Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
He storm has started to dangerously gather again at the national secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC). There is a looming crisis over the proposed extension of the tenure of the Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee.
The house may most likely start leaking due to the heavy rain threatening to drench the stakeholders of the party any moment from now. In fact, things are starting to fall apart again with the centre crumbling and refusing to hold.
At the impending theatre of war are those drumming support for and those antagonising the Governor Mai Mala Buniled Caretaker Committee. But at the centre of the controversy is who controls the party structure and gets the presidential ticket for the 2023 general election. The alignment and realignment, permutations and shenanigans are polarising the party’s stakeholders.
Barely few months to the end of the six months mandate given to the caretaker committee, fresh controversy seems to be brewing over who controls the party machinery, the legal, administrative implications and
the relevance of the committee’s continued existence.
Should the Governor Buni-led caretaker committee get extension, it will be victory for the Progressive Governors and their allied forces across the six geopolitical zones.
If the contrary becomes the case with the failure of the caretaker committee to get extension, according to political watchers, it is then victory for certain leaders and chieftains of the party and their portent forces with former members of the immediate past National Working Committee (NWC) as foot soldiers.
The indications for extension of the tenure of the caretaker committee started emerging through rumours, and graduated into endorsements and vote of confidence from stakeholders hitherto resolutely loyal to the sacked Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC before it snowballed into intense lobbying.
From the State party chairmen to the integrity group of the Non-NWC, National Executive Committee (NEC) and other party stakeholders, it has been one endorsement after the other. Their cogent reasons ranged from the commendable fruitful reconciliatory efforts dispensed by the caretaker commit- tee to the recent victory in the Ondo State governorship election.
The gathering cloud started when shortly after blowing its trumpet of recorded landmark achievements, including reconciling some life-threatening challenges facing the party in 11 states, a group under the auspices of APC Concerned Members issued a 14-day quit notice to the caretaker committee.
Still smarting from the ill-feelings arising from the traumatic loss of the Edo State governorship ticket, the caretaker committee leadership had rolled out its achievements that it is not a spent force understandably to dispel certain impressions.
The caretaker committee chairman had while blowing his trumpet during the inauguration of Reconciliation and Election committees for Bayelsa Central and West, said: “Let me say with all sense of appreciation and fulfilment that the committee had in the last three months reconciled life threatening challenges for the party in 11 states across the country. Today, we proudly parade political heavy weights like the former Speaker of
the House of Repre“Others are like former PDP National chairman, Senator Barnabas Gemade, several members of the National Assembly, Jimoh Ibrahim, former Head of service of the federation, Danladi Kifasi, Sen. Isa Hamma Misau, Salisu Takai while many others have also indicated interests to join the party.
“This was possible with the support the committee is enjoying from the stakeholders as we continue to move the party away from unnecessary wrangling, squabbles and disputes,” he said.
However, in what appeared like a fight back, the opposition camp had drawn the battle line and while cataloguing the sins of the caretaker committee in an attempt to discredit it, claimed that it has failed woe- fully. According to the spokesperson of APC Concerned Members, Abdullahi Dauda; “We have watched with amazement and disillusionment, for several months, the inability of the APC Caretaker Committee to provide direction for the party and set up timetable for December elective convention.
“We are not out to discredit the conscientious efforts of President Buhari and his team that have taken commendable steps to fight for the progress of the party by setting up the present caretaker committee to save the party from internal crisis, but to bring to his notice that there are certain areas that the governor Mai Mala Buni-led committee has outrightly failed, especially as it concerns the non-compliance to the scheduled December National Convention.
“We are less than two months away from the December deadline and no meaningful plan is in place for the much awaited convention. Recall that the committee was inaugurated to carry out two critical challenges faced by our great party. One was for it to reconcile aggrieved members and to conduct a National Convention by December 2020. But, the information reaching us reveals that they are already scheming to extend their tenure for another one year,” it noted.
Issuing the ultimatum, the group said: “That we are giving the caretaker committee 14 day ultimatum to roll out plan of action/ timetable for the party’s December elective convention, or face mass demonstration of party members nationwide. That a timetable leading to a hitch free convention be released within the next 14 days.”
But, instead of listening to the threats and sound of war drum, the caretaker committee may have adopted measures geared towards securing an extension. It was a strategy that climaxed with the visit and endorsement of the two important organs of the party, the forum of state chairmen and the integrity non-NWC NEC members.
