APC Convention Blues: How Adamu’s committee holds the aces
Party Reaping Whirlwind, Says Etta
Six months short of two years after its creation, the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of governing All Progressives Congress (APC) is still learning the art of political party administration on the job. The committee, led by incumbent Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, seems to be labouring under the curse of APC’s penchant for twisted tongues and duplicitous promises.
Exactly one month to the advertised February 5, national convention of the party, indicators show that unless the party obdurately closes its eyes to clear and unmistakable danger signals, the convention would not hold.
Just as Nigerian lawyers are quick to aver that ‘no one puts something on nothing and expects it to stand,’ the governing party has come face to face with the realities of managing the challenges of rash decisions.
Arising from its contentious state congresses across the federation, the APC interim management committee, known as CECPC, set up a nine-man reconciliation committee headed by a former Nasarawa State governor and Senator representing Nasarawa West District in the Senate, Dr. Abdullahi Adamu.
Yet, before the Adamu committee could embark on its onerous assignment, the same CECPC announced a February 5 national convention date in what was seen by many party faithful as an attempt to ride roughshod against the glaring cases of disaffection and factionalisation in some state chapters.
Later today, the CECPC would meet to adopt a final position on the convention date, a pointer to the possibility of a postponement. A source within the party confided in The Guardian that the plan to push for postponement followed President Muhammadu Buhari’s allusion to the crises threatening the internal cohesion of the party during his recent television interview.
The source explained that the fact that state chairmen that emerged from the recent state congresses are yet to be inaugurated barely one month to the planned convention shows that things are not in order. “As such an attempt to rush the national convention could throw up unintended consequences,” he stated.
In his interview aired on the National Television Authority (NTA) last Thursday, President Buhari stated that he has always advocated a bottom-up approach to electing party executives, saying that “we want to make sure that our party members understand that they are respected.”
The President stressed: “There is no kingmaker from Abuja, no constituency is being dictated to. It is from polling unit, to ward to local government, to state and after Abuja.
While insisting that those who want to be elected at any level should work for it, Buhari declared that nobody is going to appoint anybody, even as he noted: “We have timeframe to work, because the four-year tenure is constitutional. It cannot be interfered by anybody. So, if the party couldn’t agree, then the opposition can take over.”
But, while the President sounded firm about the proper direction for APC to take, a lot of stakeholders blame the crisis situation in the party on his soft spot for state governors and inability to bring all entrenched interests to the discussion table to forge common understanding.
For instance, National Vice Chairman (South/South), Chief Hillard Etta, believes that President Buhari holds the key to the resolution of the crisis in the party, adding that if the President summons all stakeholders to a meeting and adopts a stance, everybody would fall in line.
It could be this seeming lacking of leadership that has put the governing party into a quandary, particularly following the emotive dissolution of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
Some APC faithful believe that the sacking of the elected NWC put the party into crises situation, just as the Progressive Governors’ Forum elected on APC platform decided to hijack the party’s structure. But, the President during his NTA interview expressed the fear that APC might lose the 2023 General elections, stressing that his position was clear that “we start from bottom upwards, from polling units to wards, to local governments, to states and then to Abuja.”
Yet, the contention of some members of the dissolved NWC is that the party structure was dismantled to remove perceived loyalists of former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, from positions of responsibility and influence preparatory to the 2023 poll.
Leaders of the party like Etta, who dragged APC to court insist that the CECPC is an illegal body not known to the party’s constitution. Speaking in a similar vein, Chairman of Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, noted that Buni, who was made chairman of the committee, created problems for himself and for the party.
Ndume, who barred his mind on a Channels television programme, ‘One on One’ observed that the problem of the CECPC chairman, Governor Buni, is that “he wants to satisfy everybody, but ended up satisfying nobody.”
Ndume, who said he was very worried about the suspense trailing the planned national convention of the party, expressed regrets at the absence of a Board of Trustees (BoT) and national caucus of the party six years after its election into power.
Perhaps alluding to the inability of the party to take a definitive stand on zoning and setting some clear standard criteria for the potential national chairman of the party, Ndume said APC needs a mature candidate capable of acting as a father figure for the party.
He said the ideal chairmanship candidates should come from either Northeast or North Central, stressing, “President Buhari is from Northwest and that rules out Northwest from the contest. I have a preferred candidate from both Northeast and North Central.”
