The ongoing intrigues in the ruling All Progressives Congress promise to make its planned National Convention a tough one that may test the party’s unity, writes Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Finally, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has settled for an elective national convention. The national leadership of the party, last week, released an approved list of activities leading to its national convention scheduled for May 14. It also laid to rest intrigues and speculations over who is to head the convention organising committee.
An approved schedule of activities made public last Wednesday by the National Organising Secretary, Osita Izunaso, fixed the national convention for May 14. The party said the process leading to the exercise would start with the ward congress on Wednesday, May 2nd, followed by local government congress on Saturday, May 5 and state congress on Wednesday, May 9, ending up with the National Convention on May 14.
Just before it came up with date for the national convention, the ruling party had earlier announced a 68-member national convention planning committee headed by the Jigawa State Governor, Mohammed Badaru.
The list had the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, as vice chairman, and Senator Ben Uwajumogu as secretary. Other members include Senator Ken Nnamani, Governors Rochas Okorocha, Kashim Shettima, Aminu Masari, Abiola Ajimobi, Ibrahim Gaidam, Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, Simon Lalong, Bindow M.U. Jibrilla, Yahaya Bello and Godwin Obaseki.
Also in the committee are Senators Ahmed Yerima, Adamu Aliero, Danjuma Goje, Abdullahi Adamu, George Akume, Chris Ngige and Ibrahim Gobir, Danjuma Attah and Ovie Omo Agege.
But before the organising secretary issued the schedule of activities, a letter written by the National Secretary, Mala Buni, to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which contained the convention date as well as the dates for various congresses, had been leaked to the media.
In the letter to INEC dated April 9, and signed by Buni, a copy of which THISDAY obtained, the party said it was notifying the electoral body in compliance with the law.
The leakage of INEC’s notification letter showed that there were still divergent forces in the party seeking to outwit each other. The interest groups include those who preferred the elongation of tenure of the current leadership of the party and the other group, who are stoutly opposed to it and who are ready to do anything possible to ensure their ouster through an elective national convention.
Perhaps, it was this group that are bent on having fresh electoral contest to decide who leads the party for the next four years that was behind the rush to publicise the timetable for congresses and convention. It is correct to infer that the ruling party has not yet recovered from the sharp division arising from the clash of interests by various political gladiators in APC.
Despite the pretence to the contrary, the intriguing battle for the control of party structure is yet to abate. What happened was that after the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari to resolve the logjam over leadership succession plan, these individuals have regrouped and are mapping out strategies to achieve their targets.
The party had decided at its reconvened NEC meeting in March to reverse its position on tenure elongation and to go with the president’s advice to hold an elective convention as a way of avoiding litigations and getting suits filed by members withdrawn.
In reaching the truce, the party adopted some proposals including an aspect that granted waiver to incumbent party executives not to resign before putting themselves forward to re-election as stipulated in the APC constitution.
Another aspect of the resolution reached at the last National Executive Committee meeting of the party states that: “If for reasons of inability to fulfil constitutional or legal conditions requisite for the conduct of a valid elective congress or convention, then the party may as a last resort leverage on the NEC resolution of February 27, 2018 which in our view is lawful in the circumstance”.
While this may sound very good alibi to avoid running into constitutional crisis as a result of time constraint, some of the APC stakeholders saw the resolution as a ploy to smuggle tenure elongation back into contention.
As if to give credence to these fears, there was a report last week which said the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and other members of his executive were planning a strategy to secure a new tenure by affirmation at the party’s convention on May 14. According to the report, the new plan is to push for a convention by affirmation and not election.
The plan is to ensure that executives at all levels retain their positions by affirmation. At a meeting of the North-central zone of the party held last weekend in Plateau, Jos, at the office of the Plateau State Governor, Lalong, some loyalists of Oyegun allegedly pushed the suggestion that the election be by affirmation.
Another danger sign on the way to the APC convention is that those who took the party to court on account of the tenure elongation were yet to withdraw their cases. Considering the short time frame, it is unlikely that the ruling party will witness a robust and competitive campaign that is expected of a party of its size and status.
Curiously, however, less than three weeks to the convention, activities are yet to pick up as it concerns aspirants to various elective offices in the party. Although some names are already being canvassed for the office of the national chairman, including that of a former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, and his Cross River State counterpart, Clement Ebri, including Oyegun himself, none has yet come out openly to declare such intention.
As it is, the convention is not an end in itself but rather, a controversial means to an uncertain end. But whatever it is, whether by affirmation or election, the proposed national convention of the APC is already a make or mar exercise and certainly, a major precursor to the elections of next year.