The Yobe State Governor and Chairman of the All Progressives Congress Caretaker Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee, Mai Mala Buni, may supervise the party’s national convention on March 26.
The PUNCH learnt on Sunday that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had directed that Buni should head the party’s convention with a strict condition that no more postponements would be tolerated.
Impeccable sources confirmed this to The PUNCH on Sunday, adding that the decision was taken by Buhari in London after a meeting with his most trusted allies which include the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, who advises the President on legal issues.
It was learnt on Sunday that with the President making his position clear that he had no preferred candidate for the chairmanship position, the race for the leadership of the APC had been thrown open, thus worsening uncertainty over the zoning formula released by the party last week.
At the London meeting too, it was learnt that the President denied ever sanctioning the removal of Buni and the appointment of Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello, as his replacement, contrary to claims by Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai.
The PUNCH also learnt that following the warning issued by the President on Saturday, most of the governors seeking the removal of Buni had decided to sheathe their swords.
Adamu may lose out as party throws open chairman’s seat tussle
An APC chieftain, who spoke to The PUNCH on the strict condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press, said Buhari made it clear that he had not endorsed anyone as the chairman of the party contrary to reports that he had endorsed former Governor Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa State.
“Buhari explained that he was not supporting any chairmanship aspirant and that everyone was free to contest. The President is tired of all these problems. He believes anyone who wants to contest should feel free to do so and should test their popularity on the field if this will bring peace to the APC,” the source said.
“The President also ordered Buni to resume as the chairman as quickly as possible, adding that he would not accept any excuses any longer. He said the March 26 convention date remains sacrosanct.”
The Niger State governor had taken over as acting chairman of the party last Monday amid rumours that Buhari had ordered the sacking of Buni.
Amid the controversy, some governors, including El-Rufai and Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, openly condemned Buni.
While El-Rufai accused Buni of conniving with some fifth columnists to procure a court order that would scuttle the convention, Akeredolu described the governors supporting Buni as ‘Yahoo Yahoo (fraudulent) governors.
However, it was learnt that the Niger State governor would be transmitting power to Buni this week after the President’s intervention and the refusal of the Independent National Electoral Commission to recognise his authority.
“INEC does not recognise Bello as chairman. This challenge means he will not be able to handle the convention and sign relevant documents. He will have to hand over to Buni in order not to undermine the success of the convention,” an APC chieftain said.
However, it was learnt that fresh moves were being made to ensure that former Governor Tanko Al-Makura; or a former Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, Turaki Salihu Mustapha, emerges the chairman of the APC.
“Buhari is someone who rewards loyalty and goodwill. He gave two former judges ambassadorial appointments for standing in his corner. Both Mustapha and Al-Makura were with him in the trenches in the CPC. These are not people that the President will abandon without at least consulting them. There will be many developments in the coming days. We don’t what will happen to the zoning formula released last following the President insistence that he will not stop any aspirants.”
When contacted, a spokesman for the President, Garba Shehu, said he was not aware of party matters. “I am not aware of anything,” he said.
We won’t step down, say Al-Makura, Mustapha
Meanwhile, Al-Makura has vowed not to withdraw from the party’s chairmanship race.
Al-Makura, while speaking with journalists in Abuja, on Sunday, said the report that Buhari had endorsed a candidate was a speculation.
“The sources of information were not authentic. They were not genuine. And I know what Mr. President stands for. He always stands for what is right and due process. And unless I have an authoritative source of information that is clear. I still have my doubts. I have many avenues through which I can reach Mr. President and people around him.
“And since those speculations did not come through those avenues, I consider them as a speculation. That is why as I speak with you, my campaign is going with a different tempo, to ensure that my campaign is going far and wide to await the next line of action as directed by the party leadership.”
Also in a chat with The PUNCH, Turaki Mustapha Salihu, said he would not be stepping down, adding that it was not true that Buhari had endorsed anyone.
“I am 100 per cent in the race. As long as we the aspirants and party stand today, no official communication exists for us to step down or run. For myself, I am 100 per cent in the race and I am hoping that as the neutral candidate among the contestants, if any consensus will be reached, I am hoping I will be endorsed,” he said.
Buni will conduct APC convention – Aide
“An aide to Buni, Yusuf Ali, when contacted asked, @who else will conduct the elections if not him (Buni)? With the INEC’s insistence on recognising only Mai Mala Buni as the authentic chairman of the APC, we have been vindicated.”
“We were expecting him all through the weekend and we are still expecting him back to the country any moment because the convention is by the corner.”
Osinbajo to meet state chairmen ahead of presidential bid declaration
There were strong indications on Sunday that the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, will meet state chairmen of the APC.
A top member of the party, who confided in our correspondent, said the meeting which would be held before the party’s national convention, would be part of Osinbajo’s preparations for his formal declaration to join the presidential race.
“The Vice-President is set to declare his presidential ambition as part of the preparations, he is meeting state chairmen and national officers of the party in the next few days.”
Contrary to a notice sighted by one of our correspondents, the meeting will not take place today (Monday).
Responding to a query late Sunday in Abuja, a Presidency source who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that “no such meeting tomorrow”.
The Gombe State Chairman of the APC, Nitte Amangal said the meeting of the state chairmen of the party had been shifted.
Amangal said, “There is a new development as to the meeting, I got a text indicating its postponement this afternoon (Sunday). On Saturday, it was clear that we were supposed to leave for the meeting but as I speak there has been another message saying it will not hold.”