Speaking on the contentious issue of zoning the Presidential ticket of the party, Senator Ndume said he personally believes that the South should produce the next Presidential candidate of the party, noting that APC at formation recognized the zoning convention.
Going down memory lane, the ranking Senator recalled that in 2014 the number of candidates that jostled for the APC Presidential ticket, including General Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Nda-Isaiah and Governor Rochas Okorocha, showed that the position was zoned to the north as Okorocha merely participated.
It could be recalled that problem for APC surfaced when the party began some dodgy manoeuvres to repudiate its understanding with the Southwest leadership caucus that the Presidential ticket will be shifted to their zone after President Buhari serves out his two terms in office.
AS things currently stand, the national convention of the party seems to be haunted by the insincerity of some of its national leaders. Ever since it was put together on June 25, 2020, the CECPC has been shifting the goal post as far as holding the national convention is concerned.
Exactly one month to the February 5 tentative date for the convention, contrary voices have risen for and against the date. The first salvo against holding the convention on February 5 came from Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, who wrote to the leadership of the party, including President Buhari. Kalu contended that organizing the convention without resolving crucial issues threatening the party cohesion, including wrangling in some state chapters arising from the last state congresses, zoning the national chairmanship and presidential ticket, would prove fatal to the party.
The Senate Chief Whip therefore pleaded with APC leaders to push forward the convention so as to merge the election of NWC members with the Presidential primary of the party. But, coming shortly after the former Lagos State governor, Tinubu, visited him at his Asokoro residence in Abuja, Kalu’s suggestion was seen as an attempt by those opposed to APC governors’ hijack plot.
Expectedly, the Director General of PGF, the umbrella body of the governors, Dr. Salihu Lukman, penned what could be considered a rejoinder to Kalu’s petition. In the statement captioned letter to APC leaders and addressed to the President and state governors, Lukman dismissed Kalu’s letter as a ploy to extend the tenure of Buni committee by another six months.
Part of the letter read: “Speculation about the convention not holding in February began when a letter written by Senator Orji Uzor Kalu to the APC CECPC chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni, dated December 13, 2021, calling for the postponement of the convention was widely reported in the media.
“Kalu was said to have suggested that instead of February, ‘a simultaneous event’, combining ‘presidential primary and election of National Working Committee members’ hold ‘on the same day and venue to avoid rancour and litigations. This suggestion basically means possible extension of the tenure of the CECPC by another six months.
“It is very difficult to understand the logic of such a recommendation. In fact, going by the recommendation means that the CECPC will be saddled with the additional responsibility of organising all party primaries for all positions for the 2023 elections.”
Lukman recalled how after the end of the year 2021 CECPC meeting on Monday, December 20, 2021 and in the APC 2022 New Year Message, both signed by the committee’s Secretary, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, it was confirmed that planning for the national convention had commenced.
However, the PGF DG regretted that although members and the general public were put on notice that relevant committees will be setup, no date or details of committees, their membership and terms of reference, were given.
He stated: “Largely because of the gap, the public speculation is strong that the convention may not hold in February. It is quite worrisome that speculations about the convention are allowed to create strong doubts as to when the convention will hold.
“It is public knowledge that following consultations between APC governors and President Buhari, February was agreed as the date for the convention. This was announced to State House correspondents by Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, chairman, Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) on Monday, November 22, 2021, immediately after a meeting with President Buhari.”
Lukman therefore asserted that, “it is very difficult to excuse the CECPC from the campaign to postpone the February convention. If the CECPC is not interested in the postponement of the convention from the agreed February date, why is it difficult to make formal announcement about the date and venue of the convention?
“Statutorily, by the requirement of the Electoral Act, the party is expected to serve at least 21 days’ notice of the convention to INEC. This basically means that if the convention is to hold any day before February 28, the notice to INEC should be given on or before February 7.
“That being the case, the temptation could be to argue that there is more time. Some reminders would be necessary at this point. First, in June 2020, when the APC National Executive Committee (NEC) dissolved the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC, one of the expectations was that holding the convention in December 2020, would have freed the party from all the tempestuous atmosphere created around national elections.”
NO sooner had the PGF DG released his letter to APC leaders than some stakeholders of the party called for his head. The stakeholders urged APC governors to sack the PGF Director-General with immediate effect.
The group alleged that, “Lukman had allegedly proven to be an agent of a few selfish interests in the party and that of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.”
