The Chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Governor Mai Mala Buni, has met with Niger State Governor Abubakar Bello, who acted as the leader of the party in his absence.
Both governors met at the Yobe Governor’s Logde in Abuja on Thursday after Governor Buni returned to the country from a medical trip, amid reports of a leadership tussle in the party.
Governor Buni, however, insisted that the actions of the party, led by Governor Bello, stood, reiterating an earlier statement he issued clarifying that no decision taken in his absence has been overturned.
“Since I travelled, you know the party has not stopped and his excellency (Governor Bello) has done very well in managing the affairs of the party,” he said, adding that the March 26 date scheduled for the APC national convention was sacrosanct.
“So, we are here to discuss the issues going forward. We are now at the finishing line. Of course, you know the convention is at hand, on the 26th of March. So, we are putting heads together to ensure that we achieve the accomplishment.”
Asked why the Secretary of the APC CECPC Senator John James Akpanudeodehe was not at the meeting, Governor Buni said it was not a formal meeting.
“You can see that they’ve come to welcome me and to wish me well again because I’m coming from a medical trip. So, it’s not a formal meeting that you will ask if the secretary is here or not,” he said.
He added that Senator Akpanudoedehe was at his house earlier.
Governor Bello on his part said that while he was acting national chairman of the party, a lot of progressive was made towards holding the national convention.
“We swore in the state party chairmen, we adopted some of the zoning systems and we adopted some of the decisions of the CECPC (taken) before he (Buni) left,” he said.
Governor Buni and Bello’s meeting comes after reports of a rift within the APC leadership had emerged last week.
There had been speculations that Governor Buni was planning to postpone the APC convention for the umpteenth time.
The convention has been postponed more than once since Buni, who is also the Governor of Yobe State, was appointed caretaker Chairman.
On March 7, Governor Bello declared himself the acting National Chairman of the CECPC while Buni was away, raising tensions that the latter had been removed permanently with the blessing of the President.
Amid heavy security at the APC secretariat in Abuja, Bello swiftly swore in the party’s 36 State Chairmen, part of activities scheduled before the convention.
Meanwhile, the National Secretary of the APC, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe was forced to deny reports that he had resigned from his position.
He also alleged that there were plans to remove him from his position.
Reacting to the unravelling situation, Kogi State and APC Senator Smart Adeyemi told Channels Television his colleagues in the National Assembly were not aware that President Muhammadu Buhari had sanctioned Buni’s sack.
“As far as we are concerned in the Senate, we are not aware that Mr President gave a marching order to the acting Chairman to vacate his office,” Mr Adeyemi said.
He added that the controversy was generated by people who have “one interest or the other to protect.”
“It is just a game,” he said. “Mai Mala Buni performed excellently well, he brought in seasoned people, Governors, former Generals, statesmen, he brought them back to the APC. So today the APC is more formidable. In fact we owe him some level of gratitude.
“Buni came when there was crisis in the APC, when the APC was almost collapsing. And he has succeeded to put the party together. And consolidated the party, and we are cruising to victory.”
Imo State Governor Hope Uzodimma also noted that Buni could not have been removed without due process.
“APC is a very serious party,” he said, while appearing on Channels Television’s Politics Today. “Everything going on at the secretariat now are going on with the knowledge of Mai Mala Buni. And as soon as he comes back, he will also take over the realms of the party.”
To remove Buni, a meeting of the National Executive Committee must be convened, Uzodimma added.
“The right organ of the party to take and implement such decisions is the National Executive Committee. Have we summoned that committee? Because if we do, INEC will be invited to observe. And if they observe, whatever decision taken will be known to them.”
Last Saturday, President Buhari had appeared to wade into the controversy for the first time, although he did not, at the time, state his position on Buni’s status in the party.
The President had called for order in the APC.
In a statement signed by presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu, the President, who is in the United Kingdom for medical treatment, warned APC leaders and members to desist from name calling and backstabbing and avoid the fate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“They failed in 16 years in power and a failure as opposition,” the President said, as quoted in the statement.
“Yes, we are entitled to our own share of dissent and intra-party discord. These are common in all parties, left and right all over the world.
“But parties splintered by competing egos destine themselves to the worst possible fate,” the President warned.
“As the country prepares for the long run up to the 2023 presidential election, we all expect a robust debate on the issues that matter and what is going in the APC should be a reflection of this, not the infighting we are seeing. There must be no more distractions ahead of the convention to choose new leaders.”
He said the APC must remain focused on developing the nation.
“We didn’t start on the note of arrogance of power, nor see government as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement, to be held at all costs, but a vehicle to bring development to all without discrimination-political, ethnic or regional to our dear country made this success possible,” the President said.
“Given all that is at a stake, we can expect contests into offices as we are now faced with to be heated although candidates and their promoters for party offices are not so much debating policy differences but differences of management, personality, character, and suitability for the most important leadership roles in our country and therefore the continent.”