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Nigeria: In Deft Political Move, Buhari’s Men Set to Dominate Incoming APC National Working Committee

In a demonstration of deft skill and intriguing art of political     manoeuvring, President Muhammadu Buhari’s men appear to have stamped their authority on the incoming National Working Committee (NWC)

In a demonstration of deft skill and intriguing art of political     manoeuvring, President Muhammadu Buhari’s men appear to have stamped their authority on the incoming National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Buhari has, apparently, appropriated some of the key offices ahead of the party’s national convention coming up Saturday, March 26, in Abuja.

In a similar vein, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) elements in APC had adopted Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi as their nominee for the office of National Vice Chairman, South-west. With this, the CPC leg of the APC merger, Buhari’s original group, seem to be establishing a foothold in the South-west and other zones in the south.
Ahead of the convention of the ruling party, Nasarawa State Governor and Chairman of the Media Committee of the national convention, Abudulahi Sule, assured that the consensus arrangement that would be adopted tomorrow in choosing candidates for the party offices conformed to the 2022 Electoral Act. Sule spoke Thursday at a press conference in Abuja.

Beyond the convention, APC will Friday hold a policy conference in preparation for the post-Buhari era. Secretary of the committee and Director General of National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr. Garba Abari, disclosed this Thursday in Abuja while addressing a pre-convention conference, with the theme, “Consolidating Democracy: Scorecard, Impact and the Road Ahead.”

That was as Buhari hosted the founding fathers of the ruling party to dinner at his official residence at the State House, Abuja, Thursday.

The president, who had watched the APC crisis peak a couple of weeks ago, before stepping in, began to stamp his authority on some of major offices with a message that clearly dismissed insinuations he would sit by and watch others do it or allow things take shape without lifting a finger.

First, before the president left for London on a short medical trip some weeks ago, he had hinted at his choice for the national chairmanship of the party, a move that unsettled all initial permutations. It also sent other stakeholders, particularly, the APC governors, back to the drawing board. The governors tried to rally and pushback on the president’s decision. For a while, it seemed they were succeeding.

But with the crisis not abating, Buhari showed his hand again, albeit in a different way, when he ordered the sack of Chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the party and Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, and his replacement with Niger State Governor Abubakar Bello. Bello acted in Buni’s stead and took far-reaching decisions within a week that he was in office.

However, when the legal implications of Buhari’s rather hasty directive were evaluated, and a warning was served by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which declined to recognise Bello, Buhari rescinded some of his decisions. Though the former national secretary of the party, John Akpanudoedehe, was sacrificed in the process.

Since his return, Buhari had taken some deft political decisions meant to shape the outcome of tomorrow’s national convention. These include establishing that consensus was the way to go at the convention, meaning there would be a unity list, particularly, of the core prospective NWC members.

Besides, the president had long hinted at the possibility of consensus, when sometime back, he told his party members that APC had always embraced the consensus approach since inception, citing the emergence of Chief Bisi Akande, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and Adams Oshiomhole as examples to buttress his point.

In quick turns, therefore, the president on Wednesday met with the APC governors at State House, Abuja, after which he also met with the contenders for the post of national chairman of the party. Some members of the party claimed it was part of moves to further show his hand and interest in some of the key NWC positions.
Thus, in another letter this March, the president had, allegedly, signed off four NWC offices with preferred aspirants that would not be challenged, as other stakeholders perfected the “unity list” to fill other positions.
The NWC offices include the national chairman, the national secretary, organising secretary, and deputy national chairman, south, of the party.

Interestingly, the president, who sources claimed did not ask or interfere with what other stakeholders in the party were doing with the non-NWC offices, moved beyond his influence in the north, to now exert same influence in the south.

For instance, for the national chairmanship of the party, Buhari had so far indicated interest in a former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdulahi Adamu, a man, who was not even in the race some months ago, but was only appointed to reconcile some of the aggrieved members of the party.

Up until some hours ago, the notion was that the South-west wing of the APC had settled for Senator Iyiola Omisore, from Osun State, as the candidate for the office of national secretary. But there were some last minute developments, which showed that the president had signed off on Mr. Ifeoluwa Oyedele, a 2020 governorship aspirant of the party in Ondo State.

Similarly, news doing the rounds had it that the president had included in his list of choice candidates a former president of the Senate, Senator Ken Nnamani, from Enugu State, as Deputy National Chairman (South), effectively closing the door against some South-east governors, who had been pushing other interests.

Likewise, Alhaji Waziri Bulama, a former acting national secretary of the party from Borno State, according to sources, has secured the blessing of the president to emerge National Organsing Secretary of the party, representing the North-east geo-political zone.

Although not in the original letter, which contained the names of the other four signed off by the president, THISDAY gathered from other inside sources that Alhaji Adamu Farouk from Jigawa State had been positioned for the office of Deputy National Chairman (North), having also allegedly received the president’s blessing.

THISDAY also gathered that the CPC arm of APC had positioned Afikuyomi to emerge as National Vice Chairman, South-west. With this development, the CPC tendency in APC is fast establishing its dominance in the South-west and other geopolitical zones in the south.

Sources told THISDAY that since Afikuyomi had always had a relationship with most of the CPC elements, especially, from his days in the senate, coupled with his involvement in the activities of the for Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) before the merger, it was easier going with the current flow of party alignment and realignment.

Afikuyomi’s aspiration to be national vice chairman elicited some interests recently, when news went viral that his friend, a former governor of Lagos State and presidential hopeful, Bola Tinubu, was against his ambition and instead, preferred another position to be micro-zoned to Lagos State, to protect his presidential aspiration.
The development, which THISDAY reported on Monday, had caused division among some of Tinubu’s loyalists, who thought the decision of the APC national leader amounted to betrayal of friendship and trust. Afikuyomi was, thus, forced to now pitch tent with the CPC elements in the APC and by implication, enhance the president’s hold on the party as the 2023 succession battle peaks.

