By Tunde Opalana
A top-notch member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Salihu Lukman has warned leaders of the party to jettison desperate quest for power for the entrenchment of internal democracy, Daily Times gathered.
Emphasising that there is no short cut to democratisation, the party chieftain said Internal contests for leadership based on transparent process only can reduce current agitations in the party for elective positions.
Lukman, who is the Director General of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) said part of the challenge facing Nigerian politics today is the difficulty in institutionalising and mainstreaming political competition within parties, including APC .
In a position which does not represent the view of any APC Governor or the PGF , Lukman posited that the absence of competition in Nigerian democracy, especially in political parties is responsible for so many unpredictable political circumstances and is making political leader both unsure and insecure.
He said it is unfortunate that most political leaders are highly resistant to competition. For them, competition should be mainly reduced to endorsement of their leadership and their decisions, including the leadership choices they make.
Dissecting the APC, he said “most of the public speculations around internal dynamics in APC today is basically informed by some strategic political expectations and leadership permutations. Unfortunately, a lot of these permutations seems to be oriented based on an approach that seek to strengthen the capacity of some leaders within APC to conquer the structures of the party.
“When members and leaders of the party, for instance, demand that issues of membership register of the party are resolved such that the party is able to have a credible and verifiable membership register, it is being interpreted to mean that some leaders of APC want to take over the party to promote their political ambition for 2023.
“Take over from who? Does it mean that those who claim to be in control of APC now have any credible and verifiable membership records? Why are they not able to make such records accessible to all party members and leaders?
“Once any party cannot guarantee the existence of credible and verifiable membership records, which is up to date such a party cannot serve as a vehicle for the emergence of democratic leadership. This is the underlying factor facilitating all the current contestations going on in APC. Such contestations are at best marginal in other political parties including the PDP.
“This means that while in other parties established leaders have conquered all semblances of democratic openings for any possible exercise of power by ordinary party members, in APC, no leader can impose himself/herself as the conqueror.
“Without doubt, this comes with a lot of challenges, which include the question of how the absence of a conqueror in APC would guarantee democratic contest, for instance. Would fellow contestants respect the outcome of internal contest for leadership?
“Beyond the absence of a conqueror-leader, there is the need to strengthen internal party rules. Issues of discipline and leadership as well as membership orientation need to be taken seriously. This would require a code of conduct, which should serve as a byelaw to facilitate internal democratic contest within the party, spelling out dos and don’ts”.
Lukman advised that once the party is able to institutionalise internal leadership contests, some of the avoidable distractions based on manipulative strategies using both legal and extra-judicial strategies can be avoided.
He added that most of the needless court cases within the APC, are initiated based on the anger that open and transparent leadership contest are blocked, stressing that a simple legal audit of all legal the cases by party members and leaders against their parties, will show that, the objective is mainly to negotiate leadership positions.
“Even the recent suite instituted by Mr. Hilliard Eta, former APC National Vice Chairman, South-South, against the APC Caretaker Committee, it is basically aimed to negotiate the return of Mr. Eta to the leadership of the APC.
“A major unfortunate collateral casualty of many of the legal cases against parties is the process of democratisation. With a daring mindset of must-win, litigants engage in legal contestations basically to destroy any electoral advantage of the party if they can’t get what they want. This was the case in Rivers and Zamfara state during the 2019 general elections.
“Today, we have so-called party leaders who engineered the APC’s electoral disaster of 2019 in Rivers and Zamfara States, proudly threatening the party leadership with more litigations every time the fear not being able to win recognition as leaders of the party. Instead, of projecting themselves as democrats ready to contest and win or lose elections, we have politicians who are members of APC that are permanent plaintiffs in our courts”, he lamented the effect of the many litigation.
This reality, he said, has created a situation of permanent internal rebellion within APC.
He insinuated that “anyone, interested in contesting or competing for leadership in any of our parties, must be ready to organise rebellion, especially, if such an aspiring contestant is not part of the inner caucus of current leaders”.
The DG explained that the electoral victory of APC in 2015, for instance, could be partly explained based on the refusal of PDP leadership to recognise and respect the yearnings of party members and leaders. He said it was the inability to respect internal yearnings for change that produced the splinter group of New PDP, which eventually joined the merger that produced the APC in 2013.
Charging leaders of APC, Lukman said “the fact that President Buhari is serving his last term, require some strategic succession arrangement within the APC, especially in order to guarantee the retention of all the electoral advantages. With President Buhari clearly out of the race for the position of Presidential candidate of APC in 2023, there is clearly a potential for a big internal contest in the party.
“The question is whether any of the power blocks within the party will take step to block internal contest and therefore emerge as the conqueror. In which case, the issue is really whether the APC leadership will allow the process of democratisation to ensure that leadership emergence both within the party and at wider political levels are determined based on the choices of party members and citizens”.