*Buni to conduct a national convention
*National chairmanship race was thrown open
By Clifford Ndujihe & Omeiza Ajayi, ABUJA
In a last-ditch effort to save the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC from the brink, President Muhammadu Buhari, has waded into the leadership crisis ravaging the party after various leaders took the battle for the soul of the APC to London where he is receiving medication.
Now, embattled National Chairman of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, will conduct the March 26 National Convention.
This was one of the decisions the president took, weekend, sources at the various meetings in London told Vanguard.
While Buni was on a medical vacation in Dubai after transferring headship of the CECPC to Niger State Governor, Sani Bello, Buni’s alleged sack gained currency in the party, last week.
Bello sought to summon a meeting of the National Executive Committee, NEC, for next Thursday. However, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, refused to acknowledge him as the chairman of the party, insisting that letters from the APC to the commission must be signed by Buni and Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, the CECPC secretary.
It also said the party must give it 21 days’ notice as required by law to monitor its national convention.
With some APC governors including Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and other stakeholders accusing Buni and some members of the CECPC of plotting not to hold the convention and allegedly obtaining a court order to restrain the APC from conducting the convention, the stage for the battle to be taken to London was set.
Buni, Bello, others take the case to Buhari in London
Indeed, Buni, Bello, some ministers and top APC big shots reportedly went to London to marshal their cases before recuperating Buhari, the leader of the party.
Buni reportedly said he would not quit as CECPC chairman unless President Buhari wanted him to do so as claimed by his traducers in the party.
For some time the 22 governors elected on the platform of the APC have been divided on the issue. While 12 are said to be with Buni, seven were neutral and the rest were against. The number of those against Buni increased last week on the heels of the “leadership coup” that brought Governor Bello on board. Now, nine governors are said to be behind Buni
On Saturday, President Buhari’s statement changed the course of thinking among the feuding leaders fighting for the soul of the party.
Buhari had earlier been reported to have endorsed former Nasarawa State Governor, Senator Abdullahi Adamu as consensus national chairmanship candidate.
However, on Saturday, Buhari said what the leaders should focus on is who becomes the next president and not who becomes the chairman, noting that whoever emerges chairman would not have any effect on aspirants.
“None of the declared aspirants and any of those that may step forward will change because of who may be in the party in the chairman’s seat. It is essentially the same party,” the President said.
Let Buni conduct convention — Buhari
To avert the proverbial sword of Damocles dangling over the party, some inner caucus in the Presidency met with President Buhari in London. The team, sources said, was led by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu and his Aviation counterpart, Hadi Sirika; and a former member of the House of Representatives, Faruq Adamu.
These men were said to be the most powerful clique around the President from the days of the defunct Congress for Progressives Congress, CPC.
At the parley, President Buhari was said to have refuted insinuations that he asked anyone to remove Buni, directing that Buni should be allowed to conduct the national convention as originally planned.
“The President, after he was properly briefed by his powerful associates, gave a matching order for Buni to immediately resume the leadership of the ruling party and see to the smooth conclusion of the national convention,” one of the sources told Vanguard.
Denial of Adamu
Vanguard also gathered that the President denied endorsing former Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Adamu, for the APC national chairmanship seat.
According to sources, the team specifically asked President Buhari if he was truly supporting Abdullahi Adamu, and the President denied knowledge of such endorsement.
Rather, he told the team of his desire to see to a smooth, democratic and popular contest that would lead to the birth of a brand new National Executive Committees of the party.
Told of the danger in keeping silent over such ‘fake’ news that has the potential of imploding the party, the source said the President had to release the Saturday statement, which asked for caution and decorum among the political class.
Indeed, a host of the chairmanship aspirants such as Sani Musa, Saliu Mustapha and Tanko Al-Makura have picked holes in the manner Senator Adamu was adopted as a consensus candidate, saying the President could not have done so. They have since continued their consultations.
One of the ministers said it would be a major blow and act of betrayal against Saliu Mustapha and Senator Tanko Al-Makura who, in the face of overwhelming temptations, remained loyal to the CPC structure from 2010 till date.
It remains uncertain who the President will pitch his tent with based on the recent meeting with his inner caucus but the lot is likely to fall on Adamu, Mustapha, Al-Makura or Sani Musa. It is believed that the President will make a final take as soon as he returns from his medical trip.
Listen to Buhari, don’t destroy our party, Mustapha urges feuding stakeholders
Indeed, speaking on the issues, Mallam Saliu Mustapha described President Buhari’s admonition to party members as proof that he is keen on making the party stronger than ever.
In a statement by his Media Aide, Dapo Okubanjo, the aspirant noted that the President’s call for peace among feuding party members ahead of the March 26 National Convention is one that resonates with him.
“This is exactly why we have been running a decent campaign devoid of mudslinging or any attempt to throw brickbats at anyone for exercising their right to compete for the party’s top job.
“For us, the race for the position of national chairman is not a contest for titles but of ideas and as such we have always used every opportunity to reaffirm our intention to birth an idea that was muted in the past but was never realised.
“It will be a hub of cross-fertilization of ideas between older and younger party members, a think-tank of sorts to bring up ideas and ideals of progressivism and instil them in a way that will distinguish APC from others.
“We have also been consistent in pushing our plan to do things differently by ensuring that women, youth and even People Living with Disabilities (PLWDs) get a place of pride while not neglecting older generation of politicians in our midst in such a way that many APC members know what we stand for,” he said.