•Party makes a U-turn, confirms Yobe gov’s leadership
An attempt by some governors of the All Progressives Congress to sack the Chairman, Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the APC, Governor Mai Mala Buni, seems to have hit a brick wall following the refusal of the Independent National Electoral Commission to recognise the acting Chairman of the party, Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State.
Bello had written a letter to INEC requesting that the commission attends the APC’s National Executive Council meeting scheduled for next Thursday where Buni and the APC Secretary, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, were expected to be removed.
The commission informed the CECPC that the letter of invitation was not signed by the National Chairman and National Secretary of the CECPC, Buni and Akpanudoedehe, respectively. Hence, the request could not be honoured.
Faulting the letter further, INEC reminded the signatories to the letter that of the provision in Section 82(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, “which requires ‘at least 21 days’ notice of any convention, congress, conference, or meeting convened for the purpose of merger and electing members of its executive committees, other governing bodies or nominating candidates for any elective office.”
It, therefore, urged the APC to note the issues raised and ensure immediate compliance.
After receiving the letter, the APC said Buni remained the chairman of the caretaker committee.
The Spokesperson for the party, Ismaeel Ahmed, who is also the party’s youth leader, disclosed this while fielding questions from journalists at the APC National Secretariat, Abuja.
Asked about the party’s position on Governor Buni, Ahmed said, “I think it’s very simple. I don’t know why this is a complicated process for a lot of people to understand.
“Since the inception of this CECPC on June 25, 2020, whenever the chairman is not around and Governor Sani Bello is around, he acts on behalf of the chairman. It has always been the case. This has never changed.
“And now we have a convention on March 26, the chairman wrote a letter and transmitted it for his leave to go for medical treatment. These are two emergencies. He has a medical emergency that cannot wait for (the) convention. We have a convention that cannot wait for him to be healthy.
“The Chairman left, transmitted a letter, Governor Sani Bello has been acting appropriately. What is the problem? Why is it difficult for people to simply understand that? So, Governor Bello is acting with the full authority of the caretaker committee and with the full authority of the stakeholders, and leaders of the party, and with the full consent and knowledge of Governor Buni.”
Ahmed’s assertion contradicted the claims by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who, in a live television interview on Wednesday said Buni had been ousted as chairman based on an instruction from the President, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Speaking on the position of the secretary of the caretaker committee, Akpanudoedehe, Ahmed said the committee members did not discuss him, except those who had definite responsibilities under specific departments.
He said, “On the issue of Senator John Akpanudoedehe, we didn’t say anything. We just talked about the members of the committee. We didn’t talk about either the secretary or the chairman. They have their responsibilities cut out for them. The other members are the ones that are all told to come back and handle specific departments.
“And that’s what we are doing, you know, and at the full course of time, once all these things are over, we will be able to brief you maybe next week on the full status but for now, these are the responsibilities of every member.
“So, there is no issue here. The chairman transmitted power to Governor Bello and he is fully driving it right now and we are moving towards convention with the speed that is needed to move towards convention.”
When asked about the National Convention, the party spokesman affirmed that it would hold as scheduled and that no new letters were needed to be transmitted to INEC in that regard.
“You don’t need another 21 days’ notice and that letter was written about two weeks ago, when we realised that we couldn’t hold it on February 26. The moment the CECPC agreed on March 26, that letter was written to INEC, INEC accepted that letter.
“The issue of the date of convention is not in question, not in INEC, not certainly with us. That is settled. March 26 is sacrosanct, and we have complied with all the rules and we have notified INEC as appropriately expected for us to do that. So that’s no longer an issue,” Ahmed stated.
On the status of the NEC meeting, the spokesman said, “I think Prof. Tahir Maman, who is overseeing the Legal Department of our party, would be addressing you once all these issues are clarified but notice has been sent out for the NEC meeting. We are still on that, whatever it is that’s going on, I think Prof Tahir will address you as I told you on this issue.”
Attempts to speak with Maman proved abortive as he did not pick calls on Friday.
Aggrieved govs consider court option against Buni
In a related development, it was learnt that some of the governors are planning to head to court in order to suspend Buni and compel the commission to recognise Bello as the authentic chairman even as Buhari has failed to intervene in the crisis.
A top source at the party said Buhari’s refusal to take a decisive action or publicly pick a side was the main element fuelling the crisis.
The chieftain further stated that contrary to El-Rufai’s claims, no fewer than seven governors were now with Buni.
He added, “Buni took sides with some of these governors who were having problems with their ministers or senators after the controversial congresses. At least seven of these governors are with Buni contrary to what El-Rufai said. And in the coming days, more will fall in line following INEC’s verdict.
“However, for the stubborn ones, the court option now seems inevitable. Some of the governors are now discussing with a view to suspending Buni and ensuring that Bello takes over through the court. Once they can get a court injunction, INEC will be forced to comply. This was how Adams Oshiomhole was kicked out of office as the national chairman of our party.
“The challenge now is that everyone claims Buhari is on their side while the President is refusing to speak. Buhari can solve this crisis but has continued to watch while things fall apart.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, neither responded to calls nor a text message on Friday.
Meanwhile, a former Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum, Salihu Lukman, on Friday urged INEC and all APC members to be vigilant ahead of the March 26 convention.
Lukman noted that the APC’s ability to produce party leaders and credible candidates in the 2023 general elections is contingent on how it resolves its current leadership crisis.
