•Atiku, Tinubu still at daggers drawn over chairmanship

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has embarked on a tactical move to prune the membership of its yet-to-be inaugurated Board of Trustees.

THISDAY gathered that the ruling party is using the ploy of wanting to reduce the large BoT membership to weed out ambitious politicians who may try to use the platform to bolster their 2019 agenda.

In this regard, the APC leadership obtained the backing of the presidency on its proposal to reduce the membership of the BoT at the recent National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party and to initiate constitutional amendments that would pave the way for the planned reduction.

It was learnt that the plan was to come up with recommendations on the membership of the BoT alongside the amended constitution for ratification during the next national convention of the APC likely to take place in June.

According to a reliable source that was privy to the proposals made during the meeting of the APC national caucus at the Presidential Villa last week, “The party is worried about the large membership of the BoT which has given room to all manner of persons with perceived ulterior interests to be part of the board.”

The National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Oyegun, who recently spoke on the approval given to him by the party’s NEC for the reconstitution of the BoT, had said: “The party has decided to downsize our BoT in line with all other constitutional amendments.”

But Oyegun did not give a specific number of members the party wants on the BoT.

“NEC has decided to downsize our Board of Trustees in line with all other constitutional amendments. We don’t have any particular number, but it is going to be seriously downsized.

“The committee to work on this will be headed by the National Legal Adviser. We will put our heads together on that in the next day or two and there may be need to hold on a little bit,” he said.

While defending the decision of the party, the Deputy National Chairman of APC (North), Senator Lawan Shuaibu said what the leadership was concerned about was the large number of BoT membership and how it can be reduced so that its members can offer meaningful contributions to the issues affecting the party.

Shuaibu said the party believed that the current number provided by the APC costitution was too unwieldy to manage and as such approached the NEC to get approval for a constitutional amendment to prune it down.

He said a committee would be set up to make recommendations on how to reconstitute the board as well as the ratification of the constitutional amendments at the party’s national convention that may hold in June.

Regarding the delay in the inauguration of the BoT, Shuaibu said it was not due to the clash of interests as speculated in the media but that “the party leadership was all the while tinkering with the idea of pruning it down to a manageable size so as to ensure that the membership is drawn from among those that have the interest of the party at heart and are knowledgeable about what the party stands for”.

According to him, the APC BoT, as provided by the constitution, may become a clog in the wheel of progress of the party if careful consideration is not given to its unwieldy size.

“The large membership could become unwieldy with many new entrants to the party rushing to join the party at the late hour so as to take up positions in the BoT.

“We have even ended up having former military administrators as members of the BoT,” he said

He said this crop of late entrants to the party, who are laying claim to the membership of the BoT have become so many and that if care is not taken, they may even outnumber their civilian counterparts.

“The membership of the BoT will become too unwieldy; you cannot easily manage this number. Even a lecturer with such number of students cannot cope, not to mention mature leaders who will be contending with varied individual opinions and interests.

“You see, what we have realised is that when you are talking about the BoT, you are talking about people with integrity and people you can identify as the conscience of the party, elders of the party who can easily be reached in times of conflict within the party.

“In fact, the BoT is so powerful that it plays a very important role in the affairs of the party, including approving constitutional amendments. So the moment you constitute and inaugurate it, they will never agree that the constitution be amended.

“That was why we had to shift the inauguration of the board until we were able to put things right,” he said.

However, it was gathered that at the time the party drew up the list of membership to the BoT and included same in its constitution, APC was still in the opposition and not yet in government.

But no sooner had the party taken over power at the centre, than the politicians and other interests groups swarmed the ruling party, thus swelling the number of those who belong to the BoT.

Political gladiators in the ruling party such as the former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, the ex-Lagos State Governor, Senator Bola Tinubu, and the former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Abubakar Baraje, are known to be interested in chairing the BoT.

But recent developments have portrayed a slightly different picture in the power tussle. Investigations revealed that while the former governor of Osun State and erstwhile interim National Chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande may stand in for Tinubu as the man to be trusted to protect his interest on the BoT, the former vice-president is said to have beaten a retreat and is now insisting that he would not compete with anyone as far as the BoT chairmanship is concerned.

The swollen number of BoT members has further compounded the situation for APC since many of those who were listed were neither involved in the formation of the ruling party in 2013, nor were they members when the APC won the general election in 2015.

The APC BoT membership is supposed to comprise past and serving presidents and vice-presidents who are members of the party, past and serving senate presidents and deputy senate presidents who are members of the party, and past and serving speakers and deputy speakers of the House of Representatives who are members of the party.

Others include past and serving state governors who are members of the party, past and serving national chairmen who are members of the party, and BoT chairmen of political parties who have produced a past president, senator(s), member(s) of the House of Representatives, governor(s) of state(s) or member(s) of state house(s) of assembly and are members of the party, subject to approval by NEC.

The BoT will also include the serving national secretary of the party; two serving senators from each geopolitical zone who are members of the party to be nominated by the senators from such zones; one member nominated by each State/Federal Capital Territory Executive Committee for consideration, and subsequent recommendation by the National Working Committee (NWC) to NEC for approval; and one woman from each geo-political zone of the country nominated by the zonal committee for consideration, and subsequent recommendation by the NWC to NEC for approval.