By Emmanuel Aziken
Proposals to rejig the membership base of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC through a fresh registration cum revalidation exercise is the latest assault on the ascendancy of the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, party sources have revealed.
The move according to the sources is aimed at curtailing what they claim as the advantage that was conferred on Tinubu following his leading role in the merger of the three parties that formed the APC in 2013.
Sources disclosed that the 2014 membership registration exercise put Tinubu in the advantage in the sense that the membership data was put in the hands of his associates which in effect puts the national leader to the advantage whenever membership issues are required.
“Whosoever has the membership register or data base can determine whatsoever happens or candidate emerges,” a source familiar with the ongoing crisis over the bid to conduct a fresh registration exercise said.
“You know how Hope Uzodinma became candidate against all expectations? It was simply by obtaining the membership register through his contacts,” one party stakeholder said apparently referring to a former national officer known to be close to the national leader.
The same scheme directed at Tinubu’s strong hold on the party base was the same script adopted 15 years ago by President Olusegun Obasanjo in dislocating Atiku Abubakar from the base of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP.
At that time in 2005/6, the PDP under the same re-registration and revalidation exercise uprooted perceived and ‘disloyal’ members.
The APC according to sources is also adopting the PDP’s strategy of using committees for the registration. Just as the PDP did, the APC informed sources disclosed will use committees involving persons known not to be inclined towards Tinubu to conduct the exercise.
15 years ago, in the case of the PDP, linkmen who were loyal pro-Obasanjo members and at the same time enemies of Atiku were given the task.
Prof. Jibril Aminu, a legendary foe of Atiku’s was handled the role of linkman in the former vice-president’s state of Adamawa leading to the deregistration of Atiku at that time.
However, those against the registration exercise are also mounting their own challenges to the move. Rumours of a court action to stop the exercise have shadowed the process but the party last week firmly denied any court action against it on the exercise.
A source embedded in the Tinubu camp disclosed that they were not directly opposed to the registration exercise but feared that the exercise would be used to prolong the tenure of the Governor Mai Buni led national caretaker committee.
“What the committee was empowered to do was to organize the party for a national convention, fresh party registration is not part of the mandate,” the source said.
One of those who openly came against it is Comrade Ogenyi Okpokwu whose group, Concerned Members of the APC earlier this month warned the Buni led caretaker committee not to go ahead with the registration exercise.
“This is outright fraud! How can a party that has existed for over seven years commence a new registration instead of updating the existing register. It is now clear that the intention is to divert N1.5 billion the committee has budgeted for the same exercise without procurement process,” he said.
Okpokwu is from Benue State and sources say he has an affinity with Senator George Akume who is a strong associate of the national leader, Tinubu.
On the other hand those supportive of the registration drive have dismissed the critics, with one of those championing the exercise calling the opponents political bandits.
Director-general of the Progressive Governors Forum, PGF, Dr. Salihu Lukman, in a statement denouncing the opposition to the party registration titled, “Campaign against Membership Registration in APC: A Smokescreen for Surrogate Leadership,” dismissed Okpokwu’s assertion as dishonest.
He said, “In this age of banditry, it will appear that some of our so-called leaders are as skillful in politics as the criminal bandits ravaging our communities – towns and villages. We must appeal to these so-called leaders to come back to their senses. For anybody to claim our party’s membership, not even emerge as a leader, the legal standing of such a person must be beyond suspect.
“One will expect any leader of the party with any claim of being a progressive or even democratic politician to welcome the need to have membership registration/verification ahead of the APC National Convention.”
Remarkably, Dr. Lukman is famous for his outstanding position in the anti-Tinubu flank in the APC having played a conspicuous role in championing the exit of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as national chairman.
Remarkably, Dr. Lukman is also known to be aligned to Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, a man who famously came out to say that he doesn’t like Tinubu.
When Obasanjo moved against Atiku one of his associates at that time was Nasir El-Rufai, who was minister of the FCT. However, El-Rufai’s role in the PDP revalidation exercise which diminished Atiku’s role in the PDP remains largely unknown. However, footprint of his men in the ongoing move to cut down Tinubu is apparently everywhere.
Efforts to get a reaction from Mr. Tunde Rahman, the media aide to the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Tinubu were not successful as he did not respond to phone calls and text messages on the issue.