Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Director-General of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Moh. Lukman, has demanded for a code of conduct for elected and appointed officials to check the increasing spate of criminal conduct of party leaders.
Setting agenda for the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee in a statement he issued in Abuja, the PGF DG also suggested constitutional amendment as a way of strengthening internal party rules enshrined in the party’s constitution.
Writing on the title, ‘The future of progressive politics in Nigeria’, he argued that the code of conduct has become necessary to prevent situations where officials of the party will not abuse their office and conduct themselves in manners that could undermine the party’s commitment to the principles of public accountability or stretched to issues bordering on criminal conduct.
Enumerating some of the measures the committee should take to reposition the party, the PGF DG, wrote: “Many have criticise the liberal disposition of President Muhammadu Buhari when it come 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 to 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 Planning 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 Caretake Committee is to organise a National Convention where a new leadership will be elected, what are the steps required, which the 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 monopolised 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.
“The other associated possibility is that the phenomenon of political bullying could be reduced since the problem of monopolising party membership is being minimised. But this will require that individual members of the party are able to assert themselves and ignore the threats of political bullies. It just means that courageous members are able to rise above the desperation of accessing political offices.
“This is a hard call that could be suicidal for many party members. Beyond the courage of individual party members however, the party should consider taking all the appropriate steps to strengthen internal party rules as provided in the constitution of the party. Given all the experiences, so far, it is only logical that the Mai Mala Buni Caretaker Committee is able to setup a constitution review committee and present proposals for amendments to the Extraordinary National Convention.
“Beyond proposals for constitutional amendment, there is 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. This is necessary in order to prevent situations whereby officials of the party will not abuse his/her office and conduct himself/herself in manners that could undermine the party’s commitment to the principles of public accountability or even get stretched to issues bordering on criminal conduct and the probable extension of strategies of political bullying to include the deployment of state law enforcement machinery and officials against fellow citizens and party members,” he noted.
The DG further argued that the ruling party has not been truly progressive in actions, stressing: “Thereafter, 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 control the structures of the party so much that political bullying is now assuming a major feature in the APC.
“Anyone who critise or make 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 elective position. With all these, hardly any contest take place. All that keep 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 advocate 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,” the DG noted.