Members of the All Progressives Congress, who are loyal to the Chairman, Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Governor Mai Mala Buni, on Tuesday, consolidated their hold on the party after surviving last week’s attempt to remove them.
On Monday, the Secretary of the CECPC, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, who had not made a public appearance in the last one week, returned to the party’s secretariat amid tight security.
The secretary was welcomed by jubilant members of staff, who exchanged pleasantries with him. Afterwards, Akpanudoedehe was escorted to his office by four policemen wielding AK-47 rifles.
In a statement he signed on behalf of the APC caretaker committee, the secretary promised that the national convention would hold on March 26 as planned.
The statement read, “On February 28, 2022, the CECPC Chairman took a long-delayed trip abroad on health grounds, leaving behind written authorisation for other members of the CECPC to continue work in his absence, particularly the day-to-day management of the APC.
“That in his absence, sundry activities earlier scheduled for action appeared to develop fresh urgency to satisfy the timetable for the 2023 general elections released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, thus galvanising some within the CECPC to act in their best understanding of both the situation and the leadership dynamics in the committee/party.
“That all such actions were clearly identified at all times as happening in an acting or proxy capacity, and under the auspices of the substantive chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni, contrary to widespread speculations that the chairman, secretary or some other officials of the CECPC have been removed from office or otherwise replaced. That the CECPC is intact and functional as originally constituted.”
The committee thanked the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and INEC for their firm guidance and intervention throughout the period.
To enable it to hold the national convention on the scheduled date of March 26, the caretaker committee revealed that the party had engaged a team of senior lawyers to address a purported court order halting the planned convention.
It, therefore, called on the Judiciary to “give the matter the needed and expedient attention in our bid to vacate the purported court order and allow for the conduct of a transparent and rancour-free national convention deserving of our great party, the APC.”
Court fails to lift injunction stopping convention
However, attempts by the APC to lift the injunction barring it from holding its national convention suffered a setback on Tuesday as an FCT High Court sitting in Kubwa adjourned the matter till Thursday, meaning the convention is still not 100 per cent certain.
The said restraining order, which was issued on November 18, 2021 by Justice Bello Kawu, was instituted by Salisu Umoru, a member of the party.
When the application was called on Tuesday, there was mild confusion as two lawyers claimed to be representing the APC and Buni, who are the first and second defendants in the suit respectively, while INEC is the third defendant.
Mr Shuaibu Aruwa (SAN) and Michael Adoyi, who claimed to be from the chambers of Musa Yakubu (SAN), announced appearance for both the APC and Buni.
According to the senior lawyer, the 1st and 2nd defendants have briefed him to take over the matter from Musa Yakubu, SAN. But Adoyi, who held brief for Yakubu, countered the senior lawyer, stating that his principal had not been debriefed from the matter.
Following the confusion over the rightful counsel for the 1st and 2nd defendants, the court observed that the case could not go on as scheduled and subsequently announced a short adjournment to enable the APC to put its house in order.
“Having heard from counsel, it appears there is a disagreement over who the counsel representing the 1st and 2nd respondents will be. I, therefore, order the 1st and 2nd respondents to write to the court who their counsel is. This matter is hereby adjourned till March 17, 2022,” Justice Kawu said.
Party sells chairmanship form for N20m
Meanwhile, the party on Tuesday raised the cost of its nomination forms for the National Working Committee positions by over 400 per cent in a bid to discourage aspirants from buying the forms.
The APC, it was learnt, was trying to encourage aspirants to anoint a consensus candidate for all top positions in the party.
The party is selling its national chairmanship nomination form for N20m, while those vying for the position of deputy national chairman will part with N10m. Forms for those seeking other positions in the National Working Committee would be sold for N5m. This represents a 400 per cent increase as the NWC aspirants in 2018 paid N250,000 for forms as opposed to the N5m now being demanded.
However, concessions were given for women and persons with disabilities, who were given 50 per cent discount.
Providing a breakdown of the cost, the spokesman for the APC caretaker committee, Ismaeel Ahmed, said at a press conference that aspirants for non-NWC positions would pay N1m for forms.
Ahmed stated, “The caretaker committee has mandated me to say that the sale of forms has begun for all the offices, both zonal and national. The zonal congresses will be moved to the national convention on March 26.
“I think that’s where there’s a bit of typographical errors. The form for the position of the national chairman has been agreed by the party to be sold at N20m.”
He noted that the forms for the position of national secretary, and deputy national chairman, South and North, would be sold for N10m, while all other NWC positions would be sold for N5m.
Ahmed added, “All other NEC positions; those are the deputy positions that are not members of the NWC, the forms are going to be sold at N1m. All other positions of NEC, which are deputy positions that are non-zonal and non-NWC, will be sold at N1m. All positions at the zonal level, except the national vice-chairman, which is also a member of the NWC, will be sold at N500,000.
“Of course, that goes with the constitutional provision that forms for women and people with physical challenges will be sold for 50 per cent of the prescribed fees. The convention is still March 26; it is sacrosanct. We’re still moving on toward it.”
On the expected number of delegates for the convention, he said “I don’t have a particular number, but we’re expecting between 3,000 and 4,000 delegates.”
But sources within the APC told The PUNCH that the cost of forms was increased in order to weed out unserious aspirants.
