APC Convention: The gathering cloud

Amidst insinuations about a tenure elongation plot against the All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, (CECPC), TAIWO AMODU examines the claims by aggrieved chieftains and the challenges before committee led by Yobe State governor, Mallam Mai Mala Buni.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) appears set to return to its familiar terrain of backstabbing, acrimony and power game that characterised the administration of its national secretariat under the Chief Odigie Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC) and its successor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. When the leadership of the party under Comrade Oshiomhole was dissolved last June at an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting and a 13 member CECPC was announced with the Yobe State governor, Mallam Mai Mala Buni as chairman, cynical chieftains and ordinary faithful of the party expressed mixed feelings over the development. In their evaluation, what happened in the ruling party was a loss of favour by a power block led by a certain leader of the party led by a former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, which was supplanted by a rival power block led by certain APC governors. They further concluded that it would not be long before the interim leadership, a creation of the NEC, would run into troubled waters.

Events in the last few weeks in the party have since vindicated those discerning chieftains. Penultimate weekend, director general of the Forum of APC governors, Salihu Lukman,  had warned  Governor Buni Caretaker Committee to avoid the mistakes of its immediate predecessor in office. Lukman in the statement titled, APC Litmus Test, cautioned the CECPC not to contemplate a shift of the gathering of the highest organ of the party, the national convention beyond June. He expressed concern that the Governor Buni team, like the Comrade Oshiomhole APC NWC before it has been sidelining statutory organs of the ruling party in decision taking. Checks revealed that Lukman statement was sequel to an earlier notice by the national secretary of the Caretaker Committee, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, announcing the extension of the membership registration/revalidation and update exercise by three weeks. Senator   Akpanudoedehe, in the statement said there was a consensus on the need for extension.

His statement read in part:”The All Progressives Congress (APC) Membership Registration/Revalidation and Update Exercise was scheduled to terminate on March 31st, 2021. The audit of the reports received from: the National Membership Registration, Revalidation and Update Committee; the States’ Registration Committees; and that of our Situation Room indicate as follows: (1) Most states for varied reasons, started late, and require additional time to conclude the exercise; (2) An avalanche of applications from critical stakeholders (including all States Caretaker Chairmen) for an extension of time to capture Nigerians who are still desirous of joining the fold of the progressives. The Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) under the leadership of His Excellency, Hon. Mai Mala Buni had done everything possible to keep to the earlier timeline, however it has become imperative to extend the duration of this very important party activity. Consequently, the CECPC has approved the recommendation of the National Committee for the Membership Registration, Revalidation and Update to extend the duration of the exercise for three weeks.”

Further checks indicated that at the inception of the committee last June, it was given a six months timeline to reconcile aggrieved chieftains of the party in its state chapters and convene a meeting of the highest organ of the APC, the National Convention to elect new set of national officers to run its affairs following the dissolution of the Comrade Oshiomhole led NWC. Further checks revealed that the tenure of the CECPC was extended by another six months at another NEC meeting held last December where the statutory organ agreed that the extension was expedient to enable the interim leadership conduct a membership registration and revalidation exercise. Speaking with journalists at the end of the NEC meeting, Kaduna State governor disclosed that the NEC approved the extension of the tenure of the CECPC, which expires on December 26, 2020, for another six months period, to terminate on 30th of June, 2021. According to the governor, “This is to enable the Caretaker Executive and Convention Planning Committee to conclude its assignment, as laid before NEC.” Aside resolution granting waivers  to persons, who have recently joined the  party and those desirous of joining the party in the nearest future, the NEC equally  approved   “the immediate dissolution of the party organs at the polling unit, ward, local government, state and zonal level, as well as the non-National Working Committee component of the National Executive Committee, as well as their immediate reconstitution and composition of the dissolved excos to serve in their respective offices in a caretaker committee capacity. This excludes the non-NWC members of NEC.”

 

Earlier signals

Before the statement issued by Senator Akpanudoedehe, which unveiled the three-week extension of the membership registration, the Coalition of Political Action Group, had staged a protest at APC national secretariat demanding for the extension of the exercise. Led by Habeeb Mutallib, the group claimed the timeline for the registration and revalidation exercise was too short and called on the CECPC to continue with the exercise without a timeline. Its petition submitted to Senator Akpanudoedehe read in part:”It is our firm expectation and demand that the exercise should be extended indefinitely until such a time as it becomes incompatible with the electoral laws and timetable. The membership registration and revalidation exercise has proved to be an inspired idea by the National Caretaker Committee led by the able chairman. It has provided a reason for many of our warring  leaders and factions to unite around a common objective in the higher interest of our party as they work together to make certain the exercise succeeds in their constituencies. Bearing in mind that our father and most valuable player, President Muhammadu Bunari, will not be on the ballot in 2023 which means we must devise sustainable means to retain power and continue his legacies, the exercise is the only political event within our party since 2015 which has rekindled our hopes that the grassroots energies which propelled us to victory and displaced the PDP from the Presidency in 2015 still exists.”

