Events of the last few days have shown that the June deadline for the National Caretaker/ExtraOrdinary Convention Planning Committee of the All Progressives Congress to conduct congresses and organise a national convention is no longer feasible, Adedayo Akinwale writes
Members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) who still believe that the National Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee led by the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni will conduct the party’s congresses and also the national convention of the party in June as initially scheduled should better have a rethink.
This is because events of the past few weeks and the additional three weeks extension of the party’s membership registration and revalidation exercise, which was supposed to end on March 31, as well as the permutations ahead of the 2023 presidential election have shown that the Caretaker Committee would seek another six months extension for it to complete its assignment.
Caretaker committee plans another six months extension
It is believed that another six months extension which the Caretaker Committee is planning to seek from the party will end in December 2021 when the party will finally conduct its convention.
Fortunately for the Caretaker Committee, some APC governors are fighting tooth and nail to gain control of the party structure in their respective states and they will not oppose the idea. Also, APC caretaker chairmen in the states who are under the direct control of the governors are also in the league as the plot to seek another six months extension thickens.
The Caretaker committee which came into being last year after the sack of the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) was mandated to reconcile the aggrieved members of the party and also conduct the party’s national convention to usher in a new NWC of the party.
Rather, the Caretaker Committee has further ventured into tasks that were not part of its mandate when it was inaugurated by the National Executive Council (NEC) of the party. The ongoing registration and revalidation exercise and the inauguration of the constitution review committee of the party are perfect examples.
When the party leadership inaugurated an eight-man committee last month to review the party’s constitution, some members of the party knew it was part of the committee’s ploy to seek another six months extension and perpetuate itself in office.
With the constitution review committee in place, aggrieved leaders claimed that it was a pointer “to the extension of the tenure of the caretaker committee,” which they argued would create a constitutional crisis for the party.
APC extends registration/ revalidation exercise
However, after the initial dilly-dally, the party leadership for the second time extended its ongoing membership registration/revalidation and update exercise for three weeks.
The National Secretary of the Committee, Sen. John Akpanudoedehe, in a statement said the audit of the reports received from the National Membership Registration, Revalidation and Update Committee; the States’ Registration Committees; and that of the party situation room indicated that most states, for varied reasons, started late and require additional time to conclude the exercise.
He added that the party’s decision was also sequel to the avalanche of applications from critical stakeholders including all states Caretaker Chairmen for an extension of time to capture Nigerians who are still desirous of joining the fold of the progressives.
Akpanudoedehe stated: “The Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee under the leadership of Hon. Mai Mala Buni had done everything possible to keep to the earlier timeline, however, it has become imperative to extend the duration of this very important party activity.
“Consequently, the committee has approved the recommendation of the National Committee for the Membership Registration, Revalidation and Update to extend the duration of the exercise for three weeks.”
Akpanudoedehe had in an interview with THISDAY hinted that the national convention may not hold as planned in June, because the party is not in a hurry to hold the national convention, as rushing into its congresses could lead to mistakes and fuel litigations and factionalisation.
However, he stated that while the committee would strive to keep to the June deadline for the national convention, to mark the conclusion of its assignments, it would not hesitate to approach the NEC of the party for a tenure extension should plans to hold the national convention as scheduled fall through.
The Secretary added that the committee would not release the timetable for the party’s congresses until the nationwide registration and revalidation of members are concluded.
He said, “The caretaker committee, headed by Governor of Yobe State, Mr. Mai Mala Buni, is waiting for the conclusion of the revalidation/registration of members exercise by the state chapters of the party before planning for the convention.
“We will do everything humanly possible to meet the deadline. We are not liars to Nigerians. If we have a need to do anything, we will go to the National Executive Committee (NEC); it is not a public matter.
“I’m asking you a simple question, if we are going to conduct congresses, what are we going to use to conduct congresses? The materials must come; we must have a database in the party to sort out those things.”
“We will do what we say we will do. If we are going to extend, we will go to NEC and we will extend it; there is nothing you can do about it. If we are not extending, why are you pre-empting that we are extending when we are not?”
