•Party leader seeks non-involvement of NWC members in conduct of convention
•Aisha Buhari explains why she threatened not to support her husband’s re-election
By Omololu Ogunmade and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja with agency report
President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu yesterday met behind closed doors in London, ostensibly to discuss the congresses and national convention of the ruling party, but in a pre-emptive move the APC announced the membership of a 68-member convention committee to be chaired by Jigawa State governor Mohammed Badaru Abubakar.
The president’s aide responsible for social media, Alhaji Bashir Ahmad, who released the statement and photograph on Buhari’s meeting with the APC leader through a Twitter post, said: “President Muhammadu Buhari receives national leader of our great party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (Jagaban) today in London.”
Although Ahmad did not provide details of the meeting between Buhari and Tinubu, a party source said yesterday that Tinubu might have met with the president to keep him abreast of developments in the party.
He said it was most likely the APC leader would bring to Buhari’s attention the concerns expressed by party stakeholders last week of the attempt by some persons in the party to achieve tenure elongation by subterfuge, despite the fact that the issue had been laid to rest at the last meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party.
The source said though Tinubu was not against the waiver granted by APC to its executives seeking re-election at the upcoming congresses and convention to remain in office before the elective contests, he was expected to impress it on Buhari on the need for a level playing field by ensuring that party officials seeking re-election do not participate in the conduct of the congresses and convention in any shape or form.
The source also revealed that Tinubu was also expected to discuss the unending killings in Taraba, Benue and Plateau States due to the clashes between farmers and armed herdsmen.
Buhari had on April 9, during the NEC meeting of the APC, declared his intention to seek re-election in 2019.
At the said meeting, the party had also agreed to reverse its decision in February to extend the tenure of its executives by one year, and directed that the processes for the conduct of congresses and a convention should commence.
But it wasn’t a winner takes all for those opposed to the tenure elongation, as the NEC also granted a waiver that would enable the current party leadership of the APC to seek re-election while remaining at their various posts.
Briefing the press after the meeting, Plateau State governor Simon Lalong, who had chaired the technical committee set up by the party to review the tenure elongation issue, had cited Article 31(111) of the APC constitution, which states: “Subject to the approval of the National Executive Committee, the National Working Committee may in special circumstances grant a waiver to a person not otherwise qualified under if, in its opinion, such a waiver is in the best interest of the party.”
The NEC also approved the recommendation of the Lalong-led committee, which advised that in the event that there is a problem and the congresses and convention become inconclusive, the party would ask the current leadership of the APC to remain in office, but in an acting capacity.
However, the approvals given by the NEC of the party may not have gone down well with some of its stakeholders, who had informed THISDAY that the proposed congresses and national convention of the APC may be deliberately set up or frustrated to achieve tenure elongation through the backdoor.
The sources warned that the approvals had a hidden motive – to sustain the one-year tenure elongation initially granted the APC national and state executives.
Citing a memo by the national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, which encapsulated the report of the Lalong committee and was approved by the NEC at the meeting, the sources revealed that the national leadership of the party had anticipated certain circumstances that might make the decision to hold congresses and the national convention impossible to implement.
A party source further informed THISDAY that the approved recommendation might be a trigger for disaster, especially if the proposed congresses and convention are not held or stage-managed.
“I suspect a plot to frustrate and subvert the congresses and convention, especially since waivers have been given to the NWC (National Working Committee) to supervise the exercise and re-contest in the intra-party elections.
“In such circumstances, those conducting and supervising the congresses and convention will either formulate rules to favour them as contestants or there may be no commitment to successful congresses and the convention. Which ever way, the exercise can be programmed to achieve tenure elongation through the backdoor,” he explained.
The concerns, notwithstanding, the NWC of the APC yesterday released the names of a 68-member national convention committee to be chaired by the Jigawa State governor.
A statement last night by the APC National Organising Secretary Osita Izunaso said the deputy chairman of the convention committee will be Ondo State governor Rotimi Akeredolu, while Senator Ben Uwajumogu will serve as the member/secretary of the committee.
Other members include Governors Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Kashim Shettima (Borno), Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe), Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai (Kaduna), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Bindow Jibrilla (Adamawa), Yahaya Bello (Kogi) and Godwin Obaseki (Edo).
