The quest by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to cover up its gaffes has suffered a setback as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it had not received communication from the party’s chairman, Mai Mala Buni handing over to the Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani Bello.
Bello had on Monday taken over the party’s affairs following President Muhammadu Buhari’s alleged order to sack of Buni, who had been piloting the affairs of the party since June 2020 when the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) was sacked.
On Wednesday, Bello wrote the INEC in his capacity as the acting national chairman of the APC’s Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), inviting it to the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting scheduled for next week Thursday via zoom.
Swiftly, the commission replied the ruling party, saying it was not aware of leadership change and that only the duo of Buni and the secretary of the CECPC, Sen John James Akpanudoedehe, could relate to the commission on behalf of the party.
The commission, via a letter dated March 9, signed by the secretary, Mrs Rose Oriaran-Anthony, advised the ruling party to follow due process.
Daily Trust Saturday reports that the development worsened the confusion in the ruling party, and to address the situation, top shots of the party came up with the idea of the handover letter allegedly written by Buni.
The letter, it was gathered, was written in the office of one of the key functionaries of the government on Wednesday.
Dated February 28, the letter went viral on Thursday, March 10, a day after the INEC queried Bello’s communication to it.
In the letter, Buni allegedly directed Governor Bello to act in his absence as the chairman of the CECPC because he would be away for a medical trip to Dubai.
The letter was purportedly copied the INEC and all members of the CECPC. However, Governor Bello denied receiving any letter from the embattled Governor Buni.
INEC’s national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Festus Okoye, said, “We did not receive any formal letter from the National Chairman of APC transferring power or duties.
“All registered political parties are obligated to comply with the provisions of the constitution, the Electoral Act and the Regulations and Guidelines of the Commission.
“We asked the Party to note the issues raised in our letter for compliance.”
He told Daily Trust Saturday that registered political parties have a known and formal way they communicate to the commission.
According to him, Article 1.1.3 of INEC’s Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Political Party Operations (2018) provides that “the national chairman and national secretary of the party shall sign the notice of meetings, conventions or congresses and submit same to the commission”.
Okoye said the commission had in its docket, the specimen signatures of national chairmen and secretaries of all the registered political parties in Nigeria.
“The letter referenced was not signed by those whose signatures are domiciled in the commission.
“Political parties are constitutionally and legally obligated to inform the commission of any change in their leadership in accordance with the law and the constitution.
“Furthermore, any political party that wants to effect alterations or change in its governance structure in any meeting, congress or convention must give the commission 21 days’ notice of its intention to effect such a change,” he said.
‘Buni still in charge,’ Bello’s c’ttee makes u-turn
Our correspondent reports that after the INEC’s damning letter which punctured the anomaly in the power tussle in the ruling party, the Governor Sani Bello-led CECPC yesterday made a u-turn and said Buni remained in charge of the party.
Addressing the media at the national headquarters of the party in Abuja, the spokesman of the committee, Ismaeel Ahmed, said Buni was still the chairman.
“Somebody asked about the position of Governor Mai Mala Buni in the party. I think it is pretty simple. I don’t know why this is a complicated process for a lot of people not to understand. Since the inception of this CECPC on June 25, 2020, whenever the chairman is not around and Governor Sani Bello is around, he acts on behalf of all as the chairman.
“It has always been the case that has never changed. Now, we have a convention on March 26. The chairman wrote a letter and transmitted power to Governor Bello to enable him go for medical treatment. Those are two emergencies. He has a medical emergency that cannot wait for convention. We have a convention that cannot wait for him to be healthy.
“So, one has to leave for the other; whichever, he has transmitted a letter and Governor Sani Bello has been acting appropriately. Why is it so difficult for people to understand that? I cannot understand why people are making this allegation.
Governor Bello is acting on the full authority of the caretaker committee and stakeholders, and with the full consent of Governor Mai Mala Buni. It is very clear and simple. If anybody has issues with any of our decisions, he can head to court. For now, we are doing it with the full backing of the law. So, there is no ambiguity on this, absolutely none,” he said.
Meanwhile, reacting to questions from journalists, Ismaeel Ahmed disclosed that the previously scheduled zonal congresses would now be part of the national convention. He assured that the March 26th national convention was on course and sacrosanct.
How Buhari’s directive on Yobe governor was watered down
The directive of President Buhari on the sack of Buni as chairman of the party’s caretaker committee has been watered down because of the procedural glitch around the move that might cause the party serious trouble.
Buhari had, during a meeting with some APC governors, including Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), while on his way to London for medical attention, reportedly ordered for the immediate sack of Buni for deliberately working against the March 26 national convention of the party.
While handing down the directives, the president, after he was told that Buni and his co-travellers had secured a judgement to frustrate the convention, said the Yobe governor and the party’s secretary, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, should be sacked “immediately.’’
Daily Trust Saturday reports that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, were directed to ensure the proper implementation of the president’s directive.
The two appointees of the president were to work with the governors to carry out the assignment, it was gathered.
They were to announce the sack of Buni and the emergence of Governor Sani Bello on Monday.
The deployment of security operatives to the APC secretariat on Monday was part of the move to implement the presidential order.
But Daily Trust Saturday gathered that a governor from the North-East moved in to save Buni from being embarrassed.
A top source said the governor went to some of his colleagues and pleaded that Buni should be given a soft-landing on the ground that the announcement of the sack would not only embarrass the Yobe governor, but it was capable of inflating the crisis in the party.
Other loyalists of Buni, including those in the presidency joined the governor in the quest to soften the directives. The North-East governor was said to have assured his colleagues that he had secured the commitment of Buni that he would not interfere and fight back.
It was based on the intervention that the Niger governor, rather than declaring himself as the new chairman of the caretaker, said he was in charge following the absence of Buni. The Yobe governor had, penultimate Wednesday, left the country for Dubai for medical attention.
Recall that when Bello took over on Monday, he said he had the blessing of the president to assume the mantle of leadership, but he was doing so because Buni had travelled.
“I have been acting for a while since the chairman (Buni) travelled,” Bello said while responding to questions on why he presided over the party’s affairs.
Buni’s latest moves
Report has it that Buni, who has been piloting the affairs of the ruling party since June 2020, is also planning to meet Buhari in London. A credible source said this was why the Yobe governor, who ought to have returned to Nigeria on Wednesday, was not yet back.
It was, however, gathered that Buhari was in a dilemma at the moment, considering that he had already taken a stand sequel to the discovery of a court judgement said to have been ‘procured’ by the Yobe governor and his backers.
The judgement stops the party from holding the convention.
A Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court sitting in Bwari has asked the ruling party to pull brakes on the conduct of its convention pending the determination of the matter.
“The whole thing is dicey now because if they ask Buni to leave, it would not be possible for them to conduct a legitimate convention, and this will ultimately hunt them before or after the 2023 elections.
“I think they have to basically manage themselves and learn from their mistakes. All of them are at fault because of the struggle of who gets what during the transition,” the source said.
Pro, anti-Buni take fight to London
As the tussle persists, the pro-Yobe governor and those who are against him have taken their struggle to London to meet President Buhari, our correspondent learnt.
It was gathered that four ministers and some aides of the president who are in support of Buni travelled to London to convince the president to rescind his decision on the Yobe governor’s sack.
A source last night told our reporter that the ministers and other pro-Buni aides of the president departed the country on Thursday.
“They have gone to plead with the president to allow Buni conclude the assignment of the caretaker committee, which is to organise convention of the party,” he said.
It was also gathered that governors who met the president before his trip are preparing to go to London.
El-Rufai had on Wednesday said 19 of the 22 APC governors were in support of Buni’s removal.