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APC: Buni gets three months, Buhari okays Feb convention

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Leo Sobechi, Terhemba Daka and Adamu Abuh (Abuja)
23 November 2021   |   3:57 am
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has scheduled its national convention to hold sometime in February 2022. This was the outcome of a meeting of APC governors with President Muhammadu...

Chairman, APC Caretaker Committee, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State (left); Chairman, Progressive Governors Forum (PGF)/Kebbi helmsman, Atiku Bagudu and his Jigawa counterpart, Badaru Abubakar, after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja… yesterday. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA 

I’m not jobless, Buni dismisses plan to extend CECPC tenure
• Presidency in dilemma over direct primary
• APC governors insist on indirect primaries
• Ball in president’s court, says Lawan

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has scheduled its national convention to hold sometime in February 2022. This was the outcome of a meeting of APC governors with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, yesterday.

Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) and governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, disclosed this to newsmen after he led two of his colleagues to the meeting where President Buhari, acting in his capacity as leader of the party, okayed next February for the party’s convention.

Bagudu was accompanied by the chairman of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) and governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, and his Jigawa State counterpart, Mohammed Badaru.

The President’s meeting with the three APC governors preceded another meeting with the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, at the Villa.

Bagudu said the meeting was to brief the President on the decision of the PGF after its members met on Sunday night.

According to Bagudu, the governors had resolved that the convention should hold in February and the same suggestion was proposed to the President for approval.

Prior to the announcement, some stakeholders had accused the PGF of plotting to extend the CECPC’s stay in office by pushing forward the convention to next year and ostensibly working for another six months’ lifeline for the committee.

Bagudu said the month was chosen to enable four outstanding states to conclude their congresses and festivities in December.

He, however, said that the party’s leadership has yet to decide on a specific date in February for its national convention because of the need to write the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and consult all stakeholders.

He said: “The PGF discussed the issue of the national convention of the party and they mandated us to come and discuss with the President. On Sunday, part of the inputs we got was that we still have four states, which are in the process of completing their congresses: Anambra, understandably, because of the governorship election; Zamfara, Oyo and one other. Then, Christmas is around the corner, and early January will be very busy with Ekiti.

“So, the governors, based on all that, made an input that we think the party and the President might graciously consider February and President Buhari is favorably disposed to it.”

THIS development has effectively extended the tenure of Buni by an additional three months, which will see him managing the affairs of the party for 20 months. The Yobe governor has recently faced rising calls by stakeholders in the party to vacate office.

He took over the APC leadership in June 2020 following the dissolution of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) led by former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole. The CECPC was given an initial six months within which to reconcile aggrieved party members and organise a national convention to elect substantive members of the NWC to run the party’s affairs.

At the weekend, a group, under the aegis of the Progressives Youth Movement, had passed a vote of no confidence in the Buni-led CECPC in Kaduna State, saying the caretaker committee had overstayed its welcome to conduct a national convention for the party.

A former governorship aspirant of the party in Kogi State, Mustapha Audu, announced the sack of the leadership of the party, saying the youths would set up another committee for the party’s national convention next week.

But yesterday, another group under the auspices of APC Rebirth Group/Concerned APC Stakeholders, disassociated itself from the call. The group, in a statement issued in Abuja, described the call as an intemperate action, stating that it does not support it in any way.

Speaking yesterday, Buni dismissed insinuations of a behind-the-scene plan to extend the tenure of his committee, saying it was ridiculous to arrive at such a conclusion when he already had a job to do as governor of Yobe.

“How? Am I a jobless person, who is always trying to extend his tenure? To do what? I have my primary responsibility as a governor to go back to my state and carry out my primary responsibility. What I’m here to do is ad-hoc, and of course, to reposition the party, and that is exactly what we’re able to achieve.”

A chieftain of the party, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, allayed the fears of those apprehensive about the elongation of the CECPC tenure, saying that the extension would make for a more united and cohesive APC.

“For a more united, harmonious and dynamic APC, I support the February date for the national convention. The Buni-led CECPC needs to bequeath to the incoming NWC a more united, harmonious and dynamic APC,” Okechukwu stated.

He said that coming at the eve of the crucial 2023 general elections, it was imperative that the party puts its house in order according to the Constitution of APC without excluding any subset.

His words: “Don’t forget that 2022 is the eve of general elections, which will be midwifed by legislative, gubernatorial and presidential primaries. A new EXCO needs seamless take-off. Rushing to a December 2021 national convention with a broken house is best avoided. Methinks the decision to fix our broken house is excellent.”

ANOTHER knotty issue the governors discussed at its Sunday night meeting, which was presented before the President, was the party’s zoning arrangement and direct primary.

Indications emerged on Monday that the Presidency is seriously under pressure from governors to drop the clause for direct primaries in the Electoral Bill currently before President Buhari for assent.

Across the two major political parties, governors had expressed their opposition to direct primary. However, the leadership of the National Assembly, including prominent members of the party, had insisted that the President sign the Bill with direct primary intact.

The PGF had earlier insisted that adopting direct primaries by political parties was undemocratic and would overstretch INEC in relation to the adoption of Section 87 by the National Assembly in the amended electoral bill currently awaiting the assent of President Buhari, which stipulates mandatory direct primaries for all political parties.

Direct primaries involve the participation of all party members in the selection of candidates, while indirect primaries involve the use of delegates, who are mostly leaders and executives at the ward, local government and state levels to elect the party’s candidates at congress or convention.

Addressing newsmen after his closed-door meeting with the President, President of the Senate, Lawan, said all is now within the purview of President Buhari to sign or do otherwise, as the Electoral Act amendment bill is on his table.

“We have finished our job of passing the bills, particularly the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. It’s now for Mr. President, to engage with his assistants and those who normally advise him, for him to take the next most appropriate action.”

He said he was in the State House to confer with President Buhari on a number of other issues being considered by the National Assembly.

“We are doing our budget and we hope that by the middle of December or before Christmas, we should be able to consider and pass the budget. Also, you know we have pending issues in our party. We have our congresses still to be conducted in few states. And of course, going forward, how we are able to reconcile the different shades of opinions that disagree in the party.

“We are also very desirous of ensuring that the APC is stable before the convention, ultimately, because we want our convention to be hitch-free. We want every member of this party who attends the convention to, for example, accept whatever leadership that emerges. And of course, the security situation in the country can never escape our discussions,” he said.