There is growing anxiety in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as former President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday visited President Muhammadu Buhari for the second time in a week.
The frequency of the former president’s visits to the Presidential Villa, Abuja comes amidst reports that he is being considered by a section of the presidency and some governors of the APC for the presidential ticket of the party come 2023.
Daily Trust reports that since Jonathan’s visit on Thursday, December 30, 2021 to Aso Rock, there has been anxiety in the ruling party especially among those who are eyeing the presidency.
During his last visit, no statement was issued on the agenda of the meeting between the incumbent president and his predecessor.
But after Thursday’s meeting, a presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, in a statement said Buhari received briefing from former Jonathan on the political developments in the Republic of Mali.
He said a special meeting of the ECOWAS which holds in Ghana, on Sunday, to deliberate on the political situation in Mali was the subject of the parley between the Head of the ECOWAS Mediation Team, former President Jonathan and President Buhari.
Adesina had, in a separate statement earlier issued on Thursday, said President Buhari also received a Special Envoy from Col. Assimi Goita, the transitional president of Mali.
They want to make Jonathan consensus candidate – Tinubu’s group
But a chieftain of the party and the National Coordinator of the Tinubu 2023 Non-Negotiable (TNN), Kunle Okunola, said he was not convinced that Jonathan visited the villa because of Mali issue, adding that it is part of the conspiracy to make Jonathan the consensus candidate of the APC.
According to him, that explained why Buhari insisted on including consensus in the Electoral Amendment Bill.
He said Jonathan found it most convenient to visit the villa anytime, saying the president is doing the bidding of the “colonial masters.”
“Jonathan is the colonial masters’ candidate and Buhari cannot say no and that is why he was insisting on consensus because Jonathan cannot ridicule himself by going into primary with Tinubu or any other candidate. So APC is bringing Jonathan, no doubt about it,” he said.
Okunola said the delay to conduct the national convention was part of the script being played to make Jonathan the consensus party’s flag bearer.
“Asiwaju has the capacity to search for an alternative platform to save Nigeria,’’ he stated, adding, “We should provide an alternative platform for Nigeria not to go into flame.”
He said it was unfortunate the APC National Leader Tinubu “had been caught in this situation for long.”
According to him, it is high time Tinubu began to “look inward and having a handshake across Nigeria if he is indeed ready to lead the country and look beyond APC.”
Aggrieved members threaten showdown over plot to shift convention
Meanwhile, aggrieved members of the APC have warned against moves by the caretaker committee of the party under the leadership of Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni to postpone the convention of the party slated for February this year.
Daily Trust reports that since December 12, 2012, when the Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu, called for the postponement of the exercise, there has been tension in the ruling party as many expressed suspicion that he was being used to ‘fly a kite’.
To many, the convention which was fixed for next month following a meeting of the APC governors with President Buhari on November 22, 2021, would be the ruling party’s defining moment.
Multiple sources told Daily Trust that the postponement of the convention was being plotted by the members of the Buni-committee to extend their tenure.
The Buni-committee has been piloting the affairs of the party since June 2020 when the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) was sacked. A new National Working Committee (NWC) is expected to emerge at the end of the convention.
In an open letter to APC leaders, shared by Kaduna State Governor Malam Nasir El-Rufai on his Facebook wall, the Director General of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Lukman, said the inability of the Buni-committee to commence the necessary planning to hold the convention and communicate it to members and all stakeholders, including the INEC as required by law, was responsible for the suspicion and speculation that the convention may not hold next month.
Also Thursday, the National Progressives Hub, a registered support group of the APC has appealed to the Buni-committee to conduct the convention next month.
Acting National Secretary of the group, Muhammad T. Shehu, said the major task before the caretaker committee was the conduct of the national convention.
“We thus call on the party leadership to strictly adhere to the party constitution. We can do this, thus setting an example for other political parties to follow,” they said.
When contacted for his comment, a leader of the APC in Zamfara State, Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa, said he does not comment on rumour but that if it is true, it is a welcome development for the party.
“I think it’s a welcome development; it is a practical definition of the age-old saying that “those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make them mad,” he said.
It will be a disaster – Okorie
Also, a former presidential candidate and elder statesman, Chief Chekwas Okorie, told Daily Trust over the phone Thursday that extending the timeline of the caretaker committee for another term would be disastrous.
Okorie, a chieftain of the APC, said shifting the convention date and extending the timeline of the committee would spell doom for the party and called on its top echelon not to take members for granted.
“I also want to advise President Buhari not to take the goodwill he enjoyed in 2015 and 2019 for granted.
“If he tries that as a de-facto leader of the party and allow that to happen, I can tell you he will be playing into the hands of the opposition,” Okorie said.
Zamfara scenario looming in 2023 at national level – Ojo
Similarly, another chieftain of the party, Chief Jackson Lekan Ojo, told Daily Trust that such decision would affect the party’s chances of winning the 2023 elections, saying many APC stalwarts would sue the party.
“If the convention does not hold in February and their tenure is extended again, many chieftains of the party will go to court to frustrate the APC ahead of the 2023 elections.
“Mark my words, what happened in Rivers and Zamfara in the 2019 elections will happen again in 2023, if that decision is taken,” he said.
Speaking on the issue, the Kwara Central Senatorial chairman of the APC loyal to the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, Alhaji Yusuf Akorede, said although he would not want to say much because they are already in court, warned that the party is heading for perdition if that turns out to be the reality.
On his part, a member of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Saheed Popoola, said if true, “all their plans to install themselves as president and vice president of Nigeria will fail.
“The APC is now a time bomb and it will soon explode because we are sitting on a keg of gunpowder,” he said.
On his part, the factional chairman of the APC in Benue State, Barrister Omale Omale, warned against postponement and advised the leadership of the party to respect the APC constitution.
In the same vein, a chieftain of the party in Kano State, Alhaji Abdulmajid DanBilki Kwamanda, faulted any moves to postpone the exercise.
He said members of the party across the country are eagerly waiting for the conduct of the exercise to prepare for the 2023 politicking.
But the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC, Yekini Nabena, said there was no plan to postpone the February convention and extend the timeline of the caretaker committee.
By Ismail Mudashir, Saawua Terzungwe, Muideen Olaniyi (Abuja), Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos), Mumini AbdulKareem (Ilorin), Hope A. Emmanuel (Makurdi) & Ibrahim M. Giginyu (Kano)