APC Saga: I’ll be at secretariat as acting chair every day now – Gov Bello Insists
There is confusion in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over the fate of its caretaker chairman, Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni.
A heavy security cordon around the party’s national secretariat yesterday preceded the arrival of Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, who declared himself the acting chairman of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC).
In a brief encounter with reporters, Governor Sani Bello said: “I have been acting for a while since the Chairman travelled.”
He promised to be at the secretariat “almost every day now” to carry out his duties as the new helmsman.
Giving the highlight of what transpired at the meeting, Sani-Bello said: “There are some events that happened here today (yesterday) as part of activities going forward to our national convention.
“We just received the report of the zoning committee headed by the governor of Kwara State and the Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege.
“The state chairmen took their oath of office today and we discussed progress made so far on Convention and what needs to be done next so that we will achieve the March 26 date.”
Some party chiefs said President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered that Buni be removed; others said he would resume office tomorrow.
The internal rift in the APC deepened last night with state chairmen’s meeting on Buni’s continuation as chair of the caretaker committee.
The meeting was ongoing as at press time.
Buni, who is away in Dubai along with his youngest wife Hajiya Gumsu (nee Abacha), according to sources, will rush back home after learning of yesterday’s development. He is expected back tomorrow.
Governor Sani Bello as acting chairman received the report of the zoning committee chaired by Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasaq.
He also inaugurated newly-elected 35 state chairmen and the convention sub-committees (excluding Sokoto State).
This is in addition to presiding over a meeting of the CECPC.
Among the convention sub-committees chairmen inaugurated were: Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Hope Uzodimma (Imo), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Babagana Zulum (Borno), Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege, Senator Ken Nnamani, Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf, David Lyon, Ismail Ahmed and Stella Okotete.
Osun State Governor Gboyega Oyetola, who had resigned from the caretaker committee, was absent.
There was tension as security men took over the party office.
About 15 patrol vehicles were stationed around the secretariat, which was cordoned off as early as 9 am.
Buni’s offence, some APC top officials said, is his alleged scheming to prevent the convention from holding on March 26. They further alleged that his cohorts in the party had secured an order from a court in Abuja stopping the convention. A security report was said to have confirmed the existence of the order.
The order, they said, is being kept secret to be made public on March 24, when it would be too late to reverse it.
The alleged scheming and other moves of the CECPC were said to have been relayed to President Buhari on Sunday before he travelled to the UK by some APC governors, who fell out with Buni. The governors and the caretaker chairman had a good relationship until recently.
Buni was also accused of promoting the alleged presidential ambition of former President Goodluck Jonathan and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele in a bid to become a Vice Presidential candidate.
It was learnt that the President returned home from Kenya where he attended a United Nations event to resolve the boiling issues in his party before going to the United Kingdom for medical attention.
However, this could not be independently confirmed.
Buhari was said to be alarmed by Buni’s alleged scheming and the unpreparedness of the CECPC for the convention and directed that a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) be held to ease Buni out.
The President was angry that Buni and some members of his team wanted to stay put in office until after the conduct of the Presidential and other primaries.
There were indications that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), was mandated to advise the party on how to vacate the court order.
It was also learnt that the emergence of two types of zoning formula, purportedly signed by Buhari, was considered as ridiculous and an affront to paint the President as “very weak.”
One of Buni’s aides, who spoke with our correspondent after hearing from his boss, said: “Up till now, Governor Buni has not received any instruction from the President to quit his position as the Chairman of CECPC.”
It was learnt that the selection of Governor Sani Bello as the acting chairman of the party was for a period of three weeks.
A source said President Buhari was furious over the constant flouting of his directives by the Buni-led Caretaker Committee.
It was gathered that the circulation of two types of zoning formula with the President’s signature confirmed security reports on the alleged desperation of some members of the CECPC to perpetuate themselves in power.
Apart from the alleged ambition of Buni to be Vice President, the CECPC secretary, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe never hid his ambition to be the next governor of Akwa Ibom State.
A governor said: “The President got enough security reports on their plot to lead APC into the abyss. He was shocked after he tolerated them to change the February date of the convention.
“They were planning to stop convention outright. They secured a secret injunction to stop the convention through an FCT High Court and were planning to release it by March 24 when it would be too late to vacate the order.
“The AGF was not in the picture and everyone was shocked at how the court order came about. But from preliminary findings, a Northcentral governor’s front secured the injunction with the full involvement of CECPC members and their minority jokers, which now includes a principal officer in the Senate as the main player alongside two governors from the South.
“Following security reports at his disposal, the President later met with some governors on Sunday where allegations against Buni were tabled with evidence.
“The governors met with Buhari before his departure for London. They said they have had enough of Buni’s alleged misdemeanours.
“On the spot, Buhari agreed to their proposal to effect a change in the leadership of the party with a governor in the Caretaker Committee from the North leading the party.
“He only added a caveat that we should follow due process, which we have done in line with Article 21(D) (vi) of APC Constitution.”
