The governors have compelled the party’s national secretary, Mala Buni, to dispatch an invitation letter calling an urgent NEC meeting on Monday, April 9.
At a meeting Wednesday, the governors appealed to party officials to abide by the president’s advice and allow new elections, even as a technical committee set up to guide the party out of its current logjam was yet to submit its report.
The committee’s chairman is Simon Lalong, Plateau State governor, and its members include Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Some members however, pointed out that this apparently pre-emptive move would amount to a violation of the party’s constitution which forbids a decision from being taken on an issue that has already been referred to a committee by the NEC. Article 18 (iv) of the party constitution says:
“Where the National Executive committee has set up a Standing or Ad hoc committee(s) or has assumed jurisdiction on any issue, no organ of the Party shall deliberate upon and or set up a similar or parallel Committee.”
“The governors wanted to pre-empt the Lalong committee which they fear may not support their position. Therefore, they had come prepared to muscle the NWC into agreeing with them to make a joint statement that the meeting had decided to proceed with congresses.
“But when this aspect of the constitution was pointed out to them, they decided to change tactics and began to push for an immediate NEC meeting to ratify the new position,” said a source at the meeting who told PREMIUM TIMES that the governor’s desperation stems out of Mr Buhari’s planned holiday in London starting from Monday April 9.
“The governors did not want such major decision to be taken in the president’s absence,” the source said. “So, they were desperate to hold a NEC meeting before he travels.”
But the governors seem more concerned about another section of the APC constitution which addresses how NEC could be convened.
Article 25B(ii) says: “National Working Committee may summon an emergency National Executive committee meeting at any time, provided that at least seven (7) days notice of the meeting shall be given to all those entitled to attend.”
Apparently realising that they cannot meet the mandatory seven days between Wednesday and Monday, the governors asked the party’s National Secretary, Mr. Buni, to backdate the letter inviting members to the meeting, to April 3, as against April 4 when it was actually written.
This was aimed give the impression that invitation had been on the way since Tuesday, when, in actual fact, the letter had not been signed as at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday.
Mr. Buni, however, refused to issue such letters, which he said could put him in trouble should it be revealed that he was a party to such underhand dealing.
“The secretary knows that even among the governors, someone may leak the secret,” a party source well informed of the backroom affairs told PREMIUM TIMES late Wednesday.
As at 9:07 a.m. Thursday, a senator who is a member of NEC, told PREMIUM TIMES he was yet to receive a formal invitation for the Monday’s NEC. The senator said he learnt that there are plans to circulate the invitation by text messages, but he had not received that, either.
Sani Yerima, an APC senator from Zamfara State and NEC member, did not respond to request for comments. Ado Doguwa, the House Majority Whip and member of NEC, also did not immediately return calls and text messages seeking comments Thursday morning.
The plot, if allowed to pull through, could see the party commit illegalities in a bid to correct a disputed case of constitutional breach, party insiders say.They fear Mr. Buni may eventually succumb to the governors’ demand.
“We’re not going to allow this to happen because the party leaders who keep saying they don’t want to be involved in any illegality are the ones championing what is clearly illegal and they may end up putting Mr President in trouble because of their selfish motives,” said a party official who spoke under anonymity to avoid a backlash for revealing the ongoing intrigues.
Bolaji Abdullahi, the party’s national spokesperson, said he was not aware that the National Secretary was being pressured to issue a backdated letter.
“I am not aware of this that you are saying,” Mr Abdullahi, a former sports minister said told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Wednesday night. “What I know is that the decision to call an emergency NEC meeting was taken last week. I don’t know when the invitations were sent out. You may need to speak to the National Secretary himself.”
“To the best of my knowledge, and I was at the meeting on Wednesday, nobody asked the secretary or anyone to backdate any letter,” he added.
Sam Onwuemeodo, a spokesperson for Mr. Okorocha, who is the chairman of APC governors’ forum, did not immediately respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ requests comments. Mr Yari’s spokesperson, Ibrahim Dosara, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES requests for comments Wednesday night.
Mr. Buni’s telephone did not connect when tried repeatedly between Wednesday night and Thursday morning. But a presidency source told PREMIUM TIMES the secretary had been making frantic attempts to report his ordeal to the president.
Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, did not immediately respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ request for comments about what the presidency knew of the letter row.
The meeting is to allow NEC, which is the highest decision-making organ of the party after convention, consider the report of a committee raised to work out the best approach to resolving the lingering uncertainties over the party’s administration.
Mr. Buhari sent party’s national executives reeling when he suddenly withdrew support for inauguration of a caretaker leadership for the party, saying it was a legal slippery-slope that could cost the party tremendously if not averted.
Less than a month earlier, the president supported the retention of the John Odigie-Oyegun-led national executive, whose tenure expires in June, to continue in acting capacity for another year.
Party insiders said this was a stopgap measure to circumvent congresses in crisis-plagued states and avert internal squabbles that could leave the party seriously weakened amidst looming general elections.
Mr Buhari’s volte-face, remarkable as some analysts have deemed it, initially sparked a flurry of emotions amongst party leaders, including state governors who saw it as a capitulation to Bola Tinubu, the party’s national leader who has pushed hard for Mr Odigie-Oyegun’s ouster.
Mr Tinubu backed Mr Odigie-Oyegun’s emergence as the APC’s first national chairman in 2014, and the Edo politician led the party to the first opposition victory in the country’s history the following year.
On Tuesday, some governors gave the impression that their support for Mr Odigie-Oyegun’s executive would not flinch following reports that their meeting with Mr Buhari at the State House had ended in stalemate.
But by Wednesday afternoon, the governors, led by Messrs. Yari and Okorocha said they were prepared to allow for new nationwide congresses after emerging from another meeting with the president.
Shortly thereafter, the governors called at the APC national secretariat to compel party officials to also shift grounds and align with the president. During the meeting, the governors, known for their unwavering influence over the party’s structure, mounted pressure on officials to announce their support for the president and allow elections to go on as planned.
The governors demanded that the party officials should publicly tell the media that they have resolved to go along with the president and add that NEC members had already being informed of an emergency meeting scheduled for April 9.
Once ill-disposed to changing the party’s current executive, Messrs Yari and Okorocha are now at the forefront of the campaign for a new nationwide congress, outcome of which may end in Mr Odigie-Oyegun’s exit as national chairman.
As at 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, Govs. Ibikunle Amosun and Yahaya Bello, both allies of Mr Buhari and opponents of Mr Tinubu, were still undecided about whether the current national executive should be eased out because they recognise that going with the president would mean fulfilling Mr Tinubu’s ambition, party sources said.