In a statement signed by its Secretary-General, Hon. Tobias Ogbeh, APC-YDSF noted that what Lukman had done was to practically provide reference materials to contrive a PDP win in the 2023 general elections.
“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 CECPC, which even him admitted has done a great job in stabilizing the APC.”
As dark clouds continue to gather for the governing party, another group within its fold called, Progressive Initiative For Change and Development (PIC&D) urged the APC leadership to ensure all crises in the party are resolved before any National Convention would be conducted.
According to PIC&D National Coordinator, Chief Donatus Okereke, APC has shown clearly that it was “not ready for a national convention with the crises engulfing some state chapters.” It therefore tasked the leadership to ensure that proper and thorough reconciliation precede the national convention.
While the crisis of letter writing continued, some aggrieved party faithful approached a Federal High Court in Abuja seeking an order to restrain the Governor Buni-led CECPC from organising the national convention in February.
In the suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/3/2022, filed on their behalf by Olusola Ojo, the plaintiffs, including, Suleiman Usman (registered member in Nyanya ward, Federal Capital Territory -FCT), Muhammed Shehu (Banga ward, Kaura Namoda Local Government Area, Zamfara) and Audu Emmanuel (Furfuri ward, Bungudu LGA, Zamfara State, averred that the APC would be violating its constitution if the national convention holds in February.
They argued that since congresses have not been concluded in all the 36 states and the FCT chapters of the party, a national convention could not be legitimately held by APC, even as they joined the party, CECPC chairman and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as respondents.
In their supporting affidavit, the plaintiffs prayed the court to among other reliefs, declare that having regard to sections 40 and 224 of the Constitution, and Article 20 of the APC constitution, the first and second defendants (APC and the CECPC) cannot validly organise and conduct a national convention of the party pursuant to section 85(3) of the. Electoral Act, without first conducting state congresses in all the 36 states and the FCT.
Further, they beseeched the court for an order “restraining the first and second defendants (APC and the CECPC) from organising and conducting the national convention of the first defendant unless state congresses of the first defendant are first concluded in all the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.”
Leash On Adamu Committee
In an interview with The Guardian, chairman of the Nine-man Reconciliation Committee, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (Turakin Keffi) disclosed that although the CECPC expected his committee to turn in its report before the convention, there was no timeline given it (the commission) at inception.
Senator Adamu stated: “As at the time we started there was no timeline. Now there have been hues and cries since then due to the quest to occupy one party positions or the other with the fear that when the convention is held they may not see their ambition being achieved.
“You cannot blame them for this. Individuals or group of individuals have their own agenda in the party even though the overall goal is to promote the interest of the party. You can’t deny that. We will try to beat the deadline and submit our report so that the party may take whatever decision the committee advices.”
On whether the party could go ahead with the national convention despite the festering crises, the former Nasarawa State two-term governor remarked: “That is not for me to say. We don’t hope so. The party is in a better position to read the barometer and say whether it is realistic or not. We are only an ad-hoc organ of the party till we are done with the assignment.”
On suggestions in some quarters that based on the strength of character and competence of its members, the Reconciliation Committee be transited into a convention committee, the ranking Senator said, “I am heading a reconciliation committee…
“We have an assignment with the committee to reconcile members of the party and submit our report to the party. We don’t want to compound the problems of the party. Let us get done with the assignment first.
“If the party feel any member of our committee is deserving of any other assignment so be it. But, right now, we are in the national reconciliation committee of the APC. No more, no less.”
As the APC leaders meet today for a final word on the party’s national convention, the fact that the nine-man reconciliation committee is yet to complete its assignment presents a credible argument to gift the Buni-led CECPC another six months’ extension.
When that is done, the CECPC must have completed the remaining two years of the mandate available to the sacked Oshiomhole-led NWC. Yet, a member of the NWC, Etta, who is still in court with the contention that the Buni-committee is an illegal contraption insists that APC has sown the wind and would continue to reap whirlwind no matter whatever designs it may contemplate.
Whether the governing party is wallowing in the art of mass deception or perfecting a clandestine scheme to put the APC structure beyond some actors would be seen in the days to come.
However, President Buhari’s statement that he would not reveal his preferred successor underscores the fact that his unnamed anointed candidate is not Tinubu and as such, a plot is afoot to employ disingenuous tactics to arrive at a predetermined goal.