Mixed reactions have continued to trail the fixing of February, 2022, for the conduct of the convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to elect new members of its National Working Committee (NWC) to run the party for four years.
In the last 17 months, the affairs of the ruling party are being piloted by a caretaker committee chaired by the Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni. The committee was constituted in June, 2020, following the ousting of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC.
However, there have been calls for the removal of Buni over the legality of his committee. Last Wednesday, policemen took over the secretariat of party in Abuja when aggrieved members attempted to stage a protest to call for Buni’s removal.
The fixing of the convention was for February was announced by Governor of Kebbi State and Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Atiku Bagudu, at the end of a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday.
The meeting was attended by Governor Buni and his Jigawa State counterpart, Mohammed Abubakar Badaru.
After the meeting, Bagudu said the month was chosen to enable the four outstanding states conclude their congresses and festivities in December.
“The Progressive Governors Forum discussed the issue of national convention of the party and they mandated us to come and discuss with the president, as party leader, to give the inputs of the governors so that the party and the president will consider in agreeing a date for the national convention.
“Part of the inputs we got was that we still have four states, which are in the process of completing their congresses. Anambra, understandably, because of the election, Zamfara and two others that because of logistics challenges are yet to complete, and then Christmas is around the corner, and then early January will be very busy with Ekiti.
“So, the governors, based on all that, made an input that we think the party and the president might graciously consider February, and the president is favourably disposed, and I’m sure the party, because the chair of the caretaker committee was part of the delegation, he heard that, and I’m sure they will conclude between him and the president. But we have made the input of the governors known. It was favourably considered by Mr President,” he said.
Also speaking, Buni said no specific date in February was chosen because of the need to write the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and consult all stakeholders.
Asked whether the date was acceptable to all stakeholders apart from the governors, the party caretaker chairman said: “Of course, we have to consult widely, and part of the reasons why even the governors met yesterday, 20 of the 22 governors attended. So, it is in consultation to that effect. So, it is a well consulted, well thought out plan.”
It was, however, gathered that the convention is being delayed to address the challenges bedevilling the party and to delay the announcement of the party’s zoning formula for the 2023 general elections.
An elder in the party said February was chosen to calm nerves and resolve the crises in most of the states.
He said, “It is expected that the Senator Abdullahi Adamu reconciliation committee would have concluded its work before then. By the time that is done, the party would be united.”
Another party chieftain said the convention was fixed for February to perfect its zoning arrangement as there had been controversies over it.
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan also expressed the wish of the APC lawmakers’ for the party to produce a respectable national chairman at its forthcoming convention.
Lawan, who also met President Buhari said; “You know that we have impending issues in our party. We have our congresses still to be conducted in few states. And of course, going forward, how we’re able to reconcile the different shades of opinions that disagree in the party.
“We’re also very desirous of ensuring that the APC is so stable before the convention, ultimately, because we want our convention to be hitch-free. We want every member of this party who comes to attend the convention to do so with a clear mind that whoever becomes the chairman, for example, whatever leadership emerges is a leadership that has the respect of everyone in the party, because we want Mr. President to continue to work with a solid and strong party, APC.”
An elder statesman and former presidential candidate, Chief Chekwas Okorie, however, told Daily Trust said that with the new development the party would be holding its convention during injury time.
“Once we enter January, obviously, we are in injury time, because a new NWC elected in January or thereabout will have to perform some magic to be able to settle down and prepare for national primary elections which will come between July and August,” he said.
Also, a former Vice Chairman, South-South, of the party, Prince Hilliard Eta, maintained that the committee was illegal.
He said, “If they like, let them conduct the convention after the 2023 general elections, it will still not legalise their actions.”
But the Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON) and chieftain of the party, Osita Okechukwu, said that the February date was good for the party.
The Chairman of the APC Elders’ Forum in Lagos, Prince Tajudeen Olusi, said there was nothing strange in moving the convention date forward, more so because of the Yuletide.
According to him, the convention would not conflict with the 2023 electioneering, saying, “Everything is under control.”
By Ismail Mudashir, Muideen Olaniyi, Saawua Terzungwe (Abuja) & Abdullateef Aliyu, Lagos