The coast appears clear for the March 26 national convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as President Muhammadu Buhari and the 22 governors of the party, on Wednesday, agreed to adopt consensus candidates for all the offices of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
The party settled for former Nasarawa State Governor, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, as consensus candidate for the post of National Chairman. It agreed on Senator Iyiola Omisore for National Secretary. Other positions will be filled through the Unity List being worked out by the governors. The Unity List is expected to contain names of candidates for all positions. Anyone who is still bent on contesting is free to do so, but once outside the unity list, it’s surely going to be a losing game as the governors control the delegates who will vote at the convention.
Buhari, at a meeting with the governors, warned against frittering away the gains of the government and the party as a result of in-fighting. He later met with some of the intending chairmanship hopefuls, to discuss how to manage the many tendencies ahead of the convention.
Omisore is believed to have the backing of his Osun State governor, Gboyega Oyetola, who many allege may need the national officer to fight Rauf Aregbesola.
However, briefing newsmen after a meeting between Buhari and the APC governors at State House, Abuja, Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF) and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, said those opposed to the consensus option were equally free to contest for any of the party offices.
That was as Chairman of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of APC, and Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, warned the media against setting party stakeholders against one another to ignite crisis, a few days to the national convention.
Notwithstanding, the screening committee of the party, on Wednesday, extended the screening of aspirants vying for various party positions by one day ahead of the convention.
APC selected 180 delegates to represent the Anambra State chapter of the party at the national convention on Saturday.
At the same time, following the court case filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and his Deputy, challenging their defection to the APC. Chairman of APC in the state, Alphonsus Ogar Eba, expressed optimism that the judgement, slated for Friday, would be in the favour of the governor and his deputy.
While meeting with the APC governors, Buhari stated, “Over the last seven years we have done our best to deliver good governance to the country. We have guaranteed national food security, we have provided modern infrastructure to kick-start economic growth and we have implemented the most comprehensive social welfare programmes in our history.
“Along the way, our party has survived shocks and attempts to derail it. Our government has also had to endure the worst economic crisis with the free fall of oil prices from an average of $100 per barrel over 15 years of PDP government to an average of $30 – $50 until the recent energy crisis.
“We need to remind ourselves of these achievements and not be diverted by petty quarrels and unseemly jockeying for positions. It will be very sad and regrettable development if these manifest gains are frittered away as a result of internal dissent and rivalry.
“We must avoid narrow focus and inordinate personal ambitions at the expense of our party’s common good. We must stop frivolous and diversionary litigationss when the party’s reconciliation processes are available for settling disputes. We must restore sanity and purpose in the affairs of our party and lead ourselves to victory and safety.”
The president later met with all the seven chairmanship aspirants of APC. The meeting held over dinner at the official residence of the president at State House, Abuja.
THISDAY learnt that the meeting, which began at 8pm, also had in attendance Buni, Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.
At the meeting with the seven aspirants, it was learnt that the president stressed the need for the aspirants to embrace consensus to avoid acrimony.
The aspirants that attended the meeting were Minister of Special Duties, George Akume; Senator representing Niger East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani Musa; former Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, Saliu Mustapha; and Mohammed Etsu.
Others were former Nasarawa State governor and serving Senator Tanko Al-Makura; former governor of Nasarawa State and Senator representing Nasarawa West, who is believed to be Buhari’s preferred candidate, Senator Adamu Abdullahi; and former Governor of Zamfara State, Abdul Aziz Yari.
But Bagudu, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues at the meeting with the president, numbering 15, said the governors took turns to brief Buhari on steps being taken to ensure that consensus candidates emerged at all levels.
He stressed that the PGF was in support of the chairmanship candidate being backed by Buhari, although, he refused to name the candidate. Buhari was weeks ago alleged to have settled for Adamu as consensus chairman for the party.
According to Bagudu, “Mr. President has always urged consensus for all positions, because consensus is in accordance with democratic tenets and once you have leaders, who are established, who are working towards the same goal, yes, we might have our individual differences, like was once carefully explained by Governor El-Rufai.
