There are indications that the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) is still stuck in troubled waters despite the general impression that the removal of the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) cleared every cobweb hindering the party’s cohesion and progress.
Recently, some chieftains of the party were heard publicly stating discordant positions on the issue of whether its leaders should be selected on the basis of zoning or otherwise, as well as, whether to extend the lifespan of the Mai Mala Buni’s (MMB) Caretaker and Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee (CENCPC).
Although the agitation for APC’s presidential slot to be ceded to the southern part of the country seems to have reached a crescendo of near unanimity, sources within the party disclosed that the bone of contention has gradually moved to the search for which geopolitical zone should produce the next national chairman.
It was gathered that while some APC stalwarts from Southeast, including Governor Hope Uzodimma and Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu, were speaking from different sides of their mouth about the presidency and timeline of the CENCPC, their colleagues from Southwest are engaged in underground schemes and consideration of who should fly the party’s flag in 2023.
Yet, as both micro zones of the South continued in their quests to make the best out of the emerging realities in the governing party, the designs have brought enormous weight to bear on the MMB’s committee.
Motion For Extension
APC STAKEHOLDERS maintain that it would take another National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting to vary the original timeframe given to the MMB committee to conduct the extraordinary national convention that would produce the party’s national officers.
However, some highly placed sources within the CENCPC confided in The Guardian that the agitation to zone the party’s presidential slot to the south has made it imperative for zoning the office of national chairman.
The chieftain said, “You know I am not supposed to speak to the press, but the truth of the matter is that we have been caught in the middle of a new argument. If you say you are zoning the presidency to the south, then, where would the next chairman come from?
“If the leaders of the party decide to throw the position open, will it not serve as a precedent for the presidency to be thrown open too? The other side of the argument is that if you retain the chairmanship in the south, where is the guarantee that that would not confer undue advantages to any of the groups angling for the presidency?”
The source said those tough decisions could only be taken by the party’s national leadership, stressing that since the briefs are beyond the CENCPC to address, NEC should tackle it.
But, ruling out the perception in certain quarters that the issues were behind calls for the extension of the MMB committee’s lifespan, a chieftain of the party, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, explained rather than the governorship polls in Edo and Ondo States have robbed the CENCPC of quality time to concentrate on its mandate.
Okechukwu, who is also a member of the 104-member Ondo Governorship Campaign Committee, said calls for extension of CENCPC’s six months timeline, are informed by the two gubernatorial polls, remarking that the “two polls are very dear to us.”
Expatiating further, he noted that by the time the party is done with the polls there would be little time to organize the convention, adding: “The two elections in Edo and Ondo means a lot for us, especially when you know that we are almost running neck to neck with PDP (Peoples Democratic Party).
“I think on the last count, we have 19 states and PDP has 16 and FCT (Federal Capital Territory) and APGA (All Progressives Grand Alliance) one. So, if you are faithful to APC, you will be worried by that more than who becomes the chairman, particularly when it is on record that we are in a liberal democracy.”
Okechukwu, who is also the Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VoN), explained that in liberal democracies, the incumbent has to be wearied because elections involving an incumbent are much like a referendum on the incumbent.
However, APC spokesman, Yekini Nabena, has said that the question of extending NCENCPC’s six months tenure lies squarely on the shoulders of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The committee was at inception handed a six-month term that expires by December this year to reconcile aggrieved members of the party.
While stressing that Kalu was entitled to his opinion, Nabena said: “We are aware that there are several pending issues to resolve. We are tackling them on a stage-by-stage basis and are rest assured that the committee will achieve that purpose before the end of the year.”
Apprehensions IT is on record that the Senate Chief Whip, Kalu, was the first person to fly the kite of a possible extension for the MMB committee. Being much of a gadfly, many party faithful expressed surprise and misgivings about Kalu’s expose, with some arguing that it was part of the North’s efforts to control the party structure while also occupying the presidency.
The Senate Chief Whip had in a statement argued against the fire brigade approach to the MMB’s mandate, insisting that more time is needed for the committee to put things in order and hand over properly to new leadership.
“I don’t see any need of fire brigade approach for them to hand over by December. The committee is expected to focus on Edo State because the governorship poll will determine the strength of any new leadership.
“Holding the convention in December would also not give the desired results, because the National Assembly will soon go into budget presentation and defense sessions.”
Nonetheless, while APC stalwarts flayed the former Abia State governor for being unnecessarily too flippant by divulging the agenda, the leader of a Southwest socio-political body, Yoruba Ronu, Akin Malaolu, said the reality of Kalu’s suggestion was so scary and confirms growing apprehension that the party could no longer put its house in order.
