Director-General Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) Salihu Lukman has said the All Progressives Congress (APC) is tilting towards the alleged impunity of the Peoples Democratic Party in the running of its affairs.
He also called on Governor Mai-Mala Buni Caretaker/Convention Working Committee to set up a constitution review committee and present proposals for amendments to the Extraordinary National Convention.
Lukman said this Sunday in a statement in Abuja that beyond proposals for constitutional amendment, there was the urgent need to consider developing proposed code of conduct for elected and appointed officials of the party as byelaws to regulate conduct of party leaders.
He said the code of conduct was necessary in order to prevent situations whereby party officials would not abuse their office and conduct themselves in manners that could undermine the party’s commitment to the principles of public accountability.
APC as ‘bullying’ party
While arguing that the APC has not been progressive in actions, he said, “almost all the negative characteristics associated with the PDP and all the other parties became dominant features of APC. Most of the leadership conflict in the party, across all the 36 states bordered on issues of who controls the structures of the party so much that political bullying is now assuming a major feature in the APC.
“Anyone who criticises or makes remarks that are not in sync with what leaders want propagated, get bullied and at the slightest opportunity such persons are pushed out of positions they occupy, especially if it is an elective position. With all these, hardly any contest takes place. All that keeps emerging is conflict even when we are expected to have elections.
“Being a progressive party would require that APC is able to redress this problem, especially given the commitment to ensure that the party is dynamic, action oriented and ensuring that we are able to bring about improvement in politics, government and the conditions of life of the generality of our people. Why should a progressive party shy away from debating issues affecting the party.
“Why should politicians who claimed to be progressives and committed to rendering services to citizens be threatened by fellow party members who only attempted to diagnose the problems of the party? Why should any party leader imagine that anyone who advocates for opening the party up to wider participation by citizens through membership recruitment and ensuring the establishment of credible and verifiable membership register is an agent of imagined political opponent? Why should any politician disparage opposition to political contests? Is politics not all about contestation? How can there be contestation without opposition?
“A major gap created by the current orientation of political parties in Nigeria with perverted political behaviour which confer prerogative of membership recruitment to political leaders is the barrier that is making it almost impossible for parties, including the APC, to serve as vehicles for citizens’ participation.
“Once APC continue to operate as a closed party, its progressive credentials will remain only a claim of its leaders and anyone who challenged it will be bullied. APC can only be progressive if it is able to encourage and promote competition within the party as a prelude to electoral contests.
“The absence of competition has reduced, predominantly, the business of the party not to focus on issues of managing governments based on capacity of party members to contribute to initiatives of governments controlled by the party especially with reference to agricultural development, jobs creation, education, health, infrastructural development, poverty eradication and rapid technological development.”
Calls for support for Buni c’ttee
Canvassing support for the Buni-led committee, the PGF boss called on party supporters as well as patriotic Nigerians sympathetic to the cause of APC to assist in putting the party on the path of progressive politics.
He said: “As it is today, APC is the only party with the potential of promoting progressive politics based on ensuring that the party is able to put in place credible and verifiable membership register as the basis for membership and citizens’ participation. The management of the membership must be such that it makes it easy for records to be updated and accessed.
“For the party to guarantee participation, processes of leadership emergence should be transparently democratic involving wider scope of members. Beyond electing leaders, the internal rules of the party should be strengthened to ensure that all party organs are made functional and the conduct of party leaders, including elected and appointed officials, are regulated to ensure that they project truly progressive conducts and credentials.”
Lukman asserted that, being progressives should mean that APC leaders were taking all the measures required to ensure seamless political contests within the party as a result of which political conflicts are giving way to healthy political contests.
“This would suggest reversal in the process of decline of the party. Should this become the new reality, the APC then could begin to transform itself into a mass-oriented party with expanded membership, developing relationships with organised interest groups.
“Are these going to be the issues for debate as we move towards having a national convention to elect new leaders of the APC? Or are we going to submit ourselves as party members to the antics of political bullies whose only mission is to force every party member to silence and allow structures of the party to be manipulated to produce candidates for 2023? Time will tell.
“The struggle to make APC a progressively democratic party must not be surrendered to forces of reaction acting as political bullies”, he said.
Unlike the PDP, however, he said the party “needs to be recognised that in terms of accommodating dissent within the party, APC is more liberal, largely because President Buhari truly ‘belong to everyone and belongs to no one’.
