•Buni denies tenure elongation plot
•Secures Buhari’s backing for fresh membership registration
By Iyobosa Uwugiaren and Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is heading for another round of crisis as power blocs in the party are prepped for a fight over alleged subterranean plots to extend the tenure of the National Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee.
The caretaker committee, chaired by Yobe State Governor, Alhaji Mai Mala Buni, was set up in June, after the dissolution of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), led by a former Edo State Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, with a six-month mandate to reform the party and conduct a national convention to birth a new leadership.
However, about seven weeks to the end of its tenure, the caretaker committee is far from achieving the task, triggering speculations that it is plotting to seek approval from the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party for the elongation of its tenure beyond December.
But in a swift reaction, Buni described the allegation of planned tenure elongation as false, saying that the committee comprises three governors who are not seeking for new jobs.
The committee also yesterday secured the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari to commence fresh registration of new party members.
The APC NEC, presided over by Buhari, had dissolved the NWC and set up the caretaker committee to arrest a power tussle caused by the suspension of Oshiomhole.
But tension started building up some weeks back, when powerful forces within the party accused the caretaker committee of an attempt to elongate its tenure. And as if confirming the fears of these forces, the committee recently started nationwide membership registration expected to drag till next year, an action some leaders of the party described as ‘’questionable strategy’’ for tenure elongation. A member of the caretaker committee told THISDAY in Abuja yesterday that Buni and his members may have succumbed to pressure and now planning the party’s NEC before the end of December in order to seek for extension of their tenure to enable them to finish their task, especially the membership registration.
However, different sources told THISDAY that Buni-led group within the party will meet strong resistance at the NEC meeting over their plot.
‘’It is either we push for total dissolution of the national caretaker committee or one-month timetable will be designed – within which a national convention will be organised for us to elect new members of the National Working Committee of the party.
‘’Buni and his cronies have proved to us that they have a different agenda outside the assignment that was given to the committee a few months ago. Many of our leaders and members no longer have confidence in Buni-led committee,’’ the member of the committee said.
The source added that Buni was until recently behaving like a sole administrator of APC until it became clear to him that he will not go far with his dictatorial tendencies.
Also, another source within the party, suspected to be loyal to the National Leader of APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, and some APC governors, said yesterday that the committee had outlived its usefulness and should go after its tenure by December.
The spokesperson for Concerned APC Members, a pressure group in the party, Mr. Abdullahi Dauda, told THISDAY that the duration given for the committee is six months while the two major assignment given to them are to reconcile aggrieved members and organise a convention by December.
‘’There is nobody, again, I repeat it, nobody has the power or mandate to extend their tenure. Even the mandate given to them was a violation of Article 17(4) of our party’s constitution.
‘’There is no way Mai Mala Buni should be the chairman because he is already the governor of Yobe State. But we respect Mr. President who appointed the 13-man committee,’’ Dauda stated.
Also, former local government chairmen on the platform of the APC asked the party members to resist the tenure elongation bid of the committee.
The group, under the aegis of the National Association of the former Elected Local Government Chairmen, made the request yesterday at a news conference in Sokoto.
Led by its National President, Alhaji Ibrahim Haske, the group said it was forced at this time to express the fears of members about what he described as the unfortunate state of affairs of the party.
“We have no doubt that you would all agree with us that the ruling APC currently tethers on the precipice of disintegration if urgent care and caution are not taken.
“The bitter truth and reality in APC now is while President Muhammadu Buhari is busy working for change, fifth columnists are busy working for their selfish ends.
“They do not care whether the APC disintegrates or not as long as their gluttonous nests are feathered,” he said.
The group explained that when the caretaker committee assumed office on June 25, party members accepted the strange arrangement as a result of respect for the president.
The group added: “But unfortunately to our amazement, it began to play the script of the so-called cabal in the party, instead of uniting various entities in the party, the committee is doing the opposite.
“The Edo State crisis is a case in point. The interim caretaker committee inexplicably became a lame-duck unable to foster unity within the party.
“Indeed, instead of supporting the candidate of the party in the governorship election, the committee allegedly gave full support to the opposition. This led to the disastrous outing of the party in the governorship election. We stand corrected.”
The group urged the president to be wary of deceitful leaders who might want to advise him wrongly on the state of affairs in the APC.
Buni Denies Tenure Elongation Plot, Gets Buhari’s Nod on Membership Drive
The committee, however, yesterday secured the backing of Buhari to commence fresh registration of new party members. It also described as false the accusation that it was planning to elongate its tenure.
The presidential backing followed the presentation of the timetable for the registration to the president at the State House by Buni.
Other members of the committee present at the meeting were governors of Kebbi and Jigawa States, Senator Atiku Bagudu and Alhaji Abubakar Badaru, as well as the committee Secretary, Senator Akpan Udoedehe.
Briefing reporters after the committee’s meeting with the president, Buni said following the presidential nod, sensitisation campaign, which he said would herald the registration of new members would kick off immediately.
Buni highlighted how the exercise would be conducted, citing the party’s constitutional provisions backing up the membership registration.
He said: “It’s to consult with him (Buhari) on the process of the membership registration. As from today, we are commencing with sensitisation. Thereafter, it will culminate into membership registration across over 119,000 polling units in the country. It is part of our mandate as bestowed on us by the National Executive Committee to rebuild this party bottom up.
“I have to read the section of the APC Constitution to you to clearly understand where we are coming from. In accordance with Section 9 (4) of the Constitution of the All Progressives Congress (October 2014 as Amended), the Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee consulted all stakeholders and have organised for membership registration.
“The said Section 9(4) provides as follows: ‘A register of members shall be compiled and maintained at the ward level and be transmitted to the secretariat of the party at the local government area, which shall transmit a copy to the state headquarters, national secretariat. Provided that the party shall update its membership records every six months and remit updated copies to appropriate secretariats. Thereafter, it shall be the responsibility of a member to ensure that his or her name is duly entered in the ward register.’
“So, this is the constitutional provision of our party in line with our membership registration.”
Asked to react to allegations by some party members who have accused the committee of seeking to extend tenure, Buni said the accusation was wrong because the committee comprised three governors whom he said were not job seekers.
According to him, it is the NEC of APC, which constituted the committee, that would decide whether the committee’s duration of operations would be extended or not.
“You are all aware. We have three sitting governors in the committee and you should know that none of the governors is seeking for a job. Already, we have a job. But we have to sacrifice to ensure that we reposition the party. So, anybody who is thinking that maybe we are job seekers is wrong.
“We are not job seekers. We are here to reposition and reunite our party so that we have a party we can all be proud of. This is our mandate and we are ready to discharge our mandate. That (tenure elongation) is left for NEC of the party to decide. It is not me or caretaker committee to decide.
We are operating within the limit of our assignment because NEC of the party said we must rebuild the party bottom up….So, it is not for us to say that we are extending (the duration),” he stated.
However, Bagudu said the NEC did not set a date for the conduct of the national convention as he denied the intention of the committee to extend its tenure.
He said: “You may also recall that two days before the caretaker committee was saddled with the responsibility of leading the party, the party lost a serving governor to the opposition.
“So, the chairman (caretaker committee) came at the time when the morale was weak, but the committee worked so hard, including the winning of the Ondo State gubernatorial election, with the reconciliation of members and the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting that ushered in the caretaker committee did not give a definite date.
“We are conscious that these assignments will unfold and intervening circumstances across the country have made it more difficult, but certainly they (members) are not people that are seeking for appointments or seeking to stay, particularly the chairman.”