The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) confirmed yesterday that it would attend an emergency meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) billed for tomorrow if it receives another letter signed by national chairman of the party’s Caretaker/ Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State and national and secretary, Sen John James Akpanudoedehe.
The APC announced yesterday that its NEC meeting would be held tomorrow, Thursday, as scheduled ahead of the party’s national convention.
This is coming just as members of the Buni-led CECPC yesterday reclaimed and took full charge of Buhari House, the party’s national secretariat, at Blantyre Street, Wuse 11, Abuja.
LEADERSHIP gathered last night that while the party’s NEC meeting will be virtual, Governor Buni who was yet to return to the country at the time of filing this report would preside over the meeting virtually, with President Muhammadu Buhari also joining virtually from London where he is on medical vacation.
INEC, in a letter to the party, had earlier noted that the party violated the 21-day notice required by the new Electoral Law for such meeting.
The commission also said the letter sent to it was not signed by the recognised chairman and secretary of the party’s caretaker committee.
But speaking exclusively with LEADERSHIP on telephone last night, national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said if another letter from the party is signed by Buni national chairman and Akpanudoedehe as national secretary, it would attend the party’s NEC meeting.
Insisting that the provisions of the Electoral Act must be strictly adhered to, Okoye said, “We don’t have a problem with the party. Our stance is that they should give us 48-hour notice by writing to us informing us of their intention to hold a NEC meeting.
“The letter must be signed by the national chairman and national secretary of the party. If they write to us, we will honour the letter and attend the meeting.”
He added that the commission’s issue with the party leaders earlier was that the letter inviting it “to the NEC meeting was not signed by the national chairman and national secretary of the party.”
LEADERSHIP had reported on Monday that Buni eventually weathered the storm of the ongoing leadership crisis rocking the party in the aftermath of the briefing President Buhari received from some of his ministers on the implications of the leadership impasse in the party on the 2023 general elections.
President Buhari, it was reported, had directed that Buni should return as the chairman of the caretaker committee with a view to leading the party to its national convention billed for the 26th of this month.
Meanwhile, after getting a new lease of life following President Muhammadu Buhari’s intervention in the leadership crisis rocking the party, national secretary of the caretaker committee, Akpanudoedehe, who had angrily stormed out of the party secretariat last week returned to the party’s secretariat yesterday amid cheers from workers at the secretariat and some party members.
Governor Buni’s aides also resumed at the national secretariat to take full control of the place, though Buni himself was yet to resume.
Until yesterday, Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani-Bello, had been presiding over the affairs of the party since last week Monday when he declared that he was now acting chairman of the party in the absence of the chairman, Buni, who is out of the country.
LEADERSHIP had also reported last Wednesday that national secretary of the CECPC, Akpanudoedehe, had angrily stormed out of the caretaker committee meeting presided over by Governor Bello.
Akpanudoedehe who left the meeting halfway following a disagreement with Bello was said to have driven out of the secretariat before returning to move some of his personal belongings from his office.
He quickly returned to the party’s secretariat after reports of his resignation broke, saying it was only an official notification from President Buhari that could warrant his removal and that of the national chairman, Buni.
But speaking with journalists before leaving the party’s national secretariat yesterday, Akpanudoedehe said, “There is no trouble, no crisis in our party at all. I have released a statement which will be made available to you now.”
And in the statement that was eventually released a few minutes after, Akpanudoedehe declared that the APC is intact, functional as originally constituted.
He noted that the party was now crisis-free, strong and remains united in giving the country the transformative leadership and good governance it promised Nigerians.
He stated: “The Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) under the Chairmanship of His Excellency, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, makes this Press Release to clarify the events of last week and reassure the membership and stakeholders of the Party, as well as the Nigerian people in general, that the Governing Party is crisis-free, strong and remains united in giving the country the transformative leadership and good governance which she promised them.
“The CECPC therefore informs the Press and the General Public as follows: That the CECPC was appointed, and has always done her best, to steer the affairs of the APC in line with the mandate invested in her at inauguration by the National Executive Council (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress.
“That on the 28th day of February, 2022 the CECPC Chairman took a long-delayed trip abroad on health grounds, leaving behind written authorisation for other members of the CECPC to continue work in his absence, particularly the day to day management of the APC.
“That in his absence, sundry activities earlier scheduled for action appeared to develop fresh urgency in order to satisfy the Timetable for the 2023 General Elections released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), thus galvanizing some within the CECPC to act in their best understanding of both the situation and the leadership dynamics in the Committee/Party.
