REVEALED: Why APC convention may not hold in February

Party leaders, Governors in hot game of chess
Stakeholders back reconciliation before convention
NEC to address zoning arrangement soon

Uba Group

BY AUGUSTINE AVWODE, BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, TIMOTHY AGBOR AND SAMUEL MAYOWA

Notwithstanding the air of uncertainty surrounding the planned February National Convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress, the party’s Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, continues to enjoy massive support and goodwill among stakeholders.

The Point gathered that this had to do with what stakeholders called comparative progress, which the party had made since June 2020 when the CECPC took over the affairs of the party.

The coming into office of the CECPC, described as a “child of necessity”, turned out to be a masterstroke that saved the party from ramming into an imminent iceberg some 20 months back.

Speaking to The Point, a chieftain of the party from one of the South West states, who preferred not to be named, insisted that, but for the timely intervention of the party’s NEC, which ensured the coming of the Mai Mala Buni-led CECPC into office, the APC would have been broken into smithereens by now.

He argued that people who were clamouring for the convention should consider what could happen after the convention if proper reconciliation was not effected; saying it would be better to ensure a reasonable degree of healing was achieved before hasting into a national convention.

He charged those who were insinuating that the CECPC had a hidden agenda of perpetuating itself in office to think deeply and objectively.

He said, “Let’s get one thing clear, the National Convention is good and desirable but should it be at the expense of the gains the party has made since the CECPC came on board? A few vocal people are frantically trying to derail the smooth movement of the party. The CECPC was a child of necessity. But people have forgotten. It’s like a few vocal individuals are in a hurry to see the back of the CECPC. I like to advise them to exercise caution.

“We were all here when, literally, there were shouts of May-day, May-day and the President, being the leader of the party, together with other elders, moved and saved the situation. The APC was drifting dangerously and heading for the rocks. God be praised, the President stepped in and did the needful. The ship was steadied and steered into a good course and everybody became happy.

“The level of stability even attracted big-time politicians; I mean governors, senators and federal lawmakers. At the state level, you have them in abundance. I am not holding a brief for the present leadership or canvassing an extension of tenure for it. But I can tell you that if the Caretaker Committee was not inaugurated and the party repositioned, today, we wouldn’t be talking of an APC as a party. The majority of stakeholders in the party are not as vociferous as the few that are shouting on rooftops today. ”

PARTY LEADERS, GOVERNORS IN HOT GAME OF CHESS

Findings by our correspondents, however, revealed that Governors elected on the platform of the ruling party are not all on the same page regarding either the conduct of the national convention or zoning of presidency.

While more Governors are fully behind the Buni-led caretaker committee and would rather have it continue to the primaries, a few others would do everything to forestall this scenario.

“There are processes and we cannot afford to toe the line of some parties that jumped ahead of reconciliation to conduct a convention. We cannot follow the pattern of those who have been consistently and serially rejected by Nigerians since 2015. Our party needs a thorough reconciliation before the 2023 general elections

Already, impeccable sources close to the talks have said one or two of the Governors have been pencilled down for disciplinary actions if they refuse to stop “working against the interest of the party”.

“It is a hot game of chess going on right now. The Governors and other stakeholders are at the peak of strategies to outwit one another as the main convention in June draws nearer,” a source, who is a sitting Secretary to the Government of a South-West state, told The Point.

“You will hear more about statements alerting the public to planned defamation of character by our leaders as the race gets hotter,” another source said.

MAJORITY VOTE FOR RECONCILIATION BEFORE CONVENTION

Investigation by The Point showed that a lot of stakeholders prefer an amicable reconciliation of the internal crises rocking the party before holding a convention.

Some stakeholders argued that the Peace/Reconciliation Committee should be allowed to do its work and finish it. This, they claimed, would prevent the party from holding its national convention in the midst of the raging bickering and factionalisation within its rank.

Speaking with The Point, a chieftain of the party and the Director of Publicity and Strategy, Osun APC, Kunle Oyatomi, said despite the challenges facing APC, it was still better than the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, in terms of crisis management.

He admitted that the APC was currently facing some crises and that it would not be wise for the party to hold the national convention without reconciling aggrieved members.

Oyatomi said, “Our crisis is not up to the one in PDP. You can’t compare APC to PDP in terms of crisis and its management. From what is happening today, some members are already on the streets trying to calm the nerves of the angry ones or unsatisfied people. I even read somewhere that a committee is coming to Osogbo tomorrow (Saturday). We can’t go into any convention with a divided house. Definitely, we will resolve our problems.

“We have a way of resolving problems. We are not PDP that doesn’t know its left from its right. So, we actually know how best to reconcile people, which will be lasting and successful. We are doing that already and I can tell you, for sure, we will speak with one voice as we go on.”

Also speaking, another chieftain of the party and the Osun State Commissioner for Political Affairs and Inter-governmental Relations, Taiwo Akeju, assured that the seeming crisis buffeting the party would be resolved and that it would not stop the national convention from taking place.

