APC crises: Members differ on Buni’s scorecard
He’s Leaving Party More Divided, Say Critics ‘Caretaker Chairman Has Done Well’
When the task of fixing the crisis-ridden All Progressives Congress (APC) fell on Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni and 12 others that formed the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), party members heaved a sigh of relief that the eluded peace and unity would return to the ruling party in no long time.
Their expectations, at that period, were not out of place because of Buni’s antecedent as two-term national secretary of the party and an administrator who was in charge of APC secretariat when those crises began to manifest and became almost inextricable.
Besides, Buni received massive support from majority members of Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) and Presidency to head the party and succeed in resolving protracted crises in many states threatening the rvival of the ruling party.
Indeed, the June 25, 2020 National Executive Committee (NEC) emergency meeting held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja where the National Working Committee (NWC) headed by the former governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was dissolved and replaced with the Buni-led caretaker committee, was specific on his task. Aside from repositioning the party and organising a national convention, he was also to reconcile aggrieved members and ensure unity in the party.
To convince party members that he understood the responsibility before him, immediately after he was sworn-in, Buni said: “My plans for the party is all about doing justice to every member because without justice, there won’t be peace and it is all about team play… If you don’t manage crisis, obviously crisis will manage you. So, I won’t allow any crisis to fester henceforth.”
However, less than three months to the proposed national convention of the party where a substantive chairman and executive members will be elected, there are divergent opinions about the performance of Buni-led caretaker committee, especially in the area of reconciling members and ensuring justice as he had promised. While some gave him thumbs-up for holding the party and ensuring more opposition members decamped to the ruling APC, others are of the opinion that his tenure has further sharply divided members. In fact, Buni’s critics described him as “a failure.”
But the uproar that greeted the purported sack of the Buni-led caretaker committee by the Progressives Youths Movement (PYM), being led by Prince Mustapha Audu, speaks volume about the underlying discontent even though there are party stalwarts who still appreciate the strides achieved by the Buni-led committee. Audu’s group shook the table penultimate week when it constituted a parallel reconciliatory committee, chaired by Mr Hassan Saddiq Arivi, on the pretext that the party had been on a regressive course since Buni came on board.
Audu particularly accused Buni of not only shying away from true reconciliation but that in many cases, inflicted chastisement on members that should have been rewarded for their effort towards building the party.
Also, concerned members under the aegis of APC rebirth group, led by Mr Aliyu Audu, insisted that APC is worse off now under Buni than it was when the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led national working committee (NWC) held sway.
The Buni committee also came under scathing attack by a section of party stalwarts over the controversy that trailed the conduct of the ward, local council and states congresses.
The crises rocking the party in no fewer than 20 state chapters of the party, comprising Kano, Zamfara, Imo, Abia, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti, Osun, Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Rivers, Adamawa, Enugu, Kwara, Anambra Bauchi, Gombe and Niger states in the aftermath of the states congresses, tended to rubbish whatever milestone achieved by the Buni-led caretaker committee.
Indeed, there had been no time the party experienced parallel congresses in many states as it did in the recent one. In fact, four parallel congresses held in some states because of the inability of the Buni-led committee to ensure justice and restore peace in the party.
Although, the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led reconciliation committee put in place by the Buni-led committee to mitigate crisis is said to be working, interfacing with aggrieved party chieftains but not much is heard about its achievement. Some party members expressed fear that the reconciliatory committee is yet to turn in its report even as the national convention of the party draws nearer, fuelling speculations of alleged tenure elongation agenda by the Buni-led caretaker committee.
The development spurred the Aliyu-led concerned APC stakeholders to demand for the immediate release of guidelines required for the conduct of the national convention of the party.
He said, “It’s been nearly three weeks since Governor Mai Mala Buni, in company of some other APC governors, told Nigerians that it took a February, 2022date for the conduct of the national convention to President Muhammadu Buhari and that the President graciously approved it; but no definite date or plan has been released by the CECPC since that announcement.
