APC Crisis: Confusion As INEC Backs Buni

Amid the leadership crisis rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of its national convention slated for March 26, 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may have given a lifeline to the embattled Chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the party, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State.

This came to the fore after the electoral umpire declared that it would stay away from the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) slated for next Thursday since both Buni and his embattled caretaker secretary, Sen. John Akpanudoedehe did not endorse it.

INEC had in a letter dated March 9, 2022, explained that the decision was because the notification for the NEC meeting did not comply with the Electoral Amendment Act 2022.

In the correspondence addressed to the CECPC and signed by its Secretary, Rose Oriaran-Anthony, INEC observed that it was absurd that the letter inviting it to monitor the exercise did not contain the signatures of Buni and Akpanudoedehe.

It read: “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 the purpose of ‘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.”

Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State, who had been acting as Caretaker Chairman of the party since last Monday, had sought to convene an emergency NEC to possibly ratify Buni’s sack as chairman of the caretaker committee just as Akpanudoedehe was believed to have been sidelined from the management of the party’s affairs since last Tuesday.

The development came barely 24 hours after a section of Buni’s supporters led by Mr. Tope Musbau under aegis of Solidarity Forum promised to mobilise 10 million supporters to usher the embattled caretaker committee chairman into the party’s secretariat on Monday next week to take his seat.

But the spokesperson of the Bello-led caretaker committee, Mr. Ismaeel Ahmed, yesterday, insisted that both the national convention of the party and the NEC would hold as scheduled.

The Kano-born politician, who spoke when asked to react to INEC’s correspondence, said the issue relating to Buni’s status, as chairman of the caretaker committee, was not in contention.

He said: “The convention will hold on March 26. I am not only a youth leader or an interim spokesperson of the party, I am also a lawyer and we had served a notice to INEC for February 26 earlier and we served that notice on February 5. That was the required 21 days. If you are going to make any adjustment to that date, all you need is a letter making an adjustment to the date.

“We don’t need another 21 days and that letter was since written about two weeks ago immediately we realised that we couldn’t hold it on February 26. The moment the CECPC agreed on the March 26 date, that letter was written to INEC and they have accepted the letter.

“So, that is long gone. It is not an issue. The issue of the date of the Convention is not an issue, not in INEC, not certainly with us. That is settled. It is sacrosanct. We have complied with all the requirements and we have notified INEC as appropriately expected of us.”

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On the NEC meeting, he stated that notices had been sent out to stakeholders and elders of the party.

On Buni’s status, he said: “It is pretty simple. I don’t know why this is a complicated issue for a lot of people to understand. Since the inception of this CECPC on June 25, 2020, whenever the chairman is not around and Gov. Sani Bello is around, he acts on behalf of the chairman. He is our acting chairman and that has always been the case. That has never changed. And now, we have a convention on March 26; the chairman wrote a letter for his leave to go for medical treatment. Those are two emergencies. He has a medical emergency that cannot wait for the convention and we have a convention that cannot wait for him to be healthy.

“So, one has to leave for the other. The chairman transmitted a letter and Gov. Bello has been acting as appropriate. He is acting with the full authority of the CECPC and with the full authority of the stakeholders and leaders of the party and with the full consent and knowledge of Gov. Mai Mala Buni.

“If anybody has any issues with any of our decisions, you can take it to court. For now, we know we are doing it with the full backing of the law. There is no ambiguity in this.”

Nevertheless, a reliable source familiar with the crisis rocking the party confided in The Guardian yesterday that Buni was on his way to London to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari.

The source said Buni initiated the meeting so as to plead with the president to use his good offices and allow him to remain in office to conduct the national convention as scheduled as a face-saving measure.

This is as the former director-general of the Progressive Governor’s Forum (PGF), yesterday, accused governors Hope Uzordinma (Imo), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Senators Orji Uzor Kalu and Akpanudoedehe of masterminding the crisis plaguing the party.

Lukman in a statement titled ‘APC and Surrogate Politics of Timid Leaders’ stressed the need for disciplinary measures to be taken against the aforementioned party chieftains for allegedly bringing the party to disrepute in the eyes of Nigerians.

He called on INEC and all Nigerians committed to the democratic development of the country not to play into the self-serving scheming of Buni “and his associates of surrogate supporters and timid leaders” working to undermine decisions taken by the APC.

He stated: “All APC leaders and members must rise to the challenge of bringing His Excellency Mai Mala Buni, his surrogate supporters and associated timid leaders to account for the bad name they are giving the APC today. His Excellency Mai Mala Buni and Sen. James John Akpanuduedehe should explain why they failed to initiate implementation of decisions to hold the APC National Convention.

“Related to this, they should explain why they failed to bring to the notice of leaders of the party the Court injunction served on the party since November 18, 2021, restraining the party from organising the National Convention.

“There are known collaborators of His Excellency Mai Mala, who have colluded with him to ensure that all attempts to organise the APC National Convention are blocked. Three governors who are known and must also be called upon to account for their roles in undermining decisions to organise the APC National Convention are His Excellency Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, His Excellency Hope Uzodinma of Imo State and His Excellency Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State.

“There are other party leaders, including Sen. Uzor Kalu, who have actively supported His Excellency Mai Mala to undermine the decision to organise the national convention of the party. The March 17, 2022, APC NEC should initiate processes of a disciplinary hearing in line with provisions of the APC Constitution to sanction all these leaders if found guilty.

