L-R National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, President Muhammadu Buhari and a national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu at a meeting...are they thinking the future

The national leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) seems to have boxed itself to a tight corner in its effort to fix a date for the mid-term national convention as it risk breaching the two year mandatory time lag for the exercise as required by the party’s constitution. Onyebuchi Ezigbo reports

The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, last week, said the party had postponed its mid-term national convention indefinitely and in its place had scheduled the National Executive Committee (NEC) for April 25. He said the NEC was to take place after a national caucus meeting holding on April 24.

According to Oyegun, the April 29 tentative date for the convention has been put on hold, subject to confirmation by the NEC meeting. Following intense pressure from stakeholders of the party, who were concerned about the brewing internal crisis in the ruling party, the National Working Committee (NWC) held a consultative meeting with the APC governors in March at the National Secretariat of the party after which it said the mid-term convention would hold on April 29.

However, the party leadership has now put the convention on hold pending the approval of fresh dates by NEC members. The party said it would hold state congresses before the convention to nominate delegates and to fill vacancies that occurred principally from political appointments, deaths and resignations.

As part of arrangements for the non-elective convention, APC said it would hold state congresses to nominate delegates and to fill vacancies that occurred principally from political appointments, deaths and resignations. It also plans to carry out constitutional amendments to accommodate some changes in the nomenclature and composition of its Board of Trustees (BoT).

But all these activities cannot be executed without adequate funding and the leadership of the party has now found itself in a quagmire trying to manage the situation. Some of the reasons suspected as being behind the delays in holding the convention and which are not different from what have been preventing the leadership from summoning meetings of critical stakeholders, were internal power tussle and paucity of funds.

The intrigues and clash of interests that resulted from the post-election issues, including the sharing of the spoils of election victory have all combined to keep most chieftains of the party estranged from each other. It is a fact that the party has been the worse-hit by the graveyard peace prevailing among the members, especially in the area of raising funds to carry out its obligations.

Although the party leadership kept denying it, it was learnt that the convention had to be shelved due to paucity of funds and other unresolved issues. Another factor believed to be affecting the convocation of the NEC meeting and perhaps the national convention is the consideration being made by the party for the events to hold at a period that is convenient for President Muhammadu Buhari to attend.

In all these, the party appeared not to have achieved the measure of success expected from the consultations, hence the delay in plans for the national convention. The very first attempt made by the leadership of APC to explore avenues of financial assistance from the presidency was rebuffed.

President Buhari told them to go and develop internal mechanism of raising funds from party men and women. First, it came as a rude shock to the party leaders but all the same, they accepted the challenge and tried to develop a template for levying elected representatives and government appointees as a means of mobilising needed resources.

Oyegun-led NWC reached out to members in the National Assembly and received some measure of success. But when they approached the ministers and government appointees in the executive arm for funding assistance, it failed to yield the expected fruit. The ministers rebuffed a scheduled meeting with the NWC last month, where they planned to explain details of the initiative to them. The party did not also get the desired support from governors elected on its platform.

Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, who recently bared his minds on the perceived cold relationship between the governors and the leadership of the party, said the era of taking money from government coffers to fund political parties had gone. He also defended other government appointees saying President Muhammad Buhari had made it clear that it would no longer be business as usual and that the era of dipping hands in public coffers to fund party was gone.

The governor stated that political party as an institution was supposed to create activities will make it to be self-reliant. Ganduje said the national officers of the APC ought to look inward and come up with strategies to raise fund, even as he gave assurance that the party would not crumble. He said the party’s leadership should begin to look for ways of generating funds internally to sustain its operations.

Signs that the party might not push on with the convention as scheduled came when the constitution review committee headed by the National Legal Adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire failed to conclude its assignment as expected. It was not just lack of funds that is preventing the leadership from going ahead with the convention, there are other issues ranging from the Executive-Legislative row and unresolved disputes in some state chapters of the party.

No doubt, the party leadership is conscious of the fact that this crisis might drag through the convention period and might likely cause more damage to the fragile peace in the party. Therefore, the need to tarry a while before conducting the convention is imperative.

