Prominent leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari actually approved the sack of the chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the party, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State.
Some party leaders, including governors on the platform of the party, told The Guardian that the President approved Buni’s removal when he was confronted with various moves by the CECPC chair to thwart plans to hold the party’s national convention on March 26.
Specifically, Buni was fingered as the brain behind a legal action filed by a party member in court against the party to hold the national convention as scheduled.
A governor who does not want his name mentioned said, “If you like call it coup or sackbut the fact is that Buni is no more the chairman of CECPC. The President has been defending him despite all his moves against the party’s decision to hold its national convention on March 26, but when we confronted the President with all documents showing that Buni was against holding the national convention on March 26, Mr. President was disappointed and approved his sack.
‘‘That is why we convened today’s meeting (Monday) to swear in state chairmen and begin the move to hold the convention. Buni has a hidden agenda and he can no longer have his way in the party. And you can see a number of governors at the meeting to ensure things go as planned.”
The source also disclosed that notice for the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting will hold in the next seven days where Buni’s removal will be ratified.
But the Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, who has been approved to take over from Buni kept mum about the change of guard in the party during an emergency meeting of CECPC he conveyed at the Abuja Blantyre Street secretariat of the party, yesterday, amid heavy security.
Bello, who arrived at the party secretariat at about 12 noon, was applauded by scores of party supporters. He said that there was nothing unusual over the parley with his colleagues in the caretaker committee.
Interestingly, the official car of the Niger State Governor was positioned at the spot specially reserved for Buni, an indication that things have fallen apart for Buni.
Bello performed his first official duties by administering the oath of office on Chairmen of the 36 state chapters of the party, who were on hand for the event at about 1.30 p.m., and received the report of the party’s zoning committee for the forthcoming national convention.
Governors Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq (Kwara), Hope Uzodimma (Imo), Babagana Zulum (Borno), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe) and the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo Agege were on hand to lend support to the Niger State governor.
The event preceded the parley held behind closed doors between Bello and members of the Buni-led caretaker comprising the Secretary of the Committee, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, the Women representative in CECPC, Stella Okotete, the Youth Leader, Ismail Ahmed, Mr. David Lyon, Prof. Tahir Mamman, Senator Ali Abba, Senator Ken Nnamani and Senator Yusuf Yusuf.
Bello’s arrival at the party secretariat came against the backdrop of the rebuttal by Akpanudoedehe that there was no iota of truth in the news making the rounds over the purported sack of Buni, who is said to be in Germany to attend to his health.
Akpanudoedehe had maintained that media report on the purported sack remains fake news and should be disregarded.
He said, “The APC is a progressive political party guided by rules. Leadership changes are not announced by ‘sources’ through name-dropping in the media.
“We urge our teeming supporters, members and indeed the general public to remain calm and support the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led APC CECPC conduct a rancour-free and credible National Convention deserving of our great party, “ he declared.
However, Bello, who later fielded questions from reporters, acknowledged that he would be operating in acting capacity pending the return of Buni from Germany.
He noted: “I have been acting for a while since the Chairman traveled. The states chairmen took their oath of office today and we discussed progress made so far on convention and what needed to be done so that we would achieve the March 26 date for the convention.”
In spite of his actions, Bello, however, kept mum when asked to confirm the news that he had been appointed to take over from Buni. “You said news. No comment,” he said.
When prodded on the fate of Buni, Bello said: “Well, every time there is a major event, we beef up security. Today, we have a major event and all the chairmen came. The police are here to maintain law and order.”
Asked how often he will be overseeing the affairs of the party, he quipped: “Almost every day.”
On the presence of his fellow governors at the secretariat, he said: “Most of my colleagues are here to support me to receive the report. You know the zoning committee report is a very important one. And all the governors here are to support me. Now, at zonal level, they can go and do their work.”
On whether he has the blessing of President Buhari, he said: “Of course.”
Reacting, the former director-general of the Progressive Governor’s Forum (PGF), Dr Salihu Lukman, welcomed the development, saying it is in the best interest of the party.
In a statement titled, “Rescuing the APC: A task for all Party Leaders”, he said President Buhari deserves praise over the purported sack of Buni.
Giving an insight for the alleged ouster of Buni, he claimed: “The truth is that President Buhari, like most party leaders and members, is highly disappointed at the serial cases of deliberate efforts by Buni and his associates to block the APC convention from holding based on alleged personal ambitions.
