How godfathers influenced APC membership registration


The battle for the soul of the APC has entered the second stage. The first phase ended with the 12-day registration of new members nationwide that ended last Wednesday. The exercise provided an opportunity for the key players and stakeholders, as well as influential blocs in the leading opposition party to test their strength and assert their dominance and control over the structure of the party at the grassroots.

The shape and form of the power tussle among the major stakeholders varied from state to state, in view of the individual strengthens of the legacy parties that coalesced into the APC in 2013.  While the flexing of muscles by some desperate few has continued unabated after the end of the membership registration exercise, other caucuses are either counting their losses or waiting with a baited breath on how the APC leadership handles some complaints as part of the fallout of the registration.

The APC registration in the state went on peacefully in the Edo North and Central senatorial district. The same thing could not, however, be said of the exercise in the Edo South senatorial district (Benin zone). Infighting among leaders of the party was responsible for this.

By the time incumbent Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, completes his second term tenure in 2016, the zone is widely favoured to produce the next governor of the state, though the third zone, the Edo Central (Esan zone) only tasted power through former Governor Oserheimen Osunbor, for 18 months before being removed from office by the Appeal Court. This was after Lucky Igbinedion, a Bini man from Ovia North East Local government had ruled as the governor of the state between 1999 and 2007.

With the calculation that no party will attempt to present a non-Bini man as its governorship candidate ahead of the next gubernatorial election in the state in 2016, governorship hopefuls from the Edo North zone, expectedly, chose to test their might through the recently concluded APC membership registration. In the list are the deputy governor, Honourable Pious Osubu, a former SSG in the administration of Governor Lucky Igbinedion and South-South deputy national chairman, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and the incumbent Commissioner for Works, Hon Osarodion Ogie.

The first two days of the registration were tense. The later part of the exercise in the zone was less rancorous, but political points had been proved and points scored before symptoms of orderliness became observable. Before the winners and losers of the registration emerged, age-long political tools had been deployed to beat each other to the game. There were also reports of violence, particularly in Orhiomwon Local Government Area where the duo of the deputy governor and Ize-Iyamu hail from.

The Odubu and Ogie groups were seen as the winner of the registration in the Edo South senatorial district. That is not to say that the duo are working together as they are eyeing the same goal. While Ogie had a relatively easy ride in his Ikpoba Okha council, the same could not be said of Odubu, who has Ize-Iyamu to battle. At Urhonigbe, Odubu's community, there were reports of gun shots as his loyalists battled those of Ize-Iyamu for the control of one of the biggest communities in the council.

Some APC leaders in the council had a rough time getting their APC membership cards. Some of them are the lawmaker representing Orhiomwon Constituency II in the Edo State House if Assembly, Honourable  Friday Ogieriakhi, and his predecessor, Hon Ogbeiwi Etiosa.  The two are said to be loyalists of Ize-Iyamu, hence the treatment meted out to them. The victory over the Ize-Iyamu.

Perhaps, due to members of the victorious camp were able to check “outsiders” from gaining vital control. Such was the victory recorded by the Odubu camp that the chairman of Oredo Local Government Area, Honourable Osaro Obazee, could not easily register his name because of his alleged loyalty to another camp.

Another politician, who did not have it smooth during the registration exercise was a former governorship candidate of the All Nigeria's Peoples Party (ANPP), Solomon Edibiri, whose party fused into the APC.

According to a newly registered member of the APC in Edo, the winners of the election have a lot to gain while the losers have so much to lose. “This is what determines leadership.

Whoever is able to register his followers now, technically will have an upper hand in terms of the control of the party. This is the time you know who owns the party. This is where rigging or lobbying at the level of primaries starts.  That was what played out. Whoever won during the membership is naturally placed to win during the units, wards, local government and state congress.”

The leadership supremacy between a former deputy governorship aspirant of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria [ACN], Alhaji Abubakar Usman and a former governor of Benue State, now Senate Minority Leader, Senator George Akume again to the fore during the registration exercise in Benue. Although, the conduct of the exercise was relatively peaceful in a number of centres visited in Makurdi, the state capital, Alhaji Usman was quoted as saying it was a ruse.

