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Power play as APC ‘elects’ national officers

By Muyiwa Adeyemi (Politics Editor), Adamu Abuh, Odita Sunday, Ameh Ochojila (Abuja) and Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt)
26 March 2022   |   4:28 am
The leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, allegedly mounted pressure on aspirants for the national chairmanship position of the party to accept the position of President Muhammadu Buhari on consensus at the party’s national...

• How Party Forced Aspirants To Accept Consensus Candidates
• May Alter Sections Of Constitution To Suit Electoral Act
• Crisis In Some State Chapters Still Unresolved
• Police Beef Up Security, Divert Traffic Around Eagle Square
• PDP Asks Court To Void Convention

The leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, allegedly mounted pressure on aspirants for the national chairmanship position of the party to accept the position of President Muhammadu Buhari on consensus at the party’s national convention holding today at the Eagle Square, Abuja.

Besides, the delegates may also vote to alter some sections of the party’s Constitution to be in tandem with the Electoral Act of 2022.

The development came against the backdrop of the open support for consensus by critical stakeholders of the party comprising members of the Governor Atiku Bagudu-led Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF), the Ahmad Lawan-led National Assembly leadership and other leaders of the party like former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is also a presidential aspirant.

The party was alleged to have adopted the stick and carrot approach to whip the aspirants to obey the decision of the President, because of their inability to reach a consensus and accept the nomination of the former Nassarawa State governor, Abdullahi Adamu as consensus candidate of the party.

It was gathered that between Thursday and Friday, the aspirants held five meetings, but failed to agree to the candidature of Adamu as the consensus candidate for the position of National Chairman.

Sources told The Guardian that the other six aspirants – Senators Tanko Al-Makura, Goerge Akume, Sani Musa, Saliu Mustapha, Abdulaziz Yari and Muhammed Etsu – had agreed to support any of them except Adamu.

It was gathered that the dissenting aspirants opposed Adamu’s candidature for allegedly being arrogant and also for his undemocratic postures in taking decisions.

“The aspirants found it difficult to accept him, because of his high handedness and his inability to carry people along in decision taking. We don’t know his plan for the party; he did not campaign or meet with the party at the state level. This is the man that, as a governor in Nassarawa in 2007, he did not allow the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to campaign in his state and threatened to depose any Emir, who supported Buhari as the presidential candidate of the party,” the source said.

It was gathered that the aspirants had reached the point of issuing a statement endorsing one of them to contest against Adamu, but the leadership of the party changed the tactics, which may force them to accept the position of the Presidency.

As at press time, it was not clear whether the dissenting aspirants had agreed to sign a pact to accept consensus or would still go ahead with their plan to allow delegates decide their fate.

If the aspirants did not succumb to the pressure, delegates at the convention may exercise their rights of electing the national officers of the party.

Fielding questions on the possibility of the delegates casting votes at the convention, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said the party’s constitution provides for three options, adding that the party was prepared for anything

He, however, harped on the party’s position on consensus.

When asked if ballot papers had been printed for the election if it comes to that, he said: “We have prepared for this convention and there are many ways of casting votes, if it comes to that. There are Option A4 and the rest.”

The President’s spokesperson also dismissed insinuations that the new National Working Committee (NWC) of the party might be constituted by former PDP members, saying people change.

He said: “You read Bible and I read Holy Qur’an and we all read in these Holy books that people change.”

A source, who confided in The Guardian, said the development speaks volume of the existence of a crack among some of the party’s governors who were believed to be pushing the candidacy of some of the aspirants behind the scene.

Abdullahi Adamu

Efforts to reach the heads of the campaign organisation of Senator Tanko Al-Makura, Mr. Dominic Alancha on the issue proved futile, as he did not respond to calls to his phone lines.

Earlier in the day, Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State, who chairs the party’s Convention Publicity Committee, confirmed that the President’s anointed candidate would be among party leaders to be included in what he termed “Unity List”, which would be compiled before the end of yesterday.

