Tongues are wagging over the possibility of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee to organise an elective national convention not later than June this year.
There are twists and turns, dark clouds and anxiety as pundits are arguing that the much-touted June convention date is shaky and may hit the rocks.
Impeccable sources confided in Daily Trust Saturday yesterday that the APC 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.
Insiders have also revealed that the APC Constitution Amendment Committee is yet to submit the final copy of the constitution, which would be ratified and put to use at the convention.
Our correspondent reports that the caretaker committee has not yet constituted convention sub-committees, which would help in planning and executing various tasks ahead of the convention.
The sub-committees are expected to come in form of accreditation committee, constitution amendments committee, contact and mobilisation, electoral committee, entertainment and welfare.
Other committees likely to be constituted include medical, publicity, screening, security, venue, protocol.
The date and programme of activities would be presented to the National Executive Committee (NEC), which is the second highest decision-making organ of the party, for approval before the convention.
But a top source at the APC secretariat has confided in our correspondent that there won’t be NEC meeting anytime soon, barring any change of position. This, analysts say, is a wrong signal, indicating that the convention could be delayed.
A former presidential candidate of the United Progressive Party (UPP), who is now a chieftain of the APC, Chief Chekwas Okorie, told our correspondent in a telephone interview yesterday that extension of the Buni committee’s timeline for a second time was imminent.
“I know an extension will not be out of place under the circumstances. I doubt if a convention in June would meet all the requirements of democratic processes because the time is too short.
“Even if you take the last day of June, you are still looking at just two months. The register of the party is very fundamental to the conduct of congresses.
“But I don’t know the type of convention it will be: whether to simply elect members of the National Working Committee (NWC) or one that would elect all the necessary officers, from ward to the national level.
“So it is the programme and timetable of that convention that will give the picture of what we are into. And I can imagine the kind of sleepless nights they (Buni committee members) are having now to have something to present to the next NEC, because whatever it is, there will still be a presentation to the NEC on the nature of the convention, date, and to seek approval,’’ he said.
A political analyst, Chief Jackson Lekan Ojo, also told Daily Trust Saturday in a telephone chat yesterday that one month was not enough to plan the national convention of a ruling party.
“Possibly, they are going to extend the timeline for the caretaker committee, and I see some bigwigs in the party that will take the caretaker committee to court and that matter will remain in court till 2022.
“In 2022, they will see darkness at the end of the tunnel; that is to say there is no safe delivery. Then they will abort the pregnancy called the APC.
“So the national convention day of the APC is the day of the final internment of the soul of the party. For now, some factions are already building structures in small parties that will be a fallback tool at the end of the ruling party.
“The convention is supposed to be in June, but if you look at it now, there are a lot of crises that will not even allow the party to plan for it,’’ he said.
A chieftain of the party who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “Any extension will bring about the collapse of the APC; it is an aberration. It is not good for the survival of the party and the country because the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is looking for any mistake to hammer on.
“Any further extension will spell doom for the party. We must stop this kind of impunity,’’ he added.
But a member of the National Caucus of the party from the South-East, Chief Sam Nkire, told our correspondent in a telephone interview that, “What is on ground now is that before the end of June there will be a national convention. It is just a matter of date. Congresses can hold every day of the week for the various stages.’’
He called on party members to be patient with the caretaker committee to enable them deliver on their mandate without acrimony.
The NEC of the party had on June 25, 2020 dissolved the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC over an alleged abuse of office and inaugurated the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led caretaker committee.
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 timeline was, however, extended by the NEC on December 8, 2020 by another six months to enable it accomplish its mandate, including organising a convention.
The party had, on February 22, 2021, extended the nationwide membership registration and revalidation exercise 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 are on the Buni-led committee as there are high hopes for a new leadership of the party to emerge soon through an elective convention.
A former national legal adviser of the PDP, who is now a chieftain of the APC and Special Adviser to the Borno State governor on Trade and Investment, Bashir Maidugu, however, said there were many options for the party regarding the convention.
“The Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee itself is a convention planning committee and is already on ground. All they need to do is to set up sub-committees.
“Constitutionally, there is a deadline the party is supposed to keep and notify the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of its forthcoming convention. And we are within the notice period; we are not out of time. And because the party is not out of time, it will be premature to say that it can’t hold a convention.
“Also, the Extraordinary Caretaker Committee does not need to have ward, local government, state and zonal congresses before holding the convention.
“The committee can simply evoke its power or mandate and hold the national convention first to elect officers at the national level, and these officers can decide to organise congresses and elect officials. So we are still within time.
“The committee can simply call for NEC meeting and seek an extension of its timeline by 90 days so that they can organise congresses and convention.
“So I think everything is on ground; we still have time. However, I am afraid we are running out of time,’’ he said.
On zoning, Maidugu said, “To me, if there was any agreement in 2015 it should be honoured. Even if the agreement was unwritten, there was an understanding by a consensus, so it should be honoured.
“We need a leadership that can consult widely and listen to the views of other stakeholders before taking fundamental decisions. And that is easy to achieve.’’
Another chieftain of the party, Abdullahi Jalo, a lawyer, however, advised that “the amendment to the APC constitution should not be delayed because of the timeframe.’’
However, it is left to be seen whether the party would get a new NWC members not later than June as it prepares to retain power in 2023.