.Buhari is aware I’m Ag. Chair, I don’t know Buni’s position – Gov Bello
.Receives Zoning C’ttee report, says, I’m not Sole Administrator
.I’m still in charge, Gov Buni insists
.Dismisses reported sack as ‘fake news
.Ex PGF DG, Lukman explodes, says leadership change, Buni’s handiwork
.’Buni has procured court order to frustrate Convention’
By Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja
Fresh facts emerged on Monday as to how the Niger state Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello became acting national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee CECPC.
Vanguard checks revealed that the National Chairman of the CECPC, Gov. Mai Mala Buni who travelled out of the country last week, had handed over the reins of the party to Gov. Bello.
Impeccable party sources said Gov. Buni had earlier wanted to hand over to the National Secretary, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe, or a former Senate President, Sen. Ken Nnamani but that some forces within the party, especially state governors, wanted a “neutral” person to steer the affairs of the party in the interim.
“Last week, Governor Mai Mala Buni travelled overseas on a private visit and appointed via a letter Governor Sani Bello to act in his absence.”, a source in the office of Governor Buni told this newspaper, dispelling rumours that President Muhammadu Buhari had sacked Buni as the Chairman of the APC CECPC and appointed Governor Sani Bello.
“Gov. Buni usually hands over to Sen. Akpanudoedehe and on few occasions, to Sen. Ken Nnamani. Before he jetted out of the country, he wanted to hand over to either of the two but some vested interests prevailed on him to hand over to Gov. Bello, and which he did. It is surprising that some people are now spinning very dangerous narratives to the effect that Buni has been sacked and to the ridiculous extent of some characters saying a sole administrator has been named, implying that the CECPC has been disbanded. Nothing can be farther from the truth”, said another source.
Security beef up
There was heavy security presence at the Buhari House national secretariat of the APC following reports of the sack of the National Chairman, Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee CECPC of the party, Gov. Mai Mala Buni.
As early as 8am, policemen had taken strategic positions in and around the secretariat, restricting human and vehicular movements, in what they said was part of efforts to maintain law and order.
One of the operatives said they were deployed to the secretariat as early as 2am to secure the party premises.
Amid speculations that Gov. Buni may have been unilaterally sacked by President Muhammadu Buhari from superintending the affairs of the APC CECPC, Gov. Bello has dismissed such claims, saying he is only operating in acting capacity.
Bello who made his position known after presiding over a ceremony to administer oath of office on state chairmen of the party on Monday in Abuja, said he has been operating as acting national chairman of the APC since Gov. Buni travelled.
Governor Bello also received the report of the APC Convention zoning committee from the chairman and Governor of Kwara state, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq who led other members of the committee.
The CECPC had on February 3 inaugurated the state executives of the party but either by commission or omission, did not administer any oath on the party chiefs. The development had consequently put the validity of their election as chairmen in doubt.
However, on Monday, Gov. Bello who was earlier speculated to have taken over from Buni said; “The States Chairmen, they 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 for Convention”.
Asked in what capacity he presided over the meeting, Bello said; “Acting Chairman. I have been acting for a while since the Chairman traveled”.
Then this conversation ensued between reporters and Gov. Bello.
Reporters: Can you confirm the news that you have been appointed as the acting Chairman, taking over from Buni?
Bello: You said news. You said news
Reporters: But we need to hear from the horse’s mouth?
Bello: No comment
Gov. Bello who arrived the secretariat at about 12pm went straight to the National Working Committee NWC Hall where he met with some members of the CECPC.
He was soon followed by the National Secretary of the CECPC, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe who came into the secretariat at about 12:07pm.
While Bello parked his official vehicle at the designated parking lot of the “National Chairman”, he also sat on the seat meant for the national chairman.
Sources at the meeting said at least nine of the 12 CECPC members were present and that the session was presided over by Gov. Bello.
There had been speculations that President Muhammadu Buhari had sanctioned the sack of Gov. Mai Mala Buni as National Chairman of the CECPC.
Other reports said the CECPC had been disbanded and that Gov. Bello was appointed as a sole administrator for the party.
The CECPC had often held its routine meetings on Mondays.
However, speaking in a second interview after the brief CECPC meeting, Gov. Bello said; “As part of the activities leading up to our national convention, we have just received report from the zoning committee headed by the Kwara state Governor and the Deputy Senate President.
“We earlier on swore in the state party chairmen and at the same time, we deliberated in progress made so far towards the convention and I think I am satisfied with what we have seen so far”.
Asked what the position of Gov. Buni was at the moment in the CECPC, Gov. Bello said; “I am not aware of any position at the moment. I know he has travelled”.
On the security beef up at the secretariat, the governor said; “Well, every time there is a major event, we beef up security. Today, we have a major event and all the chairmen came in and they are to maintain law and order.