Sule said he doesn’t envisage any change of mind from party stalwarts over the choice of Adamu for the plum job.

“That unity list will be ready today (Friday). You know, it will actually be submitted and somebody was asking whether it is for real we are going to have a unity list or not. Of course, yes, if you are talking of consensus, you must have unity list, because that is the whole essence of consensus.

“You know, if you are having consensus, you are going to have people who have agreed, aspirants who have agreed, stakeholders who have agreed, and also the constituency that have agreed, and in that case, that name automatically will be adopted. And that is just the meaning of the unity list. That is how unity list are going to be put together,” Sule said.

Sule informed that Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State was in sync with party stalwarts in support of the consensus arrangement.

He added: “On the arrangement for consensus, I think anybody who has been following up with the activities of Mr. President and the party will understand that so many things have been going on towards consensus.

“Mr. President has met with the governors; met with the aspirants for chairmanship, met with the National Assembly, is meeting also with all the major stakeholders of this party and the rest of that. If you look at that, that is actually arrangement towards a consensus.”

Sule restated that the party would adhere to the dictates of the Electoral Act, which bars political appointees from participating in the national convention of a political party.

He, however, explained that the ban does not bar former public office holders from casting ballots for candidates of their choices.

Nevertheless, there are strong indications that the party is heading into the convention with crisis in some of its state chapters still unresolved.

For instance, in Abia State, some critical stakeholders called for the disqualification of the Chief Ikechi Emenike-led faction from the exercise. The stakeholders led by Mr. Ibe Ogwuma, in a suit filed at an Abuja High court no: /HC/CV/1012/2022, demanded for an order dissolving the purported Congresses conducted by Emenike, cronies and his cohorts. Also joined in the originating summons as respondents were Chief Friday Nwosu and Ikenna Anyalewachi.

The stakeholders also prayed for an order restraining Chief Kingsley Ononugbu from parading himself as the state Chairman of APC in Abia State, describing him as a product of “kangaroo” congress.

The stakeholders agued that the duo lack the powers to validly produce and present list of delegates to the National Convention of the party on behalf of the state chapter of the party. They also called for an order directing the APC not to associate, discuss or collect any convention list or its like from Emenike and Ononugbu.

Among the prayers were an order mandating the National Caretaker Committee of the party to install a caretaker committee in the Abia State chapter as recommended by an APC reconciliatory committee.

In Rivers State, the Senator Magnus Abe-led faction has alleged the inclusion of dead persons and those who have left the party on the list of authentic party delegates from the state.

In a petition jointly signed by Amaechi’s former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Rivers State, Worgu Boms, Senator Magnus Abe and Senator Wilson Ake, among others loyal to Abe said it observed the deliberate inclusion of deceased persons on the delegates’ list already submitted for the convention by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi.

“We examined the list and found that it was inflated by adding names of deceased persons and persons who were never principal officers in the Rivers State House of Assembly,” the petition read in part.

According to the petitioners, such names as Chief D.U. Anucha, Apollos Amadi, Martins Mannah, Andrew Miller and Felicia Tane who were included in the list had since died, yet they were named as delegates for the convention.

The spokesperson of the Amaechi-led faction, Mr. Chris Fineborne, however, debunked the allegations, saying: “If any dead persons name is found on the list, it might have been a typographical error and not a deliberate act.”

Meanwhile, the Police have beefed up security around Eagle Square to ensure the safety of the delegates.

The FCT police boss, CP Babaji Sunday, was sighted around the area assessing security infrastructure put in place to ensure a hitch-free convention. Traffic officers have also been deployed to divert vehicles around the axis.

It was gathered that Shehu Shagari way and Ahmadu Bello way around the Eagle Square would be blocked to motorist during the convention. The Guardian also learnt that plain-clothed policemen and anti-bomb squad would be deployed to the area.

