From Ismail Mudashir, Saawua Terzungwe (Abuja) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)
Fresh facts have emerged on why the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the founding Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, among others, oppose the ongoing membership registration of the party.
Beyond the reasons the two leaders have stated, sources around them said suspicion of a sinister motive by the current leadership of the party was the main reason Akande and Tinubu are against the exercise.
The National Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee under the leadership of Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State has commenced the nationwide exercise to update the registers of the party across its chapters.
The committee was constituted in June last year after Adams Oshiomhole, an associate of Tinubu, was sacked following the crisis that enveloped the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
Informed sources told our correspondent that Tinubu and some chieftains suspect an agenda aimed at hijacking the party from some of them.
Daily Trust reports that Akande had last week faulted the registration exercise, describing it as an aberration.
On Saturday, Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State, aligned with the position of Akande, his political associate.
Tinubu, who spoke on Channels TV after revalidating his membership, said, “Since we have a foundation and that foundation is on which the structure up till the present was built at the time of the registration of this party, I will not fault Baba Akande’s position; I will not but endorse it.
“What we are doing now is a matter of addition and subtraction, free entry and free exit. You have joined a particular party; you have decided to leave that party. You have equal opportunity for new members to join and update the existing register of the party.”
He described the exercise as an update and revalidation of all its membership, adding that despite the APC witnessing several congresses and exits, it had complied with the nation’s Electoral Act.
Buni, however, insisted that the on-going membership registration exercise was constitutional and strategic.
The caretaker chairman, in a statement on Thursday by his Director-General, Press and Media Affairs, Mamman Mohammed, argued that the exercise would assist the party to generate valid, accurate and up-to-date data of its members to enhance and support its planning process.
But stakeholders loyal to Tinubu said while they would participate in the exercise, they are sceptical of the intention of the caretaker committee of the party.
One of them said the mandate of the committee was very clear: ‘To pilot the process towards the emergence of a new leadership of the party’.
The chieftain who does not want to be named said: “membership registration was never part of it and we were never carried along when the decision to conduct fresh registration of members was taken. That is why we are being sceptical about the whole process. “
Another chieftain of the party, a popular Tinubu loyalist who was contacted for comment, said Asiwaju had told them not to comment on the issue.
The Tinubu loyalists also view the registration exercise as a plot to edge the former Lagos State governor out of the race for the party’s presidential ticket. It is widely believed that Tinubu is eyeing President Muhammadu Buhari’s seat come 2023.
Exercise not targeted at Tinubu – Sen Abu Ibrahim
A founding member of the party, Senator Abu Ibrahim, however, said there is no cause for alarm.
“People do not understand the operation of the party. The registration has nothing to do with the selection process. The selection process is, in some cases, direct primaries but the majority is done through delegates.
“Delegates are not the consequences of registration; not every registered member participates in the primary election. Since they are using delegates and a lot of them are official delegates, no cause for alarm.
“It is not necessarily targeted at Tinubu or anybody but the registration is not the one that will produce a candidate. People are making noise but supporters of Tinubu should not be frightened by this,” he said in a phone interview.
Meanwhile, a member of the APC National Caucus, Chief Sam Nkire, has told Daily Trust in a telephone chat yesterday that all party members have the right to express their opinions.
He, however, argued that the exercise was not skewed towards frustrating the 2023 political ambition of any APC stalwart, but was conceived to add value to the APC ahead of the next general elections.
He said the consensus within the APC was for the registration to continue, despite opposition by a few party leaders, adding that after the exercise, the party would become stronger.
Nkire, who said the exercise was part of preparations and efforts by the party at winning the 2023 general elections and retaining federal power, stressed the need for all party chieftains to key into it.
A chieftain of the APC in Lagos State, Mr. Fouad Oki, said while he held Akande in the highest esteem as a foremost leader of the party, he would not align with his position on the ongoing registration.
He said: “ Baba Akande cannot deny that whereas all registers of the party were forwarded to Abuja that the Southwest was kept at somebody’s office or somebody’s store. In the light of that, how do you come out to say that the new reform or a reset is an aberration? “
Also speaking, a former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who is now a chieftain of the APC, Barrister Abdullahi Jalo, said Akande’s position was contrary to the provisions of the law.
“He is speaking on behalf of somebody who is afraid of this membership drive, which may likely not allow him to contest for the 2023 presidential ticket,” he said.