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Nigeria: APC Governors Divided Over National Convention, Choice of Consensus

The forthcoming convention of Nigeria’s All Progressive Congress (APC) has split governors elected under the political party into three different groups. THISDAY gathered that while the group of second term

The forthcoming convention of Nigeria’s All Progressive Congress (APC) has split governors elected under the political party into three different groups.

THISDAY gathered that while the group of second term governors want the convention to hold as planned and are assiduously working towards settling for a candidate; the second group which is made up of mainly first term governors want the convention either postponed and a mechanism to return the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee designed so that Buni can continue. On the other hand, a third group of governors also want the convention to hold, and for Buni to continue or the convention postponed.

However, THISDAY learnt that President Muhammadu Buhari met with Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi before he travelled on the matter, and the decision they both arrived is yet to be disclosed.

Nevertheless, due to the development, there is palpable tension, apprehension, and misgivings in the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) over the choice of a consensus national chairman for the APC as there were also indications last night that the leadership of the party had begun to consider March for a possible new date for its national convention, earlier slated for Saturday, February 26.

But one of the frontrunners for the chairmanship position, Mallam Saliu Mustapha, told THISDAY on Wednesday that February 26 remained “sacrosanct”. Mustapha said with the kind of energy the caretaker committee was devoting to preparations for the convention he believed they knew what to do.

Mustapha told THISDAY, “I don’t want to dispute or argue over speculation, since they have not come out officially to say it will hold or it will not hold. For now, we will still retain earlier information that February 26 is sacrosanct. So, if anything is contrary to that, we will have to wait for the official channel of the party to report it to all of us.”

A few weeks ago, the interim national leadership of the party was forced to fix February 26 for the convention, after pressure from the APC governors and other aggrieved stakeholders, who had expressed their displeasures over foot-dragging on the matter.

A crucial meeting between Buhari and the APC governors to fine-tune the zoning of offices and other matters during the convention could not hold on Tuesday as the president met with only Fayemi on behalf of the governors.

The meeting with the APC governors to fine-tune zoning, was to enable the president disclose his preferred chairmanship aspirant to the governors and pave the way for the zoning of other National Working Committee (NWC) offices.

Explaining why the meeting did not hold as scheduled, a source in the presidency told THISDAY yesterday in Abuja that Buhari told some governors, who met with him individually that there was nothing on ground to suggest that the Buni committee was preparing for the national convention.

The president, who left for Brussels to attend an African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) summit, had met with some of the governors, who had arrived at the villa early for the botched meeting.

The governors included Ben Ayade (Cross River), Hope Uzodimma (Imo), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Simeon Lalong (Plateau), and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti).

The inside source stated, “We are now looking at March for possible date for the national convention. Like the president said, there is nothing on ground to convince us that the caretaker committee is ready for the convention on February 26.

“First, the committee has not been able to come out with a zoning formula for the various positions in the party. And we cannot go into the convention without all these things well-spelt out.”

Both Uzodimma and Ayade also hinted on Tuesday that the convention date was not sacrosanct.

The insider explained further that the Buni committee might have deliberately been pussyfooting around the convention because they had all long planned to hold the national convention and the presidential primaries the same day.

A presidency source stated, “The committee wants to also be the one to conduct the presidential primary, but conducting the national convention on February 26 means that there will be a new national executive committee in place to conduct the presidential primaries.

“This appears to be the agenda of Mai Mala Buni-led committee. As I speak with you, the APC governors and other entrenched interest groups within the party are divided on the matter

“Some governors, who met with the president on Tuesday, asked him who was his preferred chairmanship candidate. But, as usual, the president refused to disclose his interest. He only requested for the list of the 12 aspirants. And their names have been forwarded to the relevant security agencies for scrutiny.

“However, the near consensus is that the national chairman of the party should go to the North-central zone.”

But speaking with THISDAY, Mustapha said he did not want to dispute or speculate on a new date for the convention, since the party had not come out with an official statement on the issue.

He said, “If you notice, the trend in the APC, even when the governors met the other time, is that none of them has the authority to pronounce certain things unless endorsed by the authorised organ, and that was why Governor Mai Mala Buni was the one that spoke and gave a specific date for the convention. He is the chairman of the caretaker committee.

“So, I will want to restrict myself to waiting for the official right channel to instruct or to indicate where we stand. As at today, I want to believe the convention is going to take place on February 26.”

Asked to rate his chances in the race, the APC national chairmanship hopeful said, “I believe my chances are very bright and the sky is the limit for me. It has been very positive. Among 11 or 12 of us, we do not see it as a do-or-die affair. We have always approached each other as brothers in this game.

“In fact, I just came across two of my fellow contestants now and the way we were laughing, hugging, playing, was amazing. For us, it is a family affair that can easily be resolved, because for us, we know what it is to have gotten to this point in our journey, and we would try to see that all hands are on deck so as to come out victorious and be able to continue from the gains already recorded by the present administration ably led by President Muhammadu Buhari.”

Meanwhike, ahead of the planned convention, there appears to tension and cracks in different camps of the PGF over the choice of a consensus national chairman.

THISDAY gathered that the cracks followed a meeting between the governors of Kebbi State and Jigawa State, Atiku Bagudu and Mohammed Badaru, respectively, who were said to have secretly presented their choice of a consensus national chairman to Buhari, without the knowledge of the other governors.

It was learnt that the two governors met with the president last week, where they sold the idea of Senator Sani Musa as a consensus national chairman of the APC. But other APC governors on hearing of the meeting rejected the choice of Musa, and insisted it was not made with their consent.

Buhari was said to have clearly told Bagudu and Badaru that due process should be followed in picking the consensus chairman. The president, it was gathered, further told them to meet with Buni and other members to agree on the options that met his criteria.

But the crisis rocking APC, insiders said, was compounded by the inability of the convention committee to announce a zoning formula for the national convention.

Iyobosa Uwugiaren and Chuks Okocha in Abuja

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