Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai’s camp of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has lost the battle to oust Yobe State Governor and Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Mai Mala Buni.
Like the proverbial cat with nine lives, Buni has survived the plot by some powerful forces in the party sequel to interventions by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and President Muhammadu Buhari.
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The Buni-led committee was inaugurated on June 25, 2020, following the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC).
Governors El-Rufai, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and Sani Bello of Niger State were said to be among other governors who worked assiduously to remove Buni from office.
The battle to oust Buni thickened during his medical trip abroad. El-Rufai had announced that President Muhammadu Buhari directed them to remove Buni and anoint Niger State governor Bello to take charge of the affairs of the party.
Since Bello’s emergence, the crisis rocking the ruling party deepened and the political atmosphere at the party’s national secretariat became hazy.
El-Rufai camp’s gambit
Featuring on Channels TV’s ‘Politics Today’, El-Rufai disclosed that President Buhari had given them a clear directive to remove Buni as the chairman of the caretaker committee of the APC.
The governor said governors elected on the party’s platform allowed things to degenerate in the party by taking the back seat.
El-Rufai claimed that no fewer than 19 governors of the party and one deputy governor unanimously agreed to carry out the directive of the president, saying the remaining three governors were the ones dishing out “fake news” that Buni has not been removed.
The governor said, “The president held a meeting with us (APC governors) and gave us a clear directive and responsibilities and went into his waiting chopper at the airport. The president in his wisdom knew that we have the capacity.
“It is just that some of us decided to take the back seat and allow things to even get to this point because we believe that once we were elected, we should focus on governance, and leave the party administration to those who are better at it.
“But clearly, it got to a point that something was going to go wrong. The party was being placed at great risk, and we had to do something.”
Similarly, Governor Akeredolu of Ondo State described his counterparts who were on the side of Governor Buni as “Yahoo, Yahoo Governors.”
In a statement titled “Buni, pocket-filling black legs in corridors of power tried to supplant president’s will”, Akeredolu said the ruling party survived a “civilian coup largely inspired by mischief and incurable lust for power through artificial barricades.”
He said, “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 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 an unenviable trajectory undeserving of our dear party. It is a disdainful narrative.”
Buni’s camp kick
But some governors in Buni’s camp equally reacted. Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, countered El-Rufai, saying that Buni had not been removed as the chairman of the caretaker committee.
He insisted that the governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, was only detailed by his counterpart in Yobe to hold a brief while he left for medical leave abroad.
Umahi told APC supporters in Abakaliki that “The national chairman went on medical leave and we were there when he asked the governor of Niger State to act for him.
“If there will be any change, you will be notified. But for now, there is none and there is no crack in the party.”
Buni had also issued a statement saying he would return from his medical trip and continue running the party from where he stopped, revealing that he transmitted a letter to Sani Bello to act in his absence.
In the letter dated February 28, 2022, and obtained by our correspondent, Buni willingly transmitted power to Bello.
Part of the letter reads, “This is to inform you that I will be embarking on a medical trip to the United Arab Emirates from today, February 28, 2022. I will resume office upon my discharge from the hospital.
“In my absence, I hereby transmit the functions of my office as the National Chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee to you. This is to enable the committee to conclude all arrangements leading to the national convention slated for March 26, 2022, and other duties that may be required of the office.
“I invite all members to cooperate with Governor Abubakar Sani Bello by extending to him all the support that I have enjoyed from you.”
Daily Trust Saturday reports that Governors David Umahi of Ebonyi State; Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and Hope Uzodinma of Imo State are behind their Yobe counterpart.
How plot by El-Rufai’s camp hit the rocks
The plot by El-Rufai’s camp to oust Buni hit the rocks when the INEC rejected Bello’s letter notifying it of the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the APC.
Bello had written a letter to INEC requesting that the commission attends the APC’s NEC meeting scheduled for last Thursday.
Sources within the party told Daily Trust Saturday that the clandestine plot was to remove Buni and Senator John Akpanudoedehe as chairman and secretary of the caretaker committee.
Unfortunately for the ‘rebels’, INEC rejected the letter of invitation because it was not signed by the National Chairman and National Secretary of the CECPC, Buni, and Akpanudoedehe, respectively.
INEC’s letter dated March 9, 2022, which was addressed to the CECPC National Chairman, was signed by the Commission’s Secretary, Rose Oriaran-Anthony.
Part of the letter reads; “Please refer to your letter Ref. APC/NHDQ/INEC/019/022/32, dated 8th March 2022.
“The Commission draws your attention to the fact that the notice for the meeting was not signed by the National Chairman and National Secretary of the CECPC contrary to the provision of the Article 1.1.3 of the Commission’s Regulations and Guidelines for Political Party Operations (2018).
“Furthermore, the APC is reminded of the provision in Section 82(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 which requires ‘at least 21 days’ notice of any convention, congress, conference, or meeting convened for ‘merger’ and electing members of its executive committees, other governing bodies or nominating candidates for any elective offices.’
“While hoping these issues are noted for compliance, please accept the assurance of the Commission’s warm regards.”
Buni meets Buhari in London
To reclaim his seat, Buni met with President Buhari in London when the plot to remove him thickened. The president was in London for a medical check-up.
Buni’s visit to Buhari in London was confirmed in a statement by his Director-General, Press and Media Affairs, Mohammed Mamman, in Abuja.
Mamman said Buni had been in Dubai, UAE, on a medical trip before he flew to London to meet with Buhari.
“Buni had a brief stopover in London after a medical trip to Dubai the United Arab Emirates.
“Their Excellencies, Buhari and Buni, held brief and fruitful discussions on measures to move APC forward preparatory to the March 26 national convention and the 2023 general elections,” he said.
Buhari orders status quo ante
President Buhari had a few days ago, cautioned the governors and others opposed to Buni’s leadership and ordered that the status quo ante be observed.
Buhari also urged the governors to allow the Buni-led caretaker committee to proceed with all preparations to hold the March 26 elective national convention of the party.
The president gave the order in a letter to the chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) and Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu. The letter was released shortly after he met Buni and Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu.
Buhari said, “The issue of the leadership of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee should immediately return to status quo ante.”
Buni, who returned to Nigeria on Thursday, received a briefing from Niger State governor, Sani Bello, assuring that the March 26 national convention remains sacrosanct.
With the vacation of the court order restraining the convention and the relative stability in the party, the coast is clear for the convention of the ruling party. Buni has another week to pilot the affairs of the party. The convention holds next Saturday.