Buni and APC govs forum chairman, Atiku Bagudu
Governors of the ruling All Progressives Congress are currently jostling to host the party’s national convention slated for February 2022, investigations by Saturday PUNCH have revealed.
Apart from the governors, it was also gathered that some powerful stakeholders are making moves to determine the venue of the convention, where the party’s National Working Committee members would be elected.
Sources close to the leadership of the party told one of our correspondents that since the party leadership chose February for the convention, governors and top members of the party had been making moves to influence where it would hold.
It is believed that the new national officers would play a major role in determining the processes that would lead to the emergence of the party’s presidential candidate and governorship candidates for the 2023 general elections.
The source close to the national leadership said in an interview, “These are part of the reasons why the governors and other stakeholders are scheming to host or determine the venue of the convention in February.
“I can tell you that ambitious party stalwarts are already lobbying members of the party’s 13-member National Caretaker Committee and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee headed by the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni.”
It was gathered that the brains behind the lobbying were those with presidential ambition or those who want their interest protected by the party’s next leadership.
The source said, “People don’t need to be very open in their ambition before they start lobbying. You could even be lobbying for others whose interest you know would be beneficial in the next dispensation.
“Among the lobbyists are those who want Lagos as a preferred venue, as they claim that it is a secured state, devoid of banditry and that it has enough hotels and resorts to accommodate the large number of guests and delegates that would attend the convention.
“Those who want Lagos as the venue also claim that most other states have liaison offices in Lagos and their delegates could easily engage their men on the ground to make the necessary contacts and mobilisation, like securing hotels. They also claim that Lagos is easy to access, both through the airports and by road.”
Apart from Lagos, it was gathered that influential party members in states like Plateau, Kogi, Kano and the Federal Capital Territory were also lobbying to host the convention.
“Yes, there are even more states jostling to host the national convention. There are those who want Abuja, saying it is central and that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), the vice president, members of the National Assembly, ministers and others are there and this would be an added advantage,” the source added.
He said those canvassing for the event to hold in Abuja argued that “all the contestants for all the positions would have equal chance and nobody would claim any advantage over the other.”
It was however learnt that the President, National Caucus of the party, including its members in the National Assembly, would be consulted by the party’s leadership before taking a final decision on the matter.
When contacted on the issue, the Secretary to the party’s Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Senator Akpan Udoedehe, said no decision had been taken on the venue.
He said, “I cannot say anything on the issue of venue for the proposed national convention now. The committee is yet to meet or take a position on that. You know we act for our party’s National Working Committee, the National Executive Committee and other organs.
“Before we take any decision on the venue, we have to consult widely and the decision will be that of everyone. There is no need to lie or mislead anyone. We are yet to take any decision on that.”
Party lists conditions that’ll determine location
Meanwhile, when he was asked about the factors that would determine the location of the convention, Udoedehe said such factors would range from security to the need to protect delegates against Covid-19 and other factors.
He said, “We will look at the issue of security, adherence to the COVID-19 protocols, accessibility for delegates and others. Venue of a party’s national convention won’t be picked by an individual.”
Udoedehe also revealed that the APC shifted its national convention to February because of the festivities in December and early January.
“People may not know but let me tell you that we shifted the convention to February because of Christians who would want to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in December and the travelling that normally characterises January as well,” he added.
The Governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Sule, had said the party only agreed on the date of the convention while the venue had yet to be determined.
Sule spoke when he featured on Politics Today, a current affairs programme on Channels Television, recently.
He said, “The President has agreed to the month of February. So, he is also convinced that February is feasible and probably the right month for us to have the convention. That was the report that we saw as conveyed by the chairman of our party and the chairman of APC governors.”
When asked about the zoning of the NWC offices, Sule said the governors had yet to discuss that.
When reminded that those who had shown interest in the chairmanship position were mostly from the North while the majority of those whose supporters were pushing their candidacy for the presidency in 2023 were from the South, the governor insisted that zoning had yet to be agreed on.
He stressed that the first idea was to fix a date for the convention, noting that Nigerians have the general feeling that the presidency would rotate from the North to the South and the chairmanship position from the South to the North. “But there is nothing official about that,” he added.
When asked if the APC was also considering consensus candidates for the NWC, Sule said, “APC is not PDP. We cannot just copy what the PDP is doing. As a party, we will sit down and look at what will be the best for the country and for our party, and we will make a decision.”
The President recently approved February 2022 for the party’s national convention.
The Chairman of Progressive Governors’ Forum and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, told State House Correspondents on November 22 after he and some APC governors met with the President at the Presidential Villa in Abuja that the President had agreed for the convention to be held in February.
Also present at the meeting were the Governor of Jigawa State, Muhammad Badaru, and his counterpart in Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, who doubles as the party’s chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee.
Bagudu said, “I explained the previous day that the Progressive Governors’ Forum discussed the issue of national convention of the party and they mandated us to come and discuss with the President as the party’s leader to give the input of the governors so that the party and the President will consider.
