He has developed into an unstoppable tyrant who relentlessly torments those who, in his eyes, are transgressing the rules of internal democracy, obedience to the constitution, and transparency within his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), which is currently in power. In fact, his message is comparable to that of a John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness for tyrannical party autocrats and dictatorial oligarchs to turn from their sins and embrace the virtues of efficient intra-party administration, transparency, integrity, and accountability in the conduct of party affairs. I’m referring to none other than Dr. Salihu Lukman, the North-West zone vice chairman of the APC.
Before and throughout the current National Working Committee’s tenure, led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu, a former governor of Nasarawa State, he has been a pain in the side of his party’s leadership. It will be recalled that Dr. Lukman served as Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) and was a steadfast and unwavering critic of the all too obvious attempts by the defunct Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), headed by Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, to remain in power and influence the upcoming presidential primaries of the party to achieve a predetermined outcome.
“Somehow, it is difficult not to conclude that the CECPC is intentionally promoting speculations around the APC National Convention by claiming to embark on ‘consultations’ with party stakeholders to prepare the ground for a rancor-free National Conventio,” Dr. Lukman said, criticizing the CECPC for its dubious delays in organizing the party’s National Convention to choose democratically elected party leaders who would then organize presidential primaries. Dr. Lukman’s decision to retire from his role as DG of the PGF in the face of pressure to do otherwise is a monument to his unwavering loyalty to the ideas he believes in.
It is on record that his strident voice was one of the factors which ultimately led to the dissolution of the CECPC and the return of the APC to intra-organizational democratic normalcy. Indeed, as far back as 2020, Dr. Lukman had called for an urgent review of the party’s constitution with a view to instituting a code of conduct for elected and appointed officials of the party as bye-laws to regulate the conduct of party officials. This he said was imperative to ensure the adherence on the part of the latter to party values as well as commitment to the principles of public accountability.
Having emerged as National Vice Chairman for the North-West in the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led NWC of the APC, many would have thought that Dr. Lukman’s crusading zeal would be dampened as he would presumably be content to quietly enjoy whatever largess came his way in that office. On the contrary, his advocacy for efficiency, adherence to constitutional principles, and integrity particularly in the management of party finances has become more intense and impassioned. In this regard, Dr Lukman has consistently been at loggerheads, especially with Senator Abdullahi Adamu and the National Secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore. He has accused both the National Chairman and National Secretary of running the party through discretionary actions often without recourse to members of the NWC.
Dr. Lukman also blames the duo for the failure of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to meet quarterly to review the activities of the APC as well as the NWC as stipulated in its constitution. He also accuses them not only of not ensuring that the NWC meets regularly but also of grounding and incapacitating higher organs of the party. The North-West Vice Chairman also pointedly accuses them of financial opacity and impropriety in the handling of funds from the sale of party nomination forms to candidates for elections at various levels. In particular, he demands from the National Secretary an accounting for humongous funds reportedly voted for the governorship and presidential elections in Osun State which he claimed passed through the latter’s hands. Although Senator Omisore has vehemently denied that he was the custodian of any such funds and even threatened to sue Dr. Lukman, it is unlikely that such allegations would have been made in the first place if there was greater transparency and openness in the party’s internal administrative processes.
In an open letter to Senator Adamu, Dr. Lukman writes, “Being the National Chairman who is respected by party leaders at all levels, it is worrisome that under your leadership, we will be back to the old problems of being unable to respect provisions of our constitution with respect to convening meetings of organs and ensuring that all our organs are allowed to perform their statutory functions as provided in our constitution…By any standard, no one will expect a person of your stature and experience in politics to be taciturn when it comes to managing the affairs of the party based on respect for the party’s constitution”.
Is Dr. Lukman being unnecessarily fussy and querulous, especially in the light of the silence of other members of the NWC who appear content with the status quo? I don’t think so. Indeed, he is a lonely voice of reason. Weak and inefficient internal administrative processes and deficient intra-organizational democracy have been the bane of the major political parties in this dispensation and this has negative implications for productive governance and sustainable democratic development.