“That all such actions were clearly identified at all times as happening in an acting or proxy capacity, and under the auspices of the substantive Chairman, His Excellency, Governor Mai Mala Buni, contrary to widespread speculations that the Chairman, Secretary or some other officials of the CECPC have been removed from Office or otherwise replaced.
“That the CECPC is intact and functional as originally constituted.
“That delivering a seamlessly successful National Convention for the APC on March 26, 2022 is top on priority for the CECPC and we shall continue to execute such assignments as are legal pending the return of the Chairman who is on his way back to the country and shall resume Office on arrival with the full support of all members and other stakeholders. We are grateful to INEC for her firm guidance in the entire circumstances.”
The party’s scribe further noted that the party has engaged a team of senior lawyers to address a purported court order halting the planned national convention.
“We hereby call on the Judiciary to give the matter the needed and expedient attention in our bid to vacate the purported Court order and allow for the conduct of a transparent and rancour-free National Convention deserving of our great party, APC.
“The Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) hereby restates absolute loyalty to the APC, thanks the National Organs and leadership of our Party led by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR and reassures our members and citizens that the Party is stronger than ever before and poised to extend her winning streak since 2015 into 2023 and beyond. Ladies and gentlemen of the 4th Estate of the Realm, we thank you,” he added.
Meanwhile, APC announced yesterday that its NEC meeting would be held tomorrow as scheduled ahead of the party’s national convention.
Briefing journalists at the end of a meeting of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee meeting, Barrister Ismaeel Ahmed, the APC spokesman who was holding brief for the national secretary under the leadership of Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, also said the sale of forms for the National Working Committee (NWC) positions had commenced.
Barrister Ahmed who is a member of the caretaker committee and youth leader of the party restated that the March 26 convention date remained sacrosanct.
Ahmed also said the party has pegged the expression of interest and nomination forms for the national chairmanship position at N20 million, national secretary and deputy national chairman (North and South) at N10 million.
He added that forms for the NWC offices go for N5 million while those for NEC positions (deputies) go for N1 million.
On the number of delegates that would attend the national convention, he said about 3,000 to 4,000 delegates would take part in the voting process to elect new members of the NWC at the convention.
On why national secretary of the caretaker committee, Akpanudoedehe, who was at the party’s national secretariat earlier in the day, was conspicuously absent during the CECPC meeting, Ahmed said, “Wallahi, I don’t know. I’m not in control of his itinerary. He doesn’t speak to me before he comes to the office; he doesn’t speak to me when he is leaving. So I don’t know why he is not here. I’m not even aware that he was in office today. I thought he had travelled.”
On whether Governor Sani Bello who was also absent at the meeting was indisposed, he said, “No, he travelled but he is back. He will be here tomorrow.”
Party Pegs Chairmanship Form At N20m
Meanwhile, the APC yesterday announced the commencement of the sale of expression of interest and nomination forms, saying the nomination form for national chairmanship position of the party would go for the sum of N20 million.
The party’s director of Organisation, Prof Al-Mustapha Medaner, who disclosed this in a statement, said the sale of nomination forms, which was expected to have started on Monday, March 14, will close on Friday, March 18.
He stated: “The Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) at its 25th regular meeting of 14th March, 2022 reviewed and hereby adopts the following timetable/schedule of activities for the national convention.”
The aspirants vying for the position of deputy national chairmanship would pay N10 million for nomination form, while other positions in the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party would be sold at the cost of N5 million each.
Also a document which was later withdrawn showed that aspirants for the office of the deputy national chairman will pay N10 million while forms for other positions in the National Working Committee NWC of the party will attract N5 million each.
This is even as Turaki of Ilorin, Malam Saliu Mustapha, was the first national chairmanship aspirants to pick his nomination and expression of interest forms yesterday.
The forms were picked on his behalf by a group of supporters who had stormed the party secretariat as soon as it announced the sales.
Drama In Court As Lawyers Fight Over Representation In APC’s Suit To Vacate Court Order
Meanwhile, there was a mild drama at a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting Kubwa, as two lawyers engaged themselves in heated argument over who has been mandated to represent the APC and its national chairman and Yobe state governor, Mai Mala Buni in a suit seeking to vacate the order of the court stopping the party’s national convention.
The development stalled the hearing of the application filed by the party seeking to vacate the order of the court stopping the party from going ahead with its March 26, national convention.
Justice Bello Kawu of the court had ordered the party not to go ahead with its planned convention.
