The cloud over the National Convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) scheduled for February 26 hung still last night with the party’s governors split into two camps.
The issues in contention are whether the convention should proceed as scheduled and which of the six geo-political zones should produce the party’s next national chairman.
Adding to the uncertainties was the emergence of a letter yesterday by some party members seeking offices at the convention to propose the postponement of the meeting.
Some party office holders dissociated themselves from the letter.
It was also gathered that many state chairmen of the party have gone underground to resist an attempt to coerce them to sign a document on convention shift.
This development, sources told The Nation, prompted the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) to conclude plans to replace the Chairman of State APC Chairmen Forum, Hon. Ali Bukar Dalori (Borno) with his Taraba State counterpart to force others in line to endorse postponement.
The pro-shift governors are said to have proposed that the CECPC should keep running the affairs of the party until after the conduct of the primaries for the 2023 polls.
The same forces have been trying in the last 72 hours to force the state chairmen of APC chapters to sign a communiqué to demand the postponement of the convention.
Most of the chairmen have gone underground to resist the coercion to sign a document on convention shift.
The governors also remain divided over the zone that will produce the next national chairman of the party.
Although the governors had conceded the slot to the North-Central, some governors reneged and opted to prevail on a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, from the North-East.
Most of the governors have however rejected the Dogara option by insisting on conceding the office to North-Central.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that most members of the Caretaker Committee led by Governor Mai Mala Buni subscribed to the postponement of the convention, but it has been difficult for the committee to table it before the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF).
It was learnt that the committee was afraid of a ‘likely revolt’ against the Buni-led committee.
Attempts by some governors to prevail on state APC chairmen to call for the postponement of the convention have also failed.
Most of the party chairmen at the state level are said to have “gone underground.”
Some governors supporting the retention of the Caretaker Committee and the postponement of the convention have not been able to gain the control of the PGF to achieve their aim.
A governor, who spoke in confidence, said: “The battle at hand is for the soul of the party. The CECPC members including Buni are in support of the postponement of the convention. It is emerging to all of us that Buni appears interested in the presidency in 2023.
“Buni’s personal, vaulting ambition is what’s driving him, but he doesn’t know how to even discuss this with us – his supposed allies who put him on the job
“All the governors are opposed to convention shift except Yahaya Bello (Kogi), who is a presidential aspirant, Hope Uzodinma (Imo) and Ben Ayade (Cross River).
“These anti-convention governors cannot constitute themselves into Progressive Governors Forum (PGF). They are in the minority and they don’t even want the same thing.
“One wants to be President, the other (Uzodinma) wants to be vice president to a Northern candidate. What unites them is that they are not keen on the unity of APC but they will eventually lose out.
“We are 22 and they are either three or four. We know the President will go by the position of the majority because he is democratic.
“Up till now, they cannot officially announce a postponement because they know the President’s position. Instead, they are using sleight of hand. They are in charge. If they want a postponement, why hide behind one finger?”
Responding to a question, the governor said Buni and the CECPC were in a fix.
The governor added: “Mai Mala cannot do it (postponement) because he knows the views of the majority of governors including first term governors. They were trying to play a divide and rule card between first and second term governors but we insisted that the right thing must be done.”
A party source claimed that most state APC chairmen have gone underground to avoid being forced to sign any communiqué for the postponement of the convention.
It was also confirmed by another governor that all his colleagues have directed their party chairmen “not to endorse any document on postponement of the convention.”
“I think those who may have signed are those from Taraba, Yobe, Kogi and Imo states. Others have gone underground, having been directed by their governors to ignore convention postponement drive.
“In frustration, the CECPC has concluded plans to replace the Chairman of State APC Chairmen Forum, Hon. Ali Bukar Dalori (Borno) with his counterpart from Taraba State, Tukur El-Sudi Ibrahim, to pave the way for the postponement of the convention to March 12 or indefinitely.
“Yet all the state APC chairmen came together to elect their leaders through a democratic process. Why will the CECPC be making moves to remove Dalori if they have nothing to hide?”
Findings confirmed that governors were divided over zoning of the office of the national chairman of APC.
