The deputy national publicity secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Yekini Nabena, has berated the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, over his demand for the cancellation of the ongoing membership registration and validation exercise in Kwara State.
Mr. Nabena advised the minister to put himself in the position of the governor and submit to his leadership of the party in Kwara.
Mr. Mohammed had at a press conference on Monday in his hometown, Oro, said the committee supervising the exercise in the state should also be disbanded.
He accused the committee led by a senator, John Danboi, of condoning irregularities, saying it has taken the side of Governor AbdulRazaq in the crisis that has broken the party into four factions in the state.
The factions, which Mr. Mohammed referred to as “four tendencies” are the Fagbemi group, named after Mr. AbdulRazaq’s Chief of Staff, Adeniran Fagbemi; Lai Mohammed group; Akogun group, led by a former Chief Whip of the State House of Assembly, Iyiola Oyedepo; and Gbemi Saraki group headed by the Minister of State for Transportation.
“After the botched attempt to have a meeting of stakeholders, due to orchestrated violence, the Registration Officials failed to consult with all stakeholders before the commencement of the membership registration exercise, opting instead to work with only one of the four tendencies here in Kwara, the Fagbemi Group to which the Governor belongs, thus excluding the three other tendencies – The Akogun Group, the Gbemi Saraki Group, and the Lai Mohammed Group, without which the ‘O To Ge’ Movement would not have succeeded. Ironically, the Fagbemi Group is the weakest of the four tendencies,” he said.
Mr. Mohammed said the reports from the monitoring teams showed that they did not comply with the rules.
According to him, the implication is that “the registration is being carried out without Party Membership Register, while temporary membership slips, to be signed and detached from the forms after registration, are not being given to those who have purportedly registered.
“According to our findings, since the commencement of the registration, over 80% of the registration units do not have either membership register or membership registration slip.”
Citing specific cases, the minister said in Baruten LGA, registration materials were handed over to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly who is from there.
“In Oyun, the materials were given to one Olayiwola Ojo, a member of the State House of Assembly. In Shao, in Northern Kwara, the registration materials were taken to the police station, where the DPO of that station presided over membership registration, in contravention of the party guidelines.”
Instead of using the party’s membership registers, conniving registration officials are using exercise books or foolscap sheets to register members, he said.
Newsmen confirmed that some lawmakers and the governor’s aides wrote their details in exercise books or foolscap sheets, in clear violation of the guidelines.
The minister said the actions of the Danboi-led committee were a “deliberate policy of exclusion by the Registration Team from Abuja and their collaborators to de-register even high-ranking members and stakeholders.”
Reacting to the minister’s outburst, Mr. Nabena said Mr. Mohammed should submit to the leadership of the governor in the state instead of condemning the registration exercise.
“It is not business as usual. Nobody can monopolize the system. The minister should submit to the governor. He should put himself in the position of the governor too,” he told this newspaper on Monday.
On discrimination in the distribution of materials, the party spokesperson said there was nothing of such.
“No one is using notebooks. There is a party register in every unit across the country,” he said despite multiple pictures proving him wrong.
Also, the spokesperson of the party in Kwara, Tajudeen Aro, said the minister had been fed with lies.
“The minister is not (resident) in Kwara State. He is only being fed with lies. There is no one hoarding registration materials. That was how he was able to get his registration done. I don’t know what informed his suggestion to cancel the registration.
“The registration is going on well and canceling it is not possible,” Mr. Aro said.
Asked about cases of members denied access to the party register, Mr. Aro said: “If there are places where that is happening, it is most likely because of security concerns. But I can tell you that there is no place where people are denied to write down their names.”
Mr. Danboi and the spokesperson of the governor, Rafiu Ajakaye, did not respond to telephone calls and text messages from this newspaper to get their comments for this story.
It should be noted that alleged irregularities in the distribution of materials were one of the major reasons for the indefinite suspension of the exercise in Delta State.
The development in Kwara has as its backdrop a rift between Mr. AbdulRazaq and a group of party leaders led by Mr. Mohammed.
It recently escalated when Bashir Bolarinwa, who is loyal to Mr. Mohammed, was removed as the party chairperson and replaced with Abdullahi Samari.
Although the national body and executives of the North Central zone of the party have intervened in the matter, they are yet to achieve reconciliation of the warring members.
This newspaper also reported how some aggrieved members of the party headed to court to challenge the sack of Mr. Bolarinwa and the ongoing registration exercise.
Observers said the lingering crisis threatens the membership registration and revalidation exercise which began last Tuesday.
Many also feared that if not resolved, the crisis might thwart Mr. AbdulRazaq’s chances of securing a second term.
But Mr. Nabena said the crisis does not pose a threat to the unity of the party in any way.
“It does not pose any threat. We disagree to agree. Both of them will get to a point where they will eventually agree,” he said referring to the governor and the minister.