During the proceedings yesterday, two lawyers, Shuaibu Aruwa, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and Michael Adoyi from the chambers of Musa Yakubu (SAN) and Co, announced appearances for both the party and Buni.
While Aruwa claimed that he had been briefed by the party to take over the matter from Musa Yakubu, Adoyi who appeared from their chambers said his principal had not been debriefed.
Aruwa said, “My lord, it appears there is a conflict of representation as regards the 1st and 2nd respondents in this matter. We have a copy of a letter of instruction to them in this matter.
”After we were briefed, we filed a notice of change of counsel and we informed counsel in court of the changes and there was no complaint.”
In his response, Adoyi said his chambers was yet to be debriefed and the case file was still with him.
”We were not served with the hearing notice of this matter today and we did not recieve any letter debriefing us. The case file is still with me. Mai Mala Buni told my principal that the brief is still extant. We are still in this matter representing the 1st and 2nd respondents”, he said.
Justice Kawu, in his ruling, said it was obvious the case won’t go on because of the disagreement over legal representation.
”Having heard from counsel, it appears there is disagreement over who the counsel l representing the 1st and 2nd respondents will be. I therefore, order the 1st and 2nd respondents to write to the court who their counsel is. This matter is hereby adjourned to March 17, 2022,” the judge ruled.
The plaintiff in the matter, Honourable Salisu Umoru, dragged the party, Governor Buni and INEC before the court to challenge the planned convention.
In the case with suit number FCT/HC/CV/2958/2021 and motion number FCT/HC/M/9655/21, the plaintiff prayed the court for an order interlocutory injunction restraining the 1st and 2nd defe dants, allies, agency, representative, associates or whoever is action g for them through or through them from organising, holding or conducting g National Convention of the All Progressives Congress in January and February or at any other date either before or after pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
After listening to counsel in the matter, Justice Kawu granted the order and restrained the party from going ahead with the convention and also warned that the subject matter of the case is now subjudice and must nor be tampered with.
The claimant informed the court that the mere inauguration of sub-committees for the March 26 National Convention when the order of the honourable court is in force is a demonstration of disdain for the rule of law in the country.
Why We’re Training Convention Officers – Ganduje
Meanwhile, Kano State governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, of Kano State yesterday said the party was training about 250 young men and women as protocol officers at the national convention because of the dignitaries that would attend the event slated for March 26.
Ganduje who spoke with journalists at the APC national secretariat after a meeting of the protocols sub-committee for the convention said preparations for the convention has commenced.
Ganduje who is chairman of the protocols sub-committee for the convention, said the training of protocol officers had commenced.
He stated: “We are preparing for the convention. Apart from the selection of about 250 able young men and women, they are undergoing training after which they will proceed to the Eagle Square the venue of the convention.
“I will be there myself together with other members of the protocols sub-committee. You know there will be many dignitaries; legislators, governors, president and vice President, even ministers who will be there as observers anyway.
“It is a gathering of who is who, not only in APC but in government. So our protocols and ushers must give the best services to benefit our great party at the convention.”
On the court order stopping the convention, the Kano governor said, “I have no fears. Our convention will hold insha Allah. Don’t worry we are equal to the task.
“We are the biggest party in Africa and we have the experience to handle it. We are organising the convention, selection is taking place, consensus is taking place and we believe we will give you the best.”
Earleir at the meeting, Ganduje who addressed the youths selected for training as protocol officer said, “It is such a privilege to see able young men and women as protocol officers. First, let me congratulate you on being selected to serve in the protocol subcommittee. Let me assure you that you will be well taken care of with little stipend but that is not the major motivation but your participation is the most important and we shall provide you with things you can keep as history.
“You will be told what you are expected to do and what you are not expected to do. You must be aware that this is a very important event where members of the party, members of the state houses of assembly; federal Legislators, ministers, advisers to the president, governors, Vice President and the president.
“It is not everybody that will be allowed into the venue but you will see foreign diplomats and ambassadors. For those of you who go to queue in there offices, we will bring the ambassador for you. If you smile and behalf well, the next time you go for interview, the ambassador will welcome you well.
“Also, as young people, we don’t expect to see any element of tiredness in you. You must always wear a smiling faces so that whoever comes to the convention unhappy on seeing you will put on smiling faces as well. We will also provide you with uniforms, sewn to fit by professional tailors so as to make you look beautiful.
“Later we will have a rehearsal to test your preparedness and fitness for the d-day. In all, the convention will be organized in such a way that you will be proud of us and we hope to be proud of you.