FCT police spokesperson, DSP Josephine Adeh, in a statement said: “The APC National Convention is scheduled to hold from March 25 to 27, 2022 at the Eagle Square, Abuja. The convention is usually greeted with a heavy influx of the politicos from every part of the country and will be graced by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari; the Vice president, and other notable party stakeholders.

“In the light of the above, and in order to ensure maximum safety, as well as the continuation of economic activities, which largely depends on road traffic, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Command, after critically and considerably drafting an operational order to maximise the deployment of human and material resources for the success of the convention, have deemed it fit to intimate members of the public about a few traffic diversions as follows; Goodluck Ebele Jonathan by Court of Appeal, Behind Court of Appeal, ECOWAS by Women Affairs, Finance Junction, Behind Foreign Affairs, Kur Mohammed by National  Mosque, Benue Plaza, NITEL Junction, Phase 3, NNPC Tower, Ceddi Plaza Bridge, Gana by Transcorp, DSS Headquarters, Phase 1, NASS Junction, Bullet, Bayelsa House.

The FCT Commissioner of Police, CP Babaji Sunday PSC, while expressing confidence in the revamped security architecture of the Territory, urges members of the public to cooperate with the police and consider the use of alternative routes. He also noted that the arrangement was made for security optimisation and ease of transportation.

“Finally, the Command urges the good people of the FCT to remain vigilant and report any suspicious or abnormal occurrence to the Police through the following emergency lines: 08032003913, 08061581938, 07057337653, and 08028940883 while the Public Complaint Bureau (PCB) desk, could be reached on: 0902 222 2352.”

Despite the frenzy surrounding the national convention of the ruling party, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a deft political move, yesterday, asked the Abuja division of the Federal High Court to declare the planned exercise unconstitutional and illegal.

The PDP is also seeking an order of court de-registering the APC as a political party, having failed to meet the requirements of Sections 222(a), 223(b) and 225 of the 1999 Constitution.

It further asked the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from recognising, communicating with, dealing with or having any business whatsoever with the APC as a registered political party.

In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/ 389 2022, and dated March 25, 2022, the PDP listed the INEC, APC, its Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) and the Chairman of its Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee as defendants.

In the suit filed by its counsel, Samuel Irabor, the party argued that by a certified true copy of INEC’s list of APC’s current executives, the party was being run by a 13-member executive, which is below the constitutional stipulations in Section 223 of the 1999 constitution that the executive or governing body of a political party must be drawn from 2/3 of the 36 states of Nigeria, which is mathematically 24.

The PDP is therefore urging the court to declare all prior acts of the Mai Mala Buni-led caretaker committee leading to the institution of the suit, as well as all subsequent acts, including the convention of March 26 as null and void and proceed further to order a de-registration of the APC by INEC in line with Section 225A of the 1999 constitution.

In the originating summons brought pursuant to Order Three, Rule Six of the Federal High Court Rules, the party urged the court to determine “whether upon a calm consideration of Section 223(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution, the leadership of the APC (2nd defendants) could be made up of only 13 members as presently constituted by the chairman of the CECPC and forwarded/registered with the 1st defendant (INEC) and if the answer is in the negative, whether the APC has any valid leadership so called, forwarded/registered with INEC in compliance with Section 223(1) of the 1999 constitution and whether any act done by the said leadership is valid and founded in law.”

It also asked the court to determine “if the answer to the 2nd and 3rd legs of the issue in the above paragraph is further in the negative, whether the APC is not liable to be de-registered as a political party pursuant to Section 222(a), 223(2)(b) and 225(A) of the 1999 Constitution.”

It therefore seeks: “A declaration that by the express provisions of section 223(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution, the leadership of the APC cannot be made up of only 13 members as presently constituted by the chairman of the CECPC and forwarded /registered with INEC.

“A declaration that all the prior actions and subsequent actions undertaken by the defendants are null void and of no effect.”