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Nigeria: APC Stakeholders Mull Soft-Landing for Displaced Chairman Buni

Worried by the recent turn of events in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which witnessed a dramatic change of guard, stakeholders in the party have started mulling a soft-landing

Mai Mala Buni

Worried by the recent turn of events in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which witnessed a dramatic change of guard, stakeholders in the party have started mulling a soft-landing for the displaced former chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) and Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, in order to save him from the embarrassment of his ouster.

One of the options said to being considered, THISDAY gathered Tuesday night, was to ask Buni to resign as CECPC chairman, either on the grounds of health or the need to face governance in his State.

At the same time, there was a pall of confusion Tuesday at the national secretariat of the APC over the fate of the National Secretary of the CECPC, Senator John Akpanudoedehe.

This just as the new leadership is moving swiftly with preparations for the convention scheduled for March 26. THISDAY is reliably informed that printing of expression of interest forms has commenced and are expected to go on sale this week or early next week.

While there were reports that Akpanudoedehe had tendered his resignation having read the handwriting from the new leadership, he, on the other hand, claimed he was still the secretary except President Muhammadu Buhari said otherwise.

This is as President Buhari has hinted that he would be part of next Tuesday’s National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, summoned by the acting chairman of the CECPC and Governor of Niger State, Abubakar Sani Bello, to address some of the raging crises in the party.

Sources in the APC told THISDAY last night that some of Buni’s colleagues were unhappy with what had become of him and thought that rather leave him to be embarrassed, there should be a soft-landing that would quietly ease him out, even though someone else had taken over the leadership of the party.

One of the sources maintained that though he had been out of the country on medical trip, it might be easy to ask him to resign on health grounds and allow the party continue with its affairs.

Another suggestion before the party, however, was to ask him to resign in order to concentrate on his state, especially, as a first term governor, who might be interested in seeking re-election in 2023.

A reliable source privy to the meeting told THISDAY that Bello said both Buni and Akpanudoedehe would be given soft-landing.

“They are going to give the Secretary and Buni a soft-landing by asking them to resign. Buni will resign and say he wants to face governance in Yobe, while the secretary will tender his resignation and say he wants to pursue his governorship ambition. That is the soft-landing they are giving them.

“That is the game plan on the ground. The NEC will now ratify the decision. The convention will hold, the date will not change and they will vacate the court order.”

Meanwhile, at the end of the caretaker committee meeting yesterday, news filtered in that Akpanudoedehe had been forced to resign his position.

Akpanudoedehe, who also attended the meeting left the secretariat after the meeting ended.

Immediately the news of his resignation rent the air at the secretariat of the party, the staff of the party started jubilating.

The story of his alleged resignation, however, forced Akpanudoedehe to come back to the secretariat to address journalists to deny the report about his resignation.

He insisted that he remained the national secretary of the party until President Buhari says otherwise.

Akpanudoedehe said he wouldn’t accept a situation, where some people would be dropping the name of the president, adding that he and Buni would wait until they hear directly from the President.

“I have read on social media that I have resigned as Secretary of the APC. I want to state that it is not true. I didn’t resign. If I had resigned, you would have seen my letter of resignation written by me. Someone cannot just say somebody is dead when he is alive.

“I am not bigger than the party, or bigger than the President, who is a leader of the country. I am waiting for my national chairman to come back. This is not the first time you are seeing a power play. I am waiting for the Chairman. If we have a directive from the President that we should resign, we are not bigger than the President, we will do so, if we hear from him.

“Somebody cannot say go and announce he is resigning. Like MKO Abiola used to say, you don’t shave someone’s head in his absence. So, we have done so much. And you will agree with me that when we came in, this place was like a dead zone. The secretariat was moved to a private home. But we were committed to what we were doing. I am stating here that that breaking news is not from me. I don’t know who announced it.”

Asked if he had received any letter from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) asking him to resign, Akpanudoedehe added, ” I have not received any letter.”