Other members named by the party are former Senate President Ken Nnamani, Senator Ahmed Yerima, Senator Ahmed Ailero, Senator Danjuma Goje, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Senator George Akume, Senator Chris Ngige, Senator Ibrahim Abdullahi Gobir, Senator John Eno, Senator Andrew Uchedu, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and Mr. Usani Uguru Usani.
Others are Femi Gbajabiamila, Tony Nwoye, Senator Abdullahi Danbaba, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, Senator Baba Kaka, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, Chief Niyi Adebayo, Kawu Labaran, Saed Fijabi, Barinada Mpigi, Abubakar Mariki, Lawal Garba, Emmanuel Udenge, Chief Chris B. Ibe, Chief Nsima Ekere, Alhaji Adamu Idris, Chief Ede Eze, Chief Preye Aganaba, Chief Derin Adebiyi, Mr. Sale Mamman and Israel Ajibola Famurewa.
Women on the committee will be represented by Senator Binta Masi Garba, Senator Monsurat Olajumoke Sunmonu, Mrs Pauline Tallen, Senator Florence Ita Giwa, Hadiza Bala Usman, Rabi Ishaq, Maureen Tamuno and Mrs. Teresa Kadiri.
Youths on the committee include Ismaeel Ahmed, Marvin Yobana, Elvis Asoro, Chief Paul Chukwuma, Suleiman Talba, Risola Abiola, Zahra Danejo Umar and Mac Obi.
Persons with disability include Danjuma Attah, David James Lalu and Jaja Opago while APC coalition support groups will be represented by Lawal Munir and Peter Okoroafor on the national convention committee.
The statement by Izinaso, however, was silent on the timetable for the convention and congresses.
It was also gathered that the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the ruling APC, Mr. Timi Frank might be preparing to throw his hat into the ring for the national chairmanship post in the forthcoming national convention.
Though the decision to seek the chairmanship post has not been made public, THISDAY learnt that the Bayelsa born politician has been meeting with some South-south APC leaders since Monday last week after the NEC meeting of the party.
A competent source who pleaded anonymity said Frank may likely be the candidate of the ‘New PDP’ leaders who joined the APC before the 2015 general election but are today not particularly happy with the trajectory on the APC.
It was also gathered that a forum of young stakeholders within the party has concluded plans to support the candidacy of Frank because “so many young people are disenfranchised under the current leadership”.
The tenure of the current APC NWC comes to an end on June 30, 2018.
Other likely contenders for the chairmanship post include the incumbent Odigie-Oyegun, who is eligible to seek another four years in office, the former governor of Edo State Adams Oshiomhole, former Senate President Ken Nnamani, Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Ogbonnaya Onu, a former governor of Cross River State in the Third Republic, Clement Ebri and an ex-Minister of Petroleum Resources, Chief Don Etiebet.
Meanwhile, the president’s wife, Aisha Buhari on Saturday finally explained why she critiscised her husband in a BBC interview in 2016 and had threatened to withdraw her support for his re-election bid, saying she did so because of her “sense of justice”.
Mrs. Buhari, who spoke at the Vanguard awards ceremony on Saturday night where she was conferred with an award, said it was not her intention to confront or disrespect the president.
Mrs. Buhari drew worldwide attention when she criticised the president in an October 2016 interview with the BBC, saying she feared his administration was veering from its mandate.
She also expressed doubt that she would support him if he seeks re-election unless he implemented immediate changes in personnel and policies.
Buhari responded at the time by telling her to save her opinion of his government and confine herself to the “kitchen or the other room”, sparking criticism and accusations of sexism against the president.
But in her acceptance speech at the Vanguard Awards where she was conferred with the Personality of the Year Award, Mrs. Buhari said she would support his re-election bid.
“One of the reasons adduced for honouring me was the interview I granted which some people saw as criticism to a government that I am part of,” she was quoted as saying in the statement circulated by her media aide Suleiman Haruna.
“I need to state that my position was a result of my sense of justice and not confrontation or disrespect. I was brought up to stand by the truth and this is how I have always been.
“As we are all aware, Nigerians elected this administration based on the trust and confidence they have in my husband.
“I therefore feel that we are here to serve Nigeria to the best of our ability. Let me use this opportunity to state that I support my husband in this call to service and will continue to do so,” she said in her acceptance speech delivered by her daughter Halima.