By OLUSESAN LAOYE
It is now evident that the Gov. Mai Mala Buni led Caretaker committee of the All Progressives Congress(APC) will now conduct the National Convention of the party that is expected to hold on March 26, 2022 Although preparations for the congress which is just a week from now is in top gear, as members of the planning committee are daily inspecting the Eagle Square in Abuja, the venue slated for the convention, and aspirants already picking nomination forms, there were still doubts by some power brokers in the party as to whether it would be a reality.
However, his return may have set the stage for the fight for presidential ticket of the party between Ahmed Tinubu and vice president Yemi Osinbajo. It seems to members that the fight to control the party comes to the choice between them and perhaps a dark horse fingered to be Rotimi Amaechi, believed to be President Buhari’s man to solve the Igbo problem.
The issue is how to avoid contest for the position by adopting consensus candidate for both the national chairman and presidential candidate. Many believe that to open the process to election will give Tinubu an unfair advantage as he remains the man to beat. Although, Osinbajo has strong northern backing, however in any contest, he is bound to be worsted by Tinubu. This conflict is raising fears over the fate of the convention.
This is because the party is still much divided, with the Intrigues and power play still going on to halt Buni’s group from conducting the convention, which is expected to go a long way to determine the faith of the APC in the Presidential election and subsequently, after the exit of President Muhammmadu Buhari, who is always welding and constantly cementing the cracks and split in the party.
What has further heightened the fear as to whether the National Congress would hold or not, was the recent outbursts of the Kaduna State Governor Mallam Nazil El- Rufai that some people have secretly obtained a court injunction purporting that the convention should not hold. He accused Buni of hiding the injunction without action and briefing the stakeholders on it. This, he argued, was a big lapse on Buni led committee which he claimed, was injurious to the party.
To El- Rufai, Buni’s actions have been fueling the crisis in the party. As it was also observed, for the past three years, that President Buhari won a second term, the APC has not known peace. However, the court injunction was vacated last weekend as court dismissed the application stopping APC from holding the convention as it ruled that a member cannot sue the party. Some believe the plaintiffs may appeal.
It was even the internal crisis and the power game, as to who takes over from President Buhari that led to the exit of Chief John Odigie Oyegun who was the Chairman at the inception of the party and the embattled, Adam Oshiomhole, who took over from him as the National Chairmen of the party, in quick successions.
The power game in the party, is still clearly on, since the current Caretaker committee led by Buni was hurriedly and clandestinely put in place by President Buhari to save the party from what could have been its early disintegration, which the president determined to avoid during his tenure in office.
With the current situation and the unending feud among the stakeholders, which has deeply polarized the party, with also a sharp division amongst the governors, no one knows what could happen to the party before March 26.
While some leaders and stakeholders especially the governor pitched their tents in the camps of Buni to conduct the convention, since he is now back from the medical trip abroad and backed by President Buhari, who issued a letter warning governors to give peace a chance; others have been clamouring that the Niger State Governor Sanni Bello, who acted while Buni was away and who made meaningful progress on the convention should stay on to conduct it.
It was argued by those who backed Sanni that since Buni had voluntarily transferred power to Bello, through a letter he allegedly wrote, stating that he could not carry on due to his health condition, it would be proper for Sanni Bello to hang on and conduct the convention. This, to a large extent has put the governors in disarray, as they are still standing on the leadership of the party they are comfortable with in different camps.
The likes of Mallam El- Rufai and Rotimi Akeredolu are strongly against Buni carrying on. Akeredolu did not even mince words, by tagging his colleagues who backed Buni as Yahoo, Yahoo governors. This statement has generated a lot of heat and causing severe tensions in the party and among the rank and files of the APC governors.
But Akeredolu’s statement did not deterred those against Bello as they claimed the Akeredolu’s group intend to plant Bello to pave the way for the presidency of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu which they were opposed to but favourably in support of the presidential ambition of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
What still stands in favour of Buni was the position of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it recognised only documents that comes from him and not Sanni Bello or any other member of the caretaker committee.
Sanni had written the commission inviting it to a NEC meeting but the body declined, saying that it only recognised communications from Buni as chairman and Senator John Akpannudohedehe as the Secretary of the CECPC. The action of INEC was misinterpreted by some leaders of the party who favoured Bello, arguing that the electoral body has connived with some elements in the party to disintegrate it.
What is also causing ripples in the party is the zoning arrangements as to who gets what. It is no longer news that the Presidency has been zoned to the South, with the South West, mostly favoured, a situation which from all indications must have by now put Osinbajo and Tinubu at loggerheads.
While the Chairmanship has been zone to the North and the former Nasarawa State governor Senator Abdullahi Adamu, who was said to have been endorsed as the favourite of President Muhammadu Buhari, is top contender, there were other people too who would not want him.
One other contender in the Chairmanship race is Senator Tanko Almakura, who has been very vocal and always criticizing what he found to be unjust in the party. He spearheaded the parallel wards, local and State, congresses held in the State which are yet to be resolved.
The issue of the unresolved parallel congresses in some states is what has been bothering the likes of El Rufai who expressed the fear that the National convention may not hold due to the uncertainty on how delegates to the National convention would be determined in the troubled states.
Also in the South West, where the Secretary of the party was zoned to, the governors in the Region are not united over the choice of the former Deputy Governor of Osun state Senator, Iyiola Omisore as a consensus candidate. Although the former Minister of communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu from Oyo State has shown interest, it is not yet clear as to those who are backing him.
The spokesperson of the caretaker committee Ismaeel Ahmed said that it was true that Buni transmitted power to Bello while away, claiming that he has medical attention that could not wait for the convention.
Although much has not been said in the party since the return of Buni on the 18 March to see to the affairs of the party, especially in connection with the convention, political observers. believed that all may still not have been heard about the conduct of the National convention.
In his own reaction a chieftains and former governorship candidate of the party in Imo State, Uche Nwosu called on the stakeholders of the party to thread softly and cautiously desist from action and utterances that may fuel the current crisis in APC, at this stage when the atmosphere is tensed up.
He argued that one major factor causing disaffection in the party, has been the neglect of some elders and foundation members of the APC.He believed that the Buni led committee has not done enough to cement the broken walls in the party which also fueled the crisis being experienced.
Bini’s committee, he further argued pitch tent with selected few to grab the structure of the party
” It is glaring that the APC is now wobbling and that is why we need serious intervention of President Buhari”. Nwosu argued.