A chieftain of the APC, who wished to remain anonymous, said many of the aspirants were interested in the chairmanship of the party, because of the amount of money they would make during the primaries.
He said, “The national chairman of any ruling party in an election makes billions of naira, because aspirants and candidates will give him cash gifts. This is because the chairman and secretary are the only ones recognised by INEC to submit nomination forms.
“The APC national chairman usually does not receive salary except sitting allowance, which is not even up to N200,000 per sitting, which is less than N500,000 a month. Ordinarily, such a position should not be sought after, but this is Nigeria. Even if the price of the form is pegged at N100m, some people will pay.”
Groups knock party over high cost of forms
Reacting to the high cost of forms, some Civil Society Organisations such as YIAGA Africa, Enough is Enough Nigeria and Adopt a Goal Initiative, on Tuesday, expressed worries over the high cost of the forms.
In an interview with The PUNCH, the Director of Programmes, YIAGA Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, stated that it was worrisome that the ruling party would charge such exorbitant fees amidst the country’s dwindling economy.
Mbamalu, who was one of the main activists of the ‘Not too young to run movement’ said, “It is worrisome that the APC will be charging as much as N20m for aspirants for the office of the party chairman and N5m for the office of the youth leader.
“In this dwindling economy, inflation, rise in youth unemployment and poverty, the conversation around leadership must go beyond the financial power of contenders to the quality of their ideas and content of their character.
“This high cost of nomination is intentionally designed to exclude quality candidates within the party from contesting for party leadership positions. More importantly, it keeps out young people, women and persons with disabilities.”
Also, the Executive Director of Enough is Enough Nigeria, Yemi Adamolekun, said, “Instead of our political parties to build proper structures so that members pay dues, they wait for convention and elections to collect large amounts of money that can only be paid by people who didn’t work for their money or are government contractors!”
Also agreeing with Adamolekun, the Convener, Adopt a Goal initiative, Dare Ariyo-Atoye said, “The cost of nomination forms announced by the ruling party is outrageous, insensitive and sinful.”
Party to hold crucial NEC meeting Thursday
In a related development, Ahmed told journalists that the party’s NEC meeting would hold in Abuja on Thursday.
Asked if the rejection of its notice of NEC meeting by INEC last week would deter the meeting from holding on Thursday, Ahmed said, “We’re having our NEC on Thursday. And we’re going to be having it here.”
The NEC meeting is expected to be stormy, coming barely a week after some governors, including that of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai; and his Ondo State counterpart, Rotimi Akeredolu, and several others tried to remove Buni and install Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello, as the chairman.
The meeting will be attended by all the 23 APC governors, the leaders of the National Assembly, who are members of the APC; Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, and President Buhari, who is expected to join virtually from London.
“The NEC is expected to be chaired by Buni. It will be a stormy session because all those governors, who tried to remove him, will also be present, including Governor El-Rufai. It will be interesting,” said an APC chieftain.
An INEC official, who wished to remain anonymous, told The PUNCH that the commission did not need to be present at the meeting.
“INEC only needs to be present if the APC is making leadership changes. As long as there is no leadership change, we don’t need to be there,” he said.
Aspirants buy forms, intensify campaign
Meanwhile, chairmanship aspirants, on Tuesday, intensified campaigns ahead of the March 26 convention.
Two aspirants, Turaki Salihu Mustapha and Senator Sani Musa, purchased forms for N20m each.
Confirming his purchase of the form, Mustapha said, “This is a clear confirmation that I’m in the race and a testament to the seriousness I’ve shown since I threw my hat into the ring.
“Now that I’ve collected the form on the same day it was made available, I will intensify consultation with key party stakeholders with a view to letting them know why I’m the best man for the job.
“I, however, want to express my appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari for paving the way for what we have just done today.”
An aspirant for the deputy chairmanship position, Mr Sunny Moniedafe, said he would purchase the N10m form this week.
“I wanted to run for chairman but the party has zoned it to the North-Central. So, I will be purchasing the N10m deputy national chairman form either on Wednesday or Thursday,” he stated.
A former Governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Adamu, met with the APC caucus in the House of Representatives over his ambition to become the national chairman of the ruling party.
Adamu told the caucus that prominent leaders in the APC invited him to run for the office.
While the lawmakers admitted that there was a crisis in the APC, Adamu noted that his chairmanship of the National Reconciliation Committee of the party had given him knowledge of the issues and how to address them.
“In partisan politics, I have been privileged to be involved with politics – electioneering politics – from 1979 till date. I have never lost an election. And it is my hope that if I get the opportunity to serve as chairman, I will provide the leadership necessary for the APC to continue to dominate the political space in the country,” he said.
Welcoming Adamu to the meeting, the Majority Leader of the House, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, described the ex-governor as “the man of the moment,” adding that he was a bridge-builder and an elder statesman.
“Your Excellency, distinguished Senator Abdullahi Adamu, our father and elder statesman, you have before you very loyal foot soldiers; foot soldiers of the APC, our party; foot soldiers of President Muhammadu Buhari, the leader of the government of the APC of today.”
Adamu also said his declaration was delayed as he was busy with the task of reconciling warring members of the party across the country.
The Deputy Speaker of the House, Ahmed Wase, who later joined the meeting, noted that Adamu would be faced with having to address the issues in the APC. PUNCH