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APC’s mixed fortunes ahead of contentious national convention

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Mai Mala Buni

Recently, the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) denied a purported timeline announcing the party’s forthcoming national convention. Not long after, the second term chief executive of Cross River State, Senator Prof. Ben Ayade, succumbed to the fishing expedition of his brother governors to join the governing party, APC.

So, in a space of one week, the situation and circumstance of the party displayed its mixed fortunes and the underlying subtexts of an impending confrontation during the planned national convention.

The CECPC, having enjoyed a tenure elongation on the twin excuses of gubernatorial polls and membership revalidation, does not seem likely to extract further extension from APC’s National Executive Committee (NEC), appears unwilling to rush through the convention.

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Sources within the APC told The Guardian that despite spirited denials of the timetable and zoning format that circulated in the social media, the committee has foreseen some huge obstacles that could prove fatal to the party’s cohesion and corporate existence.

Although the general consensus among the APC governors- the new owners of the party- is that former Governor Tanko Al-Makura should be supported for the party’s national chairmanship position, the source said the party was sure to run into a huge crisis over the issue of zoning of offices.

It was gathered that out of the cold comfort of a possible zoning brouhaha that the CECPC wanted a further extension to make gross a total of18 months for its tenure so as to perfect the dual demands in its terms of reference.

The source disclosed that CECPC wanted to fall back on the fact that the Governor Abubakar Sani Bello Committee was yet to finalise action on its report on the nationwide membership revalidation, to call for another six months.

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“In addition, the CECPC was to remind party faithful that it was yet to receive a report from Prof. Tahir Mamman’s committee on the review of the party’s constitution and therefore remark that it does not want to rush into the convention and throw up fresh leadership crisis in the party,” he stated.

Zoning Death Knell
Unwittingly, APC governors under the aegis of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), recently revealed the inherent zoning confusion within APC when it received Governor Ayade into the party. In a statement shortly after Ayade declared his membership of APC, chairman of PGF, Governor Atiku Bagudu, noted that since the party belongs to all Nigerians, “everyone from any part of the country is free to vie for any position.”

It could not yet be ascertained whether the Kebbi governor’s statement was meant to make Ayade feel good or raise the democratic credentials of APC.

But, alluding to the forthcoming national convention of APC, the Kebbi State governor stated:  “Our party, APC, is open, transparent, and will continue to guarantee fair contestation in politics, in line with the overarching commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari and all our founding leaders. Our National Caretaker Extraordinary/Convention Planning Committee has worked hard to restore the political credentials of the APC as a strong institution for Nigeria’s democratic development.

“The decision of Mr. Ayade to join the APC is a testament of our party’s capacity to mobilise all Nigerians consistent with the vision of the founding fathers to ensure that the APC is a platform to unite all Nigerians.

The coming of Mr. Ayade into the APC further reinforces the process of membership and leadership recruitment at all levels.”

“We will continue to support the National Caretaker Extraordinary/Convention Planning Committee in all its current initiatives to rebuild our great party…”

Gov. Bagudu

Some APC faithful dismissed Governor Bagudu’s sentiments as a political statement made in the euphoria of the new conquest, stressing that the PGF lacks the power to unilaterally pronounce on zoning. An APC chieftain from South/South geopolitical zone, who did not want to be named in print said the PGF chairman must have forgotten how President Muhammadu Buhari was elected into office.

“If we have come to the end of zoning in APC, it’s not state governors that would take that decision for the party. In 2015, the general impression among Nigerians, especially our brothers from the north, was that it was the turn of the North to produce the president.

“So, if anybody thinks that after eight years in office the next President after Buhari should come from the north, then that person must be planning to set Nigeria on fire or destroy APC. I don’t think Bagudu wanted to be taken seriously,” the chieftain declared.

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It would be recalled that shortly after a purported zoning list, which spelt out geopolitical zones to produce occupants of certain offices emerged on social media, the interim leadership committee denied its authenticity.  CECPC secretary, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, remarked that no such decision was taken by the committee, remarking that those interested in any office are free to speculate according to their fancy.

While pointing out that the caretaker committee was primarily concerned with data collection at the moment, Akpanudoedehe stated: “Zoning is not what we are concerned with now. What we are concerned with is data collection, how to collect data without making mistake. We are not going to be pressurized by sentiment and we do the wrong thing.

Buhari. Photo: TWITTER/NIGERIAGOV

“Zoning is not for the Caretaker Committee alone. It has to do with the President, it has to do with other major stakeholders, it has to do with a lot of people. I want to mute the speculation. The list is not from us. The President is not in town. There is no way such decision will be taken without consulting with the President, consult with the governors and other major stakeholders. People should disregard the list. We are focused on delivering on our mandate and we are to do it rightly.”

