Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Mohammed Aminu in Sokoto, and Yekini Jimoh in Lokoja
The ruling All Progressives Congressâ€™ efforts at facilitating reconciliation among feuding members began earnestly at the weekend with consultative visits to key members by the partyâ€™s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State, heads a consultation, reconciliation, and confidence-building committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari on February 6 in an attempt to foster unity in APC.
Tinubu was said to have promised to use the next 10 days to consult with party leaders over his assignment and, then, constitute a full reconciliation team at the end of the consultations. Last Thursday in Abuja, he held separate meetings with Senate President Bukola Saraki and former Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State, who is now senator for Kano Central.
THISDAY gathered from a reliable source, who was privy to the meetings, that Tinubu first visited Kwankwaso and they held discussions for about two hours, before he left for Sarakiâ€™s official residence, where they met till late hours of Thursday. The source said the main subject of the two meetings was how to settle the differences between the party leaders and reunify political forces ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Although the outcome of the meetings was not publicised, it was learnt that Tinubu, Kwankwaso and Saraki agreed in principle to pursue peace and dialogue as a means of strengthening the party.
Kwankwaso had come second, after Buhari, at the APC presidential primary ahead of the 2015 general election, and it was widely believed that Tinubuâ€™s support for Buhari was what cost the former Kano State governor the presidential ticket.
It was also learnt that the former Lagos State governor had prioritised efforts to mend relations with his own political enemies in the party as a first step towards the badly needed reconciliation among APC members. During a recent meeting with the National Working Committee, one of the members was alleged to have suggested that in order to engender trust and confidence, it was better for Tinubu to first reconcile with those he had issues with.
â€œTinubu requested to be provided with a dossier of all areas of cracks within the party, including what the problems were and the level of reconciliation so far achieved,â€ the source added.
Tinubu, the source said, agreed with the suggestion of the NWC member and explained that he had already embarked on fence-mending measures with his kinsmen in the South-west, where a stakeholdersâ€™ meeting was held, with most of the leaders in attendance. Though the stakeholders’ meeting was held a year ago, it was attended by Minister of Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Solid Minerals Kayode Fayemi, governors elected on the APC platform in the zone, and other party chieftains. Tinubu had come out to seek settlement with those he had difference with.
THISDAY gathered that the APC South-west stakeholdersâ€™ meeting held in Ibadan was a full and frank discussion, where members vented their grouses and sought reconciliation.
Last Thursday’s meeting with Saraki was seen as an attempt to not only resolve longstanding supremacy battles between some members of the National Assembly and their governors, but to also restore good relations between the former governor and the senate president. Tinubu had fiercely opposed Sarakiâ€™s emergence as senate president in 2015 and the frosty relationship between them had subsequently manifested in a serial rejection of principal officer nominees favoured by the APC national leader.
Tinubu visited Sokoto saturday, where he met with Governor Aminu Tambuwal and his predecessor, Senator Aliyu Wamakko. The former Lagos State governor, who was accompanied by APC chieftain, Alhaji Idi Farouk, held a two-hour closed-door meeting with his hosts at both the Government House and Wamakko’s residence in Gawun Nama area of the state capital. The meeting was later expanded to include Deputy Governor Ahmed Aliyu and APC National Vice Chairman for North-west, Malam Inuwa Abdulkadir.
In a brief speech after the meeting, Tinubu told reporters he was in Sokoto for a family meeting. â€œFamily members meet regularly to talk to each other and I’m here for that purpose,â€ he said. â€œThis is a family meeting for today, tomorrow, for the good of Nigeria and the APC.â€
After the meeting, a prominent cleric in the state, Malam Bashir Gidan Kanawa, prayed for peace and stability of the country. He called on Nigerians to continue to pray for the leadership of the country.
