The APC conducted its congresses recently across the country as one of its constitutionally requirements as it prepares for its non-elective national convention on a date yet to be decided by the party several months after the leadership had said it will do so in April of this year.
As it is natural in any process of this nature, emotions and tempers were high even as there were issues which arose from complaints by members of the party who did not agree with the party on those who will eventually represent their zones during the convention. With this the state was set for different forms of confrontation because of the implication and import of the process in the long run.
This has continued to generate reactions till date even as various party leaders from the states to the national level have continued to ventilate anger on the process some term skewed.This has generated so much heat within the polity they the acting President, Yemi Osinbajo had to meet with all state chairmen of the party, ostensibly to find a lasting solution to the issues so raised arising from the process.
The delegates who will eventually attend the convention are, for all intents and purposes meant to ratify and confirm vacant positions who will serve for the next two years of the life span of the current leadership and ratification on some sections of the constitution which has been amended to suit the needs of the current challenges that has arisen within the party in recent times. Any change to the leadership structure is expected only at the elective convention of the party.
But there has however been fears that the process may be hijacked and the unexpected may play out should the contending forces have the upper hand over and above the current National Working Committee (NWC) under the leadership of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun which has indeed come under increasing fire recently for the way and manner it has handled and piloted the affairs of the party.
At the state levels especially where the governors are of the APC stock, this is a chance to flex muscles and ensure that they are the party leaders within their states (a popularity test of sorts). This delegate list is not one-off that will be used for other conventions which would have made it a do or die affair. The list ends with this non-elective convention as another process to select another during the elective convention will have to hold ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Just as the process went seemingly seamless in some states, the same could not be said about others even as doubt were rife in others that it never held at all.
In Enugu for instance, the process opened more wounds as the fall out of the congresses in state seemed to have generated disagreements between chieftains of the party. A message circulated by the party’s state acting secretary, Okolo Julius, informed party members and the general public that the APC Congress in the state was inconclusive.
The more noticeable ones were the Kaduna and Rivers congresses that ended in widespread violence. The incident occurred last Sunday during a press briefing by some aggrieved members of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The briefing was organised to address concerns of misconduct after some protesting youths allegedly disrupted the exercise.
Youths were said to have gone on rampage at the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) secretariat, the venue of a press briefing after aggrieved Party members led by Senators Shehu Sani and Suleiman Hunkuyi alleged that the Congress did not follow the laid down procedures.
However, the state Party executives at a separate briefing insisted that the congress was held in accordance with the APC guidelines and was monitored by five national officers of the party who came from Abuja.
There were tensions also in Rivers State as hundreds of party faithful protested what they said was an attempt to rig the elections and submit hand-written names of delegates.Senator representing the Rivers South East Senatorial District, Magnus Abe, however, told journalists that the party would resolve its differences.
This is also as the member representing Ikwerre/Emohua constituency in the House of Representatives, Elder Chidi Wihioka, his counterpart, representing Tai, Oyigbo, Eleme federal constituency, Dr Barry Mkpigi, and former Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice under former governor Chibuike Amaechi, Mr Wogu Boms, have called for the outright cancellation of the result over what they described as fake congresses, insisting that no congress was held last Saturday in any ward of the party in the 23 local government areas of the state. “Our position is that there was no congress, no election held in any part of the state. Whatever result was released as coming from the congress should be cancelled and a fresh congress slated,” Wihioka said.
The state Party’s Publicity Secretary on his part, had dismissed the claims that names were hand written.
Interestingly, three days after the issues arising from the congress had festered, the leadership of the party in a release condemned the reported cases of violence pertaining to the Party’s state congresses held to elect delegates for the planned national non-elective convention.
While noting that most of the state congresses were peaceful and conducted in compliance with guidelines and directives given by the Party to the appointed congress committees, the APC found cases of violence in Rivers and Kaduna States quite disturbing.
The Party equally regreted and condemned the attack on the National Union of Journalist (NUJ) Secretariat in Kaduna which resulted in injuries of two journalists saying it will investigate the reported cases and take necessary action in line with the Party’s constitution against whoever is found culpable just as it added that where grievances have been reported, the Party shall examine such cases and address them accordingly.
This was not after one of its front line chieftains and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, came down hard on the party as he publicly described its activities in recent times as undemocratic.
Atiku who further chided the leadership of the party over its inability to organize the statutory meetings for its organs, said that the lack of internal democracy has made the party and others parties turn into bullies.
The former Vice President specifically called attention of the APC Deputy National Chairman (North), Shaibu Lawal, who represented the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who was on the high table to take note of his speech while making his submission to the gathering at the 2nd Inter Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC) annual conference in Abuja, which centered on internal party democracy.
Atiku said: “For a number of years now we have had political parties, even governing ones, which hardly hold meetings of their important organs, including those meant for the democratic selection of their leadership, or even constitute institutions prescribed in their Constitution.
“In the absence of those meetings and elections, their existing leadership, often under the direction of the Executive at the state or federal level, fill the void. That’s not party building but party bullying. And it’s certainly not a way to democratize parties and aggregate their members’ opinions, interests and aspirations.
“This means that efforts to deepen Nigeria’s democracy must include efforts at democratizing our political parties. The institutionalization of democracy in our internal party processes will help us deepen democracy in Nigeria. Leaders are more likely to tolerate opposition from citizens and other parties if they tolerate it within their own party.
“The lack of internal democracy in political parties is one of the reasons for the fraught relationships among parties and their elected representatives and the legislature and the executive. The loyalty of some in the legislature and executive lies not with the party but with a godfather who sponsored them, and the godfather may even be in a rival political party. Such anomalies will reduce if internal democracy flourishes in our political parties, and by extension the wider society.
“The selection of leaders in a democracy is a serious business because so many other things ride on it. Whenever we get it wrong the nation or a part thereof suffers. We must strive to get it right most of the time. And it is the voters who should freely make that determination. I therefore thank the IPAC for organizing this conference and for inviting me to chair it,” he noted.