.

…Why, how Buni handed over to Sani BellolBuhari is aware I’m Acting chair — Gov Bello

...Theatrics as Niger Gov chairs CECPC

…Receives zoning c’ttee report, says, I’m not the sole administrator

…I’m still in charge, Buni insists, dismisses reported sack as ‘fake news’

…We’ll shame detractors – CECPC member

…Ex-PGF DG, Lukman explodes, says leadership change, Buni’s handiwork; alleges Buni has court order to stop the convention

By Clifford Ndujihe & Omeiza Ajayi, ABUJA

The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, was literally wrapped in high-wire drama yesterday, as a meeting of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC, was for the first time in 21 months chaired by another APC governor, raising dust over the position of the chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State.

On Sunday night, the party hierarchy and governors elected on the platform of the party were split on a move to hold a National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting yesterday.

There were reports that Buni had been ousted by President Muhammadu Buhari, with Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, tipped to take his seat.

President Buhari left Nigeria for London on Sunday for a two-week medical tour, while Buni is also out of the country.

Yesterday morning, Governor Bello, amid tight security arrived at the APC secretariat and chaired the events of the day, including swearing-in of state party chairmen and receiving a report of the zoning committee, headed by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq of Kwara State, fuelling speculations of ‘a palace coup’ against Buni.

This happened on a day Buni said he remained chairman of the CECPC, with a member of the CECPC telling Vanguard that the committee would deliver on its assignment and shame its detractors.

How Bello became CECPC acting chairman

However, fresh facts have emerged on how Governor Abubakar Sani Bello became acting national chairman of the CECPC.

Vanguard’s checks revealed that the National Chairman of the CECPC, Governor Buni who travelled out of the country last week, had handed over the reins of the party to Governor Bello.

Impeccable party sources said Governor Buni had earlier wanted to hand over to the National Secretary, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe or former Senate President, Senator 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 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 Vanguard, dispelling rumours that President Buhari had sacked Buni as CECPC chairman and appointed Governor Sani Bello.

“Governor Buni usually hands over to Senator Akpanudoedehe and on a few occasions, to Senator 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 Governor Bello, 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 Buni’s sack.

As early as 8a.m, 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 2a.m to secure the party premises.

Acting chair

Amid speculations that Governor Buni may have been unilaterally sacked by President Buhari from superintending the affairs of the CECPC, Governor Bello dismissed such claims, saying he is only operating in an acting capacity.

Bello, who made his position known after presiding over a ceremony to administer oaths of office on state chairmen of the party, said he has been operating as acting national chairman of the APC since Governor 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 an oath on the party chiefs. The development had consequently put the validity of their election as chairmen in doubt.

However, yesterday, Governor Bello, who was earlier speculated to have taken over from Buni said; “The state chairmen took their oath of office today (Monday) 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 the Convention.”

Asked in what capacity he presided over the meeting, Bello said: “Acting Chairman. I have been acting for a while since the chairman travelled.”

Then this conversation ensued between him and reporters:

Can you confirm the news that you have been appointed as acting chairman, taking over from Buni?

You said news. You said news But we need to hear from the horse’s mouth?

No comment.

Gov Bello arrives APC secretariat at noon

Governor Bello, who arrived at the secretariat at about 12noon 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 12:07 p.m.

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 no fewer than nine of the 12 CECPC members were present and that the session was chaired by Governor Bello.

There had been speculations that President Buhari had sanctioned the sack of Governor Buni as national chairman of the CECPC.

Other reports said the CECPC had been disbanded and that Governor 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, Governor Bello said: “As part of the activities leading up to our national convention, we have just received a report from the zoning committee headed by the Kwara State Governor and the Deputy Senate President.

“We earlier swore in the state party chairmen and at the same time, we deliberated on progress made so far towards the convention, and I think I am satisfied with what we have seen so far.”

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Asked about the position of Governor Buni at the moment in the CECPC, Governor 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.”

On how often he would be at the secretariat, Governor 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 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 Buhari, the CECPC national chairman, Governor 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 by the National Secretary of the CECPC, Senator Akpanudoedehe.

The statement read: “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 Governor Mai Mala Buni-led APC CECPC conduct a rancour-free and credible National Convention deserving of our great party.”

Lukman explodes

In the wake of the leadership crisis in the APC, immediate-past Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum PGF, Salihu Moh. Lukman has faulted reports that President Buhari may have sacked Governor Buni as the CECPC national chairman.

Lukman in his reaction to the development, yesterday, said the story was planted by those sympathetic to Buni in order to cast President Buhari in the mould 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 a 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 of 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 wants to continue to run the affairs of the party and conduct the party’s primary where candidates for 2023 elections would emerge…

“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 a 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. On 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 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 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 de-legitimise the process of changing the leadership will only confirm their undertaker mission rather than serving as leaders of the CECPC,” Lukman stated.

Court order against convention

Indeed, anti-Buni forces in the APC, yesterday, circulated a court order, which they alleged was obtained by Buni to stop the APC convention.

In a suit filed by Mr. Salisu Umoru against the APC, Buni, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, at High Court 15, Bwari, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja on November 18, 2021, he sought an interlocutory injunction restraining the APC and Buni or their agents from organising, holding or conducting the National Convention of the APC in January and February 2022 or at any other”date either before or after pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

Before adjourning the hearing to January 10, 2022, the presiding judge, Justice Bello Kawu ordered that the APC and Buni could only conduct the National Convention after the determination of the pending suit. The order was signed by the court registrar, Mr. Kingsley Ebibrah Okoroh.

We’ll shame detractors – CECPC member

Reacting to the developments in the party, a member of the CECPC told Vanguard that the committee would stabilise the APC and shame its detractors.

Describing the allegation of Buni obtaining a court order to stop the convention as balderdash, the CECPC member said the Buni-led committee has done its best to reposition the party and should be commended.

“Even if somebody took the party to court to stop the convention, how is Buni responsible? The committee has fulfilled eight of the nine promises it made at the inauguration. It has rescued and stabilised the party.

It is building peace that attracted more lawmakers and governors, raising the number of APC governors from 19 to 22 and giving the party a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.

It did membership registration which gave the party 41 million members, making it the largest political party in Africa. The national convention is the last task before the CECPC and it wants to get it right the first time by carrying all stakeholders along. And that it will do with the support of genuine leaders and stakeholders of the party,” the party leader said.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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