…Govs trade-off national chairmanship for the presidency
…We’re in the process of picking consensus candidates — Govs
...Say anyone against consensus won’t be stopped from contesting
…Promise to support Buhari’s candidate for chairman
…We’ll hold successful exercise – Buni …Screening c’ttee extends deadline
…Senate Caucus meets with Buni-led CECPC today
By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Omeiza Ajayi, LAGOS
TO ensure a rancour-free national convention on Saturday, President Muhammadu Buhari, and governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, have resolved to work towards the emergence of consensus candidates.
However, aspirants against the consensus option and who choose to test their popularity at the convention ground would be given free hand to do so.
These were part of the issues discussed at the meeting of President Buhari with APC governors, yesterday. This came amid indications that the governors may have traded off the national chairmanship of the party for the presidency.
The governors were led to the meeting by the APC Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC, chairman and Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni.
In tandem with the exploration of consensus option, the APC Senate caucus will meet with the Buni-led committee, today.
At press time, Vanguard gathered that alignment and re-alignment of forces were on-going among a host of APC leaders in Abuja.
Indeed, President Buhari was hosting the chairmanship aspirants in Aso Rock at press time.
Outcome of Buhari’s parley with govs
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting with President Buhari, chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, PGF, and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, said they will support any process that would lead to a consensus.
President Buhari had last month said he was in favour of the consensus mode for selecting candidates for the party’s national positions, and urged the governors to explore the option of consensus.
Bagudu said: “Today, members of the Progressive Governors Forum were hosted by Mr. President at a meeting to discuss what the governors have been doing in preparation for the March 26, National Convention.
“We discussed and briefed him on what the governors have been doing in support of the March 26, 2022 National Convention. We restated our commitment to our unity and support for Mr. President to acknowledge the progress made under the APC.
“Some of you may recall that last week there was a letter that was widely circulated in the media, addressed to me as chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum and copied to a number of others, including the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee, the acting Chairman of the Caretaker Committee and indeed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
“That letter led to a series of actions, including meetings between the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee, Acting Chairman, Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State, as he was then, and myself.
“We all restated our commitment to working together to ensure that the convention takes place on March 26, 2022 and then we agreed to support all decisions taken by the Caretaker Committee, both acting as a working committee and acting with the donated powers given to it by the National Executive Committee.
“Indeed, the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee, upon his return, also appreciated what the Caretaker Committee did and the decisions taken in his absence. Today we all briefed Mr. President on that, of course, included on that is the issue of distributing political party offices to the respective zones and our support for Mr. President’s endorsement of the candidate for the National Chairman of the party and the various geo-political zones took turns to brief Mr. President, on what they have been doing to generate consensus in their respective zones among the National Working Committee and zonal party positions that have been either allocated to the zones or which the zones are entitled to.
“Most of the zones have been allocated National Working Committee positions that are fewer than the number of states, but however, there are zonal executive committees from which the zones are working to produce a consensus list.
“So, this afternoon, the respective zones; Governor Abubakar Bello on behalf of the North-Central; Governor Babagana Zulum, on behalf of the North-East; Governor Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State on behalf of North-West; Governor Dave Umahi, on behalf of South-East, and Governor Kayode Fayemi briefed the President on the South-West. I further mentioned the position of the South-South to Mr. President, as I had on paper.
“So, Mr. President, appreciated the briefing and restated his gratitude for the work the governors have been doing in support of the party and preparation for the National Convention.”
Level playing field for all candidates
Asked what will happen to some of the aspirants who refuse to accept the consensus option, Governor Bagudu said that as a democratic party, nobody would be stopped from contesting.
“Our party is a democratic party, we will always urge consensus, we will urge respect for the decisions of the party because the distribution of political party offices here has been approved by the highest organ of the party, which is the National Caretaker Committee, because they were acting in their capacity as the National Executive Committee of the party.
“But where people still choose to go against the grain, whatever the party constitution allows them, will be done because we wouldn’t do anything undemocratic.
