20 June 2018

Nigeria: Convention - Anxiety in APC Over 'Unity List' of Aspirants

There are indications that members of the outgoing national working committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party seeking re-election have been asked to drop their ambitions, ahead of Saturday's national convention.

Some officials seeking re-election include the national secretary, Mai Mala Buni; deputy national chairman (North), Lawan Shuaibu; national vice-chairmen, Hilard Etta (South-South); Emma Eneukwu, (South-East); national organising secretary, Osita Izunaso; and the national auditor, George Muoghalu.

PREMIUM TIMES gathered on Tuesday that except Mr Buni, the names of the other officials have been dropped from the lists of aspirants called "Unity List," which might be transmitted to the party's governors during their meeting on Wednesday.

Unity List, believed to contain the names of preferred candidates of the leaders of the APC, is akin to the one used by the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during its convention last December.

The chairman of the national convention organising committee, could not be reached for comments.

Abike Dabiri-Erewa, a member of the Publicity Sub-committee of the Convention Committee, told PREMIUM TIMES she was not aware.

'I'm not aware of that; you have to ask the convention committee chairman," she told our reporter in a telephone interview Tuesday night.

Mrs Dabiri-Erewa, who is the special assistant to the president on Diaspora and foreign affairs, had on Monday denied the existence of the unity list. She, however, said the governors could consider adopting consensus candidates at their meeeting.

This newspaper was however was told that President Muhammadu Buhari informed the party leaders of his interest in three positions, namely national chairman, national secretary and that of the national organising secretary.

The positions are zoned to the south-south, north east and south east geo-political zones, respectively.

The president, our source said, asked one of his aides to advice the outgoing national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun and the national organising secretary; Ozita Izunazo, not to seek re-election.

While Mr Oyegun announced his exit from the race, Mr Izunazo rejected this advice, opting to slug it out with other contenders for the position.

Earlier in the month, Mr Buhari had reportedly asked the party's governors to support the re-election of Mr Buni as national secretary.

The president made the request when he hosted some of the governors to a breaking of fast in his Aso Rock residence Abuja, one of his aides said,

Mr Izunaso refused to speak when PREMIUM TIMES contacted him on phone. He instead referred us to the party's spokesperson, Bolaji Abdullahi, claiming he was not in a position to respond to our enquiry.

On his part, Mr Muoghalu denied being asked to drop his ambition.

"That is rumour, it is not story, it is frivolous," he told this newspaper in a phone conversation Tuesday night.

"No incumbent is being dropped. Incumbent who are interested have picked their forms and have been cleared and they will go for the election.

"No position has been taken concerning any incumbent. It's frivolous. It is all lies and is being spread by people who are scared of election."

Meanwhile, following the alleged existence of the unity list, some members of the party threatened to cause violence during the convention.

One of the aspirants, who refused to be named because of victimisation, said the aggrieved members plan to stage a walkout of the convention venue if the process is not allowed to be free and fair for all contenders.

"We have just been informed that the current NWC has already prepared a unity list of themselves, which they will forward to the APC governors forum on Wednesday for adoption and they will forward same to Mr President for approval," the aspirant said.

"This further confirms our position and resolve that impunity is in the pipeline and it will be challenged to the letter."

An aspirant for the office of the national vice chairman North-east, Umar Duhu, told journalists that he was not consulted over the unity list neither was he invited to any meeting to discuss consensus option.

"It will be laughable to suggest among others that the meeting of APC governors slated for Wednesday will produce the so-called unity list without recourse to the aspirants who are the most critical stakeholders.

"Therefore, if some contestants feel loath, humiliated and would be expressing their dissatisfaction by venting their anger resulting from any undemocratic spurns, they will be doing so within their rights as those that genuinely bought forms, screened and have spent resources campaigning."

Mr Duhu, however, called on Mr Buhari to take charge and ensure the convention does not become a "crying shame under his watch".

One of the aspirants for the office of national youth leader who pleaded not to be named for security reasons said: "Any attempt by the party to select some contestants as favourite candidates will be met with serious resistance at the convention venue."

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