“This clearly shows that the CECPC, despite going to the Villa with a February proposal, has no prepared plan to meet the deadline. Let it be known, however, that any attempt to extend the convention beyond the February date as graciously approved by the president will be resisted by all concerned,” the group noted.
Senator Adamui, who was a two-term governor of Nasarawa State, however, ruled out the possibility of the Buni-led caretaker committee staying beyond February next year.
The Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON) and a founding member of the party, Mr Osita Okechukwu disagreed with those who hold the view that the Buni-led caretaker Committee has failed woefully.
He said, “CECPC has so far done well given the scatter-diagram status of APC, which they inherited from Oshiohmole’s regime. The scatter-diagram status our great party found itself emanated from warp primaries, which led to loss of Zamfara, Adamawa, Bauchi and Edo gubernatorial elections and uncountable legislative seats nationwide.
“The first move they made, which is commendable, was efforts to reconcile factions consequent upon the manipulated primaries to elect candidates at various levels. Second was to register and revalidate our membership. They must have reasoned that without data, neither meaningful organisation nor outcome will germinate. The only regret is that the registration is not biometric encapsulated. But half bread, they say, is better than none.
“By extension, it could be noted that President Buhari, in setting up the CECPC, laid solid foundation for promotion of the doctrine of internal democracy and people’s ownership of the party during his revalidation at Daura. Mr President gave oxygen to Section 7(viii) of the APC’s Constitution, which states interalia, “To promote and uphold the practice of internal democracy at all levels of the party’s organisation.”
On why the party’s registration was manual instead of biometrics, Okechukwu said: “Paucity of funds may be responsible. Don’t forget that President Buhari has refused to fund APC via public purse like our sister political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was wont to. I understand they were unable to raise the funds. That’s why our great party is the first I know in 43 years in partisan politics that levied those who were bidding for electoral ward offices.”
Prior to the conduct of the congresses, the Buni-led Committee was adjudged to have performed creditably by a section of the party ranks for making peace among members and stabilising the party. References were made to the inauguration of a tripartite Executive/Legislative/APC consultative Committee aimed at ensuring a synergy, good governance and accelerated implementation of the next level agenda initiated by the Buni-led caretaker committee.
This explained why elected National Executive Committee (Non-National Working Committee) members at a meeting earlier in the year, with the party’s national leadership, passed a vote of confidence on the CECPC. The development was sequel to an earlier confidence vote passed on the committee by 36 state APC chairmen, including the Federal Capital Territory.
The Buni-led committee further received plaudits over return of many prominent party members and leaders, including former national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Barnabas Gemade; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, and Dr. Alex Otti among others.
The caretaker committee was applauded over the nationwide registration, update, and revalidation of the party membership register, which boosted party membership to over 40 million as well as the review of the party constitution as part of efforts to reposition the party.
The reconciliatory efforts by the Buni-led committee had led to the resolution of disputes within party ranks in Cross River state where the CECPC reconciled the two factions and appointed a State Caretaker Committee, led by Sen. Matthew Mbu (Jnr.) as acting state chairman. In Ondo State, all the governorship aspirants were brought together, campaigned and worked for the successful re-election of APC candidate, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN).
In Akwa Ibom State, the CECPC brought together all the contending interests and achieved true reconciliation. Today, in Akwa-Ibom, leaders such as Sen. Godswill Akpabio, Obong Nsima Ekere, Mr. Umana O. Umana, Sen. Ita Enang, and Barr. Bassey Dan Abia (Snr), among others are working together and in collective pursuit of party interests.
At the instance of the CECPC, the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva resolved their differences and vow to work together and strengthen the party, particularly in the South-South geo-political zone.
Not Yet Uhuru For APC In Southeast
HOWEVER, it has not been rosy for chapters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the southeast region despite the dissolution of the elected national executive and its replacement with the Buni-led national caretaker committee. In fact, the coming on board of Buni may have deepened the crisis in the chapters in the southeast.