Akeju, in an exclusive interview with The Point, said, “Reconciliation is a continuous thing. The crisis won’t end in one day. A party as big as this, a government party, of course, there is bound to be misunderstanding, here and there. But people are blowing this thing out of proportion. Reconciliation is going on and it will continue till we ensure that all our members are on the same page. That (crisis) can’t stop the convention. You go to a convention to take stock of the party and her people and you project for the future.

“Elections are coming; we have Ekiti and Osun elections this year. There will be national elections next year. So, a convention is a means of reassessing the viability of the party and to see how we can move forward to prepare for elections. I don’t think the little crisis we have in a few states will stop the convention from holding. I don’t see it happening. There are steps at making peace at all levels and everywhere.”

On his part, Kwara APC factional chairman, Bashir Bolarinwa, who is loyal to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the proper thing for the party to do was to sort out the issues at hand first before going for a national convention.

“I think that’s the proper thing to do. Even within our individual household, that is what should be done to allow peace to reign so that whatever you later do, you do it on a peaceful note. You know, usually, convention comes with its own characteristic problems and challenges.

That’s why you will see that most of the big parties, by the time they get to the convention venue, most of the positions would have been agreed on through consensus even before the programme starts at all,” he said.

Recently, a political pressure group within the party, Progressive Initiative For Change and Development, called on the leadership of the party to ensure all crises bedevilling the party were resolved before any national convention is held.

National Coordinator of the group, Donatus Okereke, told newsmen in Abuja that the party was clearly not ready for a national convention with the crises in some state chapters. The group passionately pleaded with the national leaders of the party to ensure “proper and thorough reconciliation” before any talk of a convention is brought to the table.

He said, “We are great members of the All Progressives Congress and our interest is to put our house in order so that the party Nigerians rejected in 2015 does not return to power.

“We wish to commend the CECPC of our great party under the leadership of Governor Mai Mala Buni for setting up a Reconciliation Committee to bring all interests together under one common progressive roof before we go into any national convention.

“There are processes and we cannot afford to toe the line of some parties that jumped ahead of reconciliation to conduct a convention. We cannot follow the pattern of those who have been consistently and serially rejected by Nigerians since 2015.

“Our party needs a thorough reconciliation before the 2023 general elections. With what we are witnessing in some state chapters like Kebbi and some other states, it is pertinent that we put our house in order before a national convention.

“Those calling for the national convention amidst confusion in some state chapters are enemies of our party who do not have the interest of the party at heart.”

Members of yet another group within the party, the All Progressives Congress Youth Development and Solidarity Forum (APC-YDSF), also last week, called on the governors elected on the platform of APC, under the aegis of the Progressive Governors Forum, to, as a matter of urgency, sack the Director-General of the body, Salihu Lukman.

The group threatened to stage a massive nationwide protest if Salihu continued to function as the DG of the PGF.

The group alleged that the DG has by his recent conduct and actions proved beyond all doubts to be working against the interest of the party.

The group claimed that the DG was rather acting the part of a mole for a few who did not have the interest of the party at heart but were actually working for the opposition PDP.

The group, in a statement signed by its Secretary-General, Tobias Ogbeh, noted that what Lukman did by writing an open letter to the party’s leadership, was to practically provide reference materials for a contrived PDP win in the 2023 general elections.

It stated, “We find it most unfortunate that the DG decided to exploit the timing of our great party’s national convention to ply his poisonous ware by pretending to make a legitimate intervention.

“It is ironic that Lukman was unable to conceal the agenda he has for truncating the successes recorded by the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), which even himself admitted has done a great job in stabilising the APC.

“It is a hot game of chess going on right now. The Governors and other stakeholders are at the peak of strategies to outwit one another as the main convention in June draws nearer”

“As our Forum struggles to come to terms with the reality that the man who administers the umbrella body of APC governors is a mole within the party and being used by some forces to destroy our organisation from inside, we find it pertinent to alert stakeholders to the dangers that the DG’s continued occupation of that office poses to the success of the APC in the months ahead.”

Lukman had in an open letter, titled, “Plausibility of February 2022 APC Convention: Open Letter to APC Leaders” said, among other things, “Ordinarily, there should be no need to be doubtful about whether our party, APC, will be having its convention in February 2022 or not. Recall that after the end of the year 2021 meeting of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) on Monday, December 20, 2021 and in the APC 2022 New Year Message, both signed by the Secretary, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe, there was confirmation that planning for the National Convention has commenced.

“Members and the general public have been put on notice that relevant committees will be set up. The major gap, however, is that no date or details of Committees, their membership and terms of reference, were given.”

He noted that as a result of these gaps, the public speculation was strong that the convention might not hold in February and added that it was quite worrisome that speculations about the convention were allowed to create strong doubts as to when the convention would hold.

President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the CECPC to immediately prepare the timetable for the national convention.

The Buni-led committee is expected to meet on Tuesday to prepare a schedule for the convention, which is expected to be submitted to the President this week.

The Point gathered that a meeting of the governors scheduled for Sunday, January 9, 2022, was expected to set the stage for the emergence of the presidential candidate of the party, the party’s national chairman and the gubernatorial candidates in the states.

The meeting had yet to take place as at press time on Sunday.

