The controversy over the delay in conducting national convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to elect a national chairman and members of the National Working Committee (NWC) has taken a deeper crisis dimension, with party stakeholders indicating that their patience is now at an end.
Fueling the crisis further is the recent declarations made by presidential hopefuls of their intention to run for the 2023 presidential race, a development most party faithful believe is inimical to a party that is yet to put its house together.
This paper had last week reported exclusively that the party leadership had planned to push the date forward to a time when it would be appropriate for it to simultaneously conduct national a convention that would produce new national chairman of the party and members of the NWC and a presidential candidate at the same time.
But party leaders, including governors elected on the party’s platform, were upstaged and ran from pillar to post when President Muhammadu Buhari, in an interview with the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), cautioned APC leaders to put their house in order if they must retain power in next year’s general elections.
Buhari warned against the persistent differences, disunity, and lack of agreement, which he said could put the party in jeopardy during the election and pave way for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to reclaim the presidency in 2023.
The president’s stance, LEADERSHIP learnt, has emboldened most party stakeholders who now openly registering their displeasure over the delay in holding the national convention as earlier planned.
The Mai Mala Buni-led caretaker committee on Wednesday dismissed as ‘fake news’ reports that the party had suspended process of its national convention till June 2022, stating however that its immediate task was to address and resolve contestations within the party, including litigations, fallouts of recently-conducted congresses, and generally reposition the party ahead of the national convention.
But addressing the party leadership, director general of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Moh Lukman, yesterday warned against delay in conducting the national convention, saying the electoral prospect of the party will continue to weaken if the party members allow the caretaker committee to continue to hold everyone captive.
Noting that delaying the convention beyond February date would further weaken the chances of the ruling party to win future elections, the APC chieftain implored APC members to take the issue of leadership recruitment beyond the question of loyalty.
He asked the Buni committee to stop claiming that it was waiting for the meeting of Progressive Governors Forum before taking “all the necessary decisions to commence the process of organising the Convention.
“Such a claim is not only dishonest but also amounts to taking the support of Progressive Governors for granted, which is why Progressive Governors have been reduced to punching bags of all party members regarding all the challenges facing the party,” he noted.
In a statement he issued yesterday, Lukman pointedly stated that the national caretaker committee would be demonstrating that its “new objective is probably to take APC to its political grave” if it shifts the national convention again, adding that “this should not be acceptable!”
He stated: “Unless the CECPC has given itself the new responsibility of being the political and electoral undertaker of the APC, it must stop promoting some subversive campaigns suggesting that it is undertaking ‘the immediate task of addressing contestations within the Party, litigations, fallouts of recently conducted Congresses and generally reposition the Party ahead of the National Convention.’
“The more the party continues to allow the leadership of the CECPC to continue to hold everyone captive and refuse to commence the process of organising the February APC National Convention, the more party leaders would have supported the CECPC in weakening the electoral prospect of the APC. Largely on account of delaying the implementation of decision to organise the February APC National Convention, there is hardly any internal party preparation for the 2023 electoral contest beyond individual leaders declaring their personal aspirations for offices.
“Without any prejudice to the aspirations of leaders, it is important that the party is able to set some minimum standards for the 2023 campaigns so that individual aspirants can orient their internal party mobilisation around those minimum standards. APC must not make the mistake of orienting its internal party mobilisation for the emergence of candidates for 2023 elections, especially Presidential Candidate only based on personality contest.
“Personality contests will only weaken the APC and undermine the capacity of the party to link its 2023 electoral contest with the achievements of the party, especially the Federal Government led by President Buhari. Once that is the case, the party will be strengthening the false opposition narrative about the failure of APC and President Buhari.”
The PGF DG warned that the APC must take all the necessary steps to correct the false narrative of failure on its part and President Buhari if it really wants to unassailably win the 2023 general election.
This, he said, can only be possible if leaders and members of the party rise to the challenge of ensuring that the caretaker committee devotedly implements the decision to organise the APC national convention in February this year.
Lukman made recommendations for party leaders to adopt as minutest guiding principles to determine the qualification of potential party leaders, especially the National Chairman.
He continued: “Any potential candidate must have good relations with party leaders at national level, especially President Buhari. The candidate must also have good relations with all party leaders in his/her state, including the Governor, where there is an APC government.
“It should be a strong advantage when the aspiring person has played any role during the merger negotiation that produced APC and has been consistent in the party since 2013. This means such a person would have the needed institutional memory to recognise and respect sacrifices made by party leaders and members to make the merger that produced the APC successful.
“It should be a strong disadvantage when any aspiring candidate has records of defection from the party or any of the legacy parties that merged to form the APC.
“Finally, public service experience will not only be an advantage but a measure of determining the democratic credentials of the candidate. Any candidate with public service experience at whatever level without incontestable records of achievements, such a person cannot inspire any party member and by extension Nigerians into believing that his/her leadership can bring any good electoral fortune for the party.”
