• Oyegun backs Tinubu c’ttee, Saraki misses caucus meeting
• State chairmen pass vote of confidence on Oyegun, seek tenure extension for selves, NWC

Omololu Ogunmade and Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari Monday night hosted the National Caucus of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the State House, Abuja, with a directive to the leadership of the ruling party to begin plans for various congresses of the party.

Buhari, who gave the directive against the backdrop of the 2019 election timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), added that it was about time the party prepared for its ward, local government, state and national congresses.

He also advised the APC leaders to uphold what he described as the party’s culture of internal democracy in the conduct of the elections and urged them to ensure that they work together, irrespective of the outcome of the elections.

“Now that INEC has come out with the timetable for the elections in 2019, the party should prepare itself for congresses at a. Wards, b. Local Governments, c. States and d. Centre.
“We should strictly follow the constitution of the party in undertaking these party elections. We should ensure internal democracy and avoid shortcuts and illegal manoeuvres, which have characterised the opposition party with the consequences that they are now divided.

“The APC has a history of conducting free and fair primaries whenever consensus about any candidacy is not reached. Regardless of the outcomes of the primary processes, it is imperative that we all work together to ensure the victory of our party,” he said.

Buhari also thanked the party leaders and members for what he described as the successes achieved in the 2015 elections by “securing the majority of the state governors, a majority in the National Assembly and majorities in the state assemblies”.

According to him, the success was the output of unity of purpose exhibited by members of the party, which he said resulted in the defeat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
While thanking them for believing in him, he admonished them to adhere to the party’s constitution and reminded them of the state of the country before the advent of the APC government.

He also advised them to co-operate with the leader of the reconciliation team in the party, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, expressing optimism that violence by cattle herders would be brought under control.

He also said he was aware of the scathing criticism of his government, especially on board appointments.
“We must remember that this resounding success would not have been achieved without the unity of purpose we exhibited in challenging and defeating an incumbent government.

“Those outstanding successes would not have been possible without your hard work, dedication, and above all, sacrifice. I wish to individually and collectively thank you all sincerely for believing in me and remaining steadfast party members despite the distractions and antics of the opposition.

“The unity and success are needed now more than ever because the elections are looming.
“I must state at the outset that to succeed we must, in all our actions and decisions, follow strictly the constitution of our party. It is easy to forget that we succeeded a government with a record of unprecedented theft and systematic mismanagement.

“Nigeria was fast heading for a state of collapse. It is easy to forget the fuel subsidy fraud, arms funds diversion, depleted Excess Crude Account savings, depleted foreign reserves, massive unpaid debts to contractors and suppliers amidst failure to invest or even maintain our infrastructure, namely the railways, roads, electricity, in spite of having earned over US$500 billion from oil and gas alone, during the 16 years of PDP rule.

“Lest we forget, we must always remind ourselves of the dire situation in which we came to office.
“Therefore we must not be shy in projecting our tremendous achievements from 2015 to date. The territorial integrity of Nigeria is no longer under threat.

“A number of security challenges still exist, but they exist in even the most well-policed and well-secured countries. I am confident that the measures we are taking will tackle the acts of rural banditry, herdsmen/farmers’ conflicts, communal clashes, kidnappings and other crimes.

“I now turn to the party differences in various states: to this end, I have appointed a committee, headed by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a leader of the party, to reconcile the differences in various states.
“We hope the committee will be given maximum support and co-operation to enable it to satisfactorily carry out its work and get the party united in purpose and in shape for the battles ahead.

“I am very much aware of opinions and criticism about the pace of government: in particular, the delay in appointments to boards of parastatals. Many boards have been inaugurated so far.
“Before I conclude my address, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in paying tribute to the party members and commend the APC leadership for its keen interest in getting the party manifesto implemented in the states and at the centre,” the president said.

