Buni’s Committee and the Search for Peace in APC

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Mai-Mala Buni

Adedayo Akinwale writes that with the recent dissolution of the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress, the Caretaker Committee led by its Chairman and the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, has been tasked to reconcile aggrieved members of the party

After a protracted leadership crisis within the All Progressives Congress (APC), the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party at an emergency meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari dissolved the National Working Committee (NWC) on the 25th of June, 2020, as part of the steps taken to rescue the soul of the party from the imminent destruction.

In its place, the party constituted a Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee to see to the day-to-day affairs of the party. The committee is headed by the Chairman and the Governor of Yobe state, Mai Mala Buni, Osun state Governor, Isiaka Oyetola, Niger state Governor, Abubakar Bello, Sen. Ken Nnamani, Sen. Abubakar Yusuf, Hon. Akinyemi Olaide, Mrs. Stella Oketete, Dr. James Lulu, Chief David Lyon, Sen. Abba Ali, Prof. Tahir Mamman, Barr. Ismail Ahmed as members and Sen. John Udoedeghe as the Secretary.

The president subsequently urged all aggrieved members who had instituted various cases in the courts to withdraw such cases in the interest of the party.

Since 2015 when the party won the presidential election, it has not been able to manage its success, as the party has been embroiled in one crisis or the other. The internal rancour within the party led to the easing out of office of the former national Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and later saw the popular emergence of the immediate past national chairman of the party, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole.

With Oshiomhole’s emergence, it was the believe of party members that a level of sanity, discipline, party supremacy and peace will be brought to the party.

However, the crisis within the ruling party never abated. Immediately after the 2019 elections, it was the former Deputy National Chairman (North), Lawal Shuaibu who shot the first shot in a-five page letter dated May 27, 2019, when he said the electoral fortunes of the APC had dwindled because of the leadership style of Oshiomhole, whom he accused of conducting the NWC meetings at a private residence instead of the party’s national secretariat.

He had said, “We had 23 states in 2015, but after the 2019 elections we lost seven states! We also had 60 senators in 2015 at the end of the elections; we now end up with 57 senators in 2019! You were not brought in to lose election. It is absolutely unacceptable!.”

One of the major reasons while the crisis that rocked the party festered was mainly because meetings of party organs were not allowed to hold by the NWC to resolve various party crisis.

The Director General of the Progressives Governors Forum, Dr. Salihu Lukman, in one of his numerous statements issued during the party crisis had this to say: “We have party leaders who claimed to be democrats but take every decision in breach of our party’s constitution. Instead of allowing us to express ourselves by allowing organs of our party to function, they impose their position by blocking meetings of our organs. These leaders believe that party supremacy should be about blind loyalty to them. To ensure that is the case they stopped calling meetings of almost all our party’s organs. And anyone who dare challenge them, is branded as someone with either Presidential ambition for 2023 or is supporting someone with that ambition.”

Aside the crisis that rocked the leadership of the party, the state chapters were also hot bed of crisis. For instance, in Ondo state, it is Unity Forum against the incumbent Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu’s faction; in Edo, it was Governor Godwin Obaseki against Oshiomhole; in Kogi, it was Governor Yahaya Bello against the Audu political family faction; in Zamafara, it was former Governor Abdulaziz
Yari against Senator Kabiru Marafa faction; in Osun, it was Oyetola against former Governor Rauf Aregbesola; in Oyo state, it was Adebayo Shittu against Ajimobi, in Rivers State, it is Magnus Abe against Amaechi.

Other states where the state chapters of the party have their own fair share of the crisis included; Bauchi, Bayelsa, Kano, Gombe, Kaduna, Kogi, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Yobe, among others. Though, the ruling party was able to win elections in most of the troubled spots, but it was expected that the leadership of the party should have reigned in and bring the crisis to a close.

But, with the coming on board of the Buni’s Committee saddled with the task of rescuing the party from imminent collapse, party members believed that a breath of fresh air would be experienced in the party.

The chairman of the committee had during the swearing in of the committee members said the decision of NEC to constitute the committee would mark the beginning of a new chapter in the party. He said what happened in the last few months was not totally strange in a big political party like APC, stressing that internal disagreements are common in all political parties and APC was not an exception.

Buni assured that the committee would commence the process of true reconciliation among leaders and members of the party at all levels. He said while change is inevitable, disagreement on issues and concepts are an integral part of human and institutional relationship.

The chairman noted that as a political party built on strong ideology, parading men and women of enduring principle and integrity, the party must prepare for real and anticipated changes and their consequences.

Buni had said: “As the interim managers and leaders of our party, our priority would be the recognition of the need to act appropriately and acceptably in the overall interest of the party. Our actions in the next few months would be proactive and responsive.

“From now onward, we will concentrate on medium and long term development of our strategies and internal organisation to support our public standing as well as our chances of electoral successes in all future elections. This is the time for us to focus with determination to create adaptive institutional capacity to weather the current divisions in our party.”

The committee however wasted no time in marching its words with action when it approved the appointment of the former Senate President, Ken Nnamani and the Governor of Niger State, Abubakar Bello to chair the party’s reconciliation committees for Edo and Ondo States respectively.

It said that their appointments was in line with the process of true reconciliation among leaders and members of the party at all levels.

Edo State Reconciliation Committee includes, Sen. Ken Nnamani as the Chairman, Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola, Fetus Keyamo, Prof. Tahir Mamman, Mrs. Margaret Okadigbo, Mr. Sanusi Musa as members and Hon. Abdul-Rahman Sumaila as Secretary.