In a statement he signed titled ‘APC and Surrogate politics of timid leaders,’ Lukman said since Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State began acting as Chairman on March 7, there had been deliberate attempts to question the legitimacy of decisions taken by the APC.
He said Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello; Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State and Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, were among the rebellious governors still supporting Buni against the interest of the APC.
“Some party leaders and members have declared opposition to Abubakar Bello and the CECPC and are mobilising Nigerians to only recognise Mai Mala Buni as the only person who should preside over the affairs of the party. While some can disclose their identity in declaring their opposition, some timid leaders who are not so courageous, do so using surrogates,” Lukman added,
According to Lukman, three other governors must also be made to account for their roles in undermining decisions to organise the APC national convention.
“There are other party leaders including Senator Orji Kalu who have actively supported Mai Mala Buni to undermine the decision to organise the national convention of the party.
“The March 17, 2022 APC NEC meeting should initiate processes of disciplinary hearing in line with provisions of the APC Constitution to sanction all these leaders if found guilty, ” Lukman added.
He also called for high vigilance by all APC stakeholders saying the run up to the March 26 national convention could sound the death knell for the party or give it an exhilarating breath of fresh air.
INEC must accept Bello leadership – Audu, APC Rebirth Coordinator
The coordinator, All Progressives Congress Rebirth, a pressure group in the APC, Aliyu Audu, has said the Independent National Electoral Commission has no choice but to accept Niger State governor as acting chairman of the party.
He stated that the only position Buni would have on his return from his medical trip would be that of Governor of Yobe State and not chairman of the Caretaker/Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee of the party.
“I don’t think there is any crisis at the moment. Whatever crisis we have is solved as we speak. All of the actions required to solve the problems have been taken in line with our constitution. I think the worst is over and we have confidence in the new leadership.
“On the strength of the letter transmitting power from Buni to Bello, INEC would have no option but to accept any communication or correspondence from Gov Abubakar Bello.
“If Buni comes back from this medical vacation, the only presence he would have at the national secretariat is any activity that requires him there as the Governor of Yobe State and not as the Chairman of CECP.”
Audu also reiterated that the March 26 date of the convention was sacrosanct and had the backing of the President.
“The date of the convention is sacrosanct. Mr President, before he travelled, told the new leadership and if you are aware, you will see that some governors have moved to the FCT, they are very present and you see them holding meetings every day.
“You can see that there is actually activity around the secretariat as you would expect of any reasonable organisation that wants to do an activity as big as a national convention. The daily activity put in place by the current leadership of the CECPC is an assurance that on March 26, we would have our convention by the grace of God.
“From the very first press conference since the formation of the group in October last year when all that seemed to have been known to certain people in the party were made known to us, you would agree with me that everything that has been talked about now are things which we have always said.
“Because the party has reacted in the right direction at the moment, in good fate, we can only support the new leadership and make ourselves available in any capacity to ensure March 26 happens.
“Not for just any reason but for the fact that it is about time as a nation we started doing things that would put good people in good light and put bad people in a bad light so that it can be a deterrent to others. It is about time we stopped making the bad people win, for any heat of the day to have been given victory to those who wish us bad.
“In our collective determination, if March 26 happens, would have shown that the result of the majority of the people should always be rated above that of the personal and hidden agenda of a certain few.
“For the good of the good people, March 26 should happen so that we can have reason to hold our heads high. If for any reason there is the need for any change, which I doubt because Mr President has told the leadership that March 26 happens.”
South-West APC govs reject Abdullahi as party chair, to meet Buhari
Meanwhile, five governors of the ruling party have decided to reject the imposition of a former Governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Adamu Abdullahi, sources close to one of them have said.
It was gathered that one of the governors had called his colleagues on the need to speak with one voice and reject Abdullahi, who they described as agent of anti-zoning in the party.
One of the governors, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said it would be disastrous for both the party at the national level and the South-West to have the former governor as the national chairman of the party.
The federal lawmaker representing Nasarawa West Senatorial District in the National Assembly is alleged to have the backing of Buhari for the coveted position.
However, majority of the governors in the party had complained against the alleged endorsement, saying the senator might not be able to run the affairs of the party properly.
However, his stand against zoning in the party and his numerous comments supporting open grazing were said to have caught the attention of the governors from the South-West who believed such a leader would not act for the general interest of the entire country.
The source said, “We will meet with the President when he returns to the country from his medical trip. We are actually not comfortable with having the senator as the national chairman of the APC.
“Have you not read where he has been condemning the governors from the south on the ban on open grazing? Have you not heard him saying the Presidency cannot be zoned to the southern part of the country by our party, the APC?
“Leaders must have compassion and have the love of all the six zones of the country at heart. He has yet to become the national chairman, he was already talking down on a segment of the country. No, such a man cannot lead the APC.
“We are going to have a meeting with the President on the issue. We are not the only governors that are against him. Don’t forget that he is not even a foundation member of the APC. He belonged to the PDP and because of this, there is every likelihood that he might not know the purpose of the APC foundation.”
The source added that the governors would prefer the national chairman of the party to come from what he described as one of the members of the political parties that merged to form the APC.
“The next national chairman should come from the legacy parties that merged to form the APC. That is the most ideal,” he added.
Recall that the All Nigerian Peoples Party, the Congress for Progressive Change and Action Congress of Nigeria were the three political parties that dropped their identities to form the APC.
A breakaway faction of the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Grand Alliance also joined in the merging. PUNCH