There is no end in sight yet for the long-awaited convention to pick new leadership for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In this report Daily Trust on Sunday looks into the real reasons behind the feet-dragging.
There are waves of uncertainty and anxiety in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over national convention. This is especially as the tenure of the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee elapses by the end of this month.
There is confusion in the party as members are left in the dark over when delegates would vote a new crop of National Working Committee (NWC) members at the party’s next convention.
The National Executive Committee (NEC), which is the second highest decision-making organ of the party, had on June 25, 2020, dissolved the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC over sundry allegations and inaugurated the Buni-led caretaker committee to fill in the gap.
The caretaker committee was mandated to reconcile all aggrieved members, embark on membership drive and organise a national convention within six months for a new crop of NWC members to emerge.
The committee’s tenure was, however, extended by the NEC on December 8, 2020 by another six months to enable it accomplish its mandate, including organising a convention.
In a controversial move, the caretaker committee commenced a nationwide membership registration and revalidation exercise, a move that was critised by some of its key members as deviation from what was expected. On February 22, 2021, the deadline for the membership registration was extended to March 31, 2021.
The first phase of the exercise was earlier scheduled to end on Tuesday, February 23, 2021.
Similarly, on April 1, 2021, the party, in a statement, announced the extension of the exercise, saying it became necessary because of the number of people willing to join its fold.
With the exercise concluded, all eyes were on the Buni-led committee as there were high hopes for a new leadership of the party to emerge through an elective convention.
But barely three weeks to the expiration of their tenure, the committee has not rolled out a programme for the convention.
Top sources in the party confided in our reporter that the committee would not organise the convention this month but would get its tenure extended.
A credible source said that by the end of June, the committee would draft a report and present it to President Muhammadu Buhari for approval, after which the NEC meeting would be held to deliberate on how to implement their report.
It was hinted that at that time, the tenure of the committee would be extended to conclude its mandate by organising the convention.
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, said the APC, not an individual in the party, would decide power rotation in 2023.
Buhari stated this during an interview on Arise Television.
Speaking on calls for zoning of presidency to the South, Buhari said it would be left for the party to decide.
He said he had no plan to succeed himself, adding that nobody would sit down in Lagos and direct party members on what to do.
“What this administration can do is to ensure that the APC lasts beyond this administration. The APC will know the number of members in the local governments and the states so that by the time this administration goes, they (members) would be firmly on the ground and can continue. That is the best thing for the country politically and for the party.
“We should allow the party to decide. We started from the bottom up and I gave the acting chairman until the end of the month. He asked for an extension. They are going to give me a report on the convention we are going to conduct.
“We would start this from bottom up so that the members of the party would feel they are involved in the decision-making of the party. Nobody is just sitting here in Lagos and telling them what to do. This is what we are arranging.
“There’s no succession plan. We are going to leave this to the party. The party would sit and make its decision. Those who want to be president should better join the APC,” Buhari said.
Impeccable sources at the APC national secretariat, however, told our correspondent yesterday that a schedule of activities for party congresses was being proposed.
A former presidential candidate, Chief Chekwas Okorie, who is a chieftain of the APC, told Daily Trust on Sunday in a telephone interview that “It will appear that either we didn’t understand the last NEC meeting or there is a change of position.
“The understanding all of us had was that by June there would be party congresses, leading to the convention.
“But the president said he was expecting their report, latest by the end of June. So that would mean that once the report is submitted, we may be expecting another extension. That is what I can make out of it.
“The extension will be to now implement their programme. So it stands to reason that the NEC meeting will be organised for another directive for the implementation of the programme.
“The working committee will submit their report to Mr President, the NEC will now meet to approve it.
“From all indications, they will submit to Mr President first. If there are things that need adjustment, that would be done before presenting it to the NEC for approval.”
Daily Trust on Sunday was hinted that the convention is being delayed for various issues, including zoning formula, lingering crisis in some state chapters and fear that some members might pull out if the outcome of the convention does not favour their interests.
But some party chieftains are worried that the party would hit the rocks if the convention is not held in June, citing legal issues.
A chieftain of the party, Chief Jackson Lekan Ojo, told our reporter that the development would spark legal tussles.
“As we speak, a lot of people are already preparing their papers with Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) in court.
The implication of this is that we may be in court in 2022, and by 2023, what happened to us in Zamfara and Rivers states may happen to us at the federal level.
“What they are trying to do is not in line with the constitution of the party. They don’t want to organise the convention on time because it is likely to divide the party more,” he said.
When contacted for comment on whether there would be NEC meeting soon, the deputy national publicity secretary of the party, Yekini Nabena, simply said, “I am not sure of that.”
Some have argued that the APC was delaying the convention for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to first zone its 2023 presidential ticket and chairmanship before it would decide on zoning, which would be ratified at the convention before it comes into effect.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that the PDP national convention is expected to hold in December 2021 when the tenure of the Prince Uche Secondus-led NWC would elapse.
But others see the delay in the conduct of the APC convention as a ploy to give no room for aggrieved party stalwarts who may be willing to dump the party, in the event of unfavourable outcome of the convention.
Impeccable sources confided in Daily Trust on Sunday yesterday that APC’s top echelon is still battling to unite members, bury internal crisis in state chapters, reach key decisions on the issue of zoning, organise ward, local government, state and zonal congresses as prelude to the convention.
There is also anxiety in the party as controversy rages among top leaders over which zone should produce the 2023 presidential candidate.
The return of old members and recruitment of new ones into the party is also creating tension as some members are complaining about lack of reward system.
The caretaker committee, it was learnt, has been trying to solve these issues before the convention in order not to come out as a divided house. However, it is left to be seen what would happen in the party, moving forward.