The Director-General, Progressives Governors Forum, PGF, Salihu Lukman, has said that the APC was more united in 2015 when former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, former governors Rabiu Kwankwaso and Rochas Okorocha and many others teamed up to ensure the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Lukman stated this on Monday in Abuja during the public presentation of his new book titled: “APC and Progressive Politics in Nigeria”.
The director-general, therefore, urged the APC leaders to return to era of unity and holding of regular meetings without criminalising those with opposing views.
He said: “Part of what is needed in the circumstance, is to remind our leaders that one of the factors that ensured that our leaders were united, which made the electoral victory of 2015 possible was that they were meeting almost on weekly basis.
“It wasn’t factional meetings, all our leaders attended almost all these meetings and they respected every decision.
“I can recall with nostalgic feelings that between 2013 and December 2014, President Buhari, Alh. Atiku Abubakar, Sen. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Sen. Owelle Rochas Okorocha were in attendance in virtually every meeting.
“The only person who later emerged as a presidential aspirant under the party but wasn’t at such meetings was Mr. Sam Nda Isiah.
“This was perhaps because he wasn’t qualified as a political stakeholder to be among those to be invited,” he recalled.
The PGF boss also said APC needed to demonstrate its progressive credentials by putting in place a credible and verifiable membership register.
“I will continue to remind our leaders that at no time did any of our leaders who aspired to emerge as presidential candidate get criminalised.
“As a very junior appointee of the party, some of us even took hard-line public positions against the aspiration of President Buhari for instance.
“But at no time did President Buhari or any of the other leaders who aspired to be the party’s presidential candidate made it an issue. They related with all of us with the full knowledge of our public position.
“Perhaps, the remarks by our leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in January 2013 during the public presentation of my first publication 2015 Manifestation of Nigerian Opposition Politics capture this point.
“Asiwaju clearly expressed his disagreement with positions I canvassed in the publication, which was against both President Buhari and Asiwaju expressing presidential ambition during the merger negotiation.
“The truth is, our leaders were united because they exhibited high level of tolerance, which contributed to making the party attractive. These are progressive credentials which the party and our leaders must return to.
“In addition, there are other issues that should define the progressive credentials of the party, which are highlighted in Chapter I, Chapter XI and the Epilogue.
“Between Chapters II to X, other functional issues related to operational challenges and management of political dynamics were the focus.
“The approach is basically to simulate contestation based on relying on knowledgeable presentations. Most of the issues in the book are already in the public domain. The book only pulls everything together and presents them as integrated position with logical conclusions.”
According to the PGF boss, making APC to emerge as a truly progressive party will require that our leaders at all levels are able to tolerate each other and as well as tolerate members and Nigerians at large.
“The price of leadership most time includes the expensive reality of being able to serve as the refuse dump. Most times, as party members and ordinary citizens, even when we claim to have knowledge, we exude the arrogance that we have the right or even power to dictate to our leaders.
“The language, therefore, becomes hostile and can only repel our leaders from considering proposals or recommendations. The burden before all of us now, especially in APC, is to be able to develop the right communication atmosphere, which should make proposals attractive to our leaders.
“My aspiration has always been to serve as a progressive scholar. I can’t claim any success. But I am glad to be in a challenging environment in APC and my approach is simply to justify being in the position I am with reference to my intellectual contributions, no matter how little.
“Although with the risk of being accused of promoting the political interests of Governors and party leaders, I believe that my sincerity in terms of managing the challenge will continue to save me.
“Again, being privileged to work with Governors who are broad-minded enough to appreciate the need for intellectual engagement in responding to our political challenges, we will continue to overcome all attempt to project any argument of disloyalty based on proposals or recommendations.
“Besides criminalising fellow party leaders and ordinary members like myself, we set ourselves on a course for self-destruction.
“We helplessly witnessed situations where sections of our leaders decided to abandon their original vision of working together, tolerating each other and ensuring that a collective leadership pilot activity of the party.
“In the circumstance, our leaders stop holding meetings and instead factional activities based on strategies to impose decisions and present it as party supremacy became the dominant approach.
“It is a big challenge to get our leaders to change that. It took the intervention of President Buhari on June 25, 2020 to facilitate the resolution of a big existential problem confronting the party.
While calling for credible and verifiable membership register, Lukman said: “Credible and verifiable membership register should be the foundation for internal democracy within the party.
“Secondly, our leaders should work to win the votes of party members in order to emerge as candidates. Difficult as it is, we need to begin to develop strategy that move our leaders away from the strategy of controlling party structures through imposing leaders in order to emerge as candidates for elections. This is virtually the source of almost all internal conflicts.
“The third and perhaps final issue is that of leadership succession. As a progressive party our leaders need to begin to move to a situation whereby leadership succession arrangements at all levels are planned and criteria for leadership recruitment are set.
“At this moment, leadership succession is based on individual decisions of current office occupants and is prone with a lot of challenges.
We need to appeal to our leaders to kindly give this very close consideration. No specific proposal is made but it is a matter, which if our leaders are able to revive the 2013/2014 framework of regular all-inclusive meetings without the criminalising posture around possible ambitions of leaders, these matters could be debated, and some minimum strategy put in place.
“Like I mentioned at the beginning, operationalising APC’s brand of progressive politics is a dynamic issues and we need to approach it with the needed open mind to be able to contribute in a way that endears the party to Nigerians and gives confidence to every member to promote the party as the embodiment of political future of the country.
“This is a big challenge, which unfortunately many party members try to reduce to cheap propaganda of simple expression of support for positions of party leaders and our government.
“Beyond expression of support, I want our leaders and our party to succeed in resolving all our political challenges. Often times, to succeed will require that we are very honest and able to convince our leaders about the limitations of their actions or inactions.”