APC caretaker committee vs aggrieved members: Who blinks first?

As some stakeholders in the All Progressives Congress (APC) engage in a running battle over the activities of its interim national leadership, TAIWO AMODU reports on the pensive mood among other concerned party faithful.

THE year, 2020, is one that the ordinary faithful of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are anxious to put behind them.  The plot by power blocs to take over the national secretariat of the party got messier last May,  sequel to the ouster of its national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole  by a court pronouncement.It was an embarrassing moment as two members of the National Working Committee (NWC), Hillard Eta and Victor Giadom, emboldened by the two dominant power blocs, proclaimed themselves as acting national chairmen.

President Muhammadu Buhari in a trouble-shooting initiative after several prodding convened an emergency meeting of the National Executive Committee, (NEC) last June where Yobe state governor, Mallam Mai Mala Buni emerged as Chairman of a thirteen member APC Careraker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Convention Committee, (CECC).

Aside Governor Buni, other members of the interim national leadership after the sack of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole led NWC included,  Gboyega Oyebola (South-West), Ken Nnamani (South East), Stella Okorete (Women representative) and  Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State (North Central).

Others were Dr James Lalu (physically challenged), Senator  Abubakar Yusuf ,Honourable. Akinyemi Olaide, (representatives of National Assembly, respectively   David Leon (South South), Abba Ari (NW), Professor Tahir Mamman (North-East), Ismail Ahmed -(Youth) and Senator Akpan Udoedehe  as secretary of the team.

The CECC was saddled with the mandate to return amity to the fractured party through reconciliation of aggrieved chieftains in state chapters across the country. It was also given the arduous task of convening a gathering of the highest organ of the party, the national convention,  to elect new set of national officers.

In the view of the power bloc that lost out in the unnerving power game, the emergence of Governor Buni meant that President Buhari had inadvertently surrendered the APC national secretariat, along with other statutory organs to the APC governors.

In his inaugural speech however shortly after his team took oath of office, Governor Buni who incidentally was the immediate past national secretary of the party before he won election to govern the North east state promised to deliver diligently on the assignment given by the APC NEC.

In his remarks, he said the unsavoury development in the party was not unusual in a political party but promised to stem the tide of growing rancour.  He explained that: “What happened to us, as a party, in the last few months is not totally strange in a big political party such as the APC. Internal disagreements are common in all political parties, and ours is not an exception.”

He said that his committee would be committed to enduring peace by initiating   medium and long term development strategies to deepen internal democracy and boost the party chances of electoral successes in all forthcoming elections.

The interim leadership’s first point of call, in its nationwide consultations, was the pioneer national chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande and a national leader, Ahmed Bola Tinubu. Both trips described by party sources as remarkable was to dispel insinuation already gaining currency  that the Committee has a mission to supplant the Bola Tinubu camp that produced the ousted national chairman, Comrade Oshiomhole. Five months after, it has been kudos and knocks for the caretaker committee

 

Mixed feelings over reconciliation

The interim leadership, in its review of its stewardship made available to newsmen last week, praised itself for having ensured successful reconciliation in certain states. It listed  Bauchi, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Zamfara, Ondo and Oyo states amongst state chapters  where it has restored camaraderie.It further cautioned its members to shun litigation by withdrawing existing cases in court in compliance with the directive of President Buhari at the NEC meeting held last June. “The APC National Executive Committee (NEC) resolution directing all aggrieved party members who had gone to court to withdraw cases: The CECPC further directed affected parties to fully comply with the directive in true spirit of peace and reconciliation,” the party leadership stated.

Those who have taken more than passing interest in the affairs of the party since the Buni team mounted the saddle would commend it for uniting aggrieved groups in Cross Rivers, Bayelsa and Ondo states. In Cross Rivers, Nigerian Tribune checks revealed that the two factional chairmen of the party, John Ochalla and Etim John signed a peace accord at the party national secretariat in Abuja where they resolved to bury their differences, close ranks, and work for the victory of the party in the forthcoming Northern senatorial district elections.

In Ondo State, where Rotimi Akeredolu won a fresh mandate in the last month governorship election, the party stakeholders in the state and Abuja have since acknowledged the trouble shooting initiative of the team led by Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani Bello which ensured that certain aspirants who felt shortchanged with the adoption of the indirect primary option that produced Rotimi Akeredolu as the party standard bearer were pacified.

In Bauchi and Benue states,  it is to the credit of the  interim leadership that former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Barnabas Gemade returned to the ruling party having been convinced of its sincerity of purpose in its reconciliation agenda.