In Enugu, at the inception of the Buni committee, there was an imaginary crisis that resulted in two parallel factions. The factions arose over the state congress conducted in 2018 during which some hired thugs chased away accredited delegates and installed a non-member of the party, Okay Ogbodo as state chairman.
The next day, authentic members of the party returned to the same venue and elected Dr Ben Nwoye as their chairman. That incident gave birth to the two factions. Both camps carried on until the conclusion of the 2019 general elections that saw the party performing abysmally in the state.
The dissolution of the national executive of the party and the elected state executives that led to the constitution of the Buni committee had brought hope that the matter could be solved and the state chapter returned to the path of peace and progress. That has not been the case. With the conclusion of the state congresses on October 16, the Enugu chapter has now been divided into four camps.
The likes of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama, former senate president, Ken Nnamani, and former Governor Sullivan Chime, among others are working at cross purposes with founding members of the party, including immediate past state chairman, Dr Ben Nwoye; Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu; party’s financier, Emperor Baywood Ibe as well as Special Adviser to the President, Mrs Juliet Ibekaku.
It would be recalled that the crisis, which divided the party into two before now, was buried shortly before the commencement of the registration/revalidation exercise in February this year. But it was resurrected before the start of the congresses and went full blown, producing four factions at the conclusion of the October 16 state congress.
The first faction is led by the duo of Onyeama and Nnamani, which is parading a former Commissioner of Works in the state, Ugochukwu Agballah as the chairman. The other faction is led by the founding members of the party including Ibe, Nwoye and Okechukwu and is parading the former state deputy chairman, Adolphus Ude as state chairman. There is another faction of stakeholders from Enugu West, which is insisting that a former Military administrator, Group Capt. Joe Orji (rtd) is the state chairman of the party, while Presidential Adviser, Ibekaku is allegedly parading another faction.
IN Anambra State, the crisis in the party was sustained and carried into the 2021 governorship election. Despite its boast that it would use the election to launch strong inroads into winning the region in 2023, the APC finished a distant third after the election.
The crisis in the party was between appointees of government at the federal government level and other chieftains of the party, especially former members of the National Assembly. It got to a point that its elected state chairman, Emeka Ibe was removed and replaced with Chief Basil Ejidike in acting capacity.
The crisis, however, went full throttle with the governorship primary. The aspirants who had prepared and gone to the field for votes from the supporters went home disappointed as no election was held. Yet, a result was produced announcing Andy Uba as the winner and governorship candidate. The aspirants kicked and rather than address their grievance, the Buni-led caretaker committee endorsed Uba and many left the party in protest. The likes of George Moghalu had taken the party to court.
Since the result of the governorship election was announced, peace had taken flight in the party. Ejidike had been removed by the court and Ibe restored to office. Ejidike has, however, not stopped fighting as he has blamed the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige as the architect of the crisis in the party. He insisted that those fighting are products of the Minister. That has not also stopped him from summoning other state working committee members loyal to him for a meeting.
On the other hand, the faction that plotted his removal has set up a five-man panel to investigate him and had asked him to submit to the probe. They had also asked the security agencies to take notice of the activities of the erstwhile acting chairman.
Anambra State chapter did not conduct congress as other state chapters did. It was adduced that it did not want to do so because of the governorship election. However, sources indicated that the need to manage its internal crisis was responsible.
IT is still to be contemplated the formula that could be used to address the festering crisis in the Imo State chapter. Recall that the crisis led former governor, Rochas Okorocha into abandoning the governorship candidate of the party in the 2019 election and now governor, Hope Uzodimma to campaign for his son-in-law. It was a crisis that arose over the nomination of the governorship candidate in the election.
Although Uzodimma, through the grace of the Supreme Court, was later pronounced governor, the development has not solved the problem in the party. Members are divided between him, Okorocha, Martin Agbaso and Ifeanyi Arurume. At the congress concluded recently, only the faction loyal to Uzodimma participated as others have continued to lay claims that theirs remained the authentic version of the party.
