By Ezra Odogu
Last-minute push by some party chiefs to shift the All Progressives Congress (APC) convention date has collapsed.
President Muhammadu Buhari staved off pressure from lobbyists, insisting that the February 26 date is sacrosanct.
Following this, the APC caretaker committee wrote a February 2 letter informing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of the convention date and to seek its monitoring of the process. But the letter curiously did not indicate the venue of the convention.
An INEC source, who confirmed the receipt of the letter yesterday, said non-indication of the venue did not breach any rule. He added that the party’s letter was within the 21-day timeline required by the Electoral Act for a party to notify the electoral agency of its convention date.
Also yesterday, the party inaugurated 34 of its 36 state chairmen, as well as that of the FCT. Sokoto and Kano chapters were left out.
Caretaker Chairman and Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni was absent at the ceremony, which was supervised by Caretaker Secretary John James Akpanudohede.
Buni was at the Presidential Villa to present Senate Deputy Minority Leader Emmanuel Bwacha to the President, having defected from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC.
The President, who linked the crises rocking the ruling party to the delay in the conduct of the convention, said the exercise should not be shifted.
A source said: “President Buhari stood his ground by being adamant on February 26 for the convention. He felt the party ought to go beyond its caretaker structure. He is also conscious of the fact that the party must prepare for primaries for the 2023 poll.
“And the tension over the convention in APC has deepened the cracks in the party. He demonstrated a strong will in opposing moves to shift the convention date.
“What guided the President was the unanimous decision of the governors to hold the convention on February 26. The President saw no reason for any postponement again.
“With this, all is set for the national convention of APC.”
The President’s trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the African Union (AU) Summit further blocked the anti-convention forces from having access to the APC leader.
According to the source: “Buhari shut his doors against lobbyists seeking the postponement of the convention. His trip to Ethiopia for the AU meeting foreclosed any other option than for the CECPC to notify INEC.
“As the leader of the party, the President will be angry if the caretaker committee fails to meet up with the Friday deadline to notify INEC of the agreed date of February 26.
“It was an ambush which left proponents of convention shift stranded.”
However, an investigation by our correspondent revealed that the ruling party notified INEC of its convention in a letter with reference number APC/ NHDQ/ INEC/19/022/ 14.
The said letter was delivered to INEC and acknowledged by the electoral agency on February 3.
The source said: “It is, however, curious that APC did not indicate the venue of the convention in its letter. It is unclear why the party did so. This is not in line with official practice and precedent.
“Convention is a constitutional obligation of a political party as enshrined in Section 223 of the 1999 Constitution. So, APC is not doing INEC any favour, it has to comply with the rules regulating such an obligation.
“We are awaiting another letter on the venue of the APC national convention.
“Section 223 says: The constitution and rules of a political party shall (a) provide for the periodical election on a democratic basis of the principal officers and members of the executive committee or other governing body of the political party.”
Investigation showed that INEC was notified after the President declined entreaties from three governors and other anti-convention elements to shift the February 26th date.
Thirteen aspirants are jostling to lead APC with no one ready to step aside.
In the race to lead the APC are: former governors Abdul-Aziz Yari (Zamfara); Umar Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa); Ali Modu Sheriff (Borno); George Akume (Benue); Danjuma Goje (Gombe) and Isa Yuguda (Bauchi).
Others are: Mallam Saliu Mustapha; Senator Sani Mohammed Musa; Sunny Sylvester Monidafe; Mohammed Estu; Alhaji Sani Abdullahi Shinkafi and Bawa Bwari.
Although the Chairman of the APC National Reconciliation Committee (NEC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu was said to be interested, he has not confirmed or denied the speculation.
The CECPC was inaugurated on June 25, 2020, following the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC).
Although it was meant to be an interim administration with a six-month mandate, the Caretaker Committee’s tenure was extended in December 2020 for another six months.
But in June last year, the committee was only directed by President Buhari to draw a timetable for congresses at all levels in preparation for the convention.
While party members were expecting the exercise to hold in December 2021, the party was enmeshed in a crisis of an appropriate date for the convention.
The APC governors intervened on January 16 and fixed February 26 for the convention against the committee’s wish for more time.
It was gathered that those opposed to the national convention were banking on the Adamu Committee’s Interim Report for the extension of the tenure of CECPC.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “There is tension in APC following the uncovering of plans to postpone the party’s national convention.
“Some forces/ groups in the party want to shift the convention until when it is too tight for APC and the party will be left with no choice than to pick their anointed presidential and vice-presidential candidates. That is the bigger picture of the plot.
“As part of the game, the same forces/ groups will want the CECPC to conduct presidential, governorship and legislative primaries before the National Convention.”