“When you are doing congresses, what are you going to use for congresses? Is it not the registration? Allow them to return the materials. We will look at the materials; don’t forget we are going to print membership cards. When we print the membership cards, we will give them to the people. So, when you go, you know who you are going to vote for. Then we will elect officers,” he said.
Akpanudoedehe said those spreading the rumour that the committee was seeking to elongate its tenure have lost out.
According to him, “They lost out. Everyone that is on this committee is busy. With due respect, we are rich men. The governor does not live on the money of the party. All the committee members – we don’t take salary; we take sitting allowance. Everyone here is healthy on his own; they are employed; you can go and check.”
Hope for June convention fades
But as part of the politicking in the party to ensure that the June deadline given to the Committee to complete its assignment is not realizable, a highly placed source told THISDAY the committee will ensure that the data and provided by members were verified by the party after the exercise has been concluded.
The source said: “This committee wants everybody to see, even the doubting Thomases, the most extreme critics will see that what we are doing is real. Talking about thirty something million people and you have to verify whether it is real. You have to check the NIN number, you have to check the fingerprints, you have to check if the INEC card they have given is real, that is what we are talking about here. Never in the history of this party will you be sure that these are your members.”
“You don’t expect us to come and lie, if we have need to extend, we will go to the public and give them the reason to do that. Meanwhile, we will keep the deadline of June.”
How 2023 permutations delays APC conventions
Investigations reveal that while party members have been looking forward to a National Convention to produce new party leaders in June, some forces in the party are perfecting plans to give another lifeline to the Buni Committee.
It was learnt that the tenure extension plot will begin with the approval of additional extension for the ongoing membership registration and revalidation.
The idea of dragging membership registration and revalidation for additional few weeks was hatched by some party leaders and a few APC governors to hijack the party’s structure ahead of the primaries for the 2023 general election.
Investigation further revealed that some of the forces have recruited loyal state APC chairmen, to work for the extension of membership registration.
The source said: “Some governors have subscribed to both the extension of membership registration and tenure elongation for the Caretaker Committee. What some governors are saying is that a National Convention in June may expose APC too early on its zoning formula for 2023. They said the opposition parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may easily read through APC permutations for the next general election.
“A few governors, who are not controlling the party’s structure in their states, are also seeking the extension of membership registration to consolidate their grip on the party and isolate their opponents. So, there is a bigger picture behind the extension of the registration of membership.
”It is not APC members that are really calling for it. The calculation is to extend the registration of members and leave it to snowball into tenure elongation for the Buni Committee. If the tenure of the caretaker committee is extended till December or January 2022, it will put some politicians in a tight corner.”
Nevertheless, investigation further revealed that some governors do not want either the extension of the registration or tenure elongation for Buni Committee but they are afraid of coming out to confront the Caretaker Committee.
A former NWC member said these category of governors cannot air their views because they are afraid that they might lose the support of the Caretaker Committee.
According to him, Some of them do not want to lose the opportunity for a second term in office or a shot at another political office after the second term.
APC State Chairmen Call for Conduct of Congresses, Convention
Meanwhile, the Forum of APC State Chairmen has called for the immediate conduct of congresses and convening of the national convention after the conduct and conclusion of the membership revalidation and registration exercise of the party.
The Chairman of the Forum and APC Chairman in Borno State, Hon. Ali Dalori, stated this while addressing a press conference alongside other state chairmen in Abuja.
He said the ongoing exercise has tremendously increased the membership base of the party since the exercise began and has continued to increase as the exercise progresses.
Dalori stated: “After the conduct and conclusion of membership registration/revalidation exercise we urgently call for the immediate conduct of congresses and convening of the national convention; and to allow for the completion of all other tasks assigned to the committee by NEC within the time frame.”
He noted that the ruling party has seen tremendous turnout of Nigerians and the mass increase in the party strength in the last few months.
The forum stressed that it was only proper that the party allows the exercise to progress to the best of conclusion.
It said immediately after the commencement of the exercise, members saw the need for an extension to accommodate the second stage of the exercise in view of the mass turnout of Nigerians to associate with the party that was not duly prepared for.
