Nigeria: As the Wait for APC National Convention Continues

The suspense over when the All Progressives Congress (APC) will hold its much anticipated elective national convention is causing raised eyebrows among its members, Muyiwa Oyinlola writes.

T here is apprehension within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over the delay in convening its elective national convention.

The Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Committee of the party, which assumed office June 2020, following the exit Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, as chairman was given six months to convene a national convention where a new National Working Committee (NWC) of the party would emerge.

But about a year after assuming office, the Yobe State Governor-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee has yet to do that and conclude reconciling party members (which is another task given to the committee), even as its tenure expires this month.

Not unaware of the implication of the development, President Muhammadu Buhari, during a recent Television interview, mandated the leadership of the party to work out ways of conducting the exercise anytime soon.

"What this administration can do is to ensure that the APC lasts beyond this administration. The APC will know the number of members in the local governments and the states so that by the time this administration goes, they (members) would be firmly on the ground and can continue. That is the best thing for the country politically and for the party.

"We should allow the party to decide. We started from the bottom up and I gave the acting chairman until the end of the month. He asked for an extension. They are going to give me a report on the convention we are going to conduct.

"We would start this from bottom up so that the members of the party would feel they are involved in the decision-making of the party. Nobody is just sitting here in Lagos and telling them what to do. This is what we are arranging," Buhari said.

Barely five hours after the president's directive, secretary of the Caretaker Committee, John Akpan Udoedehe, told newsmen at the party's national secretariat in Abuja that the committee had approved the timetable and schedule of activities for the party's congresses from ward to zonal level but was silent on the national convention.

However, about a week after directing the party's director of organisation, Prof. Al-Mustspha Ussiju Medaner, to release the timetable, the party is still keeping the timetable for the congresses close to its chest.

In the same vein, the governors elected on the party's platform under the auspices of Progressives Governors' Forum (PGF) have also lent their views on the dragging nature of the road to the national convention, saying it is Buhari himself that will determine the nature and when the party's national convention will hold.

Chairman of the Forum, and Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Bagudu, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues after a meeting held in Abuja last Wednesday night, said Buni told the meeting the timetable for congresses and national convention are before Buhari.

Akpanduoehehe had earlier said Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, APC governors and critical stakeholders will determine the date for the convention.

Bagudu said: "There is a proposal before Mr. President and once he approves it, the National Caretaker Committee will announce the date."

He said the forum considered the timetable proposal by the committee and made some inputs into it so that the exercise will comply with Electoral Law and the Constitution of the party.

But when asked if the meeting agreed on a specific date for the convention, Bagudu simply said: "There is a proposal before Mr. President and once he approves it, the National Caretaker Committee will announce the date."

He however added that the forum advised the caretaker committee "to ensure that they consult with all, so that at the end of the day, the final output will be such that all party members will be happy."

However, while speaking on the development, a former presidential candidate and APC chieftain, Chief Chekwas Okorie, said, "It will appear that we either didn't understand the last NEC meeting or there is a change of position.

"The understanding all of us had was that by June there would be party congresses, leading to the convention.

"But the president said he was expecting their report, latest by the end of June. So that would mean that once the report is submitted, we may be expecting another extension. That is what I can make out of it.

"The extension will be to now implement their programme. So it stands to reason that the NEC meeting will be organised for another directive for the implementation of the programme.

"The working committee will submit their report to Mr President, the NEC will now meet to approve it.

"From all indications, they will submit it to Mr President first. If there are things that need adjustment, that would be done before presenting it to the NEC for approval," he said.

Still, the concern that the caretaker committee might stay longer than necessary abounds. A former minister of Youth and Sports Development and party chieftain, Solomon Dalung, hinted that current situation in the party shows it is not organised along lines of it's political ideals.

Also, a group, Concerned APC Members, rejected another tenure extension for the caretaker committee. Spokesman of the group, Abdullahi Dauda had said, "there is no point deceiving ourselves, this is something that the new party leadership should be doing when we elect them at our convention."

Recall that in a controversial move, the caretaker committee had commenced a nationwide membership registration and revalidation exercise.

This move was criticised by some key APC members as deviating from what was expected. On February 22, 2021, the deadline for the membership registration was extended to March 31, 2021.

Similarly, on April 1, 2021, the party, in a statement, announced the extension of the exercise, saying it became necessary because of the number of people willing to join its fold.

But with the exercise concluded, all eyes were on the Buni-led committee to ensure a new party leadership emerges through an elective convention.

But barely three weeks to the expiration of its tenure, the committee has not rolled out a programme for the convention.

Explaining the scenario however, Akpan Udoedehe, said "When the CECPC came on board, after understudying the state of the Party, the CECPC leadership set its agendas for driving its actions accordingly. The CECPC agenda include: "The need to resolve all pending and emerging internal crises within the Party at all levels and to create an harmonious working atmosphere for the Party's coming general convention.

"Subsequently, the need to get all ongoing litigations against the party as well as among members - with bearing to Party issues - withdrawn and terminated."

He added that "from the outset was saddled with the task of preparing and leading the Party's campaign in a number of critical elections for positions at the state and national levels. To this, CECPC had to commence preparation from the outset."

Checks by LEADERSHIP indicate that the committee would not organise the convention this month but would get its tenure extended.

A credible source said that by the end of June the committee would draft a report and present it to President Buhari for approval, after which the NEC meeting would be held to deliberate on how to implement their report.

It was also hinted that the tenure of the committee would be extended to conclude its mandate by organising the convention.

How this will sit with constituents and power blocs within the party remains to be seen as the next few weeks will be revealing.

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