The PGF boss, however, declared that the first challenge was to ensure that the CECPC has no option but to organise the APC national convention in February 2022 as decided based on all the consultations that have taken place.
“The CECPC must be told that all consultations about organising the Convention ended with the meeting with President Buhari on November 22, 2021 and therefore the CECPC leadership should stop lying to Nigerians and APC members.”
Our Presidential Aspirants Are Selfish – Stakeholders
Also, stakeholders of the APC chided some of the party’s presidential aspirants for declaring interest in the 2023 presidential election at a time the party is struggling to put its house together.
The stakeholders under the auspices of APC Rebirth Group said there has to be a party first before talking of personal ambition.
National leader of the APC and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had on Monday indicated interest to run for the 2023 presidential race.
Barely 24 hours after Tinubu made his intention public at the presidential villa, Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi and Senate chief whip and former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, followed suit on Tuesday, by declared their 2023 presidential ambition at the same presidential villa.
But APC Rebirth Group said with APC tottering as a weak party as it is at the moment, such presidential declarations are dead on arrival.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Friday last night, spokesman of the APC stakeholders, Engr Aliyu Audu, noted that even though the aspirants are at liberty to indicate their interest to contest the 2023 presidency, the very platform they are using to actualize their ambitions is riddled with glaring challenges that are existential threat ahead of the 2023 general elections.
He said, “While events of the past have vindicated all of the concerns we raised, it is to our dismay that majority of the party leaders kept mute over all that was happening in the party, and when some of them finally decided to speak, it was only to announce their personal ambition of wanting to become the Presidential flagbearer of the party.
“We have all along hoped that many of the party leaders would break their odious silence on what was appearing like a deliberate plan to turn the APC into an exclusive club of few individuals who have continued to do as they pleas with the party, ignoring every plea for retrospection and a return to the foundational principles that was the attraction for many Nigerians who have all along supported the Party in the hope that the members would play a different brand of politics.
“If the leaders have been in slumber all these while, you would expect that the public acknowledgment of President Muhammadu Buhari of the crisis in the party and his warning of a possible loss to the opposition if things continue the way they are, will ideally jolt everyone from their sleep.
“Instead, silence has continued and campaigns for the highest office have begun. We want to put it on record that their silence is no longer golden. The Party must be returned to the right path, and the earlier our leaders speak out about these issues, the earlier and better for not only the success of the party, but also their ambitions.
“It is for this concern, that we call on these aspirants that have so declared their intention to pursue their individual ambitions and also those who are yet to do so, to join us in the all-important task of ensuring that our Party is secured and returned to the path of progressive idealism which was the foundation of this great Party.
“In our opinion, the first and probably the most important task at this point, is to ensure that the Party is not caught up in a potential risk of floodgate of litigation and disenchantment from members that may likely jeopardize the chances of the Party, and this huge risk can only be mitigated by ensuring the speedy conduct of the convention which will birth a risk free and legitimate Party officials”.
Igbo Presidency Won’t Divide Nigeria – Umahi
Meanwhile, Ebonyi State governor, Chief David Umahi, has asked other ethic nationalities in the country not to be afraid of an Igbo president, saying insinuations that an Igbo president will divide the country is most unrealistic, not feasible and impossible.
He also assured Ebonyi people that his presidential ambition will not affect the ongoing projects in the state, adding that there is no project in the state that will be delayed.
“Even if am campaigning I will ensure that all projects continuous to progress,” he noted.
Governor Umahi made the declaration at the Christian Ecumenical Centre Abakaliki after returning from the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja where he notified President Muhammadu Buhari of his intention to contest for the president in 2023.
He was received at the Ecumenical Centre by the leadership of the APC, National and State Assembly members, Traditional rulers, founding fathers, clergy men, youths, civil society groups, market women among others.
Governor Umahi who assured that Nigeria is a possibility maintained that as president of the country, he will replicate his infrastructural achievement in Ebonyi State in all the zones of the country.
“As President of Nigeria, I will fight corruption to a standstill. Nigeria is a possibility and I will replicate my achievements in Ebonyi State”, he stated.
The chairman South East Governor’s Forum insisted that power belongs to God only, adding that no man can achieve power and political position with money, exposure and strength but through only God.
He said that he has been receiving series of calls from notable Nigerians from all the zones of the country, pointing out that from the calls so far received, he has once more been reassured and encouraged to work towards achieving the ambition.
“Since after I informed Mr President of my intention to run for the president of the country, I have been receiving calls from notable Nigerians from the North and South and the calls have been commendable”, he noted.
Governor Umahi hinted that President Buhari will visit the state in March this year, noting that the visit will change the fortunes of the state.
On the agitation by Indigenous People of Biafra IPOB, Governor Umahi said that he appealed to the president to consider a political solution to the problem.
He warned against those working towards destabilization of the South East region, adding that the position of the South East Governor’s Forum and other leaders of the zone is to work towards a united and indivisible Nigeria.
Ohuabunwa, Momodu Inform PDP Of Presidential Ambition
Meanwhile, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, yesterday said the party will guarantee a level playing field for all PDP aspirants to elective offices.