The forum added that having reviewed the development and making arrangements for requisite materials to accommodate all into the fold of the party, hence, the need for further extension has logically arisen.
Dalori noted: “Due to logistics bottleneck and the complexity of the distribution process of registration materials, a number of State only received the materials to commence the second phase of the registration exercise not too long ago, and we therefore not be able to meet up with the reviewed schedule timetable of the exercise without denying so many willing citizens the opportunity to join with the party.”
The forum pointed out that the exercise so far has provided a prelude to what is to be expected in all future elections in Nigeria.
It stressed that with the turnout of Nigerians to identify with the party, it was certain that the trust of Nigerians in the party remain unwavered and just like projected, we will continue into the next decades to provide the needed leadership to the country as the party in power, not only at the center but in almost all the states of the federation.
PGF DG cautions against extension Caretaker Committee’s tenure
Meanwhile, the Director General of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Dr. Salihu Lukman, has warned the Caretaker Committee of APC not to abuse the confidence of President Muhammadu Buhari by delaying the National Convention of the party beyond June 2021.
He added that under no circumstances should there be any contemplation of extending the tenure of the Caretaker Committee.
Lukman said all party members and leaders should prioritise ensuring that the Caretaker Committee is able to complete the task of organising a National Convention where new leaders of the party would be elected.
He noted that APC is the only party where contestation is taking place and leaders recognise the challenges facing the party. He added that If democracy is about contestation, with all its problems, APC represents the hope for a democratic Nigeria.
Lukman stated: “For that to become reality, APC must pass all its litmus tests. A strong pillar, which is the catalysing element for the party to be able to pass all its litmus tests is the liberal leadership of President Buhari, based on which he doesn’t interfere in the management of the party. The Caretaker Committee must not abuse the President’s confidence by delaying the National Convention of the party. No party in Nigeria has the liberal atmosphere provided in APC.”
“Whether APC will be able to pass all its litmus tests will depend a lot on whether the Caretaker Committee is committed to finishing its assignment by June 2021. Even if it is able to complete the assignment, processes of internal negotiation to produce leaders of the party, the character and capacity of the new leadership, as well as the scope of membership participation during congresses and national convention, will be determining factors of whether the party is conforming to both democratic principles and progressive ideals.”
The Director General lamented that for more than nine months, the Caretaker Committee has not convened any meeting of any organ of the APC apart from the emergency NEC meeting of December 8, 2020, adding that even the 13-member Caretaker Committee is hardly meeting.
He said part of the indication was that most decisions taken by the Caretaker Committee were done by the Chairman and the Secretary, Sen. John Akpanudoedehe.
According to him, Already, given that the party’s membership registration/revalidation exercise was done based on the old analogue method without applying modern virtual technology, what is the guarantee that the process of leadership reformation in the party, from ward congresses up to National Convention, will be done based on the new register? Will all members of the party be able to participate in the process of electing leaders of the party at all levels?
Lukman stated categorically that the needless extension of the registration and revalidation exercise of the party only serves to strengthen suspicions that the Caretaker Committee is reluctant to organise a national Clconvention where new leadership of the party would be elected.
He noted that based on what has been done so far, the minimum requirement should be that records of members of the party are displayed in all wards and copies made available to local governments, states and national secretariat.
Lukman stressed that with membership records displayed, timetables for congresses and national convention should be set.
He added: “Under no circumstances should there be any contemplation of extending the tenure of the Caretaker Committee. In order to ensure that no extension is being considered, committees for congresses and national convention should be established without any further delay. Similarly, the dates for congresses and national convention should be decided.”
Lukman noted that once that is done, negotiation and campaigns for the emergence of party leadership at all levels can commence.
He said under no circumstance, should anyone who has declared opposition to any of the power blocs be considered as either a National Chairman or National Secretary, adding that no one with any form of subsidiary ambition to contest for any elective post be considered for any of the national offices.
Though Lukman as the DG of PGF always cautions the governors whenever they step out of line, but with all the signs that are so glaring, a further six months tenure elongation for the Caretaker Committee is only a matter of time and the earliest the party is likely to conduct its congresses and convention is December.