In a move to forge unity within its rank in the South-South zones, two former governors and serving ministers have since been reconciled. Both the Minister of Transportation, RotimiAmaechi, and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva were sighted last August exchanging banters after a closed door meeting with Governor Buni.

Speaking with newsmen after the closed-door meeting, the two term Rivers State governor, who was accompanied by Sylva, said, “We have agreed that both of us will work together.”

Development in North-West state of Zamfara State, however, leaves a sour taste in the mouth as belligerent camps have refused to yield ground.

The Caretaker Committee claim of restoring peace has since been faulted by arrow head of a faction in the state, Senator Kabiru Marafa, who pointedly accused Governor Buni of having taken side with the faction led by the immediate past governor of the state, Abdul Aziz Abubakar Yari.

Senator Marafa in a statement last week argued that the two factions of the party in Zamfara State were still existing and operating parallel secretariats in Gusau, the state capital and across the 14 local government areas of the state.He said:  “This ungodly claim by the committee would only worsen the crisis of the party in the state,” adding that his camp will fight for its rights and the rights of average Zamfara APC members.

 

APCParty membership register: An albatross?

The Buni team initiative of the party  to expand the membership base of the APC through a nationwide membership registration, update and revalidation exercise to be conducted across thirty-six states and the Federal capital Territory (FCT) has since courted the anger of certain leaders of the party.

A group, Concerned APC Members, had last month at a press briefing  accused the APC Caretaker team of plotting tenure elongation.Addressing newsmen, spokesperson of the group, Abdullahi Dauda, argued that the plan to produce a national register for the party faithful was outside the assignment the Buni Committee was saddled with at the last June National Executive Committee meeting.

At another media briefing held last Friday in Abuja, another member of the group,Ogenyi  Okpokwu,  restated the Concerned APC Members aversion to the proposed national register of party members. It further alleged that the N1.5billion earmarked for the proposed registration of APC faithful did not pass through procurement process called for the halt of the exercise.

He said:”We were shocked when we read it in the newspapers this Thursday that the Caretaker Committee is embarking on new membership registration. This is outright fraud! How can a Party that have existed for over seven years commence a new registration instead of updating the existing register. It is now clear that the intention is to divert ₦1.5 billion  the committee has budgeted for the same exercise without procurement process.

“We are forced to remind the CTC that National Executive Committee (NEC) resolution did not give them such powers to begin new registration of members because none of them were elected without party membership cards. Are Governors Buni, Oyetola,Bello and other members of CTC no longer card carrying members of the party that we now want to give them new membership cards?

“All elected members under our party submitted party membership cards to INEC during nomination of candidates because our country’s constitution forbids independent candidacy, so why the rush to discard party register as we battle economic difficulty and with little money in our party’s accounts? Note that all primaries in 2019 and recent ones in Edo and Ondo were done with party register and membership cards.”

Further investigation revealed that Governor Buni last Thursday took the delivery of the items for the exercise aimed at capturing a broad spectrum of APC members across urban, rural dwellers, unlettered population as well as Diaspora. He disclosed that the APC membership registration, update and revalidation exercise would be conducted across the country’s 119,973 polling units and 57, 000 voting points.He said: “As you can see, we just took delivery of the first consignment of the registration materials for the exercise that will soon commence across the country.”

 

Buni’s camp

A source in the APC, however, faulted the claim of the group that the exercise was a ploy for tenure elongation.He maintained that the reconciliation exercise being conducted and the proposed membership register were necessary prelude to the national convention agitating the minds of the party stakeholders. The source stated: “We are aware that a section of the media has been awash with reports of a tenure extension for the CECPC, the focus remains achieving and sustaining the APC caretaker committee’s peace and reconciliation core mandate.

“It is important that the APC conducts its planned national convention to produce the party’s national leadership as a united house; otherwise, the main aim of constituting the CECPC following the dissolution of the immediate-past National Working Committee (NWC), will be defeated.”

The source said the party leaders, including the Presidency were privy to the proposed membership register.  He recalled the caretaker’s recent meetings with the Forum of APC State Chairmen and the Non-NWC members of the NEC, where they passed vote of confidence in the Buni leadership.

“The planned nationwide registration, update, revalidation of the party’s membership register will undoubtedly cement the APC’s political and numerical status as Nigeria’s largest political party.

“Ahead of the planned APC National Convention and indeed the 2023 General Elections, stakeholders should continue to support the CECPC efforts to unite the party in order to make it formidable enough to consolidate on the APC’s national governing status and landmark achievements.The APC must not go into a national convention, and indeed, a general election in crisis. We should take it one step at a time and ensure that the ongoing national reconciliation process being undertaken by the CECPC is sustained, successful and continue to yield results.”

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