- As convention, intra-party conflict top agenda for president, APC leaders’ meeting
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday in his hometown of Daura, Katsina State, that every Nigerian could live and work anywhere in the country, irrespective of background, underscoring once again the constitutional right of citizens and the stand of his government against recent hate speeches. Buhari made the comment when he received the governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Aminu Masari, as part of the Eid-el-Kabir festivities,
THISDAY also learnt yesterday that the tricky national convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress and internal dissensions in some of its local chapters would dominate discussions during a planned meeting between Buhari and the leadership of the party. The meeting is billed to hold shortly after the Moslem Eid-el-Kabir holiday.
Some groups and individuals from Buhari’s native northern Nigeria and the southern parts of the country had of late engaged in a mutual tirade of hate speeches and actions, leading to months of tension. Things came to a head when on June 6 some youth groups in northern Nigeria, under the aegis of Coalition of Northern Groups, met in Kaduna and issued a three-month ultimatum to Nigerians of Igbo extraction to quit the North or face “visible actions” of isolation beginning from October 1, Nigeria’s national day. But Buhari emphasised in his national broadcast on August 21 that Nigerians were free to reside anywhere in the country, in apparent mention of his government’s position on the so-called quit notice to Igbos. Though, the groups have backtracked on their ultimatum.
While receiving Masari, who was accompanied on the visit by the Emir of Daura, Alhaji Faruk Umar Faruk, and members of the state executive council, Buhari reiterated his administration’s commitment to guarantee the security of every citizen and protect them from harassments by reason of state of origin, tribe or ethnic background.
The president said, “Every Nigerian has a right to live, work and thrive in every part of the country, irrespective of their backgrounds,” according to a statement by his senior special adviser on media and publicity, Garba Shehu.
THISDAY gathered at the weekend that the date for the meeting between Buhari and the leadership of his party would be fixed as soon as he returns to Abuja from his home town, where he has spent the last couple of days holidaying with his family, friends, and relatives.
A top party stalwart who revealed details of the proposed meeting to THISDAY said the parley with the APC national caucus would have taken place shortly after the president’s return from medical leave in the UK on August 19. But it was delayed to allow for a joint visit to Buhari by the leaders of the ruling party and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, which took place on August 25 in Abuja.
Summoning a non-elective national convention has been a challenge for APC since it assumed power at the national level in May 2015. APC’s inability to hold the all-important convention has raised doubts about its organisational capabilities and commitment to its own constitutional obligations.
THISDAY gathered that owing to the growing misgivings about the ruling party, the president had promised to meet the APC leadership to iron out the pending issues relating to the convention. One of the critical issues the meeting with the Buhari is expected to address is the delay in the organisation of a non-elective convention. Plans for the convention have been on the drawing board for a long time.
Party sources said the meeting between Buhari and APC leaders will also address other critical issues, such as internal party squabbles in many of its state chapters. Some of the intra-party conflicts have seemed to defy peace efforts by the national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and his National Working Committee.
APC has in recent times had squabbles in its state chapters in Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Bauchi, Adamawa, Lagos, Edo, Rivers, and Bayelsa. In Kano, the tussle is between the former governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, and his successor, incumbent Governor Abdullahi, Ganduje. The disagreements have polarised the APC state executive.
Kaduna State Governor Nasiru El-Rufai and Senator Shehu Sani are the main rivals in the wrangling in the state chapter, while the Kogi State APC leadership has been at daggers drawn with the state governor, Yahaya Bello, in what is seen as a spill-over of his quarrel with the APC senator representing Kogi West, Dino Meleaye. In Bauchi State, some APC stakeholders, led by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, are at loggerheads with the governor, Mohammed Abubakar, over control of the state party structure.
The NWC had set up a committee headed by Mr. Tony Momoh to try to resolve the crisis in its Kogi State chapter and when the problem could not be settled, the party constituted another peace committee in April headed by Idris Garba. But resolution does not seem to be in sight. Senator Chris Ngige headed the reconciliation committee for Bauchi State.
It is hoped that the president would be able to use his influence to reconcile his party members and ensure a rancour-free convention.
According to a source in the party, who did not want to be mentioned because of the sensitive nature of the issues, the party leadership had all along delayed the convening of two most important meetings, the National Executive Committee meeting and the national convention, to try to ensure that they had the president’s active participation.
The source said, “Buhari’s presence will, apart from calming nerves, help to resolve most of the protracted disputes within the party, which will enable us go into a convention as one family.”
THISDAY learnt that the meeting with the president might also examine other issues that have bothered APC leaders and members in the states. They include, principally, the demands for reorganisation of the federal cabinet, and the need to make the remaining appointments to boards of parastatals. The appointments are generally seen as a way of compensating key members and stakeholders.
Equally slated for discussion, it is gathered, is the need for government’s deliberate intervention to address the harsh economic conditions in the country and meet electoral promises as a way of reviving and boosting support for the APC federal government.