It was gathered that before President Muhammadu Buhari travelled to Brussels, he had built consensus among the governors to concede the office to the North-Central.
Some governors however reneged on the pact by shopping for a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, as the next APC national chairman.
An APC governor simply said: “Mark my words; our next Chairman is from the North-Central.
“Mai Mala should go back home and concentrate on his job as governor.”
Aspirants in letter to CECPC, seek shift of convention
A forum of aspirants for offices at the convention yesterday sparked a fresh confusion in the party when they wrote an open letter to the CECPC to shift the Congress.
The shift, according to them, is for the sake of peace, unity and success of the party in next year’s elections.
In the letter signed by Maxwell Yakubu Gowon, an aspirant for National Youth Leader and Chairman of All Aspirants Forum, and Hon. Mohammed Bala Mohammed, an aspirant for National Secretary who also doubles as Secretary for the Forum, the forum claimed that the Abdullahi Adamu led Reconciliatory Committee failed in its assignment, leaving the party divided down the line.
The forum said the committee “complicated the issues at stake by refusing to look at issues holistically and relied on rumours and hearsays in coming to a conclusion in its report.”
It added: “The implication of the above statement is that those that were meant to be reconciled ended up infuriated by the actions of the reconciliatory committee.
“The signs in this regard are evident for every well-meaning member of the APC to see. But they have elected in their wisdom to downplay these contentious issues in the report submitted.
“This, in our opinion, is a great disservice to your efforts at positioning the APC for electoral success. As you may be aware, the public space has been flooded with narratives that paint the APC as a party of strange bedfellows whose interests are propelled primarily for self-aggrandizement.
“Mr Chairman may wish to critically examine the various agitations in the different states in the country. The feelers are not pleasant, and with the benefit of hindsight, it would indeed spell doom if the party goes ahead with the national convention under such circumstances.
“As a party, we must be mindful of the burden of expectation placed on our shoulders in providing credible leadership to the country.
“Suppose we can’t put our house in order. In that case, we do not have any moral justification for promising the country credible leadership because charity must begin from home.”
Chairmanship aspirants distance themselves from letter
Some national chairmanship aspirants however distanced themselves from the letter.
Contacted on the phone, one of the chairmanship aspirants, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, said: “I am not aware of any forum, neither am I aware of any letter advising the Caretaker Committee Chairman to postpone the convention.”
Also reacting to our correspondent’s enquiry, another chairmanship hopeful, Malam Saliu Mustapha, who spoke through the Media Coordinator of his Campaign Organisation, Dapo Okubanjo, said: “We are not aware of the existence of the so-called All Aspirants Forum headed by an aspirant for the position of National Youth leader. So they can’t claim to be speaking for all aspirants, especially as we have never been invited to any meeting where such a decision was said to have been reached.
“We respect and trust the capacity of the leadership of the party to deal with the issues at stake,” Mustapha maintained.
Chief Sunny Sylvester Moniedafe, another chairmanship aspirant, said: “While conceding to the fact that we are in a democracy and everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, I make bold to say that problems will always exist and healing them is a process.
“Leadership at all levels is a continuum, and if anyone claims that we must clear everything, reconcile every difference before proceeding, we will be making a big error.
“The idea of continuity is to state all pending issues in your handover note.
“I want to appeal to the Gov Mai Mala Buni led CECPC to have that in their minds and decide on the next line of action which I believe should be by tomorrow evening, Sunday the 20th of February.
“Having said that, we must remember that our word should be our bond; they (CECPC) chose the date of 26th February on their own and should not lose their sense of integrity by doing something that will bring their integrity to question.”
Convention sub-committees yet to be constituted
Members of the party waited in vain again yesterday for the constitution of the sub-committees for the convention.
The Caretaker Committee at its 19th regular meeting of 19th January 2022 had fixed Saturday 19th February for the release of the membership of the sub-committees and their inauguration.
The caretaker committee also fixed the same day as the last day for the submission of nomination forms by all aspirants.
There were no activities suggestive of an upcoming convention at party’s national secretariat in Abuja yesterday.
No member of the Caretaker Committee was even seen at the secretariat.