Governors scheming to remove the Chairman, Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Committee of the All Progressives Congress, Governor Mai Mala Buni, failed in their attempt as the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), put his foot down on Wednesday, insisting that he should be allowed to continue as the chairman of the party.
Buni also cancelled the meeting of the National Executive Committee, which had been called by the acting Chairman of the CECPC, Abubakar Bello, who is also the Governor of Niger State.
Some governors, including Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State and Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, had openly backed attempts to sack Buni, while a few others like Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, continued to defend the Yobe State governor.
Last week, El-Rufai had claimed that the President had sanctioned Buni’s removal and the appointment of Bello as the new chairman of the APC caretaker committee.
The Kaduna State governor specifically claimed that Buni had colluded with some fifth columnists in the party to secure a court order to thwart the planned convention.
Akeredolu had also lambasted Buni, describing the governors supporting him as fraudsters.
Bello subsequently wrote a letter to the Independent National Electoral Commission informing it of the plan to hold a NEC meeting ostensibly to remove both Buni and Senator John Akpanudoedehe, who is the secretary of the CECPC.
But INEC responded that Bello had no powers to write such a letter. The commission further stated that any meeting involving leadership change would require a 21-day notice.
This effectively threw a spanner in the works. However, the governors remained adamant, insisting that a NEC meeting would hold today (Thursday) without revealing the agenda of the meeting.
But in a bid to ensure that he is not removed, Buni, who had been away on medical leave in Dubai for the past two weeks, visited the President in London on Thursday.
Buni was said to have explained his side of the story to Buhari, who agreed with him, but maintained that the March 26 national convention must hold.
Armed with the President’s support, the CECPC chairman, it was learnt, immediately jumped on a flight back to Nigeria.
In a letter personally signed by Buhari, which was obtained by The PUNCH on Thursday, the President warned that any attempt to change the current leadership could spell doom for the party.
The President also sent communication to the Inspector-General of Police, the Director-General of the Department of State Services, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Chairman, Progressive Governors’ Forum, Atiku Bagudu, to ensure strict compliance. Also copied was the acting Chairman of the CECPC, Bello.
Buhari specifically warned that further controversies could lead to the APC being unable to participate in the 2023 elections.
The letter read in part, “It has come to my attention that because of recent events, the APC is faced with a multiplicity of court cases pending against it in various courts across the country. As a result of this, the party faces the possibility and prospect of the invalidation of all its activities and actions by INEC.
“Furthermore, the party has demonstrated its inability to proceed with the issue of effecting change in leadership of its CECPC in a way that is inclusive, legal and respectful of the time limit set and required for giving INEC sufficient notice of the time and venue for holding its convention.
“No doubt, these controversies and uncertainties as enumerated above pose a real threat to the party and may lead to a possible non-recognition of its activities, elections and the probable invalidation of all its other actions by INEC. This may ultimately even lead to its implosion and non-existence.”
Buhari said having failed to remove Buni and since INEC had made its position clear, the best thing to do was to maintain the status quo.
The letter added, “The issue of the leadership of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Committee should immediately return to the status quo ante.
“All members of the Governors’ Forum and their followers should desist from any behaviour or utterance that will likely lead to disunity in the ranks of the party, and ultimately jeopardise the transition to the convention.
“The Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Committee should accordingly be allowed to proceed with all necessary preparations to hold the convention as planned, unfailingly on March 26, 2022.”
Following the President’s letter, the Secretary to the CECPC, Akpanudoedehe, issued a statement announcing the outright cancellation of the NEC.
The statement titled, ‘Purported APC NEC meeting cancelled’, read in part, “As directed by the National Chairman of the APC CECPC and Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, a purported emergency meeting of the party’s NEC slated for Thursday, March 26, 2022 is hereby cancelled.”
Buhari’s intervention brings to an end the planned coup against Buni, who has been running the affairs of the APC since June 2020.