Also speaking, the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, echoed the president, asking members to put their differences behind them in the collective interest of the party.
Oyegun said the forthcoming events in the party including the conduct of the party’s presidential primary within eight months would be challenging, especially as the party will have to defend itself at the general election.
While throwing his weight behind Tinubu’s reconciliation mission, Oyegun tasked party leaders to place party goals above their personal ambitions.

“I therefore fully support the Asiwaju Peace Committee constituted by the president to reconcile all aggrieved groups within the party and I encourage all of us to support the committee. The success of this committee will provide great impetus to the realisation of victory for the party in the forthcoming general election.

“I wish to note that the road so far, it has not been smooth sailing, but we have weathered the storm. We should be truly proud of the achievements of our government at all levels.
“We must brace ourselves to face and overcome the challenges that will come our way this year, and they are going to be tough. Elections are generally very emotive.

“To have to organise wholesale change of party candidates for national and state elections, and conduct a primary convention to choose a presidential flag bearer, all within a space of eight months, and immediately after, defend our mandate in a general election, will test the resilience of any party.

“As we go into these elections, let us summon our individual and collective sense of duty to causes bigger than ourselves, and pledge to rise above our personal ambitions to support the general good.
“Let us also think outside the box and find ways to reduce or eliminate the disputations that can arise from unfulfilled expectations,” he said.

The meeting was attended by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, state governors, members of APC National Working Committee (NWC), APC members of the National Assembly, members of National Executive Committee (NEC), former governors and ministers, among others.
However, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, was conspicuously absent from the meeting.
In a Twitter post earlier Monday, Saraki said that he had to attend an event on human trafficking in Benin City, Edo State.

Confidence Vote for Oyegun

But ahead of the National Caucus meeting of the APC Monday night, the plot by forces within the ruling party to unseat the Oyegun-led NWC of the party appeared to have hit a brick wall, as the Forum of APC State Chairmen Monday passed a vote of confidence on the party’s national chairman and the NWC.

The forum also asked for a two-year tenure extension for the state chairmen and the NWC to enable them to focus on the forthcoming general election.

There had been strong speculations that the NEC of the party, which is slated to meet Tuesday in Abuja, was going to approve the dissolution of the NWC and put in its place a caretaker committee to steer the party through the general election.

Cracks had emerged among the party leaders over the tenure of the NWC, which ends on June 3, 2018. While one group had pushed for the conduct of a national convention to elect a new NWC before the presidential primary of the party, another group had pushed for the tenure extension of the NWC.

Believed to be leading the charge against Oyegun was Tinubu, who last week accused the chairman of the party of undermining his efforts to carry out the assignment Buhari gave him to reconcile aggrieved members within the party.

However, after the meeting of the APC state chairmen Monday, the forum in a communiqué said: “The forum after dissection and a thorough appraisal of the APC-led federal government hereby unanimously passes a vote of confidence on our dear President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Chairman of our great party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and other leaders of our great party for their numerous achievements despite the challenges so far experienced in our dear country.”

The forum also urged Buhari to present himself for a second term come 2019.
The forum also called on the Tinubu-led Peace and Reconciliation Committee to expedite action in reconciling members of the party, while calling on all members of the party to give maximum support to the committee to achieve sustainable peace in the party.

“In view of the short period between the time available for the proposed party congresses and the INEC timetable for conduct of party primaries and the general election, the forum resolved that the tenure of the present officers of the party at all levels be extended by two years to avert challenges in the party,” the forum added.

“In view of the reasons as adduced above, and the fact that the present constitution as amended in 2014 has not been fully tested in the short life of the party, the forum resolved that the proposed amendment of the party constitution be suspended.

“The forum extends our heartfelt condolences and sympathises with the good people of Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, Zamfara, Yobe and Borno States for the attacks on them by the enemies of our dear country.”
Thirty-one state chairmen attended the meeting and signed the communiqué among who was the chairman of the forum, Chief Henry Ajomale of Lagos State.