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The botched coup in the APC

In retrospect, one could see that it was a botched coup that played before our very eyes that sultry Monday afternoon, in the cramped spaces…

In retrospect, one could see that it was a botched coup that played before our very eyes that sultry Monday afternoon, in the cramped spaces of the headquarters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja. Coincidentally, there had been hushed talks swirling around Abuja that some state governors, who were not happy with the goings-on in the APC, were rumoured to have arranged for a change of leadership in the party. This change of leadership, in their view, would ginger the party and firm up the scheduled party convention scheduled for the 26th of March. This must have arisen from the perception that Mai Mala Buni, the Chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), was foot-dragging and might postpone the party’s convention despite the clear directives of the president.

Those of us who have been privileged to witness many military coups, successful and unsuccessful ones, will tell you that what happened that day at the APC headquarters had the tell-tale of a coup. Mai Mala Buni, the Governor of Yobe State and protem chairman of the APC was seeking medical attention out of the country and as is usual for these kinds of intrigues to succeed, the strong man had to be out the scene. We watched how General Yakubu Gowon was ousted from power in 1975 when he was leading the Nigerian delegation to an OAU summit in Uganda. Similarly, years earlier, President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was overthrown in February 1966 when he was on a visit to China. We may also recall that General Tunde Idiagbon, who was General Buhari’s strongman in that regime, was performing pilgrimage rites in Mecca when the coup plotters made a successful strike in August 1985.

The first sign that something was afoot was the reported massive deployment of security personnel in the vicinity and within the APC headquarters in Wuse 2. Then the leader billed to take over, the Niger State Governor, blitzed into the secretariat and to probably stress the point, parked his car in the chairman’s allotted spot. The new helmsman, then announced to surprised pressmen that he had been mandated by the president to take over as acting chairman. Immediately after the supporting cast of governors swaggered into the premises with Nasir El-Rufa’i, the Governor of Kaduna State, smugly informing newsmen that they had the expressed backing of the president for the putsch against the protem chairman.

Governor Sani Bello was more taciturn of the lot but Governor El-Rufaí was plainly vociferous. When he was hosted on Channels Television, he gave details of their discussions with the president and how they got approval to oust the protem chairman. When asked whether there is a possibility of Buni returning as chairman, Governor El-Rufa’i was categorical: “Buni is gone, the secretary is gone. Governor Bello is in charge and he has the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari and 19 governors. Buni can only return as governor of Yobe but never as chairman of our party. President Buhari ordered his removal and this has been implemented. Governor Bello has taken over and things are moving according to plan. Party (discipline) will be restored, convention will take place as scheduled. Nineteen governors and their deputies are solidly behind this move.”

Matters moved into a dizzying manner that Monday in the party secretariat. A meeting of the CECPC held under the new protem chairman and took far reaching decisions. The recently elected state chairmen of the party were sworn in. The convention committee put together by Mai Mala Buni was discounted as unwieldy and was replaced with a slimmer set, which however, looked like being filled with associates of the new helmsmen. A firm date was set for the party NEC to meet and ratify all the decisions taken by the group.

For a few days it looked like the ouster was a fait accompli. When all the brouhaha was taking place, however, Mai Mala had kept his cool and allowed only tepid replies by his associates to his traducers. But those who are close to him knew that he was only keeping his powders dry. And they were proved right. The first indication that the coup was unravelling was the non-recognition of the new party leaders by INEC. This was rapidly followed by the letter from London in which the president affirmed his confidence in the protem chairman’s team to continue to prepare for the convention.

I believe that the two sides of this unnecessary conflict should bury the hatchet and work assiduously to deliver a worthy convention. There are no winners and no losers. It is the party that wins. Mai Mala is an experienced party functionary having come to prominence from the grassroots. He was party chairman in the local government then he became the state chairman. It was from there that he was elected to the post of APC Secretary for two terms. When the party ran into a muddle two years ago, despite being a state governor, Mai Mala was handy to help out as protem chairman.

But these are just skirmishes. The real fight for the party is ahead after the convention when their candidate goes into the field. From all indications, he will be met by a more organised Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), now determined to wrest power at the centre.

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