Rarely any analyst has discussed the crucial connection between a strong, active, and effective party organization and the level of success and productivity of any administration while determining the agenda for the new President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration. A directionless, ineffectively run political party that serves just as a means for party officials to amass wealth and performs no better than a parastatal appendage to the presidency can bring little to no value to governance.
If it is true that the NEC of the APC has not met for a year, for instance, it is a matter of great concern. If an organ as important as the NEC does not meet regularly to appraise the activities of the NWC, what is the possibility that the party’s Board of Trustees (BOT) will ever meet at all? If that is so at the national level, we can best imagine what will be the case at the state, local government, and ward levels.
When the various organs of a political party do not meet regularly to exercise their functions, it is inevitable that such a party develops organizational arthritis and begins to atrophy and die. The APC since 2015 has not learnt the appropriate lessons from the experience of the PDP. The opposition party’s electoral unraveling of 2015 that propelled the APC to power at the centre did not just happen with unanticipated suddenness. It was the consequence largely of years of ever-increasing stifling of party organs, suffocation of internal democracy, and incapacitation of the party as an impotent appendage of the presidency. The APC can avoid this fate. It should take urgent measures to ensure the resuscitation and vibrancy of its various organs at all levels.
The abysmally poor turnout in elections in this dispensation is partly a function of the organizational docility of the parties particularly at the ward levels. For the APC no less than the PDP, the principal challenge now is to revive and reinvigorate their party machineries starting from the grassroots. It remains to be seen if the Labour Party (LP) that performed incredibly well in the last presidential election, riding on the wings of Mr Peter Obi’s ethno-regional and narrow Christian support base, can consolidate on this feat to become a formidable national political force.
There is, furthermore, an ineluctable link between the governance performance of an administration and the discipline, focus, efficiency and vibrancy of the party platform on which it ascended to power. An incoherent, anaemic and purposeless party platform is unlikely to produce a vigorous, effective and optimally productive government. The enduring admiration for Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s sterling and yet unrivaled performance as Premier of Western Nigeria in the First Republic, for instance, rests substantially on the viable party platform that his party, the Action Group (AG) gave him.
Chief Bola Ige notes that Awolowo prioritized a strong and functional party structure, saying that “Awo had always been a superb political organizer…He closely monitored how the Party’s apparatus functioned. He himself put in a lot of effort. He did not believe in ad hoc committees and decisions, and he made sure that any proposals made to the party were in the form of memoranda and thoroughly discussed. Whether or not he personally supported the proposals during the discussion, he then saw to it that the decisions were properly carried out.
It was no different in the Second Republic when Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria(UPN) was again an exemplar in providing a solid policy platform for its governors in Lagos, Oyo, Ondo, Bendel and Ogun states. Like the AG, the UPN was known for its discipline, efficient organizational machinery, and its unwavering commitment to getting those elected on its platform to faithfully implement its party manifesto. A good example of this is given by the late Alhaji Olatunji Hamzat who was transportation commissioner in the administration of Alhaji Lateef Jakande in Lagos State.
In his autobiography, “Reflections of a Public Man,” he claims that after being chosen as the commissioner for transportation, he contacted the University of Ibadan and hired a consultant to create a transportation plan that would be put into action as soon as he took office. When he wrote, “Ever shrewd and contemplative, the leadership of the UPN had already long written a blueprint for each Ministry even before elections were held,” he was unaware of this.Alhaji Jakande only requested that I do without my consultant. The leadership of the party had not only provided a plan, but also a nonpolitical technocrat to direct and assist in ensuring the strategic adherence to the planned course and the preservation of the integrity of the scripted agenda.
This is the level of party organization and competency that the President Tinubu administration must strive for as the leader of the party under the presidential system of government. He will have little use for a party apparatus that is servile, sycophantic, and ineffective. He should make sure that the party is strong enough organizationally, intellectually, and ideologically to actively participate in formulating and implementing policy. Dr. Salihu Lukman’s suggested reformist agenda needs to be urgently taken into consideration and appropriately implemented by the party.