According to the chairman of the forum of state chairmen, Bukar Dalori; “We are pleased and proud of what they have achieved so far and have assured the committee of the support of the entire APC membership across the country.
“Of specific note is that the party is getting more united, with more people joining and the success in Ondo State is a reflection of its successes. Our attention has been drawn to media reports, allegedly giving an ultimatum to the caretaker committee by a group calling themselves Concerned APC Members.
“This is hitherto, an unknown group in the APC and wonder if they are actually concerned, as their name suggests. The APC Chairmen unanimously condemn any at- tempt to distract efforts of the caretaker committee from the commendable work “The APC has recognizable processes through which members can lodge any legitimate grievance(s). Shadowy groups, with question- able agenda cannot claim any concern for the party. APC Chairmen Forum hereby move a motion of confidence on the caretaker committee and unanimously endorsed by the entire Forum,” he said.
Backing the forum, a party chieftain and Director-General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, pleaded for a one year extension, arguing: “Truly, methinks we should extend and accord due cooperation to the governor Buni-led caretaker committee; so as for them to diligently fix and reposition our great party before December 2020 convention.
“When one casts cursory glance at the damage done to the soul of our great party, from the beginning of our government in mid-2015 by the unforced error struggle for National Assembly leadership and to the culture of impunity which Comrade Adams Oshiomhole unleashed on our great party post his election as chairman on June 23, 2018, the need for extension of time becomes imperative. Our stock crashed from 25 states to 19 today.
“Accordingly, the Buni-led committee requires deep introspection to gather the pieces, reconcile the various warlords and tendencies. United we stand, so if it takes six or 12 months, so be it,” he appealed in a chat with Daily Sun.
However, Ray Morphy, SA Political to former APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, condemned the planned extension of the tenure of the caretaker committee, stressing that was a denial of the rightful position zoned to the South-South geopolitical zone.
He further told Daily Sun that apart from the anathema of the present caretaker committee arrangement fusing the party with the executive arm of government, organising an elective convention in December to produce the chairmanship position will give the South-South a sense of belonging especially as the party has no hold of any state.
“My thoughts are that everything has its pro and cons. The tenure given to them will expire by December, but if the appointing authority says that the committee should continue, they may have superior argument. However, regardless of the decision they took, it is good for the structures of the party to be independent of the executive and legislature. Democracy allows party politics to operate independent of those in power.
“Take for instance, the APC has not made a categorical statement on the #EndSARS protest because since a serving governor is its chairman, everything he says will have dual connotation. Ideally, members of the party are desirous of having some level of authority in the party independent of those in power especially as we move towards 2023 elections.
“Don’t forget that the chairmanship of the party is actually zoned to a particular geographical zone, which is the South-South by the current structure. Members of the party in the zone are concerned that the position allocated to them has been removed from them. And now that the South-South has no governor of APC extraction, allowing the zone produce the chairmanship will give them sense of belonging,” Morphy argued.
On the implications of the situation ahead of 2023 presidential election, he said: “The argument that the extension of the tenure was governors’ plans to consolidate their hold on the party does not hold water. They don’t need the position to control the party because by the virtue of their position, they are in charge through the state chairmen.
“The implication of the struggle for the soul of the party is enormous. You cannot say that the governors are not interested in 2023 presidential ticket or that some powerful elements are not interested too. However, I also know that the governors are more difficult to sway than others because of the resources at their disposal. Their involvement will bring stability to the party.
“My stand is that the tenure of the caretaker committee should not be extended unless the appointing authority has overriding knowledge that the mandate given to the committee has not been actualised,” he quipped. Head or tail, the last may not have been heard about the shenanigans and supremacy battle among the gladiators in the ruling party with the horse-trading for the 2023 presidential election and debate for zoning arrangements dominating political discourse.
Pleading to stakeholders to support the extension of the tenure of the committee, the APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, said: “But realistically speaking, how possible can it be to organise national convention within the next two months. We practically have only November to it, but can the caretaker committee conclude the reconciliation, organise congresses from ward levels and manage the fallout of the congress before that time?
“Yes, there are people making such request out of genuine concerns but there are others still bitter against the caretaker committee. Some of them are still pursuing their selfish agenda.