Ahead of the 2023 general election, the Director General of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Lukman, has has asserted that no leaders whether in All Progressives Contess (APC) or outside the party can claim to be in control of 5 million votes.
According to Lukman, only President Muhammadu Buhari has such a personal blessing that made him attract at least 12 million votes in all the elections he contested since 2003.
The PGF Director General who made this observation in a statement, said since the emergence of APC, apart from the personality of President Buhari, no leader can be sure of emerging a candidate of the party for any election.
He noted that as the President is serving his last term, APC requires some strategic succession arrangement especially in order to guarantee the retention of all the electoral advantages.
Lukman emphasized that with 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.
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“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.
“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?
“There is no short cut to democratisation. Internal contests for leadership based on transparent process are irreducible minimum. 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.
“Once we are able to institutionalise internal leadership contests in APC, some of the avoidable distractions based on manipulative strategies using both legal and extra-judicial strategies can be avoided. Absence of democracy within our parties has not only blocked open leadership contests but is criminalising political aspirations.
“Most of the needless court cases within our parties, including the APC, are initiated based on the anger that open and transparent leadership contest are blocked. 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”, he stated.
Lukman noted that the recent suite instituted by Hilliard Eta, former APC National Vice Chairman, South-South, against the APC Caretaker Committee, is basically aimed to negotiate his return to the leadership of the party.
He said: “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.
“The most important question is, are we developing our parties to serve as institutional platforms to confirm that party members and citizens are the source of political power? Or are we going to allow a situation whereby some few party leaders continue to hold every available space for leadership contest in our party in captivity, based on which they are able to impose themselves and their proxies as candidates for elections? This is the dynamic playing out in APC. To the extent that such dynamic is making almost every leader and party member in APC uncomfortable, it project the democratic possibilities in APC.
“This means that no one can say with every confidence that this is the leader that will be thrown up at the end of the exercise. The associated question is whether our leaders in APC are democrats ready to engage the process by presenting their aspirations and take every step to win the contests through attracting votes of fellow party members? Or will they instead take steps to sabotage the democratic opening up of the party, using every means, including judicial process?
“In the end the struggle for justice and democracy will always triumph. The contest for leadership everywhere and at levels of human society is real and given. Democracy is indeed a way of life!”.