There are indications that the All Progressives Congress (APC) might postpone its national convention again.
The imminent postponement is already causing rancour in the ruling party which has witnessed various power blocs jostling to control the structure of the party ahead of the 2023 general elections.
One of the most vicious attacks on the APC Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee led by Mai Mala Buni came a fortnight ago when the Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, Salihu Lukman, said the committee was already repeating the mistakes made by the ousted national leadership of the party.
Lukman, in a statement titled, ‘APC’s Litmus Tests,’ said the Adams Oshiomhole-led leadership of the APC failed to call for meetings of the organs of the party, a situation he said was happening again under the Buni-led caretaker committee.
He further alleged that most of the decisions taken so far by the committee were done by Buni and the panel secretary, Senator Akpan Udoedehe.
There are indications the party leadership may be forced to postpone the national convention from June.
Meanwhile, the party’s membership registration/revalidation was extended by three weeks after protesters in their hundreds on March 29 grounded activities at the national headquarters of the APC in Abuja to demand an extension.
On March 31 when the exercise was to end, chairmen of the state chapters of the APC also called for an extension of the nationwide membership registration and revalidation exercise.
The Buni-led panel subsequently announced on April 1 an extension of the nationwide membership registration by three weeks.
The exercise had been earlier scheduled to end on February 23 before it was extended to March 31. The party, in the statement announcing the extension, said the Buni panel did everything possible to keep to the earlier timeline but it had become necessary to extend the duration.
The committee is expected to have in the same vein announced the date of the party’s national convention in June but it has not done so up till now.
The DG of the PGF, however, criticised the three-week extension of the nationwide membership. According to him, the “needless extension” of the exercise only serves to strengthen the suspicions that the caretaker committee is reluctant to organise a national convention where new leadership of the party will be elected.
One would have expected the panel to respond to the issues raised by Lukman but the Buni-led committee seems to have chosen to ignore him.
For instance, the Secretary, Udoedehe, was contacted by Saturday PUNCH to react to the allegations made by Lukman but he simply said, “Ignore it.”
However, a prominent member of the Buni panel, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH on condition of anonymity, condemned Lukman for calling out the APC leadership which the PGF belongs.
The APC chieftain said, “If somebody does not know the workings of the party, do you expect us to escalate what is going on as an insider? If someone says only the chairman and the secretary of the party are running the party, who else should have run it? The caretaker committee is structured like a board, such that only two names are mentioned; the rest are like members of a board; they come to work only when they are called upon to do so. The offices that he is thinking about-like the National Working Committee-do not exist here. Our duty is to bring peace to the party and we are going to do that internally. It is not for us to escalate that.”
When reminded of the allegation that meetings were not being called, the source said, “It is a lie. There is no decision that we take that is not from the stakeholders.”
Meanwhile, the state chairmen of the APC had on April 2 debunked the reports that they were scheming to have the committee’s tenure extended, following their call on the Buni-led committee to extend the registration/revalidation exercise.
A joint statement issued by chairmen partly read, “At no time during the meeting of the APC states caretaker chairmen or in our briefing to media organisations after the meeting was anything related to tenure elongation deliberated on or mentioned.”
As far back as August 13, 2020, The PUNCH had reported exclusively that the Buni-led committee was already battling against time ahead of the expiration of its first six-month tenure which was to end in December last year.
The National Executive Committee of the APC had earlier in June 2020 inaugurated the committee and its tenure was to end in December last year.
As of then, the committee was reported not to have made substantial progress on its main assignments,v which include the withdrawal of court cases instituted against the party and or its leaders, the reconciliation of aggrieved party members and preparations for the national convention.
On December 8, 2020, the APC NEC meeting presided over by Buhari granted a six-month tenure extension to the committee, a development that confirmed The PUNCH’s earlier report.
With the extension, the committee was to within the period conduct the ongoing nationwide membership registration/revalidation exercise, reconcile aggrieved members, conduct ward, local government and state congresses and a national convention to elect new national party leaders.