A day after the protest,  the acting state chairmen of the APC  met in Abuja and made a similar call on the Buni committee. Honourable Ali Bukar Dalori, Chairman Borno State chapter, who incidentally is Chairman, Forum of APC State Chairmen, premised the call for the extension on logistics bottlenecks, which he noted marred the process and denied many Nigerians anxious to join the APC the opportunity to realise their dream. Dalori therefore appealed to the CECPC “to consider and effect a further extension of the exercise. He said: “Due to logistics bottleneck and the complexity of the distribution process of registration materials, a number of state only received the materials to commence the second phase of the registration exercise not too long ago, and were therefore not been able to meet up with the reviewed schedule timetable of the exercise without denying so many willing citizens the opportunity to join with the party. We, the state chairmen of APC therefore, by this medium, appeal to the leadership of the party and the CECPC to consider, in the interest of the party and all intending members of the party across the country, to consider and effect a further extension of the exercise. We are therefore recommending an extension of the exercise to enable us bring into the fold all willing citizens in our various states.”

The chairmen, who did not give a timeline for the extension, said   state congress and national convention that would produce substantive state chairmen, zonal and national officers be put on hold until after the registration exercise must have been satisfactorily  concluded. “The exercise so far has provided a prelude to what is to be expected in all future elections in Nigeria. With the turnout of Nigerians to identify with us, it is certain that the trust of Nigerians in the party remain unwaivered and just like projected, we will continue into the next decades to provide the needed leadership to the country as the party in power, not only at the center but in almost all the states of the federation.”

 

Why convention may be delayed

Those anxious to see the party convene its national convention and ultimately, elect new set of national officers are already smarting for a showdown with the CECPC.  A party source, however, stated that the caretaker committee had no plan to push for its stay beyond June this year. The source, who argued that the committee was a mix of the two  rival power blocks in the ruling party, further argued  that forces within the Presidency, who are wary of the implosion that may arise from the convention, are the ones trying to push forward the scheduled date for the convention. He stated: “There is no consensus or official position on which zone will produce the presidential candidate in 2023. That’s a decision that could unsettle the party. In the absence of official pronouncements, the national convention will expose everything since a zone that produces national chairman can’t produce presidential candidate. So, in the absence of a national convention, the race for the presidential ticket is kept open.”

Investigation revealed that aspirants seeking for position of national chairman cuts across the geo political divide in the country. Those  whose ambition are however an open secret, include former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, former governor of Nasarawa State, Umaru  Tanko Al Makura and his counterpart from Zamfara State, Abul Aziz Yari.  For the presidential race, former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello and his counterpart from Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi are likely contenders. Jigsaw State governor and Chairman of the Forum of APC Governors, the Progressives Governors Forum, Mohammed Abu-Bakr Badaru, at a recent session with journalists shortly after inauguration of the APC Strategy and contact committee, dismissed the speculated tenure elongation plot. He assured that the committee will keep to the June dates.  He said:  “It is very feasible. I know the national Caretaker Committee is committed to delivering in June. And we will support them and do whatever it takes to make sure we deliver by June.”

 

Way forward

Despite assurances from Governor Buni and his colleagues in the governors’ forum, certain chieftains of the party are worried that resolutions of the party NEC, which dissolved other statutory organs, except national convention, may have unwittingly rendered the NEC weak since it equally surrendered some of the powers to the CECPC. As part of the resolutions of the NEC meeting held last December, Governor Nasir El Rufai disclosed that the “NEC has also donated its powers, as enshrined in Articles 13.3, subsection 5 and 13.3, subsection 6 of the APC Constitution to the Caretaker and Convention Committee.” The subsections read in part: “The National Executive Committee of the party shall be the principal Executive body of the party and shall perform the following functions: (V) Exercise control and take disciplinary actions on all organs, officers and members of the party and determine appeals brought before it by any member or organ of the Party; (V1) Create, elect and appoint any committee it may seem necessary, desirable or expedient and assign to them such powers and functions as it may seem fit and proper.” The party source submitted that the resolution of the NEC was inimical to its own survival as the CECPC is now answerable to no organ but itself.

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