After several failed attempts to patch things up, it was clear that the centre could no longer hold for governors elected under the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) operating under the aegis of the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF). Political analysts have warned that the division among the governors, who are major stakeholders in the ruling party may affect the chances of the party in the 2023 general elections.
It all started when Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani-Bello assumed office last Monday as the chairman of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) following reports that President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the removal of Yobe state governor, Mai Mala Buni, the occupant of the position over allegations that he was scheming to postpone the March 26 national convention for reasons best known to him.
In an interview, Kaduna state governor, Nasir El-Rufai said Buni, who was receiving medical attention abroad will never return to his position as APC governors have endorsed Sani-Bello as the new acting chairman. According to him, certain actions and inactions of Buni put the ruling party at risk because they were a hindrance to the plan to holding the convention on March 26.
El-Rufai said the governors met with President Buhari on Sunday, shortly before his London trip to obtain his approval for the plan to proceed with preparations for the convention and to hold a NEC meeting to ratify critical decision on the way the forward.
He said that an injunction has been obtained following a request from the court by a party member to the effect that the party should not hold its convention until his grievances have been addressed. said Buni was aware and neither informed the party nor did anything on it, said efforts had commenced now to vacate the injunction which he described as “a weapon of mass destruction”, planned to use to scuttle the convention.
He also said the fate of caretaker secretary James Akpanudoedehe had been decided after he refused to take instruction from acting Chairman Bello.
“We got a wind of a court process wherein an order had been gotten directing that the convention should not be held until the determination of the case. And it was unfortunate that, our lawyer engaged by Buni-led committee agreed with this in court. If this remains, how can the convention be done? We got signals that there were some elements in the party that were bent on scuttling the proposed March 26 convention.
“And if we miss that date, the following Saturday, will be Ramadan and that means we would not be able to have convention until after Ramadan. That means we would have lost another month according to INEC’s timetable. Based on this, we met with the president to discuss a number of issues with him like zoning formulae, which the president signed off on.
“We went the second time to inform the president that the zoning formula he signed off on had not been sent back to us. Instead, we were hearing about another list, which we knew was not from Mr. President. The President agreed with us and directed that with immediate effect, Governor Buni must go and that Governor Bello should take over the headship of the party. The president directed that we must do everything possible to ensure the convention holds. I can tell you that Bello has the full backing of the president and at least 19 of the 23 APC governors. Then, you can see that since Monday that Bello took over, we have made a lot of progress.”
“We had to intervene when we saw that the party was drifting and we are happy and satisfied with our action, though some didn’t want the party to progress. It is unfortunate that some politicians’ ambition was putting the party at risk and the President was not happy when he heard about the sinister motive.
“I can confirm to you that Mai Mala has stepped aside and I can assure you that when he returns to the country, he will not assume any position. We do not
On the fate of the national secretary, John Akpanudoedehe, El Rufai said “The CECCP has taken action on the secretary and I believe that whatever they do is done in accordance with the law. We want to send the message to everyone that the party is no longer at risk and we are already reaching out to all sides and camps within the party.
Backing El-Rufai’s claim, chairman of Southern Governors’ Forum and Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, also threw his weight behind the Abubakar Sani Bello-led caretaker committee , saying the APC is back on its track to greatness.
In a press statement he personally signed titled “Buni, Pocket-filling Black Legs In Corridors Of Power Tried To Supplant President’s Will”, Akeredolu who frowned at the happenings in the party in the last few months under Buni, described it as huge embarrassment to the party and members. He however, said most of the governors are now determined to see the party through the patchy path at all cost.
While lauding President Muhammadu Buhari for steps taken to salvage the party from being wrecked, Akeredolu said the new CECPC is a child of necessity moulded to instill discipline in leadership and engender coherence among stakeholders and, more importantly, to deepen the rule of law in the party.
The statement read: “With nostalgia, one can recall the moments of our struggle as compatriots from all walks of life enunciated and berthed Nigeria’s most ingeniously successful political network. Without being immodest, APC’s birth was a novel instance. The party’s philosophical beacon woven around its ideological leaning was alluring.
“Undoubtedly, the firm leadership, candour and honesty exemplified by Mr. President who heads the administration that is the product of the APC deserve no less of support and complimentary responsibilities from all stakeholders. The installation of the Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the APC was beyond a call to service. It was a child of necessity moulded to one, instil discipline in leadership and engender coherence among stakeholders and more importantly, to deepen the Rule of Law in our party.
“However, the insidious and appalling happenings within our party in the last few months, especially under the immediate-past leadership clearly posit a huge embarrassment. Without necessarily dwelling on details that are known to critical stakeholders, the path taken lately by Governor Mai Mala Buni, the immediate past head of the CECPC and an indivisible few, is a unenviable trajectory undeserving of our dear party. It is a disdainful narrative.
“Nevertheless, the courage and determination as well as shrewd sincerity of purpose demonstrated by most of the APC Governors remain a delight. Significantly, the swift response and prompt action taken by Mr. President have, in no small means, salvaged our great party from internal scavengers. We, indeed, survived a Civilian Coup largely inspired by mischief and incurable lust for power through artificial barricades.”
“We, the governors are for the party except for the few ‘Yahoo, Yahoo’ governors (apologies to Salihu, former DG of the Progressive Governors’ Forum) who were hand in glove with Buni to circumvent the will of majority of our Party (APC) members. Progressive governors in the true name, mostly all of us, are determined to see our Party through these patchy parts at all cost. None of the scanty number has the guts to carry out their imaginary threats as reported in sponsored stories. We dare them to leave the party”.
Reacting to the crisis, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara cautioned his colleagues against making unguarded statements capable of promoting disharmony.
Matawalle in a statement by Zailani Bappa, his Special Adviser on Public Enlightenment, Media and Communications said“It is not right for us to wash our dirty linens in the media, especially at this critical time of the party’s transformation as we move towards a decisive period in 2023. I believe that each of us has been trying his best in his way to move the interest of our great party forward.
“His Excellency, Gov. Mai Mala Buni has no doubt contributed immensely to the promotion of the party’s fortunes and indeed all other governors who disagreed with one another. However, we all disagree to agree. That is the beauty of democracy. There is no point in promoting disharmony among ourselves after disagreements are settled”.
“It is not wise to drag the name of His Excellency, Mr President into taking sides on issues that are ordinarily a normal political misunderstanding common to every collection of interests. Now, more than ever before, the party needs the strength and unity to face the challenges ahead as we move towards the critical period of elections of which the party must maintain its supremacy at all levels. Together as one, we shall continue to conquer and prosper,” he said.