“But on the principle of ensuring that we get leadership that will hit the ground running, we are united, and to that extent, will support any process that will lead to consensus and the emergence of leaders without the need for election.
“Today, we all briefed Mr. President on the issue of distributing political party offices to the respective zones and our support for Mr. President’s endorsement of the candidate for the National Chairman of the party and the various geo-political zones.
“We took turns to brief Mr. President on what they have been doing to generate consensus in their respective zones among the National Working Committee (NWC) and zonal party positions that have been either allocated to the zones or which the zones are entitled to.
“Most of the zones have been allocated NWC positions that are fewer than the number of states. However, there are zonal executive committees from which the zones are working to produce a consensus list.
“So, this afternoon, the respective zones – Governor Abubakar Bello briefed on behalf of the North-central; Governor Babagana Zulum on behalf of the North-east; Governor Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State on behalf of North-west; Governor Dave Umahi, on behalf of South-east; Governor Kayode Fayemi briefed the president on behalf of the South-west. I further mentioned the position of the South-south to Mr. President, as I had on paper.
“So, Mr. President appreciated the briefing and restated his gratitude for the work the governors have been doing in support for the party and preparation for the National Convention.”
The Kebbi State governor further reiterated that aspirants that were against the consensus option were free to run at the convention, saying APC, as a democratic party would not bar anybody from exercising their rights.
According to him: “Our party is a democratic party. We will always urge consensus; we’ll urge respect for the decisions of the party, because the distribution of political party offices here has been approved by the highest organ of the party, which is the National Caretaker Committee, because they were acting in their capacity as the National Executive Committee of the party. But where people still choose to go against the grain, whatever the party constitution allows them, because we wouldn’t do anything undemocratic.”
He stressed that the meeting with Buhari also agreed that everything should be put in place for the party to have a successful convention come March 22, by supporting all the decisions taken by the Buni-led caretaker committee and those taken in his absence.
His words, “Some of you may recall that last week, there was a letter that was widely circulated in the media, addressed to me as the chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum and copied to a number of others, including the chairman of the Caretaker Committee, the acting Chairman of the Caretaker Committee and, indeed, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
“That letter led to a series of actions, including meetings between the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee, Acting Chairman, Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State, as he was then, and myself.
“We all restated our commitment to working together to ensure that the convention takes place on March 26, 2022 and then, we agreed to support all the decisions that were taken by the caretaker committee, both acting as a working committee and acting with the donated powers given to it by the National Executive Committee.
“Indeed, the chairman of the caretaker, upon his return, also appreciated what the caretaker committee did and the decisions that were taken in his absence.”
Buni Warns Media against Igniting Crisis in APC
Chairman of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of APC and Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, warned the media against setting party stakeholders against one another and igniting an crisis a few days to the party’s national convention slated for Saturday, March 26.
Buni, in a statement Wednesday by his Director General, Press and Media Affairs, Mr. Mamman Mohammed, described the media report, which suggested a victor and vanquished positions “as irresponsible and deliberately intended to instigate disaffection and acrimony among the critical stakeholders of the party.”
The reports were gleaned from recent happenings in the party.
Buni noted that since the intervention of Buhari via a press statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Malam Garba Shehu, calling on stakeholders to shun media backstabbing and name-calling, APC governors and all other stakeholders had obliged to the presidential directive.
He added that upon his return and assumption of office as chairman of the party, he described the incident as a past event, declaring that there is no victor, no vanquished.
Buni also commended his colleagues in the caretaker committee for the great job they had done under the acting chairmanship of Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello.
“Therefore, it is irrational, absurd and irresponsible for anyone to at this moment initiate animosity and resentment among the stakeholders, who are working assiduously for the success of the upcoming convention,” Buni said.
The Yobe State governor stressed that the governors and other critical stakeholders were now heading various sub-committees of the convention and had been meeting with him to ensure a successful arrangement for the convention.