But he maintained: “Someone cannot say the President said. I have not received any letter from anywhere. As I said, nobody is bigger than the party. The issue is that, if I have resigned, the answer is no. I am the national secretary of the party.”

Meanwhile, Buhari is expected to join Bello’s first NEC meeting next Tuesday virtually from London. The National Working Committee of the ruling party at its meeting on Tuesday resolved to hold its NEC next Tuesday at 11am.

Buhari’s virtual attendance, insider said, would serve to instill confidence in Bello’s new leadership.

All members of the party’s NEC, except Buni and Akpanudoedehe will attend the meeting, including all APC governors.

THISDAY gathered that the party’s national convention and the presidential primary would dominate the meeting.

However, following the leadership change that occurred on Monday, Bello later met with APC state chairmen same night at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.

Bello said his major task was to fix the party and ensure a successful National convention of the party at the stipulated date.

“Our main task is to fix the party and hold a convention. We all should be worried about the Convention. We need to hold our Convention so that we rectify past mistakes. I placed my absolute loyalty to you but I need your support,” he said.

Addressing journalists after the caretaker committee meeting yesterday, Bello said the report of the zoning of party offices had been adopted and also announced the NEC meeting for next week.

Bello stated: “The report of the zoning formula has been submitted and adopted and it will be released any moment from now. I mean the zoning formula.

He said the meeting held yesterday was a continuation of Monday’s meeting, and that the committee would meet everyday from now on.

On whether Akpanudoedehe was still part of the new leadership, Bello replied: “ask him”.

Senators elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, expressed deep concern over the crisis rocking the party.

The federal lawmakers, who held a closed-door meeting after plenary at Senate room 301, however, confirmed that the Niger State Governor, Sani Bello, was merely acting for the ailing Governor Buni, as chairman of the party’s caretaker committee.

They, therefore, urged all stakeholders to exercise caution to avoid any incident that could prevent the conduct of the March 26 convention of the party.

Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, who briefed journalists after the two-hour meeting, described happenings in the APC as worrisome.

He said his colleagues would soon start peace moves to reconcile aggrieved stakeholders across the country.

Abdullahi said, “APC senators met for about two hours. We are too worried about what is happening in our party and we expressed our concern over the challenges facing the party, very close to its national convention.

“We thought as a very important stakeholders in the party, we want to draw the attention of everyone involved to come together and unite so that we can have very successful convention in the party.

“This is not the time for regrets about what we could do. What is happening is about the future of our party and government and also the capacity of our party to win elections in 2023.

“We have sat down as important stakeholders as a caucus in this great party, to dissect all the issues that have been affecting our party since the formation of the caretaker extraordinary convention planning committee.

“We are quite aware of the challenges that they have faced and we are also aware of the successes that the committee had recorded particularly, when it comes to registration of members.

“They came to harmonise some of the successes of the party, carrying out congresses at the ward, local government and at the state levels. The same convention planning committee is in place. What we realised is that the chairman of the convention planning committee has been sick and he went for medical checkup.

“The current Niger State Governor, from the grapevine and from the knowledge that is available to us, is actually the deputy chairman and in the absence of the chairman, he is acting till the chairman comes back. The speculation in the papers is not exactly true.

“What we are concerned about is the seeming disarray in the party. So, from our standing coming from all the states in Nigeria, we have to come and establish a national platform, where all these things can be articulated so that all of us will come up with one mind and strategise for the success of the party.

“All personal and individual bitter struggling for power is subordinated to the chances of the party – party’s interest. So that the party would be strong. We are the strongest party; we have the largest membership, therefore, we should as much as possible move to make sure that our party is united in the interest of every member.

“We commend the performance of that committee, we ask you to do more by as much as possible by trying to reconcile those chapters, where there are still challenges trailing the ward, local government and state congresses.

“This is because, a loss in any state is a loss for the party. We cannot afford to come to the convention as a divided entity. Anywhere there are challenges that could cause the party its victory is a loss for everybody.”