There is palpable fear amongst opposition parties that the planned nationwide membership registration and revalidation by the All Progressives Congress (APC) may be a calculated attempt to bandy figures that could be used to manipulate the outcome of coming elections, especially the 2023 general election.
They therefore, called for transparency in the registration and revalidation so as to make the number garnered at the end of the exercise verifiable for all concerned to interrogate ahead of the general election and other off-season polls.
Their fear is not unconnected with the outcome of the 2019 general election in which the Presidential candidate of the APC, Muhammadu Buhari scored 15.19 million votes which were 349,775 above the 14. 84 million votes he got in the 2018 primary election of his party.
APC had in 2018 conducted direct primary election to nominate Buhari for a second term ticket and he polled 14, 842, 072 votes which the returning officer and Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi said signalled the President’s victory at the general election.
Kayode had said: “that gives you a pointer to what we are going to have in the 2019 elections. This is the registered votes of the registered members of our party. We are not talking about other Nigerians who will vote for the president in the general elections”.
True to Kayode’s prediction, Buhari had won the 2019 Presidential election with just 349,775 over the 14. 84 million votes he got at the primaries, to defeat his main challenger, Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who scored 11. 26 million vote.
Again, ahead of the 2023 general election, APC is perfecting plans to conduct nationwide membership registration and validation in the 119,973 Polling Units and 57, 000 Voting Points across 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The exercise, which was rescheduled from December 12, 2020 to the second week of January 2021 on account of several factors, including the Christmas and End of Year celebrations; BusinessDay gathered would now hold from January 25, 2021.
Chairman of the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) and Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni had said the reason for the exercise was because the inability of the party to put in place a working structure for continuous membership register updates and new membership drive was responsible for some of the conflicts that have caused the party major losses in multiple states and in a number of elections.
However, a Chieftain of the party privy to the plan who does not want to be mentioned confided in BusinessDay that the exercise was an attempt to increase the party support base that could span to over 30 million members to ensure continuity beyond 2023.
He said the focus would be more on the South/East geopolitical zone where APC has low support base and has not won Presidential election since it debuted in 2014, adding that with membership more than 30 million, there would be less controversy if the party won the 2023 general election.
“The cardinal objective of the forthcoming membership registration, update and revalidation is to ensure that our party has more numbers before the 2023 general election. The concern is to get more members from South/East where we have lost both the 2015 and 2019 general elections.
“Just look at the results of the last 2019 election, our candidate Buhari won in Bauchi, Borno, Ekiti, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Osun, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.
“The PDP candidate, Atiku won in Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Imo, Ondo, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Taraba and the FCT. If you check very well, APC won no state in South/East, so we must make sure we register more members there,” the APC Chieftain maintained.
While APC hinges the membership registration and revalidation on increasing its support base, National Secretary of Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Peter Ameh, expressed fear that figures arising from such exercise could be used to juxtapose whatever outcome an election brings.
Ameh said: “For us a party registration should be transparent. At this time I don’t see any party that has up to 15 million registered members. There could be party supporters who believe in the idea of a candidate, those who believe in the philosophy of the party but are not card carrying members.
“Registration of a political party is supposed to be a continuous and an ongoing thing but what we ask always, they should be transparent so that figures should not be used as a means to be able to juxtapose whatever outcome an election brings. So these are the fears of most of us.
“Let it be transparent, let it be open, let the data be that journalists who are the fourth estate of the realm and the opposition can interrogate the data of the membership. Let it not be that we have 20 million voters and nobody is able to interrogate the reality”.
Solomon Gbenga, deputy national youth leader of Young Progressives Party (YPP), argued that the membership registration and revalidation may be a basis to get fictitious numbers that could be used to rig the 2023 general election by the APC as the party is losing popularity because it has failed Nigerians.
“All Nigerians at this point have seen the reality and there are many Nigerians among the 15 million who voted Buhari (APC) would actually agree to vote for Buhari now. APC has failed all Nigerians, both young and old. After the registration a lot of them are going to defect. Last time, the party rigged elections because even card carrying members did not vote for Buhari and APC. A lot of people will register but they will see the truth and come to other parties like YPP,” he said.