To say the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is now the house of commotion is an understatement. The governing party now wines and dines with crises. The party now juggles from one crisis to the other. From the ward level to the national, it is trouble everywhere. Considering the barrage of court cases, no one knows how long the centre will hold.
Recently, the Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, as well as the Chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) and the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni met with President Muhammadu Buhari, where a February 2022 date was picked for the party’s national convention.
Buni assured that all stakeholders would be involved in the choice of the particular date in February for the convention.
Though Buni, when quizzed by State House correspondents, rejected the suggestions of possible extension of the caretaker committee’s tenure, saying “I’m I a jobless person who is always trying to extend his tenure? To do what? I have my primary responsibility as a governor, to go back to my state and carry out my primary responsibility. What I’m here to do is ad hoc, and, of course, to reposition the party, and that is exactly what we’re able to achieve.”
Nevertheless, the announcement of February 2022 has not stopped the party from further descent into a deeper crisis. At the moment, in the ruling party, it is one week, one trouble.
The ‘Sack’ of Buni Committee
Soon after the announcement of February 2022 for the conduct of the party’s national convention, the youth wing of the ruling party christened Progressive Youth Movement (PYM-CECPC) led by Mustapha Audu announced the ‘sack’ of the Buni-led committee and inaugurated a new Caretaker committee led by him.
The PYM-CECPC also announced its decision to conduct the national convention of the ruling party on February 26 at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
Addressing journalists after the inauguration of the PYM-CECPC, Audu said young men and women of repute have been carefully selected as members of the committee and mandated by all the well meaning young stakeholders of APC to plan and execute the convention before the end of February 2022.
He said the committee was aware of the plethora of issues within the party, stressing that the party has a history of shying away from true reconciliation and in many cases inflicting chastisement on members that should have been rewarded for their effort towards building the APC.
Against this background, it said the PYM-CECPC would be setting up a reconciliatory committee to help reconcile aggrieved members within the party.
Audu noted that it was clear that in the last couple of years, the party has been on a regressive course and it was necessary for all well meaning party members to roll up their sleeves and do the needful to ensure that they correct the mistakes that have been made to ensure victory in 2023 for all stakeholders.
He noted that the previous CECPC (Buni-committee) was in violation of APC constitution and the Nigerian constitution, but the new CECPC led by him has resolved that constitutional lacuna, saying the party was no longer unprepared for the 2023 general election.
Audu noted, “We are going to conduct the APC national convention and we are going to reconcile the APC and we are going to do it hand-in-hand with all our party leaders. We are not here to chastise any party leader, we are here to forge a way forward.”
“This Caretaker committee sacked the Buni-led committee. So, the previous convention planning committee has been dissolved, they have been disbanded. They no longer represent APC members.”
Ahead of the February 26 convention it announced, the PYM-CECPC also zoned various party offices. It zoned the National Chairmanship position to North, Deputy National Chairman to South – which it said must be 45 years or below.
The group zoned the position of Deputy National Chairman to North and specifically to a female – who must be 45 years or below, National Secretary- South; Deputy National Secretary — North (45 years or below), among others.
The party wasted no time in reacting to development, describing the attempt by the CECPC led by Audu as criminal. The National Secretary of the party, Sen. John Akpanudoedehe, in a statement said the party would not join issues with a misguided group, noting the focus of the committee was to prepare the ground for a rancour-free convention.
Akpanudoedehe said the purported group and membership are unknown to the party, its structure or as a registered support group.
He added, “However laughable, the criminal attempt of the purported group to usurp the leadership of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC now bothers on treasonable felony. Relevant security bodies must now check and address their unscrupulous activities.”
Reactions from APC Youths
Though, the Buni-led committee said it won’t join issues with the PYM, but as witnessed during the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC), within six days of the purported ‘sack’ of the Buni committee, various youth groups within the party have condemned the factional caretaker committee led by Audu.
Last Thursday, the youth wing of APC berated the leader of PYM, Audu for declaring himself a Caretaker committee chairman. It said the group lacks the constitutional right to preside, speak for or represent any opinion of the youths wing of the party.
The APC North Central Youth Leader, Mr. Terver Aginde, stated while reading a communiqué issued at the end of an emergency meeting of Zonal and State Youth leaders and critical youth stakeholders of APC held at the national headquarters of APC.
The APC youth said the emergency meeting was conveyed to address the unwarranted and highly provocative campaign of calumny cum destabilisation launched against key leaders and organs of the party by PYM.
The communique said, “That the PYM on Monday, 29th November, 2021 made a very public attempt to overthrow the legitimately constituted leadership of the APC in a manner that can only be described as felonious. The legitimate Youth leadership of the party sees their actions as an insult to the sensibility of all APC members in Nigeria
“That the so-called Progressives Youth Movement led by Mustapha Audu does not have any constitutional rights to preside, speak for or represent any opinion of the Wing of the party.”
It noted that PYM appears to be heavily funded by and deeply in the service of vicious vested interests with sole intent on destabilising the APC as a party and would be gratified by a resultant breakdown of Law and Order in Nigeria if not curtailed.
Also, the following day (Friday), the Coalition of APC Youth Support Group in Nigeria and Diaspora (COPY-NG) while addressing a world press conference in Abuja accused the National Youth Leader of the party, Mr. Ismael Ahmed of conspiracy in the recent attempt by the PYM to topple Buni.
The leader of the Coalition, Dr. Aminu Ishiaku challenged Ismael to prove that he was not in cahoot or even remotely related to any of the members of the so-called PYM or their actions.
He stated: “We therefore challenge the National Youth Leader of the party to prove to us that he is not even remotely related to any of the members of the so called PYM or their actions because we take his silence on this matter and lack of action against the people involved as strange.
