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How Governors Coup against Buni was Thwarted

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The Chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) and the Governor of Yobe state, Mai Mala Buni, like a proverbial cat with nine lives survived the coup against him and had the final laugh, Adedayo Akinwale writes

After days of power play within the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), the Chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) and the Governor of Yobe state, Mai Mala Buni miraculously survived the coup orchestrated against him by some governors in the party.

A faction of the APC governors had complained bitterly to President Muhammadu Buhari that Buni was not inclined to holding the convention as rescheduled, because there were no preparations on the ground.

It was based on this that the President directed that Buni be removed and replaced by the Governor of Niger state, Abubakar Bello, who later assumed the leadership of the party in acting capacity.

While all this was on, Buni was already out of the country for medical reasons. The APC governors pledged their loyalty to Bello.

The Governor of Kaduna state, Nasir el-Rufai said 19 out of the 23 governors were on the same page on the mission to prevent the party from collapse; while the Governor of Ondo state, Rotimi Akeredolu said most of the governors were solidly behind Bello to salvage the party except a few ‘Yahoo, Yahoo:’ governors. This disparaging remark drew a lot of strong criticism from other governors and from other discerning Nigerians who thought Akeredolu spoke in a manner that was not expected of a governor.

The coup against Buni was almost successful until the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) refused to recognize the Bello-led leadership, who had summoned an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting where the change of leadership would be ratified.

The electoral body said according to the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) and the commission’s regulations and guidelines for political party operations, the invitation letter was not signed by the National Chairman (Buni) and National Secretary (Senator John Akpanudoedehe) of the CECPC. This is the singular occurrence that saved Buni and forced Buhari to review his stand.

It said: “Please refer to your letter Ref. APC/NHDQ/INEC/019/022/32, dated 8th March 2022. The Commission draws your attention to the fact that the notice for the meeting was not signed by the National Chairman and National Secretary of the CECPC contrary to the provision of Article 1.1.3 of the Commission’s Regulations and Guidelines for Political Party Operations (2018).

“Furthermore, the APC is reminded of the provision in Section 82(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 which requires ‘at least 21 days’ notice of any convention, congress, conference, or meeting convened for the purpose of ‘merger’ and electing members of its executive committees, other governing bodies or nominating candidates for any elective offices.”

Nevertheless, while the preparation for the emergency NEC was going on, some governors and party leaders met with the President in London. After the meeting, the President warned the leaders and members of APC to desist from name-calling and backstabbing ahead of the March 26 Convention.

Also, Buni flew from Dubai to London to meet with the President. His meeting with the President panned out to be the master stroke that ended the coup against him.

After Buhari’s meeting with Buni, the President in a letter addressed to the Chairman of Progressives Governors Forum and the Governor of Kebbi state, Atiku Bagudu directed that Buni should be allowed to see through preparation for the convention. He also warned the governors of the party to desist from making utterances that would lead to disunity in the party.

The President directed: “First, the issue of the leadership of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Committee (CECC), should immediately return to status quo ante.”

The President’s directive ensured that Buni, like a proverbial cat with nine lives, survived the coup against him. The embattled Buni immediately canceled the NEC meeting slated for last Thursday.

In a leaked notice dated March 8, 2022 and signed by a majority of the members of the Caretaker committee, a vote of no confidence was passed on Akpanudoedehe. The decision would have been ratified at NEC if the meeting was held. The notice was signed by 10 out of 12 members of the Caretaker Committee.

The members of the committee cited Article 17 Sub Section 5 of the constitution of the APC which allows a majority of any constituted ad-hoc committee of the party to pass a vote of no confidence on any member found wanting.

But Akpanudoedehe, who remained unrattled, insisted that he remained the secretary of the party. The secretary in a brief chat with journalists said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter superseded everything.

He said: “The President’s letter supersedes everything. I remain the secretary of the party.”

Meanwhile, a former Director General of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), Dr. Salihu Lukman, lamented that conflicting directives from the President to APC governors and party leaders was disrupting negotiations for the emergence of consensus leaders and in some ways mobilising internal rebellion within the party ahead of the March 26 national convention.

He was of the opinion that the President needs to recognize that being the leader of the party imposes on him some level of propriety, which requires that once decisions are taken through meetings, it would require at least another meeting to change such decisions.

He said, “In every respect, the decisions of the President as conveyed in the letter to His Excellency Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, PGF Chairman of March 16, 2022 directing a ‘return to status quo ante’ could have been achieved from the London meeting with Governors Fayemi and El-Rufai. The letter to the PGF Chairman was avoidable and unnecessary.”

“The good thing, however, arising from the actions of the ‘CPC London lobbyists’ by getting the President to issue conflicting directives to Progressive Governors and party leaders, thereby disrupting negotiations for the emergence of consensus leaders is that it has in some ways mobilised internal rebellion within the APC, which will lead to open contests for all positions in the party in the March 26, 2022 National Convention.”

El-Rufai, who did not find the President’s conflicting directive funny in a message to his fellow APC governors, said he was done with the party.

He said, “Your Excellencies, unity is impossible to attain when leaders that are in office because we consented to it, are consistently erratic, capricious, corrupt and deceitful,’ he wrote.

“Loyalty begets loyalty. Deception begets mistrust. Betrayal begets revolt, ineptness, greed and selfishness threaten to destroy what has been built over nearly one decade, by those who didn’t even know how this party was put together.

“I am done with this charade unless concrete, honest and transparent steps are taken to implement our agreed plans under a leadership we trust.”

Going by the President’s directive, Buni would continue the preparation for the convention and finish his remaining days in office as the Caretaker chairman of the party.

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