APC national convention: Uncertainty over February date as peace panel flops

Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni

• Ruling party fears outcome of pending court cases may nullify convention

The crisis rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress has shown no signs of abating even as the national reconciliation committee set up by the party to curb hostilities has failed to make headway three months after it was set up, The PUNCH has learnt.

The PUNCH also learnt that with the plethora of cases in court, the APC feared that its national convention could be declared illegal if court cases instituted in several states were not withdrawn or concluded.

A member of the Mala Buni Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, who confided in one of our correspondents, said the party was not sure of the February convention because of the various cases instituted by its aggrieved members.

He stated, “If we go ahead with the convention and allow a faction in a state to attend, the other group may get a court order against the convention. We are not happy with the plethora of court cases by members who have remained adamant and refused to withdraw cases.“

Also, a lawyer handling one of the cases, who spoke with The PUNCH on the condition of anonymity, said, “The APC is now in a quagmire. Several cases have been instituted challenging the legitimacy of Buni’s committee. Should that committee go ahead with the convention and the court rules that Buni’s committee is illegal, then the convention is null and void.

“Also, the APC cannot decide on its own to recognise any faction until the courts have decided. If for instance in Zamfara State, Governor Matawalle’s faction takes part in the convention and the court later recognises former Governor Yari’s faction, then the entire convention has a legitimacy issue and may have to be conducted all over again. If such a thing happens across four states, then you can be sure that the convention will have to be done all over again.”

The APC had on September 15 set up a committee led by former Governor Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa State to look into the crisis rocking the party all the states where factional chairmen emerged from the rancorous congresses.

Other members of the committee include: a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; the Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Senator George Akume; a former Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime; a former Jigawa State Governor, Ali Saad Birnin-Kudu; Alhaji Suleiman Argungu; a former Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr Oluranti Adebule; and Dr Beta Edu.

The mandate of the Adamu-led committee was to mediate the crisis in the states. Some of the affected states include: Rivers, Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Delta, Osun, Kano, Abia, Zamfara, Gombe and Kwara.

However, the committee, which was set up on September 15, did not start its assignment until late November. The committee had also visited Gombe and Kano states. But The PUNCH learnt that none of the warring parties had agreed to sheathe their swords.

In Kano State where two factions loyal to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and Senator Ibrahim Shekarau lay claim to legitimacy, the tension has failed to abate.

The situation in Kano, it was learnt, was more complex because the court had recognised the Shekarau faction while the national leadership is rumoured to be supporting the faction as well. Last week, the Chairman of the Shekarau faction, Ahmadu Danzago, was warmly received by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

Danzago later told the BBC that the President had endorsed him. However, Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, who is also from Kano State, said the President was not supporting any faction. However, Ganduje’s faction has filed an appeal. The matter is expected to come up on January 13.

The PUNCH learnt that in all the states, warring factions had refused to withdraw their cases from court despite the efforts of the Adamu-led committee.

In Zamfara State, a Federal High Court dismissed the case filed by the APC faction of former governor Abdul’Aziz Yari, challenging the dissolution of the state party’s Exco by Mai Mala Buni. However, Senator Kabiru Marafa informed The PUNCH that an appeal had been filed.

I don’t know  about the committee, I haven’t been contacted – Marafa

When contacted on the telephone on Thursday night, Marafa said the APC reconciliation panel had yet to reach out to him or his faction in Zamfara.

“I don’t even know about the committee and nobody has contacted me. We are still in court and the appeal has already reached the next level,” he said.

Adamu’s committee  can’t conclude reconciliation before convention – Party chieftain

Despite the raging crisis, however, it was learnt that the Adamu committee had put its activities on hold until after the Yuletide.

A chieftain of the APC in Kwara State told The PUNCH that it was unlikely that the APC would be able to hold its convention in February.

He said, “The committee is expected to meet with us in Kwara in the second week of January. And the convention is slated for February. From the look of things, they will not be able to complete their task before the convention.”

Another chieftain in Osun State where Governor Gboyega Oyetola and his predecessor, Rauf Aregbesola, are at loggerheads, said the reconciliation committee had not yet reached out to them.

“The Adamu committee has not visited Osun State. I don’t know the magic they want to perform before February. And for the factions to truly reconcile, all cases have to be withdrawn from court. Currently, we see no signs of such.”

The National Secretary of the APC Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Senator John Akpan Udo-Edehe, who is the official spokesman for the party, neither responded to repeated calls nor a text message.

Earlier, however, Akpan Udo-Edehe had told The PUNCH that the APC would only recognise state leaderships that emerged from the congresses conducted by representatives from the headquarters of the party.

“I will repeat for the last time, anything outside what we have done in terms of ward, local government and state congresses is a nullity; that doesn’t mean where we have disagreements we will not intervene; that is why we have the Adamu committee,” he had said.

Attempts to get a response from Senator Adamu proved abortive on Thursday as he neither responded to calls nor a text message.

In a previous interview with journalists, however, Adamu had said the committee would not be able to reconcile those who do not want to be reconciled.

President Buhari had at a meeting of the National Executive Committee on June 25, 2020 dissolved the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee following a protracted leadership crisis and set up a committee to manage the affairs of the party in the interim.

The 13-member caretaker committee, headed by the Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, was initially given six months by NEC to complete its assignment of organising a convention for the party. The Buni committee has failed to meet its mandate 16 months later despite its deadline being extended thrice.

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