“We therefore call on the party to investigate the root cause and personalities involved in this unconstitutional power grabbing in the party, and if they are truly members of the party who acted against the law, the party should apply sanctions on them immediately.”
Ishiaku said therefore, the so-called new leadership announced by PYM does not represent the views of the teeming youths that form the foundation and remain the assets of our great party.
Meanwhile, the Concerned All Progressives APC Stakeholders has alleged that the Department of State Services (DSS) has extended an invitation to the leader of PYM for declaring himself as the faction caretaker chairman of APC.
The group in a statement issued by Mr. Aliyu Audu decried the travails of Audu who had been suspended by his Ward Chairman following his recent activities especially for ‘dissolving’ the CECPC led by Buni.
The group said, apparently flowing from the instruction of the CECPC, the chairman of the APC in Ogbonicha Ward of Ofu LGA of Kogi State, Hon. Peter Onoja, in a purported press conference addressed by him, disowned Audu and said he has ceased being a member of the party.
The group noted that while it disagreed with the method of the movement, particularly in the sacking of a duly constituted committee, it frowned at the response of the Caretaker Committee and purported dissociation of the Ward chairman.
It said, “While we are yet to come to terms with this flagrant disregard for constituted rules and procedures and the diplomacy required at this time, it has been brought to our attention that the Department of State Services (DSS) has extended an invitation to Mustapha Audu, who is the leader of the Progressive Youth Movement to appear before the service.”
It noted that for the leadership of the APC to take such position against a group it has interfaced with at various times, so much as disowning its leader, who was recently a governorship aspirant under the platform of the party, one only imagines how seriously those superintending over the affairs of the party takes their responsibility.
The group said at what point did Audu cease to be a member of the APC? Saying, “Could this be before he paid the sum of N22.5 million to the coffers of the party to contest the governorship primaries of the APC in Kogi State, or after he decided to speak against the continuous stay in office of the CECPC or their refusal to conduct the national convention of the party, especially within the time frame given to her?,’ it queried.
It said the fact that Audu expressed a contrary opinion or embarked on activities that are seen to be against the current leadership of the party does not warrant his being denied his rights as a full-fledged member of the party.
The group wondered what Audu and his PYM said about the current leadership of the party that was not true. It pointed out that apart from the wooing of opposition politicians into the APC which has not translated into any meaningful political capital, the CECPC has lost more elections than it has won and has succeeded in creating more crises across the party than it met and meant to resolve.
Also, the factional Chairman of CECPC has said that some members of the recently ‘sacked’ Buni-led Committee are members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) masquerading as APC members.
Reacting to Akpanudoedehe’s statement in an interview with journalists in Abuja, Audu said it was unfortunate that Akpanudoedehe made false allegations against the PYM.
He stated: “Senator Akpanudoedehe who made these allegations against young people that have given so much, we were in the APC long before he came to the party. He was a Senator in the PDP and a Minister of State FCT under the same PDP. Two different PDP administrations.
“This is what happens when somebody says the truth, when somebody says there is something wrong in the party, those who are creating those issues are the ones blackmailing them and in all honesty, some of these people are PDP members.”
Audu insisted that it would be difficult for Akpanudoedehe, being a former member of the PDP, to know the people who are APC members.
Aggrieved Members Litigation May Threaten Convention
Moreso, there are concerns that the rising court cases against the ruling party may affect the party’s national convention scheduled for February. Aggrieved members from Lagos, Zamfara, Taraba and Kaduna states were either filing or threatening to file cases against the party leadership at both state and national levels.
At the moment, no fewer than seven cases are pending before the Federal High Court, Abuja challenging either the legitimacy of the Governor Buni-led party leadership or the outcome of decisions taken by the committee since its inauguration on June 25, 2020.
There are crises in at least 13 state chapters of the party as at the last count. The states include: Lagos, Bauchi, Imo, Enugu, Plateau, Zamfara, Kwara, Gombe, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti and Taraba.
There were at least five cases in various courts challenging the eligibility of the party leadership. Of the five pending cases, three were initiated by members of the ruling party while the opposition PDP and the New Nigeria Peoples Party each initiated one.
For instance, a factional leader of the Zamfara State chapter of the APC, Senator Kabiru Marafa, has already dismissed plans by the party to hold its national convention in February 2022.
He advised Buni and members of his ‘illegal committee’ not to waste scarce party funds in conducting another illegal act in the name of a national convention without doing the needful.
Marafa noted that APC leaders in Zamfara who were illegally removed from their leadership positions are already in court challenging that decision.
He added, “Some of us are putting our papers together to challenge the very existence of the so-called Caretaker Committee headed by Mai Mala Buni. The tenure of that illegal committee expired in June, the committee is still there acting illegally and causing trouble all over the place. Buni should take the path of honour and resign while he still has the chance.
“We are heading to court; let the court decide whether our constitution or the APC constitution has any provision allowing a serving governor to hold office and at the same time preside as (a party’s) national chairman. We will challenge every decision taken by this illegal committee since it came into office in June 2020.”
In addition, aggrieved party members in Bauchi State who instituted the case with suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/841/2021 between Babaji Abdullahi and six others vs the APC and five others, insist on going ahead with the suit.
Abdullahi, who filed the suit in Abuja, said they were still in court because the party leadership had not shown cause to warrant a withdrawal.
According to him, “You cannot beat a child and deny him the right to cry. We were unjustly treated and we intend to pursue this case until we get justice.”
While the plethora of crises the ruling party shows no sign of abating, it remains to be seen if the February 2022 convention will hold considering the number of cases against the ‘sacked’ Buni committee.