APC rejects dissolution of Kogi executive committee
Meanwhile, the crisis rocking the APC in Kogi State assumed a new dimension weekend, as Governor Yahaya Bello yesterday announced the composition of a new executive committee to pilot the affairs of the party in the state. This followed an alleged dissolution of the state working committee on Thursday by the North-central zonal executive of the party. The zonal leadership had, allegedly, found the Hady Ametuo-led state executive guilty of anti-party activities, which the governor had accused them of.
However, in a swift reaction by the national secretariat of the party on Friday, the APC spokesman, Bolaji Abdulahi, said in a statement that the National Working Committee had nothing to do with the purported dissolution. Abdulahi said no recommendations were received from the committee earlier set up to look into the crisis in the state.
The APC spokesman stated, â€œOur attention has been drawn to a story on a national television that the State Executive Committee of the All Progressives Congress in Kogi State has been suspended. We want to state that this action does not emanate from the National Working Committee of the party or any of its organs so empowered to do so.â€
Abdulahi stressed, â€œAlthough there are issues within the party in Kogi State and the NWC has empowered a committee to investigate the issues and make recommendations. The NWC has not been appropriately briefed on the outcome of the committee’s work and, therefore, has not taken any decision.
â€œIn this wise, we affirm that the State Working Committee of APC in Kogi State led by the chairman, Alhaji Haddy Ametuo, remains the only recognised executive committee of the party in the state until the appropriate organ of the party decides otherwise in accordance with the procedure laid down by the party constitution.
â€œWe wish to affirm that whether in Kogi or elsewhere, the NWC will ensure that justice is done to all concerned and will be guided by the constitution of the party and the best interest of the party. At the moment, we believe this action, purportedly sacking the Kogi executive, is prejudicial and incongruous with the party’s desire for reconciliation.
â€œWe enjoin all party members at all levels to desist from taking unilateral actions that are likely to further jeopardise the on-going peace process.â€
Kogi is among the states where APC has internal dissensions that the Tinubu presidential reconciliation committee would be trying to resolve. Others include Kaduna, Zamfara, and Oyo states.
In Kogi State saturday also, the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, received a large number of defectors from other political parties, particularly the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
â€œWith what I have seen here today, Kogi State APC will continue to be victorious in 2019 and future election. I will go back to Abuja and tell them that Kogi APC is very much in charge and ready to maintain its position as the most acceptable party,â€ Odigie-Oyegun said at the reception for the new members held at the main bowl of the Confluence Stadium, Lokoja.
Among the prominent persons who defected from PDP were Senator Smart Adeyemi, Alhaji Jibril Isah Echocho, Alhaji Yahaya Karaku, and Alhaji Idris King.
Odigie-Oyegun also praised the Buhari governmentâ€™s achievements at the rally to receive the defectors. He said the coming of Buhari had helped to liberate the country from an impending economic doom.
According to the national chairman, â€œToday Nigeria under Buhari no longer depends on oil to survive, today; Nigeria under Buhari has taken the lead in the agricultural production.
â€œToday, Nigeria under Buhari is operating on a stable economic progression, so let those who are saying the Buhari-led government has failed go back to their holes and keep quiet while we continue in delivering dividends of democracy to Nigerians.â€
Odigie-Oyegun said, â€œKogi State will be among the first states that will endorse President Muhammadu Buhari after he has declared for re-election next year.
â€œKogi people, I want to congratulate you for having an energetic governor in Yahaya Bello. This is a governor that is a good organiser at any time the party needs him. He is always energetic and full of ideas. I can feel a new energy in Kogi State.â€
24 APC governors ready to support Buhari’s re-eection
In his remarks, Governor Yahaya Bello said Buhari must contest for a second term, saying all the 24 APC governors are ready to support his re-election. He said APC was the strongest and most viable and party in Kogi State, and alleged that PDP was no more in the stateâ€™s political map.
The governor stressed that all PDP members that mattered had all defected to APC because they had seen the light and realised that APC has a better programme for the people of the state and Nigeria, in general.
Other national officers of APC who attended the rally included the national secretary, Mala Buni.