By Samuel Chukwuma
His Excellency, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, for 15 testy months, has been shepherding the affairs of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as chairman, National Caretaker Committee.
It would be recalled that, on June 25, 2020, Buni took over the administration of the party from the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC), which was sacked by the National Executive Council (NEC) barely two years into its four-year term.
Oshiomhole’s ouster was, rightly or wrongly, attributed to protracted internal crisis that nearly consumed the party. The ruling party, however, convened an emergency National Executive Committee meeting, which held at the Presidential Villa on June 25.
There, the Oshiomhole-led NWC was dissolved and the current 13-member caretaker committee headed by the Yobe State governor was given six months by the NEC presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari to completely reposition the party, organise a national convention for new leaders to emerge and also reconcile all aggrieved members ahead of the said national convention.
“My plan for the party, as a former two-time national secretary of the party (and that is experience), and I know the party very well, is all about doing justice to every member of the party because, without justice, there won’t be peace and it is all about team play,” Buni told newsmen shortly after he assumed the new party responsibility.
He continued: “I am a team player. I have a capable team that can work with me. If you don’t manage crisis, obviously, crisis will manage you; so, I won’t allow any crisis to fester, henceforth.”
Delivered in polite cadence, his message to fellow partymen, nevertheless, served notice that, going forward, deviance and contrived crises would not be tolerated.
Initially mandated to fix the party within six months, the Buni-led committee got its term extended for another six months in December 2020, due to outstanding achievements it had recorded within the short time and bearing in mind that the set targets had not been totally accomplished.
Within its first six months, the National Caretaker Committee was able to resolve life-threatening crises in some state chapters of the party like Zamfara, Rivers, Bayelsa and Cross River, which looked impossible under the Oshiomhole-led NWC. The Caretaker Committee set up several high-profile reconciliation teams across party chapters that were battered by internal crises and has recorded a good number of resolutions that have improved the party’s stand and cohesion since then.
Significantly, this effort at resolving conflicts in various chapters paid off with members’ compliance with the party resolution to withdraw and terminate all on-going litigations that involve the party.
Though Buni’s subsisting tenure as APC chairman has not been a picnic, having been buffeted by strong headwinds, he has stood firm and recorded several positives for the party’s growth and expansion. For instance, former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Barnabas Gemade; former Speakers of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara and Hon. Dimeji Bankole, Dr. Alex Otti and, very recently, former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, among others, have jumped ship and joined APC.
Similarly, the Buni-led caretaker committee has resuscitated the party’s internal dispute resolution mechanisms and set up reconciliation committees for Oyo, Edo, Ondo, Imo, Ogun and Ekiti, among other state chapters with reported disputes.
The reconciliation committee has been able to settle the rift betweem the two factions in Cross River State and has appointed a state caretaker committee, led by Senator Matthew Mbu Junior, as acting state chairman.
Before the last governorship election in Ondo State, all the governorship aspirants were brought together. They campaigned and worked for the successful re-election of the APC candidate, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN.
All the contending interests in Akwa Ibom State were brought together under one roof and true reconciliation achieved. Currently, APC leaders such as Senator Godswill Akpabio, Obong Nsima Ekere, Umana O. Umana, Senator Ita Enang, Barrister Bassey and Dan Abia, among others, are now working together and in collective pursuit of the party’s interest.
More, in South-south, the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, who were at daggers drawn, have been reconciled by Buni’s leadership and both resolved to work together and strengthen the party, particularly in the South-South geo-political zone.
The Buni-led caretaker committee, as part of efforts to reposition the party, also deemed it needful to review the party’s law book. A high-level committee is already working, although yet to submit its reports. The constitution review committee is chaired by Professor Tahir Mamman, with Mr. Dare Oketade as secretary, while Prof. Dakas Dakas, Hon. Akinremi Olaide, Dr. Ego Ezuma, Hon. Mohammed Kumaila, Shuaibu Aruwa and Dr. Ekokoi Solomon are members of the committee.
Mamman’s panel is mandated to consider recommendations of contributors, particularly on contemporary issues that need to be adequately captured. The panel has, however, received memoranda on enshrining party discipline, deepening internal democracy, greater inclusion of marginalized groups, women, youths and People with Disabilities (PWDs), among others.
Notwithstanding, it was not part of its mandate at the outset but to ascertain the total number of the members and to ensure that a few leaders do not continue to manipulate the registered members to their own advantage, the caretaker committee embarked on a nationwide APC membership revalidation and registration exercise, also meant to increase the party’s membership and support base nationwide.
The secretary of the caretaker committee, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, has said that the APC now has over 40 million registered members, although the exercise has yet to be concluded in some states.
A high-powered APC Contact/Strategy Committee, chaired by the Governor of Jigawa State, Badaru Abubakar, was constituted by the Caretaker Committee. It has the mandate of establishing constructive engagements among critical stakeholders at various levels of the party with a view to reviving confidence and entrenching trust among party leaders.
The committee is also mandated to conduct a needs assessment survey from party members and the general public and to also create a statement of vision, mission and core values of the party that will foster unity.
Again Badaru’s committee is also mandated to develop strategies that will reposition the party in an advantaged position in the public domain and develop a timeline and framework for the implementation of the recommendations of the committee.
Another clear achievement by the Buni-led committee is the constitution of a recently-inaugurated tripartite Executive/Legislative/APC Consultative Committee, which is to ensure synergy, good governance and accelerated implementation of the Next Level agenda.
Buni’s committee unquestionably has led the APC into major elections victories comprising governorship, National Assembly and State Assembly elections. For example, APC won gallantly at the Ondo state governorship election, senatorial seats won across Lagos, Plateau and other states as well as the good number of State Houses of Assembly.
Still there is much deserved credit for Buni and his committee. It cannot be forgotten in a hurry that Ebonyi State governor, Engr. Dave Umahi, and, more recently, the Cross River State governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, left the major opposition PDP to the ruling APC. Both defectors have wasted little time to attest to the quality leadership in place in the ruling APC.
For Umahi, his coming to the ruling party has boosted the presence of APC in the South-East region where Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State was a lone ranger. For Ayade, his defection to APC confirmed a firm presence in the South-South, where the APC initially did not have a sitting governor.
A major headwind buffeting the Buni-led committee is the agitation for a national convention to elect a substantive NWC members but several pundits hold that there is wisdom in the position of the caretaker committee under Buni.
The Buni committee rightly believes the party should not go into a national convention and indeed the 2023 general elections without resolving all the crises identified which it is vigorously working on.
Little wonder the committee beseeched all stakeholders to continue supporting its efforts to unite the party in order to make it formidable enough to consolidate on the APC’s national governing status and milestone achievements.
Noted an unperturbed Buni: “The APC must not go into a national convention, and indeed a general election, in crisis. We should take it one step at a time and ensure that the on-going national reconciliation process being undertaken by the committee is sustained, successful and continues to yield results.”
By standing firm and tall and moderating the affairs of the ruling party, Buni has demonstrated that he, indeed, is an indisputable asset to the APC and his country.
•Chukwuma, political analyst, contributed this piece from Enugu