By Clifford Ndujihe & Omeiza Ajayi

LAGOS — Following the All Progressives Congress, APC, Governors’ insistence on a February date for the party’s national convention, and a vote of confidence in the chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC, Governor Mai Mala Buni, members of the committee will meet, today, to address other burning issues before the party.

Rising from a meeting late Sunday night at the Kebbi State Governor’s Lodge in the Asokoro District of Abuja, no fewer than 20 of the governors were said to be split as to whether to go on with the convention in February or shift it to a later date.

Among governors in attendance at the meeting were Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), Mohammed Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Bello Matawalle (Zamfara) and Dave Umahi (Ebonyi).Others were Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Babajide Sanwoolu (Lagos), Simon Bako Lalong (Plateau), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Mai Mala Buni (Yobe), Hope Uzodinma (Imo), Ben Ayade (Cross River), Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq (Kwara), Babagana Zulum (Borno), Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Kano), Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti).Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting,  Chairman of the Forum and Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, said the forum passed a vote of confidence in Governor Buni and two other governors in the CECPC — Abubakar Sani Bello and Gboyega Oyetola.

He said the governors also agreed to go ahead with the national convention slated for February.

He, however, did not give a specific date, saying the CECPC will have to consult with other stakeholders to harmonise all positions and announce a suitable date.

‘We’re behind Buni’

The APC governors dismissed speculations of a rift within their ranks, saying they are all united behind the Mai Mala Buni-led CECPC as it prepares for the February National Convention.

Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum PGF and Governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, said: “We are one group of stakeholders. The appropriate organ of the party is the CECPC that will anounce date for the convention.

“The PGF is one united body as you can see evidently from the attendance. Our decision is unanimous. We are united behind Mr. President and we thank him and we are united behind the caretaker committee.

“We have agreed and they (CECPC) will announce a date in February. The announcement comes from the party. It is a party decision. There are other stakeholders that they are consulting and we should respect institutional limits. We are not going to over step our bounds.”

The governors were expected to brief President Muhammadu Buhari on the outcome of their meeting, yesterday. Vanguard gathered that the CECPC chairman visited President Buhari to intimate him on the decision of the governors.

Why APC govs moved against their D-G

One of the outcomes of the meeting was the resignation of the Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum PGF, Salihu Moh. Lukman.

Vanguard gathered that his resignation followed Sunday night’s meeting of the APC Governors’ Forum where a few of the governors demanded that he be booted out for being too vocal.

Many of the governors were said to have kicked against the demand, saying the erstwhile PGF boss should be allowed to continue to speak in his personal capacity as a chieftain of the party.

Though Lukman did not immediately respond to media enquiries seeking his response, a party official said: “The PGF boss has done the right thing by acting according to his conscience. No one has right to abridge his freedom of expression.”

We won’t be intimidated into making errors — CECPC

Smarting from the endorsement of the governors, the CECPC, which will meet today, said it would protect the interest of the party and won’t be forced into making errors regarding the conduct of its affairs and especially the forthcoming national convention.According to the leadership, being drivers of the bureaucratic vehicle of the party, they are more likely to see farther than others on the sidelines.

CECPC as drivers

Speaking with Vanguard, National Secretary of the CECPC, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, lamented the growing resort to wild speculations, and said there was no time the committee said it would not hold the convention as scheduled.“Have we ever said no?

Have we ever told you anything to the contrary? We have a system and that is why we do not respond to certain issues in the media”, he stated.“All what we are doing is about the interest of the party. As drivers, no matter what you tell us, if we know we are going to jam a trailer, we won’t proceed in certain directions. All members of this party are our bosses and we do not counter them,” Akpanudoedehe added.

Tinubu’s men converge on Abuja, declare readiness for 2023 battle

Meanwhile, as the battle for the 2023 presidential ticket of the APC intensifies, supporters of National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, yesterday, converged on Abuja to discuss strategies aimed at ensuring the emergence of the former Lagos State governor as the party’s flagbearer.

They expressed readiness for the battle ahead, saying Tinubu towers above all his political rivals.Some of those who spoke at the well-attended summit held at the International Conference Centre, ICC, were a former Governor of Borno State and serving senator, Kashim Shettima; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Babachir Lawal; Kano APC chieftain, Senator Abu Ibrahim; James Faleke; Abdulmumuni Jibrin; and Kano State Assembly members led by their speaker.

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The event tagged: “Support Group Conference,” was organized by Support Groups Management Council of which Jibrin is director-general.

Chaired by Senator Ibrahim, the keynote speaker at the event, Senator Shettima, said that those attacking Tinubu since he declared his presidential ambition are only afraid of his rising profile.

He said in Tinubu there is now a collective realisation that Nigeria’s future rests on the choice of a unifying leader, who panders to neither ethnic nor religious agenda, and one who is not bound by toxic regional solidarity and yet known for a track record of outstanding leadership.