He added that the constitution of a national caretaker committee has “not helped the party, but rather deepened the crisis. How do you suddenly think that an elected official should serve as caretaker? The Buni committee has not reconciled anybody. Rather, they have continued to thrive in the crisis and on the long run, killing the party. Those they appointed to lead the party in the southeast region have nothing to offer. Meetings are not held and there are infightings here and there. I have always joined those calling for the removal of the caretaker to do so. That is based on my conviction that they don’t have a programme that can sustain the party. Unless we do something at the moment, we will stand miles away to discuss the tragedy that will befell us in 2023 general elections due to our crisis”, he added.
But assistant spokesperson-elect of APC in Rivers State, Darlington Nwuju, expressed optimism in the ability Mai Mala Buni-led National caretaker and extraordinary convention planning committee to conduct a credible convention in February 2022.
Nwuju had told The Guardian in a telephone interview that the party at the state awaits the outcome of the National Reconciliation Committee (NRC) set up a month ago, having filed their petition to the committee for possible reconciliation.
He also explained that the swearing-in of elected state executives of the party across the country is being stalked by four other states that were yet to conduct their congresses, noting that the inauguration of state executives is done simultaneously on the same day and time.
Nwuju, however, doused fears that the four remaining states that are yet to conduct their respective congresses might stall the planning of national convention. About the possibility of the party reconciling all factions in the state, he said, “The truth is that in the realm of politics, anything is possible. Politics is about political and human interest to forge a common front. Once all these are done, we look forward to consensus. I hope that by the end of the day, we will be able to see the results of the convention.
THE decamping of Governor Ben Ayade in May 20, 2021 from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), settled all factional crisis of APC in Cross River state.
This became necessary as there was need to reorganise the party and produce new leadership in the state executive. The emergence of Ayade brought all factions together, as a chieftain of the party said there was need for the Interim Management Committee (IMC) with the Governor of Yobe State, Mallam Mai Bala Buni as chairman to come to Cross River State.
The party’s congress produced Mr. Alphonsus Eba as the new APC chairman but on the other hand, another faction of the APC said to have held a parallel congress at the party’s secretariat along Marian road, Mr. Egbeji John (Jallo) and Chief Francis Ekpenyong were said to have emerged as chairman and secretary.
However, Eba has since moved to reconcile the Egbeji group as former Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN during a courtesy visit on him advised the newly elected Chairman and members of the State Executive Committee of the APC to build bridges to foster the unity of the party in the State.
He said, “We have put our house in order, the bond of unity is wagging stronger by the day, and all we are thinking about now is the inauguration of the newly elected officials into their various positions; and the grace of God it will take place on the 15 of this month”.
APC Members More Divided In Southwest
THE Southwest zone, which is considered as the second strongest and catchment area of APC both in the 2015 and 2019 general elections is more fragmented as it was before Buni took over leadership of the party. The situation will require CECPC to take decisive and pungent steps to address frayed nerves after the ward, local government and state congresses to avoid implosion before its national convention and beyond.
In Lagos State chapter, the party is divided into three factions with the main body loyal to the national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, having the upper hand while the Lagos4Lagos Movement, led by Dr. Abdul Azeez Adediran has defected to PDP because of irreconcilable differences.
Giving reasons for the decision to jettison APC for PDP, Adediran indicted the CECPC of failure to address the major issues that led to the parallel congresses and how other tendencies within the Lagos APC were being marginalised contrary to the directives of the national caretaker committee.
Another tendency, the Democrat, led by Fouad Oki had earlier warned that if the protracted crises in the party are not checked, members would be forced to leave the party in droves.
Oki, who spoke with The Guardian, said no sensible person who is passionate, committed and objective about APC would be happy with the way the party is being managed in Lagos State and across the country.
He said, “Today, members are so disenchanted and that is why I am worried. We want a 360-degree turnaround in the party for the better. Obviously, things are not going well with our party. It is not only in the state but throughout the entire country and unfortunately it is not helping the party.”