Alhaji Usman (aka Young Alhaji) told the Nigerian Tribune that the exercise was hijacked by cronies of Senator Akume, adding that “the APC membership registration exercise in Benue State is a sham; people who wanted to register were disenfranchised because the materials were hijacked by the people foisted on the party by Chief Akume.

“For instance, the body language of Akume since the emergence of the party has shown that he wanted by all means to hijack the party by imposing on us one of his cronies, Tarkema as the chairman of the Harmonisation Committee; some of us raised objections to this because we foresaw what was going to happen.

“Now, the body saddled with the responsibility of handling the registration exercise in the state headed by Tarkema who has never been a member of party machinery in the defunct ACN and other members, cornered the materials and only hid in a room, filling the forms. This was what happened in Benue State. They denied many people who wanted to register.

“We moved round the designated centres to register, but no one was seen around. We make calls; they did not respond to our calls. For a whole week, nobody knew where they were carrying out the exercise and this happened across the state,” Usman claimed.

However, the state chairman of the defunct ACN, Honourable Abba  Yaro  said contrary to Usman's claim, the exercise went on smoothly across the state, stressing that people freely turned out to register. He added, “Every registration form was taken to the designated unit with people trooping out to register. The materials were distributed to supervisors; the process of the exercise was free and devoid rancour. It was a success and we are happy with the turn out.

Yaro said it was improper for Usman accuse Senator Akume of fostering anybody on the party. Rather, he said Akume believed in consultation with the elders and stakeholders of the party before taking any action, insisting that Akume remained the leader of the APC in the state.

Before the exercise, activities within the APC in Sokoto State had occupied the centre stage of political discourse. Thanks to the political rivalry among some titans from the state over who controls the APC machinery in the state. Some observers claimed the politics of the state was no longer determined by the ideology but by the concept of political god-fathers.

According to them, politics in the state has become the main occupation of mostly the unemployed who look up to political god-fathers for succour. The trend played out in the membership registration of the APC in the state where people who directly have Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko as their political god-father, any local government council chairman or member of the state Executive Council or Special Adviser as their political mentors automatically registered as members of the party so as to keep their faith and loyalty with their political bosses.

For some weeks, the members of the state EXCO as well as special advisers were in a constant touch with the people of their respective localities trying to literarily brainwash them on the need for them to join the APC.    This ensured a massive turn-out for the registration exercise to the extent that the state commissioner for Information, Malama Nasir Dna'Ladi Bako told news men after the state EXCO meeting held at the Government House that the APC members exhausted the 100 cards provided at each registration across the state and that the EXCO had to deliberate on the need for more cards to enable other prospective party members to register.

Recently, former EXCO of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Sokoto-Central zone including former PDP EXCO's of the eight local government areas making up the zone dissociated themselves from the action of the senator representing the area in the National Assembly Senator Ahmad Muhammad Maccido to remain in the PDP.  Their spokesman and former chairman of the PDP for the zone, Alhaji Kabiru Hali accused the senator of betraying their political mentor, Governor Wamakko for attending the recent PDP national rally to officially welcome a former governor of the state, Attahiru Bafarawa to the PDP from the APC.

Initially, the leadership tussle in the APC in Kaduna State had affected an early take-off of  the membership registration. The chairman of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the party in the state, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed claimed some lawmakers from the state belonging to the party felt threatened by the position he occupied and that if the registration held with him as the IMC Chairman, perhaps it might not augur well for the future plans in the state.

According to him, “Since we started work, we had no problem, but the moment we began the process of creating local government and ward committees, which is within our terms of reference, a few legislators mostly from the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) began to cause the problem. They insisted that we should not create a level-play field for all the parties, they wanted things to be done their own way to protect their own political ambitions. So, we expected that the authorities in Abuja, who gave us the mandate to run this party, let us know who should run this party.