“Between November 2021 and January 2022, the APC convention had to be postponed three times because of his deliberate refusal to initiate the processes required, such as booking the venue for the convention and serving the statutory three weeks’ notice to INEC.
“In addition, there were other serious allegations against the leadership of Buni, which include the discovery that his group, since November 2022, had obtained a court injunction against the convention and are waiting until three or two days to the convention before serving it on the party to succeed in blocking the March 26, APC convention from holding.
“The plot is that Buni wants to continue to run the affairs of the party and conduct the party’s primary where candidates for 2023 elections would emerge.
“Based on that, there are specific allegations of Buni striking deals with some Presidential aspirants to ensure their emergence as APC candidates for the 2023 elections.
“Some of the allegations suggest extorting monies from these aspirants, including someone who is yet to join the party. It is being alleged that campaign offices for the aspirant are already being opened even before such a person joined the party.
“All these highlight problems of trust, which the leadership of Buni represented. A good confirmation of why it will be difficult for party leaders and members to continue to invest any trust in the Buni leadership of the Caretaker Committee is the attempt to constitute another zoning Committee after the meeting between Buhari and Progressive Governors on zoning, based on which stakeholders of the party at zonal levels are to finalise negotiations on positions.
“As far as Buni is concerned, his interest is supreme and together with the Secretary of the CECPC, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe and their collaborators outside the CECPC, they must block the APC convention from holding on March 26.
“As part of the plot, once they heard that President Buhari had agreed with some party leaders to save the party, which requires a change of the CECPC leadership, they decided to present it in the media that the President has sacked Buni as the Chairman of the CECPC and appointed Bello as Sole Administrator.’’
According to Lukman, it was mischievously designed to present both the party and President Buhari as being undemocratic. To the contrary, he pointed out, internal organs of the party with all the statutory powers to effect all the necessary changes will be used to give effect to all the aspirations of President Buhari, party leaders and members to rescue the APC from the decidedly depraved leadership of Buni.
He explained that anybody that would emerge as a replacement for Buni and Akpanudoedehe as chairman and secretary respectively would have all the requisite mandate of the organs vested with such responsibility as provided by the Constitution of the party.
He said: “This is the time when Buni and Akpanudoedehe and all their collaborators are required to demonstrate their loyalty to the party and President Buhari. Attempts to prolong the process of changing the leadership will only confirm their undertaker mission rather than serving as leaders of the CECPC.
“All party leaders and members should support other members of the CECPC to rise to this occasion by ensuring that they effectively enforce collective leadership in the CECPC at this critical point in the life of the APC.
“Similarly, all leaders and members of the party must be vigilant to ensure that new leadership of the party that will emerge from all the internal contest currently ongoing are leaders that will faithfully implement all decisions, especially the scheduled March 26, convention.”
“If anything, what is going on in APC today proves that it is the only party where an internal contest is taking place. It is the only party that acknowledges its challenges and confronts them without any pretence.
“Thanks to the leadership of President Buhari, APC is going through a very tedious and difficult process of rebirth. Part of the challenge facing the party has to do with internal betrayals by trusted leaders.
“However, with the courageously unbiased leadership of President Buhari, in the last two years, the party is able to confront its leadership challenges.’’
AS the crisis rocking the ruling APC festers, the Youth Development and Solidarity Forum (APC-YDSF), has faulted the purported removal of Buni.
The group’s national secretary, Comrade Tobias Ogbeh, at a press conference in Abuja, argued that Buni remains the legitimate and substantial national chairman of the CECPC of the party.
The group also demanded the immediate expulsion of Bello, who took the seat of Buni from the party and called on the Council Ward of Governor Bello in Niger State and the National Executive Council (NEC) of APC, to immediately perfect his expulsion from the party.
The group maintained that it is untrue that Buni sack was at the instance of President Buhari and warned Governor Bello to stop parading himself as Sole Administrator of the APC and must in no way interfere with the functioning of the Buni-led caretaker committee.
The group stated: “You will agree with us that there is no written directive to this effect, and we say this with reason. One is that the people behind this charade had all the chance to get a written document announcing Buni’s removal from the president and they decided to go by way of the allegation.
“After all, the same Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, was able to browbeat Mr. President into signing certain documents purportedly endorsing some individuals for the NWC of the party.
“APC Youth Development and Solidarity Forum categorically re-state that President Buhari, without a meeting of the CECPC, has no right to order the removal of Buni or any member of the CECPC, who in the first instance, is a product of a collective decision of the party’s NEC meeting held in Abuja sometimes ago.