“If you look round this country in search of such a noble character, the count easily falls on the subject of this gathering: Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.“So much has been said about this political enigma and most of them by hacks with a poor sense of history. The path that led us to Asiwaju didn’t happen by chance. His propensity for sacrificing his comfort to save our democracy has been duly documented across time,” he stated.

According to him, Tinubu’s choices and endorsements of northerners as presidential candidates while others were masterminding ethno-regional solidarity and fuelling socio-cultural affinities readily affirm his pan-Nigerian profile.

He said: “The mudslinging that has trailed Asiwaju since his presidential bid took the top spot in the country is a mere acknowledgement of his political track record and “The attempts at weaving ridiculous fiction to override the history we have all witnessed demonstrate the detractors’ utter desperation and cowardice. One of such is the mischievous fixation on his age and the wild conclusions that he’s physically unsuitable for the office of the President. This obsession characterizes the thinking of those who have no understanding of Asiwaju’s incredible work ethics.”

Shettima added that the mark of true leadership is not in the ability to lift a bag of cement but in the mental effort to think rationally of solutions designed to redeem one’s people and territorial jurisdiction.”

He queried those he tagged as “Buhari’s Church of Latter Day Saints” to explain where they were when Tinubu and a few others were working to actualise the Buhari presidency.

‘Self-serving cabals’

On his part, Babachir Lawal lamented that since forming government at the centre and in many states across the federation for the past seven and a half years, the objective of building a cohesive and virile political party has eluded the leadership of the APC.

“This has not only limited the capacity of the government to deliver on the promises made to Nigerians but has also created legitimate doubt on the sustainability of the party. The incapacity of the party to even harmonize and synergize policy direction of the Federal Government with that of states it controls especially in key critical areas around which the campaigns were ran, speaks volumes about its incompetence.

“Compounding these problems in the last one year is the apparent hijacking of the party by a self-serving cabal who, driven by personal ambitions, have failed to organise even simple conflict-free ward, local government, and state congresses not to talk of a national convention. As we speak, there are only a handful of states in the country that do not have parallel state executives.

“This is the current state of our party and it is in this environment that we gathered here must operate to deliver Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the party’s flag bearer at the 2023 presidential election. And this we will do be it through consensus, indirect or direct party primaries by the grace of God. We are neither offended nor threatened by whichever method the party chooses to adopt for the emergence of its presidential candidate.”

Also speaking, Jibrin said the meeting was a gathering of delegates from over 2,500 support groups of Tinubu, adding that even though the ban on campaigns has not been lifted, the groups were embarking on preparatory activities to start on a sure footing by the time campaigns start.

600 women groups to storm Abuja for Yahaya Bello

In like manner, no fewer than 600 women groups, drawn from different parts of the country, will, next Tuesday, converge on Abuja the nation’s capital for a solidarity walk for Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.

The solidarity walk is tagged, “One Million Women March for GYB”.Operating under the auspices of Women United For Yahaya Bello, WUYABEL, the women groups, including non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations, religious, professional bodies, women in media, politics, market women as well as top women entrepreneurs, among others, will storm Abuja to drum support for the Governor, who has declared his intention to succeed President Buhari in 2023.

According to a statement by the Global Coordinator of WUYABEL, Dr. Hanatu Adeeko, the gathering will be the first of its kind “especially now that the political stage is almost set.”

She said they are rooting for Bello because as governor, he has redefined governance in Kogi State with sterling and verifiable performance, especially in the areas of women and youth empowerment, poverty alleviation, massive infrastructure development, and health care delivery among others.

“Governor Bello has empowered and supported women to grow. No state in Nigeria has given more positions to women than Kogi. And sincerely, the state is getting it right in critical areas. We want to encourage other Governors to walk the talk by standing with that one Governor that has made us proud. Governor Yahaya Bello must know that once he has women on his side, he can go to sleep. We believe in his capacity and will make it happen.”

Stop over-heating polity, Nabena tells supporters of APC presidential aspirants

Meanwhile, former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the ruling APC, Yekini Nabena, has warned supporters of presidential aspirants on the platform of the party to desist from heating up the polity, saying the current campaign of calumny by some supporters is capable of de-marketing whoever that eventually emerges the candidate of the party.

Nabena who urged the party members to avoid hate speeches and embrace issue-based campaigns rather than attacking themselves, said “It is too early to be unnecessarily emotive.”

Some of the party chieftains who have declared their presidential ambition are Chief Moses Chia Ayom, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Mr Ikechukwu Dallas Chima and Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.

The APC chieftain warned in a statement, yesterday, that any negative comment made against any of those seeking the ticket of the APC now will later be used as a demonisation weapon by the opposition parties. Nabena said: “My appeal is for all our members to embrace issue-based campaign strategies in selling whoever they feel should succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023. There is no need to be unnecessarily emotive about it.

“I believe that all our presidential aspirants are well qualified to pick the ticket. It is a fact that participatory democracy gives room for choices even within the same political party as it is a practice in the APC. We should therefore engage constructively without demonising ourselves, bearing in mind that whatever we say against each other now will later be capitalized on by other political parties during the general elections.”

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