Asked how often he would be at the secretariat, Gov. Bello said; “Almost everyday. Most of my colleagues are here to support me to receive the report. You know the zoning committee report is a very important one. And all the governors here are here to support me. Now, at zonal level, they can go and do their work”.
When asked whether the president was aware of all that transpired within the party on Monday, the Niger governor said; “Of course”.
I’m still in charge, Gov Buni insists
Meanwhile, against reports of his sack by President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Chairman, Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee CECPC, Gov. Mai Mala Buni has insisted that he is still in charge of the party, describing reports to the contrary as ‘fake news’.
The governor made the declaration in a statement issued Monday morning in Abuja and signed by the National Secretary of the CECPC, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe.
The statement reads; “Our attention has been drawn to sponsored media reports on an imaginary leadership change in the All Progressives Congress APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee CECPC.
“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 conduct a rancour-free and credible National Convention deserving of our great party”.
There were reports Monday morning that President Buhari may have sanctioned the sack of Gov. Buni on Sunday night before departing the country for London.
In the wake of the worsening leadership crisis in the ruling APC, immediate-past Director General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum PGF, Salihu Moh. Lukman has faulted reports that President Muhammadu Buhari may have sacked Gov. Mai Mala Buni as National Chairman, Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee CECPC of the party.
Lukman in his reaction to the development on Monday said the story was planted by those sympathetic to Gov. Buni in order to cast President Buhari in the mold of a dictator.
According to him, there are several allegations against the Buni-led CECPC, one of which he said is that the committee has allegedly procured a court order against holding the national convention on March 26 but which it intends to tender few days to the convention.
He said; “The sensational but mischievously planted news in some media is that President Buhari has sacked His Excellency, Mai Mala Buni as APC CECPC Chairman and replaced him with His Excellency, Abubakar Sani Bello as Sole Administrator.
“This is a clear misrepresentation of all the internal contests in APC aimed at rescuing the party from the mutinous leadership of His Excellency Mai Mala Buni, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe and their few collaborators.
“The truth is that President Buhari, like most party leaders and members is highly disappointed at the serial cases of deliberate efforts by His Excellency Mai Mala Buni and his associates to block the APC Convention from holding based on alleged personal ambitions.
“Between November 2021 and January 2022, the APC Convention had to be postponed three times because of deliberate refusal to initiate most the processes required, such as booking the venue for the Convention and serving the statutory three weeks’ notice to INEC.
“In addition, there were other serious allegations against the leadership of His Excellency Mai Mala, which include the discovery that his group, since November 2022, had obtained a Court injunction against the Convention and are waiting until three or two days to the Convention before serving it on the party to succeed in blocking the March 26 APC Convention from holding.
“The plot is that His Excellency Mai Mala want to continue to run the affairs of the party and conduct the party’s primary where candidates for 2023 elections would emerge. Based on that there are specific allegations of His Excellency Mai Mala striking some deals with some Presidential aspirants to ensure their emergence as the Presidential Candidate of APC for the 2023 elections”.
He said a good confirmation of why it will be difficult for party leaders and members to continue to invest any trust in Buni’s leadership of the Caretaker Committee is the attempt to constitute another zoning Committee after there is decision between President Buhari and Progressive Governors on zoning, based on which stakeholders of the party at zonal levels are to finalise negotiations on positions to go states.
“As far as His Excellency Mai Mala is concerned, his interest is supreme and together with the Secretary of the CECPC, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe and their collaborators outside the CECPC, they must block the APC Convention from holding on March 26.
“As part of the plot, once they heard that President Buhari has agreed with some party leaders that necessary steps to save the party should be taken, which require change of the CECPC leadership, they decided to present it in the media that the President has sacked His Excellency Mai Mala Buni as the Chairman of the CECPC and appointed His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello as Sole Administrator.
“This is mischievously designed to present both the party and President Buhari as being undemocratic. To the contrary, internal organs of the party with all the statutory powers to effect all the necessary changes will be used to give effect to all the aspirations of President Buhari, party leaders and members to rescue the APC from the decidedly depraved leadership of His Excellency Mai Mala. Anybody that will emerge as a replacement of His Excellency Mai Mala and the Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe as Chairman Secretary and Secretary will have all the requisite mandate of the organs vested with such responsibility as provided by the Constitution of the party.
“This is the time when His Excellency Mai Mala and Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe and all their collaborators are required to demonstrate their loyalty to the party and President Buhari. Attempts to delegitimise the process of changing the leadership will only confirm their undertaker mission rather than serving as leaders of the CECPC. All party leaders and members should support other members of the CECPC to rise to this occasion by ensuring that they effectively enforce collective leadership in the CECPC at this critical point in the life of the APC. Similarly, all leaders and members of the party must be vigilant to ensure that the new leadership of the party to emerge from all the internal contest currently going on are leaders that will faithfully implement all decisions, especially the scheduled March 26, 2022 APC Convention”, Lukman stated.