“Is it the people, who are legally and legitimately elected that have the mandate who should do it or is it this nine or 10 legislators who came from Abuja to cause the problem? So, that is basically what the problem is. If they did not fix this problem, it is beyond our powers; we can't continuously fight legislators.

“Look at the situation now, it is getting out of hand, they virtually succeeded in getting millions of people not registered. It is either Abuja comes in and helps us in resolving this problem or we leave these people who are stopping millions of people from being registered with the people. Let the APC members in Kaduna know where the problem is coming from; we would leave them with the people.”

This problem had made Baba Ahmed to tender a resignation letter, all in the interest of the party  but that could not be, as the 23 local government caretaker committee  chairmen of the APC  in  the state, reaffirmed their unflinching support to his leadership .

The treasurer of the APC in Ikara local government area of the state, Alhaji Ado Turaki said they were solidly behind Baba Ahmed's leadership and assured that they would cooperate with him in order to move the party ahead in the state.  Baba Ahmed recalled that some people wanted to provoke him to leave the party  and it was as a result that “I decided to step aside; but since the Interim Management Committee at the state level pressurised me to come back,  I accepted to continue with the leadership of the party and we are now going to work harder.”

Another chieftain of the APC  and former Minister of the FCT, Malam Nasir el-Rufai  assured that the APC national headquarters would soon resolve all differences in the state APC. He said, “the national leadership, in few a weeks time, will provide solution. But the truth remains there is leadership crisis in Kaduna but God willing, it will not be difficult to address. As a member of the National Interim Committee from Kaduna, we are working tirelessly to address the problem.

“As you can see, the problem of power tussle in Kaduna has not affected the registration exercise in the state. Whether it is Dr Hakeem or any other trustworthy person that is the leader, the masses will follow and vote for the party. The masses are in love with the party but as I said as leaders we must rise up to address the issue which is more of a selfish interest by some people. We are preparing for the election in some states that are holding their gubernatorial elections this year.”

In Lagos, the party registration exercise was flagged off by the National Leader of APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, at Ikeja area where his late mother and Iyaloja-General of Nigeria, Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji resided.

With the flag-off done by Tinubu, the registration commenced in 8, 465 Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)-recognised polling booths across the state. The exercise was conducted in public places, including schools during school hours, as well as government offices and buildings, among others, a development that drew the ire of the state chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which tagged the action of the party as confirmation of the very low premium it (APC) placed on education in the state.

In a statement, its publicity secretary, Mr. Taofeek Gani, had queried, “How can a responsible political party choose public primary and secondary schools to play partisan politics, Wit: conducting its membership registration exercise and especially during school hours. Surely, they do not mean well for our children in public schools.”

But when contacted by Nigerian Tribune, the spokesman of Lagos State APC, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, who said he was not willing to respond to the PDP outburst, merely accused the PDP of losing focus and had nothing to offer to the people. “It is funny, they can't think,” Igbokwe said.

While the party registration exercise lasted, an interesting scenario also played out in the political circle to suggest to any observer that the party looks beyond the exercise, in particular, the 2015 elections. For instance, the party had before the commencement of the exercise targeted a total of 20 million members across the country. It later upped the figure to 23 million at the commencement of the exercise before jerking it up to 29 million. The country's total voting population in 2011 was around 36 million.

The PDP tackled the APC based on the perceived belief that there was more to the exercise. According to the PDP national publicity secretary, Olisah Metuh, the APC was targeting a bogus figure from its membership registration in order to allow it fault the 2015 election results by the INEC if they were not in its favour.

On the whole, it was apparent during the membership registration in Lagos that the APC was not ready to leave anything to chance. So, the registration centres were not only found almost everywhere in the state, but also adorned with posters, calling on Lagosians to register with the party.

Findings showed that the Lagos State House Assembly was on recess during the period, just as the chairmen of local governments and local council development areas embarked on aggressive public mobilisation for the exercise.