Already, some of the other stakeholders in the south, who did not like how their leaders managed their aspirations, had also started to enlist for the CPC, picking signals that the president was now awake to certain realities that might inform his choices in the next general election.

Besides, they were said to have concluded that since the office Afikuyomi wanted to vie for was a national office, they would mobilise effectively across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to ensure that the former senator for both Lagos Central and West emerged victorious tomorrow.

The Nasarawa State Governor and Chairman of the APC Media Committee for the national convention, Abudulahi Sule, assured that the consensus arrangement to be adopted tomorrow would conform to the provisions of the 2022 Electoral Act, as amended.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja, Sule noted that the party was being driven towards a consensus arrangement in order to have a peaceful convention.

He said, “As I mentioned earlier, we have been driven towards a consensus arrangement so that we can have a very peaceful convention, after which most of the political activities will begin, which will lead into the success of the party at most of the elections that we are going to have next year, by the grace of God.”

Sule stressed, “We will not do anything whatsoever as a political party that is going to be in violation of the law, because as the ruling party, we will not carry out something that is going to be detrimental to our law in this country, so that we do not give bad example. You can rest assured that whatever we are going to do is going to be in line with the Electoral Act.

“What our party has that others don’t have is the fact that we have a political leader and father that everyone, who is truly a member of this party, respects and that is President Muhammadu Buhari. We strongly believe that he will not do something just for selfish reasons, for greed or for anything that will be against the interest of the party. He is interested in ensuring the unity of the party. So, he’s not doing anything for his personal benefit.
“That is the kind of leader we have. That is why each time he speaks, everyone listens, because they know he is not doing it for any personal benefit. That is his request and I am telling you his request will be honoured, because we know he is doing it sincerely for the benefit of the party.”

On the issue of refund to other aspirants, Sule was of the opinion that the president only made an appeal, which he believed the leadership of the party agreed with.

According to the governor, “This was an appeal made by Mr. President in order to show leadership. He said once we agreed on the consensus, it is only fair that what they paid be returned back to them. It was a request actually made by Mr. President to the leadership of the party and the leadership was there. So, I will say that the leadership of the party also agreed.”

Sule noted that the total number of delegates expected at the convention would be determined by the party and revealed that the major caucuses of the party had been meeting in order to discuss most of the grey areas and resolve them.

He added that the meeting of the APC governors with the president on Wednesday provided them with the opportunity to resolve some of the contentious issues, noting that the governors are now more united, and the ruling party would go as a united front into the convention.

APC will Friday hold a policy conference in preparation for the post-Muhammadu Buhari era. Secretary of the committee and Director General of National Orientation Agency (NOA), Dr. Garba Abari, disclosed this yesterday in Abuja while addressing a pre-convention conference, with the theme, “Consolidating Democracy: Scorecard, Impact and the Road Ahead”.

Those expected at the conference include President Buhari; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawn; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; Chairman and Members of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), and governors, among others.

Abari stressed that the overall objective of the APC policy conference was to position leaders of thoughts of the party and sector experts to deliberate on the current and future policy direction of the party. He said it would also provide a reform agenda, which the party would drive over the next phase of its administration, building on the current achievements, including the outcomes for state and local governments.

Abari said, “It will seek to address various segments around governance, economy and social environment with the aim to rekindle investors’ confidence in the Nigerian economy.”

Meanwhile the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to attend, monitor or supervise tomorrow’s national convention of the APC, saying it is a jamboree being organised by the ruling party. PDP forewarned that INEC would be going outside its statutory mandate under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as emended) and the Electoral Act 2022 by attending or monitoring the APC national convention.

In a statement by National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Debo Ologunagba, the party said INEC, being a government agency set up by law, that also drew from the budgetary allocation of the country with respect to superintending electoral processes and management of political parties, could only superintend over and monitor bodies it had the mandate to supervise.

According to PDP, “The APC, having been defunct on December 8, 2020, when it dissolved its national, states as well as local government structures, ceases, in the eyes of the law, to be a political party and as such, cannot be subject of INEC’s regulations with particular reference to its supposed national convention.

“For emphasis, the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) was established for the singular purpose of organising the APC National Convention in 2020. The committee violated the constitution and the Electoral Act by engaging in party administration, conducting congresses to produce officers at the various state chapters as well as delegates for APC national convention.

“In any event, the CECPC by its composition with a state governor, H.E Mai Mala Buni, as chairman is illegal and unconstitutional by reason of Section 183 of the Nigerian Constitution, which bars a sitting governor from holding “any other executive office in any capacity whatsoever.”

The opposition party added, “Article 14 (i) of the APC Constitution, clearly states that the Chairman of the APC ‘shall be the Chief Executive…’ of the party. In going beyond its mandate, the CECPC acted ultra vires and all administrative acts purportedly done or deemed to have been done by this committee are null and void and void ab-initio.

“To this effect, delegates to the APC purported national convention produced by congresses conducted by the CECPC are at best handicapped delegates with leprous fingers, who cannot deliver any vote to produce a valid and legal political leadership for the APC. INEC should, therefore, not waste public resources to monitor a jamboree that would be of no legal or electoral effect under our laws.”

PDP noted that if APC had listened to one its members, Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo, SAN, who had cautioned that the “competence of Governor Mai Mala Buni to organise the congresses has been called to question by the Supreme Court”, it would not have been in this quagmire, adding, “Our Party for the umpteenth time cautions Nigerians, who intend to participate in the electoral process under the APC to be guided as they are on a voyage that leads to nowhere.”

Chuks Okocha and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

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