In like manner, Mr. Moshood El Salvador, a former state chairman of PDP, who defected to APC before the 2019 general election also expressed reservations over the way his loyalists were being treated with disdain while the CECPC refused to act. He is also uncomfortable with the sharp division in the party at present.
Some members of the party who crave anonymity also blamed the CECPC of playing dangerous politics of using the splinters group to get at Tinubu in Lagos.
As claimed by Oki, “Things are not well with the Lagos chapter as the party seems to be more divided now than it was before.”
IT is also glaring that the Buni-led CECPC has not been able to resolve or return peace in the Oyo State chapter following the stalemate over the ward, local governments and state congresses. The warring factions are still at loggerheads over the harmonised executives list.
The CECPC is being alleged of backing former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala-led Elders Advisory Committee and Senator Teslin Folarin, who appeared to have had the upper hands in the last state congress against traditional APC members in the state.
Some members of the progressive wing of Oyo APC alleged that the national headquarters could not exonerate itself from the October 30, controversial state congress, which produced Isaac Omodewu as chairman against the desire of the Unity Forum and the outgoing State caretaker committee chairman, Chief Akin Oke.
The outgoing State Public Secretary, Mr. AblulAzeez Olatunde, appealed to CECPC to intervene in the crisis in Oyo chapter. He said Omodewu, for instance, is not the popular choice of the Oke-Ogun I area but rather the favourite of those who perfected the list.
Also the crisis in Ogun State chapter of the party seems too difficult for Buni to resolve. Ogun State, Mr Dapo Abiodun and his immediate predecessor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun are still battling for the soul of the party, in fact they held parallel congresses and produced different set of executives.
There are speculations making the round that Amosun, whose exco has been dismissed by the CECPC in recognition of the executive produced by incumbent governor may leave the party for PDP after February national convention.
According to sources, “Since President Muhammadu Buhari will finish his two term in 2023, Amosun, who is a very close ally of the President right from the ANPP period might move out of APC depending on who emerges as the next national chairman of APC.”
It was revealed that the former governor is just waiting to see how Buni-led CECPC will resolve the crisis in Ogun APC.
The recent outbursts of a former Deputy Speaker of the House Of Representatives and Osun 2022 governorship aspirant, Rt Hon. Lasun Yusuf, that the last governorship election in the state and the primary of APC were rigged, have further polarised the already troubled party.
While the PDP has been basking in the euphoria of the controversial revelations made by Yusuf, political stalwarts in the state, who are loyal to Governor Gboyega Oyetola have been criticising the former lawmaker for making such allegations which they described as “lies”.
Before now, Oyetola has been battling with a caucus in the party, The Osun Progressives (TOP) comprising of loyalists of former governor of the state and incumbent Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola over the demand of the latter to restructure the party ahead of the 2022 governorship poll. TOP and IleriOluwa, a group, loyal to Oyetola, have been exchanging allegations of assassinations and attacks.
Also, in what appears like dabbling into the feud between Aregbesola and Oyetola, Yusuf, while speaking on a radio programme monitored in Osogbo warned against disparaging Aregbesola in the APC. With his utterances, Yusuf has entered into the lists of those Oyetola would have to settle scores with as the gubernatorial election approaches.
Yusuf, who described Aregbesola as “a fantastic human being,” lashed out at those warring with Aregbesola in the party and described them as wicked and self-centered.
He said most of those currently parading themselves as leaders of the APC around Oyetola don’t know what the party went through to reclaim the state from PDP.
In a swift reaction, the leadership of the Osun APC, has described as spineless, bunkum and wishy-washy, Lasun’s claim that “the APC didn’t win the 2018 governorship election, which brought Governor Gboyega Oyetola into office.”
The party dismissed the statement in totality, saying such claims could only come from a very desperate, dishonourable and selfish politician, seeking public attention by misleading the citizenry.