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Salihu Lukman and the thankless job of reforming the APC



I would conclude with the response of Senator Ibikunle Amosun to Adams Oshiomhole’s diatribe at the book launch: “Adams Oshiomhole conducted one of the worst primaries in the history of Nigeria’s contemporary politics and ended up shopping for his own enemies, leading to his eventual removal as chairman of our party.


One thing everyone was agreed upon is that Salihu Lukman, the famous trade unionist turned politician is a very stubborn man. For almost a decade, he has been very steadfast, focused and committed to transforming his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) into a democratic, ruled-based, open, people-focused and people-led party that would set the highest standards in internal party democracy.

Six books and hundreds of memos, letters and pamphlets later, the party has not changed and Lukman has not deviated from his laser-focused advocacy to change it. On Tuesday, he invited the party, comrades and friends to the public presentation of his latest book – ‘APC and Transition Politics’.

To the surprise of many, the APC National Chairman, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, was there for the occasion. Surprise because Lukman had campaigned vigorously against the imposition of Ganduje as party chairman, setting aside established rules and procedures of the party and the tone of his campaign was quite hard on Dr Ganduje.

I found a lot of the discussions at the launch rather trivialised the importance of Lukman’s contribution to internal (and external) party debate by focusing on Lukman’s allegedly excessively critical language while addressing party leaders which many find irritating and annoying.

My analysis is that Lukman’s language is truthful rather than sycophantic and we must all see talking truth to power as the only path to democratic development.

I agree with the argument made by former Ekiti governor, Kayode Fayemi, that Lukman’s advocacy is vital for party building and ensuring that the party becomes a political instrument for the common people who should own it. He added that the party should see Lukman as its conscience rather than an adversary that tells them what they don’t want to hear.

Dr Fayemi recalled that at some point, his APC governor colleagues in the Progressive Governors Forum ganged up and sacked Lukman from his position as director general. It is pleasing that some Nigerians in exalted positions will risk their positions on matters of principle. Lukman’s next position was in the party as national vice chairman, North West, and he resigned voluntarily last July to give himself more opportunities to continue telling the truth to party leadership.

It was in this context that discussions at the book presentation focused on Lukman as remaining faithful to his personal history of being more of a political activist than a politician. His desire is not for getting positions but for articulating the correct position. He has, therefore, not changed from when I worked with him to defend the Abiola Mandate following the June 12, 1993 elections when I was chair and he was secretary of the Kaduna Alliance for Democracy.

His entire career as a trade unionist was also focused on defending the rights of workers and linking their struggles to the wider ambition of advancing democratic development.

Lukman’s core concern is that political parties must behave in ways that are respectful to democratic norms as well as their constitutions and policies so that they would attract members whose aspirations and interests must always be their priorities. Failure to do so would lead to the gradual death of the parties as they lose touch with their base.

His ambition is to see the ruling APC return to its foundational vision of a progressive party that advances the interests of the ordinary Nigerian rather than remain at the level of the primitive accumulation of wealth for the self-aggrandizement of the leadership. This is a noble position to take. The real question however is whether this party, the APC is not too far gone along the path of “money politics”, and that it is too late for it to reform to save itself. If this is indeed the path taken, then Lukman’s consistent message remains valid – that they are en route to self-destruction. I encourage Lukman to remain steadfast in his advocacy.

The sideshow at the event was the attempt by Adams Oshiomhole to ridicule and demolish Lukman’s advocacy because when he was national chairman, this same Lukman fought him to a standstill on his reckless attempt to evacuate democratic engagement within the party as he sought to establish party supremacy defined as Oshiomhole supremacy.

Oshiomhole openly accused Lukman as playing a script put together by Nasir el-Rufai and Kayode Fayemi, two ex-players in the Progressive Governors Forum, to checkmate his ambition. The attack was uncouth because Lukman’s foray into trade unionism was with Adams in the Textile Union and in the decades that followed, he had learnt that Lukman would always stand by his principles so belittling him by claiming he was playing a game orchestrated by others was unfair.

The fact that historic party leaders such as Chief Bisi Akande were in attendance to stand by Lukman is an indication that his message of commitment to issue-based politics is respected by some of the leaders. In his closing speech, Akande made the point that Lukman has documented his own vision in books that were already on the table and those with an alternative vision should go and write their own.

Even more important, the democratic mission in contemporary Nigeria is to provide content for parties so that they work for the interests of the people so that the entire system does not collapse because of the practice of practising democracy without democratic dividends for the people.

I would conclude with the response of Senator Ibikunle Amosun to Adams Oshiomhole’s diatribe at the book launch:

“Adams Oshiomhole conducted one of the worst primaries in the history of Nigeria’s contemporary politics and ended up shopping for his own enemies, leading to his eventual removal as chairman of our party. Nigerians should not be in a hurry to forget the allegations that preceded the conduct of those primaries and his eventual invitation by the Department of State Service (DSS) to clarify certain grave allegations.

If anyone was in doubt that Senator Oshiomhole posed the biggest and most destructive threat to the existence of the APC at that time, and the party’s best bet was to dispose of a canon folder that he was and unfortunately still is, his utterances and grandstanding yesterday at an occasion to find solutions to our democratic and party challenges, would have cleared such mindset.”

First published in Daily Trust on Friday December 22, 2023.

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