“Part of the inputs we got was that we still have four states which are in the process of completing their congresses like Anambra, understandably because of the recent governorship election; Zamfara and two others, because of logistic challenges and then, Christmas is around the corner, and early January we will be very busy with Ekiti (ahead of its governorship election in June).
“So, the governors, based on all these, suggested that the party and the President should graciously consider February and the President is favourably disposed to the suggestion.”
Buni also said Nigerians should expect a more united party after the convention, adding, “The Progressive Governors Forum, after their meeting, suggested February to the party and the President has concurred. So, we are going ahead to plan for the convention in February.”
“Nigerians should expect more unity and progress as a result of the forthcoming convention.”
He also dismissed allegations that his committee delayed the convention so he could stay longer in office as the caretaker committee chairman, saying he was not jobless being an incumbent governor.
In 2020 after the several court cases instituted by different party members had thrown the party into chaos, to the extent of having three individuals laying claim to the party’s national chairmanship seat at the same time, the party’s National Executive Council on June 25, 2020 dissolved the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee.
The meeting presided over by the President and attended by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, governors and many other party stalwarts, set up the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, headed by Buni, who was immediately sworn in by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
Among other mandates, the caretaker committee was given six months to organise a convention for the party, which meant the convention should have been held in December 2020. But the tenure of the committee has been extended repeatedly.
On December 8, the NEC at a meeting at the Aso Villa, Abuja extended the tenure of the committee by another six months, to terminate in June 2021. But amid murmurings of discontent by some party members over the delay in holding the convention, the President on June 25 approved the extension of the committee’s tenure by another six months.
Speaking on the matter, Badaru said the party looked at the possibility of conducting the convention by the end of December but that the Christians in the party pointed out that the convention would coincide with the Christmas festivities and suggested the postponement to January, 2022.
He added, “We observed that in January 2022, there would be the state congress of the APC in Ekiti State and it was therefore decided that we shift it to February. This is to enable us to conduct a proper convention.”
Meanwhile, there are fears that the rising court cases against the party may affect the scheduled national convention.
Sunday PUNCH reported on November 28 that aggrieved members from Lagos, Zamfara, Taraba and Kaduna states were either filing or threatening to file cases against the party leadership at both state and national levels.
There are currently no fewer than seven cases pending before the Federal High Court, Abuja challenging either the legitimacy of the Buni-led party leadership or the outcome of decisions taken by the committee since its inauguration on June 25, 2020.
The report noted that there were at least five cases in various courts challenging the eligibility of the party leadership. Of the five pending cases, three were initiated by members of the party while the Peoples Democratic Party and the New Nigeria Peoples Party initiated one each.
It added that there were crises in at least 13 state chapters of the party, including Lagos, Bauchi, Imo, Enugu, Plateau, Zamfara, Kwara, Gombe, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti and Taraba states.
APC may not support direct primary – Source
Meanwhile, there are strong indications that the national leadership of the APC may not support the direct mode of primary as captured in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, a top member of the party’s caretaker committee has said.
This action, it was learnt, may also complicate the process leading to the President’s decision on whether to assent to the proposed Bill or reject it.
The President had on November 9 directed the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, to convene a tripartite meeting between the executive, legislature and APC executives to resolve disagreements that arose from the National Assembly’s adoption of direct primary for the selection of candidates for elections.
The meeting however failed to reach a compromise, as sources in the meeting said the National Assembly members insisted on direct primary while the party leaders and governors at the meeting preferred that it should be left to political parties to decide.
The President, Major Gen eral Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has up till December 19 to reject or assent to the bill, which was presented to him by the National Assembly on November 19.
Already, the President had asked the Independent National Electoral Commission to advise him on the cost implication of the proposed direct primary on its operations.
However, the APC source said it would be difficult for the party and other political parties to manage the direct primary.
He said, “We will find it difficult to manage the indirect primary. The members of the National Assembly inserted it in the Electoral Act because they are angry with their state governors. They (the lawmaker) lost out in the scheme of things during the last congresses and they think this is the way to get back at the governors.
“We are finding it difficult dealing with delegates mode of primary. Now, they want to use indirect mode. How do we control the crowd, especially in this era of coronavirus when so many variants are coming up almost every month? I don’t think this is the time to have a sole mode of primary. We can have both and let the leadership of each political party determine whichever suits them.”
Rivers, Oyo, Osun APC speak on mode of primary
Ahead of the convention, the Rivers State chapter of the party is divided over the mode of election. Regardless, both the Senator Magnus Abe and Rotimi Amarchi led factions have expressed readiness to participate in the convention.
While the chairman of the Abe faction, Golden Chioma, supports direct primaries, saying it is a true reflection of democracy, the Publicity Secretary of the Amaechi faction, Chris Finebone, said it was too early to say.
In Oyo State, the APC chairman in the state said through his media aide, Olawale Shadare, that they were in support of direct primary.
In Osun State, the secretary of the faction backed by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, Mr Lani Baderinwa, told one of our correspondents, that direct primary would be most preferred, adding that the group would agree with whatever mode or venue adopted by the national leadership for the convention.
In Cross River State, the chairman of a faction of the party, John Jallo Egbeji, said he would support direct primary instead of indirect.