“Many have criticised the liberal disposition of President Buhari when it comes to the issue of internal party management and present it as the problem of the party. This is wrong and instead, in fact, it is the democratic strength of the APC, which is making it stand out as the only party in the country with political contests taking place.
“The major issue is that instead of manifesting as political contests, we are having political conflicts. How can we ensure that what we are having in the APC is political contests and not political conflicts? This is the big task ahead of APC leaders to ensure that the party is truly a progressive party.
“It was because of the very singular liberal disposition of President Buhari that made it possible for the struggle against the arbitrary conduct of the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC to get to the level of democratically dissolving the NWC and appointing the Mai Mala Buni Caretaker/Convention Working Committee. But is that enough to guarantee that the APC will be opened up to wider participation of members?”
“Given that the most important mandate of the Mai Mala Buni Caretaker/Convention Working Committee is to organise a National Convention where a new leadership will be elected, what are the steps required, which the Mai Mala Buni Committee should take to ensure that the national leadership of the party that will emerge are not nominees of potential Presidential candidates?
“The best way to check whether new leaders are nominees of potential Presidential candidates could be perhaps whether they emerge from electoral contests. How fair was the contest and to what extent could the issue of credible and verifiable membership register support the process of electing the new leadership of APC at the coming national convention? A very credible process should be recommended to sprout from membership registration/verification.
“This should mean that immediately following the membership registration/verification, party Congresses at ward, local governments and state levels hold to elect new leadership. This will have the advantage of ensuring that some levels of political negotiations are activated within the party to facilitate the emergence of new leaders.
“It is possible that the process may still tilt in favour of some of the emerging power blocs within the party. However, if managed very well, it will be almost impossible for any single power bloc in the party to comfortably dominate the structures of the party across all the 36 states of the country and FCT. This will help to humble all the potential aspirants especially for the 2023 Presidential election, thereby democratising power in the APC. Because power is democratised, no one person can monopolise leadership and therefore impose himself/herself as presidential candidate of the APC.
“As a result, the issue of monopolising membership register such that it is the candidates that produce party members will begin to be minimised. Also, the party can bounce back and become appealing to citizens,” Lukman further explained.
Senate spokesman blasts PFG boss
Meanwhile, Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs Ajibola Basiru (APC Osun Central) has taken a swipe at the PGF boss for criticising the APC’s handling of the ongoing gubernatorial election campaigns in Edo state.
In a personally signed statement Sunday in Abuja, Senator Basiru described Lukman’s criticism as defeatist, cowardly and treacherous.
Lukman had recently carpeted the party’s handling of the Edo crisis which led to the exit of Governor Godwin Obaseki.
He also condemned the involvement of erstwhile APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole at the party’s open campaign in the state.
Condemning the position, however, Senator Basiru asked the PGF to immediately called Lukman to order for the ‘disparaging’ remarks about the party.
“People who really have nothing useful to contribute to the ongoing campaigns should desist from making remarks that will discourage genuine democrats who are working for the progress of APC and the nation”, he said.
Basiru said Lukman’s position amounted to conceding electoral victory to the opposition before casting the first ballot and that no true progressive minded individual ought to nurse this kind of negative view point.
“The approach advocated by the DG that Oshiomhole should be withdrawn into the background is cowardly, weak and at the best defeatist as well as treacherous.
“How can anyone withdraw his best asset when needed most? .We shall be indulging in self- delusion if we say Comrade Oshiomhole is not important or central to the ongoing campaigns, especially when the opposition has made him the focus of their campaign,” he added.
The lawmaker also said: “It is disturbing for a progressive to take the position of Salihu berating your own party publicly as ‘beating the drums of war’ and so awarding conceding victory to your opponent before the actual contest.
“The view of the DG that Pastor Ize Iyamu is an onlooker in his own election is also not correct because Ize Iyamu is sufficiently popular and had been in political limelight in the state for years. In fact, we fought ‘tooth and nail’ to defeat him in the last election.”
He therefore advised the PGF boss to rid himself of the anti-Oshiomhole sentiments running deep among his haters and allow him to perform his legal and fundamental rights of canvassing for the candidate of his choice, especially when those against him have nothing, absolutely nothing to contribute.