them is hardly available. It is my hope that President Asiwaju Tinubu will write the Foreword. It is also my hope that both President Asiwaju Tinubu and all our elected and appointed representatives today, will always remember that the struggle to reform the APC and return it to its founding vision predates the emergence of President Asiwaju Tinubu as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If anything, President Asiwaju Tinubu provided leadership to that struggle and deservedly, he is today the main beneficiary.
Therefore, let it be known, blocking access to President Asiwaju Tinubu, or refusal of President Asiwaju Tinubu to be accessible will not end the struggle for the reform of APC. Both President Asiwaju Tinubu and all his appointees must recognise that, indeed, reforming the APC is an integral part of the struggle for the development of Nigerian democracy. APC emerged in 2013 with the historical mission of changing Nigerian politics such that our parties are internally democratic. Incontestably, both former President Buhari and current President Asiwaju gave us the needed leadership to inspire Nigerians into believing and committing their votes to the APC.
Eight years after, we are still on the starting line. APC is becoming more and more a replica of PDP with all the negative attributes. We have spent eight years under former President Buhari motionless, in terms developing the needed initiatives for party building. Are we also going to experience another era of zero initiative for party building under the leadership of President Asiwaju Tinubu? Where is then the claim of being progressives? Where then is the justification or any link to being an awoist?
It is no doubt agonising and troubling that President Asiwaju Tinubu is starting his leadership tenure of APC by sending a very strong disturbing signal that reforming the APC is not his priority. Because reforming the APC is not his priority, out of all the leadership materials available to the party, Dr. Ganduje is his best candidate. Having achieved producing Dr. Ganduje as the National Chairman, whether party organs are functioning or not, it is not President Asiwaju Tinubu’s headache. It was also the reason why even if the emergence of Dr. Ganduje meant marginalisation of the people from North Central in both the party and the Federal Government, it is not important.
Perhaps, we need to remind President Asiwaju Tinubu and all APC leaders about Frantz Fanon’s timeless warning to the effect that ‘Each generation must, out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.’ President Asiwaju Tinubu and all APC leaders must be reminded about that APC founding mission of changing Nigerian politics, which is basically about internal reforms within our parties to facilitate the emergence of candidates for electoral contest through democratic means. President Asiwaju Tinubu and all APC leaders must not indulge themselves to imagine that simple defeat of PDP and producing former President Buhari and now President Asiwaju Tinubu as Presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria equates to the political change Nigerians are desirous of.
So long as APC will allow a situation that could be interpreted to mean consolidating the old political paradigm that promote lack of accountability and imposition of leadership, it means betrayal of the founding mission of APC. We can deceive ourselves to imagine that we can continue to succeed in emerging victorious in elections and successful leaders surround themselves with sycophants who only tell them what they want to hear, it will not change the reality of betrayal and it will not protect leaders.
As loyal party members, we will continue to campaign for the reform of APC and the reform of party politics generally in the country. Having access to leaders is an advantage. But it is never the sole determinant for a victory. For more than four decades we have been in this struggle. We will remain in the struggle for as long as we are alive. May Allah (SWT) guide President Asiwaju Tinubu, touch his heart to make him appreciate and commit himself to reform the APC based on enlighten self-interest! Amin!
*Salihu Moh. Lukman