“Mr. President has always urged consensus for all positions because consensus is in accordance with democratic tenets. We want to have leaders who are established, who are working towards the same goal. Yes, we might have our individual differences, like was once carefully explained by Governor El-Rufai but on the principle of ensuring that we get leadership that will hit the ground running, we are united. To that extent, we will support any process that will lead to consensus and the emergence of leaders without the need for an election.”
‘APC govs united behind Buhari’
Further asked whether there would be surprises at the convention, he said, “No, the governors are united. The governors are unanimous in support of Mr President. The governors are unanimous in the support of the caretaker committee. We thank the Caretaker Committee for what they have been doing.
“Naturally, there will be hiccups one day but we have overcome them and we are a human organization, which is bound sometimes to generate emotions and anxiety but we are united and unanimous and by God’s grace, we’ll have a very successful and peaceful National Convention.”
No agreement on consensus candidate yet
However, one of the governors at the meeting said that no agreement had been reached on consensus.
The governor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that discussions on consensus were still ongoing.
APC govs trade-off national chairmanship for the presidency
Indications emerged on Wednesday that governors of the APC may have traded off the national chairmanship of the party for the presidency.
Part of the deal, it was gathered, is for President Buhari to produce the national chairman of the party while the governors would make “substantial inputs” as to who replaces the president, next year.
President Buhari was earlier reported to have endorsed a former governor of Nasarawa state, Senator Abdullahi Adamu for the position. It was however not immediately clear who the prospective candidate of the governors would be.
“The consultations have been ongoing between some people in the Presidency and the governors who want to produce Buhari’s successor from among theselves. So, today’s (Wednesday) meeting with the president at the Villa may have been part of the final deliberations on the matter”, said a party source.
Screening c’ttee extends deadline
Meanwhile, overwhelmed by the number of aspirants jostling for various positions at the national convention, the Aminu Bello Masari-led screening committee of the party may have to extend its activities by one day.
It was learned that the committee may not be able to attend to all aspirants within the two days earlier scheduled for the exercise.
While the committee screened six chairmanship aspirants on Tuesday night, it however granted a concession to Senator Abdullahi Adamu, who was screened on Wednesday morning.
The committee was also able to screen aspirants for National Working Committee NWC positions and a few zonal offices.
While Governor Masari could not be reached on phone Wednesday night, a source close to the committee said the workload was much and could not have been covered in two days.
He said: “With the volume of work to be done and with the template for a thorough screening, the two days assigned for the exercise is grossly inadequate. The committee chairman, Governor Bello Masari may approach the Caretaker Committee for a one-day extension.
“Though the committee may have been told not to disqualify any aspirant, they are bent on due diligence by ensuring that all aspirants have the minimum qualification. This is a move to stall any legal action after the convention.”
The national chairmanship aspirants screened are Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, Malam Saliu Mustapha, Senator Umar Tanko Al- Makura, Senator George Akume, Mohammed Saidu Etsu, Abubakar Abdulaziz Yari and Senator Abdullahi Adamu.
On its part, the Coalition of All Progressives Congress, APC, Support Groups has charged the incoming National Working Committee to ensure the welfare and well-being of its members.
Secretary of the coalition, Mr Ogolekwu Shadrack made the call at a news conference Wednesday in Abuja.
He called on members and supporters of the APC to remain calm and committed, adding that whatever challenge it may be going through, would be addressed internally.
Senate Caucus meets with Buni-led CECPC today
In search of a harmonious convention, the CECPC will meet the Senate Caucus of the APC today. The meeting has been slated for 4 pm at the national secretariat of the party.
The notice of the meeting was conveyed in a letter read by President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, moments before the chamber adjourned sitting, yesterday. The letter was signed by the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (APC, Kebbi North).
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The meeting, which was earlier scheduled for Tuesday at the National Assembly, is now slated to hold today at the APC National Secretariat
Lawan said: “There will be APC Senate Caucus meeting with the CECPC at the National Headquarters on Thursday, March 24, 2022.”
