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.
It was learnt 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, according to The PUNCH, confirmed 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.
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’s 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.