He said, “Therefore, it amounts to irresponsibility for anyone to write an injurious opinion in complete disregard to the directive from the president. The party and all stakeholders would not condone such disrespect to the president to deliberately cause confusion and divert attention from the cause of having a fruitful convention.
“The authors of such baseless, flimsy, and unwarranted articles, should be cautious of the negative impact of such deliberate sabotage on the party and the good relationship between the governors and their followers.”
Buni advised the authors to either work for the unity of APC or just watch if they had nothing to contribute positively. He said the party remained a united family, with much respect for the president, adding that they are collectively committed to the success of the convention, assuring all that the APC would not be distracted from the noble cause of moving forward.
Screening of Aspirants Extended by One Day
APC on Wednesday, extended the screening of aspirants vying for various party positions by one day, meaning the screening that was supposed to end yesterday will now end today. The one day extension was due to the number of aspirants jostling for positions, which apparently overwhelmed the committee.
The Screening Committee chaired by Governor of Kastina State, Aminu Masari, had planned to screen all aspirants for positions in the National Working Committee (NWC) on Tuesday and complete the assignment on Wednesday with the screening of Non-NWC and zonal positions.
THISDAY checks revealed that the committee screened six out of the seven national chairmanship aspirants on Tuesday, as well as Deputy National Chairmanship aspirants for North and South and National Secretary aspirants.
Yesterday, the committee screened Senator Abdullahi Adamu and a few other aspirants for NWC offices and aspirants for zonal offices.
The committee also screened all the national chairmanship aspirants, deputy national chairmanship, national secretary, and national vice chairmen for the six zones.
A source at the Kastina State Governor’s Lodge, venue of the exercise, said the committee would request for time extension.
The officer, who did not want his identity publicised, said, “Though the committee may have been told not to disqualify any aspirant, they are bent on due diligence by ensuring that all aspirants have the minimum qualification. This is a move to stall any legal action after the convention.
“With the volume of work to be done and with the template for a thorough screening, the two days assigned for the exercise is grossly inadequate. The committee chairman, His Excellency, Governor Bello Masari, may approach the caretaker committee for a day extension.”
The screening of aspirants for zonal offices continued Wednesday as at press time.
Meanwhile, a chieftain of APC, Mr. Longers Anyawu, appealed to delegates to the APC national convention to support Senator Abdullahi Adamu to emerge as National Chairman of the party on Saturday.
Anyanwu, in a statement, described Adamu as a de-tribalised Nigerian, who will stabilise, unify and reposition the party for electoral victories.
Anyanwu described Adamu as, “A tested politician that has run several elections and lost none. We need somebody, who knows how to play the game by the rules.”
He added, “Today, opposition political parties are jittery, because a new sheriff that knows how to lead is coming to take over, not a makeshift leader. If we vote and ratify the chairmanship of Senator Abdullahi Adamu, 2023 electoral victories are assured.”
Anambra Selects 180 Delegates for Saturday’s Convention
The Anambra State chapter of APC selected 180 delegates to represent it at the national convention on Saturday. The delegates were drawn from the 21 local government areas, and their names were announced at the state party secretariat in Awka yesterday evening by the state chairman, Sir Basil Ejidike.
Ejidike announced the names during the inauguration of the state zonal and local government executive committees.
He said, “The delegates were selected according to APC Constitution, from the state exco, LGA executive and political office holders.”
While congratulating the newly inaugurated state officers, Ejidike, said, “I wish to restate and draw your attention to the essence of a political party. All political parties’ interest is to win elections and advance the course of their environment.
“The APC has all it takes to achieve this and more. Therefore, we must all put our hands on deck to reposition the party, and as well win elections.
“This is achievable in Anambra, being that we have both the human and material resources needed. As a new family, we are poised to galvanise and harness our diverse potentials and resources to put our party in political positions in our dear state.
“It is, indeed, factual that the APC-led federal government has benefitted Anambra State and people in terms of infrastructural development, human capacity building, and empowerment.
“These have reposed on us all the onerous task of leading the people of Anambra into the mainstream politics of Nigeria. This we must accomplish. In a very special way, I appreciate the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, for his giant development strides in Anambra State.”