However, as it stands now, the plan to hold APC’s national convention in June seems uncertain.
This is happening amid criticisms by many stakeholders including the DG of PGF who have warned the Buni-led committee against another extension.
Lukman said, “Under no circumstances should there be any contemplation of extending the tenure of the caretaker committee. In order to ensure that no extension is being considered, committees for congresses and national convention should be established without any further delay. Similarly, the dates for congresses and national convention should be decided.”
He added, “Failure to organise a national convention in June 2021 will simply mean that the caretaker committee is not interested in protecting the electoral viability of the party. There should be no debate about whether the national convention of APC should hold in June or not: what is debatable are the issues that will emerge in the national convention, which should include the election of leaders and amendment to provisions of the constitution to make it more compelling for meetings of organs of the party to hold as required.”
A former National Publicity Secretary of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, one of the parties that formed the APC, Mr Rotimi Fashakin, said it was in the interest of the party to conduct the exercises as scheduled.
Fashakin said, “I believe that the convention will hold as scheduled, though there are many things that ought to have been put in place by this time, for the convention to hold. The congresses ought to have been held but the exercise being conducted by the committee is also an important one – to broaden the membership base of the party and straighten the records as regards old and new members. The matter is now juggling the two important events. But I think it is in the interest of the party that the convention should hold.”
Another chieftain of the APC and Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, Mr Osita Okechukwu, said Buni and his team had done “so well” when one looks at the events in the party since 2015 when it came into power.
He said, “In 2015, we had about 25 governors and because of the wrangling in the party before the 2019 general elections, we lost some of the core zones where President Muhammadu Buhari got most of his 12 million votes (in 2015) like Zamfara, Sokoto, Benue, Adamawa states and others. For me, I think it is not going to be an easy job to fix. They have done an enormous job in terms of reconciliation. They have also done a lot by revalidating old members and registering new ones in order to have a national register. This was what our national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, was almost completing in 2014.
“So, I do not see how the extension of the registration and revalidation exercise will in any way hamper the date of congresses. They can be done on a weekly basis. I don’t see the extension as a barrier to the date. We do not know their logistics standing. It is when we hear from them that we will be able to say when the events will take place.”
A former Secretary of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria in Bauchi State, Abdullahi Dauda, who is now the spokesman for the Concerned APC Members, a pressure group within the APC, however, said he was not surprised at what was currently happening in the party.
Dauda said, “We said it from the beginning that this Caretaker Committee has its own agenda. It is doing the bidding of a few governors who want to edge out foundation leaders of the APC to take total control of its structure. There is nothing on the ground to show that this convention will hold in two or three months. They keep introducing one activity or another to distract party members from the real issues. We are watching.”
The biggest opposition party in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party, however, slammed the APC, saying the fact that the ruling party was finding it difficult to organise its national convention was an indication that the party was not capable of leading the country.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said, “The APC is not capable of organising an ordinary local government congress. I doubt if the APC today can successfully organise a ward congress without friction, without killings or maiming. We are not surprised in the PDP that the APC keeps shifting the dates of their national convention because certainly, they will not return the same after the convention.
“As per the issue of the registration and revalidation of their membership list, it is already a failure. Even within the party, there is condemnation of the exercise coming from people like their former (Acting) National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande. Akande described the exercise as a waste of resources in spite of the meagre resources available within their party and in the nation. It is not worth it. There is no need for all that. They don’t respect Nigerians and they care less about others.
“The APC is a party seeking power at all cost but does not know anything about governance and administration of human, natural and human capital development. That is why they are compiling fictitious figures in the residences of their leaders. They didn’t do proper exercise.”
For now, no one knows the workings of the caretaker committee. Some members of the committee may also not know. Until the leadership of the party opens up on its programmes, party members will keep wondering on the next moves as cloud of uncertainty gathers over the national convention.