Another source close to the APC governors revealed that the governors were divided on the issue of holding the convention next month.

According to the source, some of the governors wanted the exercise to be held next month to ensure that reconciliations that may arise after the convention are fully addressed before next year’s general election.

“Some APC governors are of the view that there is enough time to give 21 days notice to the Independent National Electoral Commission and hold the convention in February 2022.

“But other governors argue that the exercise should be postponed because there are crises in the states and the state executives have yet to be inaugurated. These governors are of the view that all the crises should be resolved before the convention,” he explained.

The source admitted that there were over 80 factions of the APC within the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

“We have crises in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Rivers, Kwara, Kano, Lagos, Ogun, Zamfara and other states,” he said.

“The crisis rocking the Ogun State chapter of the party is mainly between the group loyal to Senator Ibikunle Amosun, and the faction led by Governor Dapo Abiodun, which enjoys the confidence of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

“The third group in the state is loyal to former Governor Olusegun Osoba, which isn’t affiliated yet to any of the two mainstream groupings. Lagos State chapter has five factions.

“The Ekiti State chapter of the party is also embroiled in a factional crisis but the matter has become sub-judice, considering that the faction loyal to APC National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, is already in court, against the mainstream faction, loyal to Governor Kayode Fayemi.

“There are factions in Zamfara State, led by former Governor Yari and Senator Marafa on one side and the governor, Matawalle Bello on the other side.

“We have factional crises in Delta and Anambra states. We also have many pending court cases and some governors believe that all these should be addressed before the National Convention,” he explained.

On the forthcoming meeting of the Buni-led Committee, the source said, “If the draft timetable is easily acceptable, a National Executive Committee will be summoned and the zoning arrangement will be settled.”

Lending his voice to the burning matter, a former member of the House of Representatives, Patrick Obahiagbon, in a separate letter, urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the CECPC members to proffer a pathway ahead of the 2023 general elections.

His advice was contained in a letter of commendations to Governor Buni and his team in the CECPC. The former lawmaker warned that personal interest must not override the interest of the party.

“The party’s interest is more paramount than parochial and self-centred agitations from a microscopic few.

“The facts are indubitably too plain to be contested Your Excellency, that our great party was largely fractious and tottering at its perilous precipice and brinks when both destiny and history beckoned on you to provide durable leadership for us all.

“It’s the considered opinion of the majority of our party members that Your Excellency has not just only steered the party away from avoidable cataracts and icebergs but that you have also enviably returned our party to its winning ways and glorious path,” he said.

WHAT OBSERVERS SAY

A lawyer and political commentator, Ezra Enwere, was not surprised that the APC national convention was creating doubts among Nigerians, including chieftains of the party.

He said since June 2020 when the ruling party sacked its National Working Committee headed by Adams Oshiomhole, the party had, by its actions, shown that it was comfortable with the leadership of Governor Mai Mala Buni and the Caretaker Committee.

“There has not been any sign from the APC that they want to change the leadership of Gov. Buni. They are at home with the Caretaker Committee.

When people are talking about the party’s national convention, I have always had my reservations because there is no single sign that a national convention can take place under this atmosphere,” he noted.

In a daring move to ensure a measure of reconciliation takes place before the convention, five members of the party, last week, asked the Federal Court, Abuja, to stop the party from going ahead with its planned national convention.

In an application marked ‘FHC/ABJ/CS/3/2022’ and dated January 4, 2022, filed by their lawyer, Olusola Ojo, the plaintiffs said the party had conducted congresses in 34 out of 36 states of the federation as of October 16, 2021.

The plaintiffs – Suleiman Dimas Usman, Muhammed Shehu, Samaila Isahaka, Idris Isah and Audu Emmanuel- are APC members in Zamfara and the Federal Capital Territory.

Listed as respondents in the suit were Buni, the APC and INEC.

The aggrieved members told the court that it was unacceptable for the party leadership to hold a national convention without conducting congresses in Anambra and Zamfara states.

They asked the court to determine among others: “Whether having regard to sections 40 and 224 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, Article 20 of the Constitution of the APC, the respondents can validly organise and conduct a national convention pursuant to section 85(3) of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, without first conducting state congresses in all the 36 states of the federation.

“An order directing the 1st and 2nd Defendants to first conduct state congresses in Anambra and Zamfara before the national convention.”
No date has been fixed for hearing of the suit.

RULING PARTY TO DEAL WITH ERRING MEMBERS

There are reports that the leadership of the party plans to come down hard on erring elements within the party that have been fomenting crises.
The thinking among top party chieftains is that some people in vantage positions within the party are working against the interest of the party to undermine its efforts and also enable the opposition to regain power.

The party leadership, is, therefore, poised to ensure disciplinary measures are meted out to such erring members so as to forestall any damage they could cause that will make it impossible for the party to retain power in 2023.

From all indications, a February date may not be feasible for a national convention of the party to hold.

While stakeholders await the decision of the PGF in that regard, the CECPC will probably pursue the issue of reconciliation and ensure it comes close to a near, if not complete, logical end before talking of a convention.