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“Every step must be taken to ensure that APC emerges stronger, and no future leader of the party can attempt to undermine the decisions of the party. Unlike other parties, especially the PDP, who allowed individual leaders of their parties to undermine collective decisions, APC is working to strengthen its structures to ensure that internal democracy translates to collective leadership.”

Meanwhile, a coalition of youth groups in the party under the aegis of Alliance of Northern Progressive Youths (ANPY) has cautioned against imposition as the party prepares to elect its national chairman and other leaders at its March 26 convention.

Expressing confidence in the leadership of President Buhari, ANPY warned against the purported presidential endorsement of an aspirant, noting that such could destroy the ruling party.

The group declared support for the aspiration of former Nasarawa State governor, Senator Tanko Almakura, threatening that it would take over the party if he doesn’t emerge as the next national chairman.

Addressing a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, ANPY advised the President and other top leaders of the party to embrace the call for the emergence of Almakura as the next national chairman to rescue the party from the crisis that has bedevilled it.

Leader of the coalition, Amina Lawi Wakawa, condemned the attempt to hide under the disguise of consensus arrangement to impose someone as the next chairman of the party, warning that such an attempt could produce disastrous consequences.

“We, therefore, call on the leadership of APC to avoid the imposition of any candidate in the name of consensus or alleged Presidential endorsement. We believe President Muhammadu Buhari is a man of integrity who respect the provision of law and national interest and will not impose or support the imposition of any candidate in the party.

“APC as the ruling party must ensure internal party democracy with a view to deepening democratic culture in the country and the party should not entrust the leadership of the party in the hands of those who fought democracy and the party during its formative days in the country,” Wakawa said.

In what appears to be an open mockery of the ruling party following its protracted leadership crisis, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has stated that INEC’s refusal to recognise the current leadership of the APC was a confirmation that the ruling party lacks the legitimacy and statutory requisites to participate in the 2023 general elections.

The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said INEC’s position has confirmed that the APC was “a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) in liquidation, preparatory to winding up, that cannot legally produce candidates for the elections.”

According to the PDP, “the decision by INEC is another unmistaken ‘red flag’ to intending aspirants on the platform of the APC in the 2023 general election that the APC has become defunct and cannot validly, legally and constitutionally field candidates in the 2023 general elections.”

The party said INEC’s letter to the APC, dated March 9, 2022, to the effect that APC’s NEC meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 17, 2022, would not be recognised by the Commission due to invalid notice meant that any decision reached the meeting would be invalidated.

The opposition party also noted that INEC’s reference to the failure of the APC to give the required 21-day notice for its national convention confirmed the invalidity and unconstitutionality of any national convention conducted by the party’s CECPC.

“As it stands today, regardless of the boldface escapist excuses, the Sword of Damocles hangs precariously on the status of the contraption called CECPC and the APC itself. This signals an existential threat to the soulless, precipice-bound bunch of pretenders masquerading as a political party,” PDP said.

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On its part, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has accused President Buhari and APC governors of running the affairs of the party like headmasters with no regard for constitutional and legal provisions by INEC, hence the many woes confronting it.

It said the crisis rocking the party was evidence of the ineptitude of the Buhari administration in all aspects of governance in Nigeria in the last seven years.

In a statement issued yesterday in Abuja by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, HURIWA said the power tussle shaking the boat of APC, whose leader is said to be the President, has shown that the APC government could not competently run the affairs of the country going forward.

HURIWA faulted the appointment of Buni as caretaker chairman in the first instance and the subsequent appointment of Bello, noting that it was illegal for an elected governor to hold a very top position in any political party.

“The persistent crisis rocking the APC and the blatant violation of guidelines governing the affairs of political parties by the APC is condemnable. The party should learn from best practices in the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom.

“These abuses, if not rectified within seven working days, will be challenged in court by HURIWA so we get the court to make pronouncements on how political party administration should be for the sake of national security and national health,” HURIWA added.

In a related development, the newly appointed Chairman of the New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP) in Ekiti State, Olayinka Dada, has urged Nigerians to work assiduously to dislodge the APC and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general elections.

Dada noted that the two dominant political parties have shown clearly that they lack clear-cut ideas on how to build a prosperous nation.

In a statement yesterday, Dada said Nigerians were no longer comfortable with experimental policies, noting that there must be a road map to ensure steady growth.

Dada said it was obvious that the political class has failed, adding that Nigerians could no longer entrust their destinies in the hands of political dealers.

He urged Nigerians to support the aspiration of former Kano State governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwanso, describing him as a “man who can shoulder the responsibility of rescuing and rebuilding Nigeria.”

He said: “In 2023, the only option left for Nigerians is to exit non-performing politicians who have held the people hostage. No amount of old tricks can save the two-behemoth parties currently toying with the people. The people of Nigeria have resolved to free themselves in the unfortunate hands of incompetent and corrupt leaders.

“How can we continue with old narratives where the nation’s resources both human and material have become a curse rather than a blessing? How long shall Nigerians die of minor sicknesses due to a non-functional health care system? For how long shall education remain the exclusive right of the children of the rich? Why can’t the public schools function like those rich patronises in other countries? How can we explain that after 60 years of independence, Nigerians still live without stable electricity?

“Why are the economy shrinking and the security of lives and properties left for citizens while those saddled with protection of lives and properties look away and ask citizens to pray? Why are the refineries moribund and importation of petroleum products now an option?

“It has become clearer than ever that Nigerians deserve a compassionate leader whose antecedent is service driven.”

-GuardianNG

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