But Oyegun on Wednesday inaugurated two high-level fact-finding and reconciliation committees to reconcile the warring party members in Kogi and Bauchi States. The first reconciliation committee for Kogi State is chaired by Tony Momoh with Gen. John Shagaya, Senator Barnabas Gemade, Gen. Ahmed Aboki and Senator Olubunmi Adetunbi as members.

Another panel set up to reconcile warring groups in Bauchi State is to be chaired by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige. Members of the committee are Gen. Lawrence Onoja, Senator Oserheimen Osunbor, Gen. Lawal Jafar Isa and Alhaji Gambo Magaji. The party’s leadership had earlier set up peace committees to reconcile aggrieved stakeholders in Kano and Gombe States.

Last week’s postponement of the APC national convention has put the leadership in a tight situation because it found itself between trying to satisfy the constitutional provision, which makes it mandatory for them to hold a mid-term national convention at least once in two years and avoiding a rancorous convention.

Critics of the present leadership of the party are blaming the NWC led by Odigie-Oyegun for failing to hold regular meetings of stakeholders, especially NEC meetings and convention. One of such critics is the estranged Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Timi Frank, whose critical stance on the Oyegun-national leadership has earned him a suspension.

Frank had blamed the national executive of the party for not playing an active role in helping to build the needed harmony among the various tendencies in the ruling party and is seeking the convening of the NEC meeting to address these shortcomings.

On the decision to postpone the convention, Frank said if the National convention does not hold as planned, it means that the NWC of the party has breached the constitution. Also, the party’s leadership had at some point received bashing from former Vice-President Átiku Abubakar and the national leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The latest criticism came from a group known as “Forum of APC Non-NWC National Executive Council (NEC) members, who sent a protest letter to President Buhari, over what they described as the poor handling of the affairs of the party by the NWC.

The forum, whose letter dated April 6, 2017, tagged “Save our party-APC”, and addressed to President Buhari, demanded an urgent meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) to help resolve certain troubling issues. They warned that if nothing is done by the president, the situation might lead to “preventable, avoidable and unnecessary intra-party cracks”.

In the letter signed by a National Ex-officio, South-west coordinator, Hon. Omolayo O. Akintola, a copy of which was made available to journalists in Abuja, last week, the NEC members said they were not happy over the continued exclusion of some states from the membership of the NWC. The group also expressed displeasure over the inability of the national leadership of the APC to hold NEC meeting as regularly as provided for in the party’s constitution.

It said several letters have been written to Chief Oyegun, “without any positive reactions hence this ‘Save our party’ request. We strongly feel that an urgent call on the appropriate quarters of the party be made to ensure that NEC meeting of our party as provided by Article 25 of our party constitution is obeyed to guarantee resolution of matters affecting party amicably.  We are equally greatly displeased with the ways of handling party matters solely by the National Working Committee without any recourse to the NEC from which NWC derived her powers.

“Also to be noted for appropriate advice is the exclusion of sizeable number of federating states from scheme of things within the party because many states are not presently represented by party officers on the current National Working Committee, hence, the need to be having regular NEC meetings pending the much awaited amendment to the present party constitution. We, therefore, deemed it necessary putting this letter across for your timely actions to save our great party from preventable, avoidable and unnecessary intra-party/in-house cracks that the present situation might generate”.

Beyond the complaints of lack of funds and the criticism of the leadership of the party is the deep-seated grievance held by many of the ruling party members, who have positioned themselves to secure one appointment or the other under President Buhari’s administration but who have had to wait almost endlessly for that opportunity to come.

These crop of people are venting their anger on the party for failing to protect their interest and the party’s leadership have also been hoping that many of them would be given that opportunity so that engagements with members can be more peaceful.

 It is in this context that the recent board appointments made by President Buhari could be seen as a face-saving measure to douse tension within the ranks of party members. Many see the development as something that will boost the morale of party stakeholders and reduce their restiveness. And for the leadership of the party, this might be the appropriate time to hold the NEC meeting to rebuild the solidarity and unity of its membership, which is crucial before organising its mid-term convention.