APC convention shaky, Buhari shuns govs, jets off to Belgium

Our Reporters

16 February 2022

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The All Progressives Congress is on the verge of postponing its national convention for the third time following the inability of the governors to reach a consensus on who should be the next chairman of the APC and on the zoning of positions in the National Working Committee, The PUNCH has learnt.

This is just as the APC – for the second straight day – refused to sell forms to aspirants vying for several positions in the party.

On Tuesday, about six governors attempted to meet with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), over the planned convention of the APC.

However, the governors arrived at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, only to learn that the meeting would no longer take place. Rather, the President only agreed to meet with two governors – Hope Uzodinma (Imo) and Yahaya Bello (Kogi) who had earlier scheduled a meeting with him over happenings in their states.

Those who were unable to see the President included the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum and Ekiti state governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi; Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Simon Lalong of Plateau State; Ben Ayade of Cross River; and Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna.

Although the Presidency gave no official reason for the abrupt call-off, there were indications that Buhari’s line-up of activities for the day was shortened due to his scheduled departure to Brussels, the Belgian capital, where he would participate in the EU-AU summit taking place from February 17 – 18.

It remains unclear when the meeting was rescheduled for. But that would be on or after the President’s return from Brussels on Saturday, precisely one week to the proposed APC convention date.

Also sighted were Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege and Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Ahmed Wase.

Fielding questions from correspondents after his meeting with the President, Governor Bello stressed the need for the North-Central to produce Buhari’s successor saying the region is the most marginalised in the country.

Reacting to the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, an Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation clamouring for the zoning of the Presidency to the South-East, Bello observed that the North-Central had never produced the President or vice president of the country. He, therefore, argued that it is only fitting that the region is given the opportunity in 2023.

Also addressing State House reporters, Governor Uzodinma said the APC convention slated for Saturday next week is not sacrosanct. He, however, said there was no indication that the convention would not hold.

This is as he said the failure of the party to sell nomination forms for National Working Committee offices on Monday does not threaten the February 26 convention and the inner workings of the party because there are other means of electing party officers.

Asked if the convention may still hold despite the delays, the Imo State Governor said, “Of course, that is the decision of the party, and there is nothing wrong even if it doesn’t hold. What is important is that we must have our convention. We have said it is the 26th, if for any reason tomorrow it is not doable in the opinion of the party, we will move. But that does not mean that there is any intention to move.

On the purpose of his visit to the President, Uzodinma said, “I came in to meet with Mr President, to brief him on the various developments in Imo State, as it has to do with security and governance and I had a very quality audience with Mr President.”

In a separate interview on Channels Television, Governor Ayade of Cross River said there was nothing sacrosanct about the February 26 date for the convention.

He, however, said the President would have the final say on zoning and other issues rocking the party.

Ayade said, “If there is a need for a little shift then it is allowed particularly when it is within the ambit of the law. But as of today, I have no indication that it will happen but the President will return and address this.”

Meanwhile, a top source in the APC told The PUNCH that the party was working on a “unity list” such that the party would not hold an open contest at the convention but would simply affirm the names on the list.

He said, “We tried to buy forms again today but we were told the APC is not selling. Some governors are trying to come up with a unity list, a sort of consensus. However, many stakeholders in the party are against this. So, some of these governors are trying to postpone the convention since they cannot have their way. That is what is happening now.”

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