Twelve days to the national convention of the All Progressives Congress, the ruling party has failed to sell forms to aspirants while all the committees set up by the APC to ensure that the convention moves smoothly have failed to begin sitting.
This is just as The PUNCH learned on Monday that the governors were still very much divided on who the consensus candidate should be.
An APC chieftain, who craved anonymity told The PUNCH that so far, it did not seem as if the party would be holding its convention on March 26.
He said so far, none of the chairmanship aspirants had agreed to step down for anyone while no meetings had been held with any of them by the governors.
The chieftain added, “By now, the governors ought to have started meeting with chairmanship aspirants with a view to getting some of them to step down. But because they are now divided into separate camps, they cannot agree on anything. There has been no negotiation with any chairmanship aspirant.
“They are not even selling forms yet. About 20 committees headed by governors were set up last week. None of them has started anything meaningful and we have just 11 days to go. As things stand, it is doubtful if the March 26 convention will hold. The three most important figures in the convention are the President, the party chairman and the national secretary and the three of them are not available at the moment.”
Also, The PUNCH learnt that as of Monday, the court injunction barring the APC from holding its convention had not yet been vacated.
But Mamman Mohammed, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State told The PUNCH that Buni, who is the Chairman, Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee of the APC, was rounding off his treatment in Dubai and would return before the end of the week.
“Mai Mala Buni is still in Dubai receiving the last lap of his treatment as such he didn’t meet the President in the United Kingdom. You know when there is an issue, people tend to speculate but then, it ends in speculation.
“As I speak with you now, Mai Mala Buni is in Dubai receiving the last lap of his treatment. We are expecting him back to the country by the end of this week. Some media houses speculated that he was being expected in the country today but everything ended in speculation.
“But they didn’t meet with the president in the UK because he is still attending to his health issues.”
Meanwhile, Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, has faulted the claim that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), ordered the removal of Governor Buni as chairman of the APC caretaker committee.
Uzodinma, who faulted most of the claims earlier made by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State on the attempted leadership change in the APC, stated that only the National Executive Committee of the ruling party can sack Buni and not one man.
The governor, while speaking on Politics Today, a current affairs programme on Channels Television, on Monday, said Buhari would not have told El-Rufai or any individuals to remove Buni without the NEC taking the decision.
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Uzodinma stated that Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State was only acting on behalf of Buni as Chairman of the CCEPC.
He also stated that the March 26 date set for the national convention of the APC remains sacrosanct, stressing that Buni would remain in charge of the affairs of the party till then.
Speaking on the claim that there are 19 governors on one side and four on the other side, Uzodinma said, “That is not correct.” He added, “All the governors are committed to APC and we are all loyal to the President who is the leader of the party. All I know is that we have 22 APC governors in Nigeria plus one deputy governor. We are all committed members of the APC.”
On the current status of Buni, Uzodinma said, “He is the chairman of the party and he is there on the mandate of the National Executive Committee. He travelled for medicals and Bello is acting for him, for now. As soon as he comes back, he will resume. It is a decision of NEC and once NEC has taken a decision, not even one man – nobody – can change it unless NEC meets again to take another decision.”
On the claim that Buhari is not happy with how Buni was running the APC, the Imo governor stated, “It will be unfair for anybody to say that because in our last meeting with Governor Buni, he outlined all the activities. He also informed us that he would be travelling for his medicals and while he is there, Bello, who is going to act, would do all that. The decision to swear in the state chairman was taken in a meeting all of us were present.”
When asked about el-Rufai’s claim that Bello took over on the orders of the President, he said, “I am not aware of such an order.” Uzodinma also stated that he would not work with hearsay, adding that he was not at the meeting where Buhari issued the order.
In a related development, a former Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum, Salihu Lukman, on Monday in Abuja, called for deeper scrutiny of all individuals vying for various offices in the party; from national to local.
This is as he argued that the APC must look beyond party loyalty alone and strive to produce quality party leaders to ensure quality candidates in the 2023 general elections.
Lukman’s call is contained in a statement he signed on Monday titled ‘Political leadership recruitment: appeal to APC leaders.’
According to him, “We must appeal to all APC leaders, especially governors, to recognise that the weight of political responsibility of producing new leaders for the APC is, in fact, a very strong test of whether the party can continue to justifiably earn the confidence of Nigerians.
“Will leaders, especially Governors, undertake the crucial task of performing background checks for aspiring candidates and dispassionately, even if painfully, select both party leaders and party candidates for elections, beyond issues of loyalty? The crucial task before APC leaders is to ensure that the leadership selection process produces trustworthy leaders both as party leaders and as candidates for elections.” ,,