Further findings have also shown that due to the perceived gains that people saw in the registration, and perhaps based on the ceaseless public campaign launched by the APC, some people, including businessmen and civil servants chose to have the party's membership card in case they might need to curry government's favour in the future.

The exercise took place in more than 1,400 polling units spread across the 147 electoral wards in the state, with a large turn-out of prospective party members. Despite the defection of some of APC bigwigs, particularly members of the National Assembly to the major opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the exercise still went on smoothly.

The state interim chairman of APC, Stanley Buba, however, in an interview, said the state APC got a concession to start early because of the local government election scheduled for March 15, 2014 in the state.

Also speaking with Nigerian Tribune, a chieftain of the party, Aliyu Bello, said the registration exercise was an improvement from the previous ones conducted by the PDP in the state. “The exercise was successful; it went on at the polling units. It completely eliminated the power of ward officials, who usually manipulated the party register for selfish ends,” he alleged.

A twist   occurred in the registration exercise in Niger State, as a serving councilor in one of the local government areas in the state was reportedly beaten up on the orders of a chieftain of the APC. He was allegedly beaten up, following complaint of inadequate supply of   registration materials to a ward in the council area.

He claimed he was pounded by hoodlums and dragged on the ground with the view to put him inside a vehicle in the convoy of the party chieftain.

There were allegations that some members of one of the main legacy parties that formed the APC were shortchanged during the registration exercise in some parts of the state.

With the death of Second Republic Senate Leader, Senator Olusola Saraki, his son and two-term former governor of Kwara State, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the senator representing Kwara Central Senatorial district, assumed the leadership of the Saraki dynasty. He recently led majority of the PDP members in the state to defect to the APC, owing to alleged factions and impunity in their former party.

Some members of the PDP in the state, notably the Presidential Adviser on Ethics and Privileges, Sarah Jubril, Senator Simeon Ajibola, among others, re-grouped to make PDP formidable again.  Consequently, at the Agbaji area of Ilorin metropolis, which is the family residence of Senator Saraki and the political leader of the state, a horde of the APC supporters, including the youth, trooped out to see him register as a APC member. Speaking at the event, Saraki said the journey to bring about change in the state and Nigeria had commenced with the APC registration exercise. «Today I am here to register as a bonafide member of APC. It is of great joy that this journey has got to this place.”

Also speaking after his registration, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Honourable Razak Atunwa, blamed mass defection of the people of the state to the APC on impunity and bad governance of the PDP administration at the centre.

But as the APc was rounding off the membership registration in Kwara, a former governorship candidate and chieftain of the party, Alhaji Muhammed Dele Belgore, defected to the PDP.

In Ogun State, the registration exercise across the 236 wards was done without interference from the state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; national leader of the party, Chief Olusegun Osoba or any member of the party in the National Assembly. There was, however, an accusation by a few leaders of one of the legacy political parties constituting the APC, the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), of some irregularities associated with the registration. In a statement signed by Godwin Odeyemi, on behalf of the caucus, they alleged that members of the SIA group, the governor's camp, were placed in charge of membership registration in most of the units in the state. According to them, the action of the members loyal to the group could threat the success of the forthcoming party congresses in the state.

However, the chairman of the Registration Committee, Honourable Niyi Fabikun, said pointedly that there was no claim of disenfranchisement levelled against the committee by any former members of the defunct CPC. He added that the committee received enough materials from the national leadership of the party to record a resounding success. He admitted that a problem was identified in Ijebu North Local Government and was rectified as a matter of urgency.

Cross River
The APC registration exercise in Cross River State was disrupted by some alleged agents of the ruling PDP in the state. In  Abi Local Government Area,  there were allegations of an attack on APC registration officers  by suspected thugs. A chieftain of the APC, Mr. Hilliard Eta, told Nigerian Tribune that more than 100 thugs armed with machetes and cudgels descended on the APC registration officers and destroyed registration materials. Also in Odukpani local government area, it was alleged some thugs invaded a registration centre and destroyed materials meant for the exercise.

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