By Omeiza Ajayi

After series of postponements, the ruling All Progressives Congress APC finally held a meeting of its National Caucus and the National Executive Committee between October 30 and 31, but the meeting, expected to be a storm in a teacup turned out an easy sail for the leadership of the party and some other vested interests. At best, it was a shaming of some doomsday prophets.

President Buhari, Oyegun, Tinubu,Okorocha: Imo gov, Yari: Zamfara gov and Akeredolu: Ondo gov

For its caucus meeting which held at the Presidential Villa the previous night, the agenda did not have anything that could be considered as capable of overturning the apple cart. The issues were among others a briefing on the state of the economy by Budget and National Planning minister, Udo Udoma and his Solid Minerals counterpart, Kayode Fayemi.

Then the party leadership presented three reports on the proposed amendments to its constitution, elections and rerun elections as well as continuous nationwide membership registration exercise. Then there was a presentation on the programme of activities up to the 2018 elective national convention of the party. There was no stated item about its midterm “non-elective” national convention which has suffered three postponements within a year – in April, August and November.

While the caucus was more like a meeting of the party’s non-existent Board of Trustees BOT, the NEC meeting on the following day could be more unsettling because of its expanded membership and its powers to take major decisions.

For instance, some states where the governors had removed the validly elected state party chairmen and replaced them with their stooges, suffered brazen humiliation as their stooges were not allowed even near the gate of the national secretariat where the NEC meeting held. As far as NEC was concerned, they did not exist!

But, concerns that the NEC meeting could be “bloody” heightened days before the all-important parley. There were sustained attacks on the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun led National Working Committee NWC of the party. In fact, the day before the NEC meeting, some youths staged a protest to the party’s secretariat calling for Odigie-Oyegun’s head.

However, if anyone thought the meeting would be a disaster, such feelings changed when the Caucus on the previous day passed a vote of confidence on Chief Odigie-Oyegun. Then on the D-Day, some of the governors also stated clearly that they had come for a “family meeting”.

For instance, Plateau state Governor, Simon Lalong said although many people outside the APC thought the meeting would lead to the end of the party, for those of them who had been in politics for long, such fears were misplaced.

“It was the usual excitement in politics. We all saw that before the Caucus meeting on Monday that there were so many issues that people were even thinking that the end of APC had come. But for those of us who have been in politics, we know that it is good to develop that kind of atmosphere and finish everything when you get to the meeting”, he said.

Speaking further, Lalong said; “As far as we are concerned, APC is one united family and we proved that with the very peaceful Caucus meeting on Monday with our well respected President in attendance. He, to all of us, appeared even more healthier now than before and very active. The meeting was very brief and as brothers, we resolved on many issues that mostly centred on encouragement for him to give Nigerians good governance and carrying the party along. What will be the biggest takeaway is to roll out a brand new APC devoid of wranglings. I want to assure you that you won’t see a wrangling party after the meeting.

From now onwards, it will be a focused governance from Mr President and all the governors from the states. We have all resolved to support Mr President”.

His Nasarawa state counterpart, Umar Tanko Al-makura who spoke in a similar vein said the NEC meeting was just to consolidate on the gains of the party.

He said; “The tone for this meeting has been set since yesterday when we had the Caucus meeting. This meeting, we could see a family meeting, a family union, a meeting of committed people for a cause, a meeting where all the stakeholders that matter in the party are present and everybody would express his or her views in line with our vision, without commitment and with our intention to take this country to the next level.”

The Imo state Governor, Rochas Okorocha who is the Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum also said rather than split, the meeting would instead show to the world the strength of the APC.

“This is perhaps one of the most vital NEC meetings that will tell the whole world as to the strength of this party. From the caucus meeting of last night, we can see light at the end of the tunnel. APC is coming out of the woods and we are set to takeover the nation like we have always done. It is going to get better and better.

Mr President is showing the right leadership and taking the very right steps and there is reconciliation going on even with nobody talking about it. There is the spirit of reconciliation and people understand their role”, he said.

Both meetings were however careful enough not to give an outright endorsement to President Buhari ahead of the 2019 general elections.

While the issue was not exactly broached during the Caucus, it was however raised as a motion during the NEC meeting, but was parried. Saturday Vanguard gathered that such an early endorsement could have served as a “death-knell” for the party as there are many who feel uncomfortable with the president’s style of leadership and who would rather see him go into retirement rather than throwing his hat in the ring again.

Part of the narrative is that the president is himself not too convinced about taking another shot at the plum job but that he is under immense pressure by some political hawks around him to make a declaration of intent to contest again.

One Meeting, Two Narratives?

Briefing journalists at the end of the NEC meeting, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara however said there was nothing on the agenda about endorsing anyone for the 2019 contest, but that a member had moved a two-legged motion for the meeting to pass a vote of confidence on the president and then to go ahead and endorse him as the party’s candidate for the 2019 general elections.

“Today’s meeting was not about 2019 elections. When we talk about 2019 in the context of the agenda you saw, we are talking about membership registrations, the drive for membership and others. We are not talking about elections.

Even though there was a motion on the floor that called for a vote of confidence on the President, some of us felt it was not necessary because there is no where that his confidence is shaking. But the motion was taken and passed.

“But there was a second leg to that motion which called for the adoption of the candidature of the President, but it was deferred for now and no decision was taken because that is not the major reason why we are here.”

His narration was soon countered by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi who said there was no “formal motion” on the candidacy of Mr President. Rather, a member had moved a motion for a vote of confidence on the president after which “somebody in the crowd shouted” that the meeting should endorse the candidacy of the president for a second term.

“The motion that was put was after the Minister of Agriculture had briefed the NEC about the activities and achievements of his Ministry, one of the NEC members said we should move a motion passing a vote of confidence on Mr President. There was no formal motion moved on the issue of a second term for Mr President. Somebody in the crowd shouted that we should move a motion and we don’t even know that member.

But the motion that was formally moved was that NEC should pass a vote of confidence on Mr President and that was after the brief given by the Minister of Agriculture, especially when he said that by 2018, Nigeria will have no need to import a single grain of rice. That is the context and I need you to understand that very well.

“The only discussion or conversation on 2019 were the activities of the party in 2018, especially the issue of convention. It was agreed that since we have all these activities lined up, including the mini convention, congresses and elective convention, a small team be set up to put dates to these party activities up to 2018.

There was no discussion about election of 2019 or who will be the party flag bearer. The committee will decide when all these activities will take place”.

Whatever the case, whenever the party finally decides to go the way of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP (which endorsed ex-President Jonathan’s sole candidacy) to endorse the sole candidacy of President Buhari, what happened to the then ruling party in the 2015 general elections could be the same fate that awaits the current ruling party in 2019.

APC may not want to take for granted the fact that it has a lot of those who are aggrieved in its ranks and who are ready to frustrate the second term ambition of Mr President.

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