APC Optimistic about Court Judgement on Ayade, Deputy
Chairman of APC in Cross State, Alphonsus Ogar Eba, said the court judgement challenging the defection of Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and his deputy, slated for Friday, would be in favour of the governor and his deputy.
Eba, who reacted to the case filed by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), gave the assurance yesterday, and explained that there was simply a misunderstanding in the judgement made earlier by the court.
Eba, who was on the Morning Show of Arise News Channel, shed more light on Justice Taiwo Taiwo’s rejection of the claim that the lawmakers had not become registered members of the party and explained that a body of a fractionalised PDP expelled them, rendering them handicapped.
He noted that they did not defect neither was it their desire to leave the party, but that the APC took them in, after they were expelled by PDP.
Eba stated, “The document before the court of Justice Taiwo is to the effect that these lawmakers had been expelled from the party. The records are there. Mai Mala Buni is a chairman of a party, he saw that people were expelled from PDP and he was looking for people to convert into the party. The beauty of why I love the APC is that they look for assets.”
On the issue of jurisdiction, Eba said it was a settled matter, noting that the Supreme Court judgement by Justice Walter Onnoghen and others, had settled the matter.
Eba stated, “I’m interested in expounding a jurisprudence of law and the issue of judgement coming on Friday, we are not bothered. It can go anywhere but we know we have our right of appeal. There is no way that the clear provision of the law will not be adhered to. The law, as it is, and not the law as it ought to be is the jurisprudence of law.”
Speaking about zoning of the governorship in 2023 to the southern senatorial district, he said the issue would not be a problem for them in APC, but had always been a problem that existed in the opposition party particularly, in the PDP
The lawmaker said, “In recent times, we have listened to some members of our party, and I believe that what is fair is that the governorship should move to the southern senatorial district. But at the state level, all our views will be brought to the table; the governor’s, mine and every member of APC will be looked at.”
Sharing his perspective on happenings in Cross River State, too, a member of the PDP, and senator for Cross River North in the National Assembly, Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, described Eba as a factional chairman of APC and not substantive as he claimed.
Jarigbe further called him a pathological liar as there was no document backing the expulsion claims of Governor Ben Ayade and others being put in the purview of the public, saying the party wasn’t an appendage of Government House, and the facts were very clear.
Jarigbe alleged that the governor gave out orders to the police to take over the House of Assembly in the state, adding that he was known for that type of brutality. He said there was evidence that there was over-voting in areas that were hijacked as the number of accredited voters was less than the number of the total votes scored in that election.
Jarigbe said, “We are before the court, we applied for certified true copies of the data from the Bimodal machine. It has proven that there was over-voting. We have asked that those polling units be cancelled and if that happens, we will win with an overwhelming majority. Nigeria is not a banana republic. Those things will be fixed.”
Chairmanship Aspirant Promises to Reserve Deputy Positions for Women, Youth
A frontline chairmanship aspirant of APC, Alhaji Saliu Mustapha, promised to reserve all deputy positions for women and youths in the party. Mustapha made this known on Wednesday during his consultation with the APC House of Representatives caucus in Abuja.
He said the gesture would create a process of mentoring the younger ones in the country, and give competent young women and youth the opportunity to lead.
Mustapha believed the country lacked a solid platform for building or mentoring the younger ones to take over, saying, “We must have a new approach to things and do things differently.”
Mustapha promised that if given the opportunity, he would create a progressive party, where lawmakers would be able to archive their achievements.
He said, “There was need to preach and enthrone internal democracy. Once there is no justice, the party will not have a healthy house. The party was at a very critical stage of its transformation and, therefore, needs strategy on how to win election.
“If we don’t win election as a ruling party, some of the good works we are doing may be truncated. So, do not look at me on a face value, but what can guarantee our party’s victory in general election.”
Deji Elumoye, Adedayo Akinwale, Juliet Akoje in Abuja, Emma Okonji, Nosa Alekhuogie in Lagos and David-Chyddy Eleke in Awka