Lagos GAC: Engendering Party Discipline and Cohesion
As we approach Democracy on June 12, we must remind ourselves what that day symbolizes for Nigeria. We must remember the sacrifices made by so many to bring democratic government to reality for our nation. Lives were lost and blood was spilled. People were jailed and tortured. Some were chased from this land of their birth in abject fear of their lives.
Despite the array of forces against us, the quest for democracy ultimately won because it answered the human desire for freedom and self-governance. Those involved in the quest for democracy may have some differences between them. However, those differences were cast aside in pursuit of the greater goal, that of the advent of democratic civilian governance in place of autocratic military rule.
We must continue in the spirit of that era as much still needs to be done to firmly establish democratic good governance in perpetuity and to ensure that the nourishing fruits of governance are equitably enjoyed and broadly shared among the people. All other political concerns are secondary and should be cast aside in pursuit of this greater goal.
Following the annulment of the June 21 election, a group of progressive, pro-democracy political figures met to establish what we named the Justice Forum. The sole objective of that forum was to canvass for public support to reverse the annulment of the election and to have Nigeria recognize and implement the results of that election. That historic meeting took place in the welcoming home of late Alhaji Obafemi Hamzat in Ogba, Lagos. Prominent and active at the meeting were Alhaji Hamzat, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Otunba Alebiosu, Otunba Dele Ajomale, Bashorun Alabi-Mactor, Alahaji Aro Lambo, Prince Tajudeen Olusi, the late Senator Sikiru Shitta-Bey and his brother late Alhaji Rasheed Shitta-Bey among others.
They resolved to mobilize all relevant associations, including the influential Market Women’s group through the late Alhaja Abibat Mogajii, to protest the unlawful cancellation of the election. We all put away our individual differences to focus on the overriding concern of June 12.
Lagos became a fount of pro-democratic activity. However, to achieve the desired objective, all of Nigeria had to support this struggle. We recognized the need for a Pan-Nigerian body to take on this unprecedented task. Members of the Justice Forum began to traverse the length and breadth of the country, talking to political and traditional leaders in every region of the nation. People everywhere rallied to the good cause we pursued and we opened up our arms to them in full and complete fraternity and singularity of purpose. Through this necessary inclusive process, the Justice Forum enlisted into the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO).
NADECO was comprised of prominent leaders like Chief Anthony Enahoro, late Pa Rewane, late Chief Adekunle Ajasin, late Chief Bola Ige, late Chief Abraham Adesanya, Chief Olu Falae, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, Commodore Ndubuisi Kanu, Asiwaju Tinubu, Commodore Dan Suleiman, Prof Blaji Akinyemi, Prof. Wole Soyinka, etc. We lobbied both domestically and internationally for truth to govern our nation. Amidst the growing protest and agitation against June 12 cancellation, Military President Ibrahim Babaginda was politically weakened. Anti- democratic elements within the military forced his removal, replacing him with a pliant Interim National Government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan. The military hoped the Interim Government with a civilian as its nominal leader would somehow blunt our pursuit of June 12 mandate. However, we would continue unabated in our quest for democratic justice.
During this same period, pro-democracy Senators were crafting a motion seeking the quick termination of military rule, A bi-partisan resolution, endorsed by a heavy majority of senators of both the SDP and NRC, was passed demanding the immediate handover of government to democratically elected president Moshood Kashimawo Abiola.
As a result of our legislative activities and public agitation, Senators, such as Abu Ibrahim, Asiwaju Tinubu and others, and pro-democracy activitists like late Beko Ransome Kuti, late Gani Fawehinmi, Baba Omojola, Femi Falana and some student-activists were hauled into detention. At the point of torture, they were commanded to sign an undertaking recognizing the military government. Many suffered great harm opposing the military intimidation.
Seeing that the civilian façade on the Interim Government had not deterred us, General Abacha unceremoniously ousted Shonekan and stepped into the role of full-fledged and blatant military dictator. He squeezed down hard on dissent. To speak was to put life in grave danger.
Some of the activists including Asiwaju Tinubu, Alani Akinrinade, Hon. Wale Osun, Tokunbo Afikuyomi, Dele Momodu, etc had to depart the country for exile before they were captured and put into torture. Mr. Kayode Fayemi who was in Cambridge joined in the United Kingdom. They nevertheless continued the struggle for recognition of the June 12 election, which for a long time was considered the fairest election in Nigeria has conducted. At home, Chiefs Enahoro, Ajasin, Adesanya, Adejumo, Baba Onasanya and others continued with courageous fight as well.
During this time, Justice Forum ewas the fulcrum of pro-democratic activity in Lagos. Then on June 8, 1998, General Abacha suddenly died. General Abdulsalam Abubakar took over as head of state. Extending the olive branch to all pro-democratic activists, General Abubakar promulgated a universal pardon, allowing those in exile to return home without fear of military retribution.