But, Mr. Fouad Oki, a former Governorship Campaigns Director for Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode, and Chairman of Lagos APC, Chief Tunde Balogun, sided with the Senate Chief Whip, maintaining that the MMB committee actually needed some more time to complete its assignment.
According to Malaolu, “It appears as if APC is leading the country to nowhere, looking at the manner it is conducting its internal affairs.
“I don’t see the need for tenure extension. When the committee visited Tinubu in Lagos, the national leader said clearly he had no issues to be reconciled with anybody. It has become clear that those who orchestrated the disbandment of the Oshiomhole-led NWC did so for their selfish interests and that is the point of departure between some of the neophyte governors and Tinubu.”
Malaolu lamented as unfortunate the fact that President Buhari fell for the antics of some governors, whom he said, wanted to hijack the APC machinery without having what it takes to coordinate the party.”
The Yoruba Ronu leader, therefore, urged the President and other critical stakeholders to quickly reconcile with the national leader, stressing that unless that was done they will lose the remaining sympathy Nigerian voters reserved for them.
“There is no doubt that APC is currently floating under Bubari, because he has allowed those who did not give life to the party to hijack its mechanism from the likes of the national leader, Tinubu, who staked a lot to give the party meaning.”
While urging the party to disregard Kalu, Malaolu directed the party leaders to consign the Senate Whip to the backside, where he rightly belongs.
However, expressing a contrary view, Oki said the only consideration that could guarantee extension of time for the caretaker committee is for Buni to come out with clear timelines on what his committee plans to do and how it wants to go about it.
He said, “Extending the life span of the committee is not the issue, but what the members are doing. It is on this basis they can get extension. For instance, out of the 25 states the committee is expected to cover, I doubt if it has reached more than four, and here we have Edo and Ondo governorship elections at hand with the fact that there are over 170 petitions before the committee.
“Let Buni come up with timetable of its action and on that basis it can be considered. Until that happens I don’t see the need to extend its tenure.”
But, Balogun said it is only ideal to give the committee about two or three more months to compete its assignment, saying: “We don’t have to rush the caretaker committee at all, because it comprises capable people, especially the chairman.
“It is supposed to round up its activities in November, but with Edo and Ondo elections at hand, and some other by-elections across the country, they cannot do a thorough job. My suggestion is, we should give them till either January or February 2021 at best.”
However, The Guardian reliably gathered that the plan for tenure extension for the MMB committee has already been hatched, only that the manner of Kalu’s outburst gave a wrong impression that some cabals were trying to use that to shortchange Tinubu.
Putting Fayemi On The Spot
SPECULATIONS that some Southwest political leaders are already putting up the machinery to clinch APC’s presidential ticket for 2023 recently sparked divergent reactions in the geopolitical zone.
While some argued that it is not too early to begin campaigns, others are of the opinion that 2023 is too far to start what they called “distractions to the government.
Some of the politicians being speculated for the office of the president include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, APC National Leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of the Governors Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Pastor Tunde Bakare.
But, in a move seen as a calculated attempt to remove himself from the spotlight, Governor Fayemi denied ever putting any structure together for such an ambition.
It was perhaps in furtherance of that denial that the Ekiti State House of Assembly suspended the Chairman of Ikere Local Government, Mr. Femi Ayodele, for printing and circulating some 2023 presidential campaign posters for Governor Kayode Fayemi.
According to the lawmakers, Ayodele was suspended for not consulting with the governor before authorising the printing and circulation of the campaign materials, even as the assembly noted that Ayodele’s action contravenes extant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended.
The Speaker, Hon. Funminiyi Afuye, said the suspension of the council chairman was unanimous, adding that it would however be lifted at the completion of the assembly’s investigations into the matter.
It would be recalled that decision to suspend Ayodele followed a motion moved by the Majority Leader of the Assembly, Chief Gboyega Aribisogan, and seconded by Mr. Tajudeen Akingbolu, (APC Ekiti West Constituency 1). The lawmakers called for necessary and appropriate disciplinary action against Ayodele to serve as a deterrent to other overzealous politicians.
The Assembly also committed the matter to its Committee on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs for a thorough investigation.
It is obvious that with the charged atmosphere in the governing party, particularly tensions being generated by various contending issues, most stakeholders are playing safe to avert possible miscalculation or misstep that could prove damaging to their political future.
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