With the controversy surrounding the zoning of elective offices, both within the party and wider Nigeria during the 2023 general elections, observers believe that some APC leaders are running away from their shadows and facing the reality of impending riotous conversation over the party’s leadership.

Some members of the CECPC hold the view that the challenge of zoning is not as simple as some party leaders think, alleging that whatever position the NEC would take on the matter should address the concerns raised by the South/South geopolitical over their abridged mandate.

However, after seeing through the effective completion of the membership revalidation exercise, the CECPC appears daunted by the challenge of confronting the pro-zoning and anti-zoning disputations in the party and therefore more inclined towards another extension.

That may explain why the President of Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, accused the CECPCP chairman, Mai Mala Buni, of trying to hang on to the position to contest the presidential ticket of the party.

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Given the mood of many APC stakeholders, it was gathered that President Buhari is not disposed to another extension of the tenure of the Buni-led CECPC. But, a federal lawmaker said there could be no such guarantee, explaining that if Buni and his men show compelling reasons to adjust the timeline, at least for three more months, it would be granted.

Next month would mark the first anniversary of the CECPC, which was established by APC NEC after the National Working Committee (NWC) led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was dissolved. Though the committee was given six months to, among other assignments, reconcile all aggrieved members and organize a national convention, it got a six-month extension last December 8.

At that meeting, NEC mandated the CECPC to use the grace period “to conduct congresses and national convention, where new party leaders would be elected into the NWC of the party.

Uneasy Convention
THERE are indications that the CECPC may heed NEC’s demand on it to organize the convention before June 30, 2021. It was gathered that the planning committee has started compiling lists of tentative names of members of various convention committees and subcommittees preparatory to the convention.

While the timeline of the convention circulating on the social media was denied by CECPC, some party insiders expressed the belief that it was evidence that activities leading to the national convention would begin in the first week of next month. Also, a group known as Concerned APC Members (CAPCM), said the Buni committee was unduly delaying the release of the timetable for the congresses leading to the national convention.

Public Relations Officer of the group, Abdullahi Dauda, told journalists that there was no reason for the committee to disobey President Buhari’s directive that they should conduct the convention within the month of June.

But, despite the optimism expressed by the group, CECPC Secretary, Akpanudoedehe, described the timetable as the handiwork of mischief-makers and political jobbers insisting that the consultative approach of the Buni committee has ensured that APC operates as a party guided by processes.

While assuring that the CECPC remains focused on its determination to recover, rebuild and reposition the party ahead of the 2023 poll, Akpanudoedehe declared that APC has never lied about its intentions or activities.

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Despite the play on words about the timetable for the national convention, it was gathered that the party was facing serious problems over how to keep loyalists of former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, out of the expected NWC.

It would be recalled that shortly after the Oshiomhole NWC was dissolved, the APC leader in a statement, noted that nothing stops members of the former NWC from contesting for posts during the convention.

However, some state governors who are said to be oiling their machineries to contest the 2023 presidential ticket of the party, have begun to plot ways to ensure Tinubu’s loyalists do not occupy critical posts in the NWC, especially the offices of national organizing secretary and secretary.

A founding member of the party confided in The Guardian that even when the state governors elected on APC platform have concluded on endorsing Senator Al Makura as the next national chairman of the party, they are worried that Tinubu’s men could contest and win some strategic positions like organizing secretary and secretary to make things tough for them during the presidential primary.

The APC chieftain disclosed that unless give and take parley was held before the convention, the convention would produce sharp disagreements that could lead to big division.

He said part of the governors’ plan to outwit the Tinubu camp is the effort being put to drag as many wiling fellow governors from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as possible to APC, noting that would enable the governors to position candidates outside the former Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) for the crucial positions.

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But while the APC governors are plotting their surprise moves against Tinubu elements in the party, the national leader has continued to strategise, including making inroads to northern caucus within the National Assembly.

For instance, the Jagaban was said to have convened a meeting of political bigwigs from Southwest in Lagos yesterday. Sources disclosed that although the main agenda of the meeting is how to quell growing secessionist campaigns in the zone, the hidden motive is to retain the zone as a united bloc preparatory to the 2023 poll.

Apart from an unwritten promise that Tinubu would succeed President Buhari after his second term in 2023, most APC stalwarts believe that with the exit of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Tinubu stands out as the only formidable candidate for the APC ticket.

Tinubu

Outside the defunct ACN, Tinubu’s political tentacles are also said to spread to other political platforms, particularly the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

However, when the APC convention holds, it would be seen how far the membership drive by the state governors is able to douse the internal disquiet within the party over who gets what and from where.

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