APC will not be distracted from holding successful conventions – Buni
Meanwhile, Buni has assured that the party would not be distracted by agents of destabilisation using the media to cause crisis in the party.
In a statement by his Director-General, Press and Media Affairs, Alhaji Mamman Mohammed in Damaturu, the CECPC chairman said: “We remain a united family, with much respect to our President and to one another and loyal to our party.
“We are collectively committed to the success of the forthcoming National Convention and we will not be diverted from this noble cause of moving the APC forward.”
Reacting to some online newspapers reports alleging that the party was engulfed in leadership crisis, ahead of the convention, he said: “The two reports which seem to suggest a victor and vanquished positions from the recent happenings in the APC when Buni travelled for medical attention are irresponsible and deliberately intended to instigate disaffection and acrimony among the critical stakeholders of the party.
“Since the intervention of President Buhari, via a Press Statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Malam Garba Shehu, calling on stakeholders to shun media war, backstabbing and name-calling, the Progressive Governors and all other stakeholders obliged to the presidential directive.
“Therefore, it is irrational, absurd and irresponsible for anyone to at this moment initiate animosity and resentment among the stakeholders who are working assiduously for the success of the National Convention,” he said.
More stakeholders reaffirm support for Adamu
Against reports of fresh hurdles against the national chairmanship ambition of former Nasarawa State Governor, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, more stakeholders in APC have reaffirmed their support for him ahead of Saturday’s national convention.
The stakeholders included the founding Chairman of the defunct faction of Accord, Chief Longers Anyanwu, which merged with other parties to form the APC in 2013, and a group of party chieftains led by a former Adamawa lawmaker, Engr. Adamu Auta Fufure.
Anyanwu who had aspired for the National Organizing Secretary of the Party in the last Convention appealed to delegates to support Senator Adamu, who he described as detribalised Nigerian to emerge as national chairman of the party.
“Today, opposition political parties are jittery because a new sheriff who knows how to lead is coming to take over, not a makeshift leader. If we vote and ratify the chairmanship of Senator Abdullahi Adamu, 2023 electoral victories are assured,” he added.
Also, a group of other stakeholders, which consists of elders of the party, present and former APC lawmakers, as well as some party executives from across the 36 states of the federation, made a case for Senator Adamu.
Leader of the group, Engr. Fufure said, what the APC needs is a man like Senator Adamu who truly understands the party and is well respected by millions of party members.
“He is a serial political winner and a big bridge-builder, and that is exactly what the party needs right now. A leader who will bring harmony, cooperation and progress to the party especially as we approach the 2023 polls”, Fufure added.
Also speaking, Sani Baba Kano said, the popularity and acceptance of Senator Adamu is no magic as he is a true party man who has continuously worked for the peace and progress of the APC and every party he belongs to over the last four decades.
On her part, a former Woman Leader of the party in Akwa Ibom State, Evelyn Johnson stated that Adamu has respected every known democratic ethos and principles as a faithful party man.
An APC Youth leader from Oyo State, Bamidele Lekan Martins said, he has never met Senator Adamu but it is an established fact that he is the right man for the leadership of the party.
Dep nat’l chairmanship aspirants settle for zonal secretary
In pursuit of the consensus option, an aspirant for the position of Deputy National Chairman North, Hon Yusuf Sheriff Modu, has now settled for the position of National Secretary, North East Zone.
Sheriff Modu’s change of aspiration is contained in a statement by the Director of Media of his Campaign Council, Olufemi James Urrah in Abuja yesterday, saying that the decision was due to pressure from party stakeholders in North-East.
Though the position of Deputy National Chairman, North has been micro-zoned to Borno State where Sheriff Modu hails from, the statement said party elders led by the Governor of Borno State, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, are pushing for another party loyalist to contest for it on consensus template.
According to the statement, critical stakeholders of the party in the state persuaded Modu Sherrif to go for the position of zonal secretary of the party, which has also been zoned to Borno State.