The Article says: “Each organ of the party shall have power to remove a party officer or officers as the case may be from office at that level for failing to discharge his or her responsibilities, neglect and dereliction of duty or misconduct during his tenure of office through a vote of no confidence passed against such officer/officers by a two-thirds majority of the members of the appropriate organ and voting subject to such officer’s right to fair hearing.”
The governor added: “This was why we didn’t dissolve the Caretaker Committee. Governor Abubakar Sani Bello is a member of the Caretaker Committee and he was chosen to complete the assignment of the team as the new leader.
“He has also met with members of the Caretaker Committee to seek their backing and continue with the assignment of conducting the national convention.
“Our national convention date remains sacrosanct. We will all relocate and work with Governor Bello to achieve a successful convention.
“The NEC will ratify our Action Plan and all steps towards the National Convention.”
A party source, who gave insights into allegations against Buni and a few members of the Caretaker Committee, said: “They accused Buni and a few members of CECPC of hidden agenda, including pandering to the wishes of anti-democratic elements who do not want the convention to hold; misleading the President on zoning formula; muddling up of sub-committees for the convention, and a larger project of a grand plot to make APC to lose the 2023 general election.
“Other allegations include causing deeper division in the party; autocratic tendency to fellow governors; mindset on the forthcoming primaries against some aspirants; sliding towards highest bidders taking over the party; outright malfeasance by some CECPC members and refusal to hold a regular meeting of the Caretaker Committee.”
However, Buni’s aide said: “Governor Buni has not received any directive or order from the President to leave his post.
“What we heard was that Governor Sani Bello claimed that there was a message from the President to Governor Buni. He purportedly said the message will come through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr Boss Mustapha.
“As I speak with you, the message has not been communicated to the party or Governor Buni. Even, Governor Sani Bello could not produce a sheet of paper to confirm that he has been mandated to take over the affairs of the party. There are doubts as to the directive.
“You can see the confusion they are trying to create in the party a few weeks to the national convention.”
Asked when Buni will return to the country, the source added: “He is coming back on Wednesday to resume duties as the chairman of CECPC.”
On why Akpanudoedehe did not challenge Sani Bello, the source simply said:” He wanted to ask, but we prevailed on him to keep quiet.”
Allies and loyalists of Buni, including Governors Hope Uzodinma and Yahaya Bello, were rattled at the APC Secretariat.
A source said: “The two governors came in briefly and discussed with a strategist of Buni, who was fingered in the court order mess. A few minutes after, they left. But they were obviously unsettled.”
Another governor said there was no way Sani Bello would have taken over as the acting Chairman without the directive of the President.
He said: “We were the last set to meet with the President before his departure. Those present included some governors, the SGF and Malami.
“The President did not only give the directive that Buni should step aside, but he also mandated all security agencies to give adequate security to Sani Bello to resume office.
“That was why security was beefed up at the APC Secretariat since Sunday. Neither SGF nor Malami sounded a note of caution at the session before the President. Let them come out and state their side of the story.”
Another governor said: “We opted for Sani Bello because he is the only governor left in the CECPC. Buni was out of the country, Governor Gboyega Oyetola has resigned from the Caretaker Committee in order not to preside over his own affairs and we have the only Niger State governor left in the Caretaker Committee. Naturally, he was expected to step into Buni’s shoes for only three weeks.”
Reacting to the development on Channels Television programme, Politics Today, Senator Kabiru Marafa, APC leader in Zamfara State, said the step by Bello was in good direction.
He said: “All we can see at the secretariat shows that the leadership of the party has hand in the scenario playing out in the party.
“The presidency has hands in the APC issue and the decision to change Buni-led administration was a welcome development.
“It is very clear that up till now, the presidency has not said anything to counter and deny Governor Bello’s claim.
“Something has happened today (yesterday) and nobody can deny that fact. People should rally around the new leadership, advise them with a view to ensure that the party holds its convention on March 26.
“We can only wish the Bello administration success in steering the ship of the party.”
To Salihu Lukman, former Director-General, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), the development was necessary to ensure the party does not further disintegrate.
He alleged that, from all indications, it was becoming clearer that the Buni-led committee was not ready to hold the proposed convention.
He said: “Governor Buni has been away for some time and in his absence, Gov. Bello was nominated to act as the chairman. It was the decision of the caretaker committee and he, Bello is part of the caretaker committee.
“At the moment we must appeal to our leaders that March 26 date for our convention is a reality. As progressives, we must begin to put confidence in the structure of the party and whether the president is around or not, the structure of the party should function without any hitch.”
But, a statement by Akpanudoedehe, titled: ‘Fake news: No leadership change in APC CECPC,’ said that leadership changes are not announced by “sources” through name-dropping in the media.
The statement reads: “Our attention has been drawn to sponsored media reports on an imaginary leadership change in the All Progressives Congress Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee.
“The media report is fake news and should be disregarded.
“The APC is a progressive political party guided by rules. Leadership changes are not announced by ‘sources’ through name dropping in the media.
“We urge our teeming supporters, members and indeed, the general public to remain calm and support the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led APC CECPC to conduct a rancour-free and credible National Convention deserving of our great party.”