The virtual National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) slated for Tuesday is to ostensibly extend the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee’s timeline.
Credible sources in the party told our reporter yesterday that the NEC would also deliberate on crises in some state chapters of the party, zoning, national convention, fresh membership registration and revalidation, as well as the pending cases in court.
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A chieftain of the party from the South, however, told Daily Trust on Sunday in confidence that, “Some of the decisions to be reached at the NEC meeting will spark fresh crisis in the party.
“The Mai Mala Buni committee is an aberration, so they should have simply organised a national convention within the timeline of six months given to them, for authentic leaders of the party to emerge.
“Why do they want to sit tight? Must they embark on a fresh membership registration and revalidation? Why not organise a convention and allow the new crop of National Working Committee (NWC) members that would emerge to carry out the registration exercise and continue where they stopped?” he queried.
Buni leadership is bringing PDP members into APC
But another chieftain of the party from the North, Abdullahi Jalo, a lawyer, told Daily Trust in a telephone chat that, “The leadership of Governor Mai Mala Buni is bringing a lot of supporters and top members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) into the APC. This too should be a point of consideration and not threats of crisis or litigations.’’
Few days ago, Governor Buni said, “Having consulted stakeholders, including President Muhammadu Buhari, the APC membership registration and revalidation is scheduled to hold from Saturday, December 12, 2020 to Saturday, January 9, 2021.’’
Pundits said this is a confirmation that the caretaker committee’s timeline would be extended.
The Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC was dissolved by the NEC on June 25, 2020, over an alleged abuse of office.
Sequel to this, the NEC inaugurated the Governor Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee to take charge of the day-to-day running of the party and to organise a national convention within six months.
But while the committee has recorded significant milestones in the areas of membership drive and reconciliation, it has failed to roll out a programme of activities for the national convention, barely three weeks to the expiration of its timeline on December 25, 2020.
This has resulted in threats of mass protests in the party and fresh litigations against the caretaker committee.
Chieftain asks court to declare co’ttee nul
A former National Vvice Chairman (South) and ex-acting chairman of the APC, Hilliard Eta, has asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to declare the committee a nullity and declare him the acting national chairman of the party.
In a suit he filed on November 26, 2020 through his lawyer, Onyechi Ikpeazu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Eta is challenging the dissolution of the Oshiomhole-led NWC, which he was part of.
He also asked the court for an order of injunction to restrain the caretaker committee from taking any further decision for the party in form of administration, including planning the national convention.
Similarly, a chieftain of the party, Kalu Kalu Agu, on Thursday approached a Federal High Court in Abuja, seeking an order of injunction to stop the party’s NEC meeting slated for Tuesday.
The plaintiff equally sought an order to restrain the party from embarking on new membership registration and revalidation, alleging that the aim of the exercise is to de-register some party members.
In his suit, marked FHC/ABJ/ CS/736/2020, the plaintiff sought an order of the court to set aside the dissolution of the NWC by the party’s NEC meeting held at the Presidential Villa in June this year.
He prayed the court to restrain the Governor Mai Buni-led NWC from parading themselves as national officers of the party.
He also prayed the court to void and set aside the notice of NEC meeting issued by Senator Akpan Udoedehe, on the ground that he had no power to do so.
The NEC had earlier ordered all APC stalwarts to withdraw pending litigations in court and not to file new cases against the party.
However, a former National Legal Adviser of the PDP, who is now a chieftain of the APC, Bashir Maidugu, said the failure of the caretaker committee to earlier legitimise their stay in office through a mini convention was the cause of limitations seeking their removal from office.
Maidugu, who is the current special adviser to the Borno State governor on trade and investment, told our reporter in a telephone chat yesterday that if the caretaker committee had, on assumption of office, organised a mini convention to authenticate their stay, all suits seeking their removal would have failed.
He explained that the decisions of the NEC were subject to approval by the national convention, adding that only the convention has the power to approve the constitution or renaming the party.
“The caretaker committee ought to have, in the first place, organised a mini convention to legitimise their stay, resulting from the decision of the NEC. But they chose not to. That is what is giving rise to all these litigations. And those litigants have a powerful argument.
“If, on the other hand, the national convention planning committee decides to hold a mini national convention before any injunction, then the court case would be futile,’’ he said.
Another critical issue on the front burner is zoning, which is causing tension and hullabaloo in the APC.
Razzmatazz over zoning
Some party leaders said the razzmatazz about zoning took its root from the gentleman pact reached by APC bigwigs in 2015, where it was agreed that the South would take a shot at the presidency at the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure of eight years.
Daily Trust reports that some northern political actors who are warming up to contest the party’s chairmanship at the next convention are clamouring for power shift to the South to enable them achieve their political ambition.
A former chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) and former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulazeez Yari, said recently that the APC would ensure power shift to the South in 2023. He added that he might vie for the office of the party’s national chairman should it be zoned to the North.
Similarly, the United Kingdom (UK) chapter of the APC had, a few days ago, asked the leadership of the party to zone its 2023 presidential ticket to the South.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja, the leader of the UK chapter of the party, Prince Ade Omole, said it should do that on the grounds that President Buhari, who is from the North, would be completing his eight years in 2023.
Prince Omole, who is the chairman of the Nigeria in Diaspora Voting Council, explained that zoning was not in the constitution of the party, but stressed that, “It is an arrangement that was put in place for fairness.”
Zoning is not known to APC
A stalwart of the party who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity said, “Zoning is not known to our constitution, but it is an integral part of the political arrangements in Nigeria.”
“So for me, I think that by now, the APC would have spelt out where the presidential ticket will go ahead of the 2023 general elections,’’ he added.
A Second Republic lawmaker, Junaid Mohammed, was recently quoted in the media as saying the North might not return power to the South, and asked the latter to forget the thought of succeeding Buhari in 2023.
Mohammed said, “Look at what Afenifere said; that next time it would be a Yoruba person. Their understanding of rotation is between the North and the South-West, or the North-West and the South-West. That cannot be. How can you say that?
Now, we have a president who is from the North-West, and a vice from the South-West, and that next time it will be the turn of the South-West to produce the president of this country. What are we talking about?
I don’t want to hear about this equity and justice; that is sheer nonsense.’’
But pundits said the zoning formula would be clear during the forthcoming convention. They explained that if the party’s chairman emerged from the South, it would be an indication that the presidential candidate would come from the North, and vice versa.
President Buhari’s nephew, Mallam Mamman Daura, had said there was no need for political parties to zone the presidential ticket to any part of the country, thereby suggesting that competence should be given priority.
However, leaders of the party said they were strengthening its structures nationwide and navigating the political murky waters to reach decisions that would not spark crises ahead of 2023 regarding the choice of a presidential candidate.
When contacted, the deputy national publicity secretary of the party, Yekini Nabena, however, told our reporter in a telephone chat that, “When we get to that bridge we will cross it.’’
However, it is left to be seen how the NEC will determine the zoning formula for the 2023 presidency, going forward.