While Ondo State reconciliation Committee included Abubakar Bello as Chairman, Sen. Adamu Aliero, Sen. Bamidele Opeyemi, Gambon Magaji, Mr. Jasper Azuwatalum, Hajiya Binta Muazu, Hon. Iquo Inyang and Mr. Shina Pellar as the Secretary.

A member of the party, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, has however demanded an amendment to the constitution of the ruling party, and also called for an Administrative Tribunal to be set up to hear and determine any grievance of any aggrieved member of the party.

The Constitutional lawyer who was recently appointed as the Secretary of the Appeal Committee for Edo State Governorship primary election, said that it was unfair to castigate members of political party for trying to vent their grievances in a court of competent jurisdiction where there is no adequate provision and procedures in the party’s Constitution.

Ajulo, in a letter dated July 1, 2020, addressed to President Buhari, the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the Chairman of the Committee, reminded the party of the harms that are caused when meritorious claims go unaddressed due to systematic inequalities or lack of adequate mechanisms for members of the party to vent their grievances.

Ajulo had stated in the letter: ”While acknowledging Mr. President’s recommendations and the decision of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party to dissolve the National Working Committee (NWC) and approving the immediate discontinuation of all pending litigations involving the party and its members, Your Excellency, I am inclined to admonish that castigating members of political party for trying to vent their grievances in a court of competent jurisdiction where there is no adequate provision and procedures in the party’s Constitution is unfair and amount to an unjust denial of fair hearing.”

”It is thereby recommended that there should be an amendment of the party’s Constitution and an Administrative Tribunal should be set up to hear and determine any grievance of any aggrieved member of the party. Members of such Tribunal should include past judicial officers, Arbitrators and Political technocrats who are without any political bias.”

It is worthy to note that this is not be the first time the party is setting up committees to reconcile aggrieved party members. Immediately after the 2019 elections, Tinubu was tasked by the president to reconcile aggrieved party members. Despite being a founding member of the party, the National Leader of APC failed pitifully in that assignment.

Also, in December 2019, the NWC said after due consultation, it has appointed a high-level 10-member National Reconciliation Committee chaired by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, to reconcile aggrieved members of the party.

The party said the appointment of the committee was in line with the November 22, 2019 resolution of the party’s NEC. Other members of the committee were; Interim APC national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande (Vice Chairman), Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon.Idris Wase, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, Senator Kashim Shettima; Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor; Alh. Nasiru Aliko Koki, Senator Khairat Gwadabe-Abdulrazak, Senator Binta Garba and Senator John Enoh as secretary. The committee was empowered to address the grievances of party members and resolve existing conflicts, all with a view to fostering unity and oneness within the party.

Nevertheless, some members of the committee were fiercely opposed and another reconciliation move started on a shaky note. Governor Obaseki, in his reaction faulted the development and accused Lawan and Wase, of playing a prominent role in the crisis rocking the Edo APC.

Against this background, Obaseki rejected the arrangement and vowed not to recognise it until the party substituted those he complained about. This forced the party leadership to reconstitute the committee with Akande, who was to serve as the vice chairman of the “rejected” reconciliatory team, appointed as chairman, to replace Lawan in the new team.

The Oshiomhole-Obaseki fiasco, which had hitherto been a local affairs later snowballed to become the epicentre when in March this year, when a Federal High Court in Abuja suspended the party chairman. The court order was based on his earlier suspension by the APC leadership in his ward in Edo State, which apparently was instigated by Obaseki.

After the ruling party decided to obey the court order, the the former Deputy National Secretary, Mr. Victor Giadom, with the support of a faction of the NWC took over the APC leadership and subsequently called for an emergency NEC meeting.

The meeting it was believed would have decided the fate of Oshiomhole, but was later adjourned indefinitely on March 16 by President Muhammadu Buhari, but not until after Tinubu had issued a public statement, knocking those pushing for the chairman’s removal.

The crisis rocking the party reached it climax when the Appeal Court upheld the suspension of Oshiomhole. This further threw the ruling party into turmoil as four different NWC members lay claim to the chairmanship position. While the NWC appointed late Sen. Abiola Ajimobi as the acting national chairman, Giadom claimed to be the authentic acting national chairman based on court order, while the former Vice Chairman (South-south), Hilliard Eta acted when Ajimobi was battling Coronavirus.

The presidency tactically sided with Giadom and backed his call for an emergency NEC meeting, which laterlater turnedtturnedto be the end of the era of the Oshiomhole led NWC.

As part of the reconciliatory moves, Buni-led committee train last week berthed in Lagos, where it met with Tinubu who declared that there was no differences to be sorted out in the party.

Tinubu had said: “There is no crisis in the party, hence, no fight to reconcile. We have no differences to be sorted out in the APC; we just had consultation and it is how our party, the APC, would continue to be a progressive party. There are instances when you disagree, but it doesn’t mean that you cannot discuss it over and be a good example in leadership and politics.”

Bearing in mind that both Tinubu and Akande had failed to reconcile aggrieved members of the party in the past, the question on the lips of many is whether the Buni-led committee would be able to truly reconcile all aggrieved members and bring a level of sanity and peace into the ruling party.

QUOTE

Since 2015 when the party won the presidential election, it has not been able to manage its success, as the party has been embroiled in one crisis or the other. The internal rancour within the party led to the easing out of office of the former national Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and later saw the popular emergence of the immediate past national chairman of the party, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole. With Oshiomhole’s emergence, it was the believe of party members that a level of sanity, discipline, party supremacy and peace will be brought to the party