Ayu stated this when the publisher of Ovation Magazine, Dele Momodu came to the PDP national secretariat to intimate him of his presidential ambition.
The aspirant presented a letter of intent to the national chairman.
The national chairman said, “There will be a level playing field for all candidates. We don’t have any special candidate; we don’t have a preferred candidate. It is the party members who will decide and if at the end of the day, the party members vote for you that you are the one they want, we will queue behind you.
“Go out there and build the party, meet the stakeholders and market your candidature. Once you get the nomination, the party and everyone else will rally behind you”.
Speaking earlier, Momodu, who ran for president on the platform of National Conscience Party (NCP) in 2011, said he had to formally tell Ayu of his presidential ambition, describing himself as “the best and most prepared aspirant.”
Momodu, who joined PDP last October, said,” After due consultations with my family, friends and some stakeholders, I have arrived at the decision to contest the 2023 Presidential election on the platform of our great party, PDP.
“If selected as the Party’s candidate I hasten to add that this is my personal decision, although I have received advice, encouragement and support from diverse quarters since I started my consultations.
Also, foundation president of the West African Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, who also visited the party leadership to intimate them of his presidential ambition, spoke on his plans to transform Nigeria.
Ohuabunwa who is also the chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and former chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria said, “To be able to discharge the function of office as a president or governor, you need to have a healthy body. You need to have a healthy soul. You need to have a healthy spirit, body, mind and soul must be together to be able to function in this office. This office of president is a serious office.
“You must have experienced in managing many things at the same time. It’s not to take six months to forming your cabinet, take six months to plan how you’re going to work. I have the experience I’ve been trained. I may belong to the older group but my Spirit, my heart is of a young person, and I understand how to motivate people to achieve, because the job of a president is the job of a CEO, and the work of the CEO is, first and foremost, to set the vision, where are you going and sell the vision and then appoint lieutenants, in the companies will call them directors or general managers, set the vision, this where we’re going in the next two, three years, then set the KPIs every quarter, this is where we ought to be and then scale them resources, give them the training, mobilise them.
He said inequalities stopped worthy people like Mazi Sam Ohabuanwa to lead the country to an enviable height as the number one citizen.
Group Tips Osinbajo For APC Presidential Ticket
Meanwhile, several groups have tipped Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to clinch the APC 2023 presidential ticket, the latest being a civic group known as Identifying the Right Leaders Initiative (IRLI) which declared yesterday that he is the right choice on the basis of his pedigree, capacity, and performance.
IRLI said it was formed to lead Nigerians in identifying the right leaders for critical public positions by looking at their pedigree, character, and competence.
It said it was taking such definite stance because every Nigerian should be concerned with the democratic process.
According to the group, “for over three decades, it’s been the same unproductive cycle of leaders presiding over the likes that this nation does not belong to all of us.
“It is time for all Nigerians to stand up and be counted. There should no longer be onlookers at this point. Professor Osinbajo has been largely celebrates because his contributions and work ethic have inspired most Nigerians,” it added.
The civic group, in their recent Impact Assessment Report of the actions, policies and programmes Osinbajo has undertaken since his stint as Attorney-General of Lagos state in 1999, confirmed that Osinbajo is the most active, visible and impactful vice president and perhaps the best since 1979 in the position.
It noted that if Osinbajo is empowered and becomes the substantive president, Nigeria will be better for it.
The report said Osinbajo has, at every opportunity he has had as acting president since 2015, taken landmark decisions to better the lives of Nigerians.
The group said, “Nigerians will recall that after some Directorate of State Security (DSS) operatives invaded the National Assembly in 2018, Osinbajo terminated the appointment of Lawal Daura, the DSS boss at the time. This highly celebrated decision came at the time when other politicians would have been more concerned about its political consequences rather than the nation’s collective interests. Our [impact assessment] report says such decisions demonstrate that Osinbajo places national interests over party or election considerations.
“During the 2020 #EndSARS protests, it was Osinbajo who summoned the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to the Villa on which the decision and announcement of final disbandment of SARS were taken. Osinbajo deployed the National Economic Council (NEC) to convince state governors – who form the core of NEC – that police brutality was an economic issue and should be discussed under the NEC Agenda. The Osinbajo-led NEC directed governors to set up Judicial Panels of Inquiry to investigate cases of police brutalities in their domains.
“As part of the demands of the protesters, NEC directed the states to set up Victims Support Funds (VSF) to ensure they get justice.”
The group warned the APC against selling its presidential ticket to the owners of ill-gotten wealth in the forthcoming convention as that may spell doom for it.
“Nigerians are now more politically aware. The endSARS protests have opened the eyes of most people and on the importance of the need to become active in the democratic process. The APC will be making a huge mistake to underestimate how politically aware most Nigerians are now. Anything less than Osinbajo means the APC is heading for the iceberg,” IRIL said.
The group noted that Osinbajo has displayed his capacity to be a hands-on president which is very rare in Nigeria.