Concerns have continued to mount over the preparations for the proposed February National Convention of the All Progressives Congress, APC, following the non-release of the timetable and schedule of activities for the exercise.
While the Gov. Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC, had, at its last meeting in December, said it had resolved to name relevant sub-committees, party stakeholders are worried about the delay in announcing the committees.
Indications that the party would, however, hold its Convention soonest was given by Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State on Friday when he told journalists in Abuja that President Muhammadu Buhari and APC governors will today meet to decide on a date for the conduct of the exercise.
A former governor of Cross River State, who is a member of the party’s National Caucus, Mr Clement Ebri, has, meanwhile, sounded a note of caution to the CECPC, saying any attempt to postpone the national convention would sound the death knell for the party.
Lamenting the freezing of party organs like the Caucus, Ebri said he was worried about self-serving schemes being perpetrated in secret.
He said: “I am deeply worried particularly because there are clear signals that party members are being taken for a ride while self-serving (2023) schemes are being perpetrated in secret.
“The most annoying part is the fact that the party organs (most particularly the National Caucus), that ought to look over the shoulders of the National Caretaker Committee to ensure that its actions are in tandem with democratic ethos, have been frozen since the emergence of this body.
“I had warned earlier that any attempt to move the convention beyond February this year will sound the death knell of the APC.
“I am glad that even Mr President expressed his fears about the situation during his last media chat.
“All lovers of APC must come together to ensure that a free, fair and credible convention takes place in February”.
A former National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, has, however, calmed frayed nerves, urging party faithful to give the Buni committee the benefit of the doubt.
According to him, there is no reason not to trust the committee to walk its talk, having recently promised to abide by the decision to convene a National Convention by February.
“The Chairman (Gov. Buni) has said it will hold and once he has said so, there is no reason to be apprehensive.
“There is no reason to doubt the intention of the committee. They have said it will hold and I believe them. There is no need to doubt them until they give genuine reasons for doubt”.
Buni had, in a New Year message to party members, recalled how the CECPC had, at its 18th regular meeting held on the 20th December 2021, deliberated on the planned National Convention and resolved to set up sub-committees on budgeting and other relevant substructures for the event.
According to him, “all is now set for the conduct of a rancour-free National Convention”.
However, speaking to Sunday Vanguard in the wake of rising concerns about the CECPC not conducting the National Convention as scheduled, a two-time National Auditor of the party and Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority NIWA, Chief George Moghalu, said the only way to douse the tension is for the CECPC to be sincere in its dealings with party members by announcing a date and programme of events for the National Convention.
Moghalu, who was one of the governorship aspirants of APC in the last Anambra election, however, asked stakeholders of the party to also give the Buni-led CECPC the benefit of the doubt.
He said: “l am fully aware of the concerns being expressed but then, we must give the current leadership the benefit of the doubt while encouraging them to come out with a confirmed date and a programme of events if they are sincere about the sanctity of the proposed date”.
In a related development, stakeholders of the party under the aegis of APC Rebirth Group have convened a summit for Tuesday to discuss the future of the party.
One of the leaders of the group, Aliyu Audu, said: “the APC Stakeholders Summit is aimed at appraising the journey of the party since inception with a view to charting a way forward for its continued dominance as the party for a greater Nigeria”.
The group has constantly called on the Buni-led CECPC to immediately take steps towards conducting a National Convention, accusing it of subterranean moves to extend its tenure.
According to Audu, the APC Stakeholders Summit, which brings together various interest groups and individuals across the country, is in continuation of the campaign to ensure that the APC is returned to its founding principles and ideals which endeared it to Nigerians and resulted in the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The summit, with the theme, ‘Rebuilding the APC of Our Dreams’, will feature notable party members as keynote speakers and panellists.
Also, Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, PGF, Salihu Moh. Lukman had asked the Buni-led committee to take steps towards conducting the National Convention by next month, saying the seeming inactions of the party leadership have continued to give room to wild speculations among party members.
“The burden of responsibility to strengthen the capacity of the APC to put itself on a vantage position to commence internal negotiations around all these issues is on the CECPC, especially, the Chairman, His Excellency, Mai Mala Buni”, he said. “Inability to discharge this responsibility or avoid it by towing the path of a deceptive campaign for postponement of Convention can only spell doom for the APC and return Nigeria to the hands of those who laid the foundation for all the challenges facing the country.
“Sadly, all the good work of the CECPC under His Excellency Mai Mala is about to be destroyed once it yields to the temptation of staying longer than February 2022.
“Speculation about the Convention not holding in February 2022 began to be strong when a letter written by Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu to the APC CECPC Chairman, His Excellency, Mai Mala Buni, dated December 13, 2021, calling for the postponement of the Convention was widely reported in the media.
“Sen. Kalu was said to have suggested that instead of the February 2022 Convention, ‘a simultaneous event’, combining ‘presidential primary and election of National Working Committee members’ hold ‘on the same day and venue to avoid rancour and litigations.’
“This suggestion basically means a possible extension of the tenure of the CECPC by another six months.
“It is very difficult to understand the logic of such a recommendation.
“In fact, if anything, going by the recommendation, it means that the CECPC will be saddled with the additional responsibility of organizing all party primaries for all positions for the 2023 elections.
“Ordinarily, there should be no need to be doubtful about whether our party, APC, will be having its convention in February 2022 or not.
“Recall that after the end of the year 2021 meeting of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) on Monday, December 20, 2021, and in the APC 2022 New Year Message, both signed by the Secretary, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe, there was confirmation that planning for the National Convention has commenced.
“Members and the general public have been put on notice that relevant committees will be set up. The major gap, however, is that no date or details of Committees, their membership and terms of reference, were given.
“Largely because of the gap, the public speculation is strong that the Convention may not hold in February.
“It is quite worrisome that speculations about the Convention are allowed to create strong doubts as to when the Convention will hold.
“It is very clear that there is a decision about when the Convention will hold. It is public knowledge that following consultations between APC Governors and President Buhari, February was agreed as the date for the Convention.
“This was announced to State House Media Reporters by His Excellency, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, Chairman, Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), on Monday, November 22, 2021, immediately after a meeting with President Buhari”.
A top source within the party said the CECPC has no plan of leaving any time soon.
“The truth is that they want to remain in the saddle”, he said.
“The grand scheme is about 2023. “The leader of the CECPC has the ambition to become the vice-presidential candidate of the party.
“One of Buhari’s ministers is working with three governors from the North. “They take decisions and say those are the decisions of the party.
“Look at when they went to meet the President before the February date was agreed.
“All APC governors met and only Buni, Bagudu and Badaru – all from the North – went to make presentations to Mr President. No southern governor was there. Who knows what they told the President?”
Since its inception, the APC has been in serial violation of important provisions of its own Constitution with regards to holding its National Convention to appraise its state of affairs and make necessary adjustments.
Specifically, Article 25 (A) (i) of the APC Constitution stipulates that the National Convention of the Party shall be held once in two years at a date, venue and time to be recommended by the National Working Committee and approved by the National Executive Committee subject to the giving of the statutory notices to the Independent National Electoral Commission and at least 14 days notice given to members eligible to attend.
The Convention is used to ratify policies and programmes of the Party; Elect or remove the national officers of the Party; Elect the Presidential Candidate of the Party; Amend the Constitution of the Party from time to time as the need may arise among other issues.
After its National Convention held in October 2014, the party should have held another one in 2016 but it did not do so until June 2018.
By implication, a mid-term National Convention should have been held in 2020 but despite the ouster of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) and the constitution of the CECPC, the hopes of having a National Convention have been constantly dashed