Abubakar established a one-year transition programme culminating in elections and a handover to civilian government. Given the false promises before suffered, a debate brewed within the pro-democracy camp, particularly within the Justice Forum. The debate was whether the group should participate or not. In the end, some chose not to take part. Justice Forum elected to participate. As such late Senator Shitta-Bey, late Senator Wahab Dosunmu, Asiwaju Tinubu, etc showed interest in the Lagos governorship seat.
To advance his interest in the governorship race, Asiwaju Tinubu established the Mandate Group within the defunct Alliance for Democracy. When a consensus candidate could not be arrived at, the AD leaders called for primary election. With the support of that Group, Asiwaju won primaries with a landslide and emerged the AD candidate for the Lagos governorship election. He also subsequently won the governorship, and was inaugurated Lagos governor on May 29, 1999.
We provided this background in order to explain the circumstances that led to the births of both the Justice Forum and Mandate Group and to properly situate their places in our political evolution. These two groups were formed to achieve important but temporary goals. The groups were not ends in themselves.
Attempts were made in the past by the Tinubu administration to unify and reconcile the two groups by appointing members of each group into his cabinet. Several meeting were also held to eliminate divisions that could hurt the party if left unattended.
For example, the Governance Advisory Council was constituted as an important party mechanism to deliberate over important matters so that such matters are decided by dialogue and compromise, not by fiat. The GAC was comprised almost equally of leading members of both JF and MG and as such the GAC has repeatedly decided to shun factional groupings and eliminate divisions within the party.
We recognize that membership in a political party is mostly cooperative but also competition is inherent. For the party’s nomination to any given position there is only one winner; but there can be multiple aspirants. They will compete and there must be some basis upon which that competition is founded.
While we expect all Party members to have the same general political outlook and philosophy the truth is some members will gravitate more to certain members, than others. This is true of any human community of any large number. There is a tendency to form subgroups. While this has some positive aspects it also has dangers if left unrestrained. Such groups are necessary when it comes to primaries call for.
However, we cannot allow such groups to become permanent identifications that rival what should be the primary identification as a party member. If we allow factionalism such sway, we not only weaken the party, soon those who should see each other as brothers and sisters in the same party will view each other with increasing enmity as rivals instead of members of the same political family.
If you are preoccupied with factional infighting, you will have little time for the hard work of progressive governance. In fact, you will eschew this work which is the true essence of our existence. You would have turned us into just another political party. However, we did not suffer through the dangers and pain of the pro-democracy movement for our party to disintegrate in such a manner. Too many of us sacrificed too many for empty factionalism to taint the fate of the party.
We announced on many occasions at Consultative Forum and other fora that such permanent factional groupings breach the spirit, letter and history of our party. While members are allowed to create ad-hoc groups to canvass support during a party primary or to advance some identifiable policy initiatives, we can no longer afford any permanent factions particularly when the factions bear no true ideological distinctions but serve merely as vehicles to foster and advance ambitions at the sacrifices of party cohesion.
In consideration of the above, the leaders of the party held a meeting today. At that meeting, it was un equivocally resolved that all factions like JP and MG are inimical to party unity are hereby permanently disbanded and prohibited within the party.
Party members should no longer make use of these factions or their names with regard to future party business and activities. To continue to hold meetings in the name of these groups or to continue to promote such associations with amount to a violation of this resolution.
The only permitted use of the names will be limited to historic references. Any violation of this decision is subject to party discipline, including suspension and expulsion. This prohibition extends solely to official party business. We are in no way trying to abridge anyone’s constitutional rights to free speech or assembly. The party chairman is hereby tasked with promulgating more detailed regulations with regard to prohibited and permissible activities for sub-party groupings.
The party remains supreme. It has developed structures from the ward level to local government and state levels. These are recognized by the party’s constitution. They are adequate platforms for members to congregate and to present their views.
The APC in Lagos is one party and one family. We must always act in spirit if we are to attain the dream of democratic prosperity that we set out to achieve. We must do this in honor of June 12 and those who gave up themselves to make democracy our reality.
1. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu
2. MG Babajide Sanwoolu
3. MDG Dr. Obafemi Hamzat
4. H.E. Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola
5. Prince Tajudeen OLuyole Olusi
6. Otunba Henry Oladele Ajomale
7. Otunba Bashuru Alebiosu
8. Prince Abiodun Ogunleye
9. Omoba Murphy Adetoro
10. Card (Dr) James Odunmbaku
11. Senator Tony Adefuye
12. Alhaji S.A. Seriki (BAMU)
13. Asiwaju Olorunfunmi Basorun
14. Prince Rabiu Oluwa
15. Chief M.A Taiwo
16. Alhaji Mutiu Lawal Are
17. Dr. Yomi Finnih
18. Omoba Muyiwa Sosanya
19. Prof. Tunde Samuel
20. Rt. Hon Adeyemi Ikuforiji
21. Chief Rasak Lanre (KLM)
22. Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Adisa Obasa
23. Alhaji Babatunde Balogun
24. Mr. Wale Edun
25. H.E Dr. Mrs Ranti Adebule
26. Chief Mrs. Kemi Nelson