By Ehichioya Ezomon
It’s reminiscent of a “palace coup” executed in a military fashion when the head of state or government, or the board chairman of a corporation is away from the country or out of sight of the premises.
Such is the sack of Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, as acting chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Buni was reportedly overseas when his dismissal was carried out by “students and/or masers” of the game of changing of leaderships by fiat, and without shedding of blood.
So, a member of the CECPC and Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, son of a former military administrator of Kano State, retired Col. Sani Bello, took advantage of Buni’s absence to declare himself (so it looked) as the acting chairman of the committee. But Bello obviously acted at the behest of the leader of the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired General and former Head of State, who overthrew the government of President Shehu Shagari in December 1983, and was himself upstaged in August 1985 by the gap-toothed Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.
Literally “stepping aside” from power for good in August 1993, after annulling the June 12, 1993, presidential election won by businessman-turned politician, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, Babangida handed over to a boardroom player, Chief Ernest Shonekan, who’s shoved aside, in just 83 days in office, by the dark-goggled Gen. Sani Abacha, then Chief of Army Staff.
In the running crises in the APC, President Buhari in June 2020, at a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) that he heads, sacked the National Working Committee (NWC) supervised by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, a former governor of Edo State.
The NEC enthroned Governor Buni as acting chair of the CECPC that’s to last for six months, with the mandate to reconcile the warring factions in the APC, and orgainise the National Convention.
The Buni caretaker committee fell short of this assignment within the six-month timeframe, even as it regularly shifted the goalpost, and dug in to entrench itself, while the crises in the APC festered.
So, Buni’s sack was long overdue, for failure to achieve the committee’s set goals, and the CECPC faulty foundation that became subject of law suits, and protests by aggrieved members. There’re specific allegations as to why Buni was removed barely three weeks – precisely 19 days – to the repeatedly-postponed national convention that’s initially to hold in 2020. They include:
* Delaying the national convention, to coincide with the APC presidential primaries, which he would conduct, to enhance his future political aspiration, principally a shot at the presidency.
* Helping to feather the 2023 ambitions of some APC governors, and other party chieftains, who connived to sack the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC, and installed Buni as chair of the CECPC.
* Scheming to postpone the convention on the excuse to allow the CECPC time to resolve the APC crises arising from congresses and primaries conducted by Oshiomhole’s NWC for the 2019 polls, and congresses supervised by Buni’s committee for the 2023 elections.
* Discovering a court injunction, obtained by Buni’s foot soldiers in November 2021, to scuttle the national convention, as confirmed by Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai on March 10.
That’s when President Buhari, “uncomfortable with the antics” of the CECPC to disregard his several directives, “and thus portrayed the president as weak,” stepped in to remove Buni and the Secretary of the CECPC, Senator James Akpanudoedehe.
Resuming at the APC secretariat on March 7, Bello, after a meeting with members of the CECPC and the party’s state chairmen, told reporters that his chairmanship position had Buhari’s blessing.
Embarking on a medical trip to Dubai, Buni, perhaps unaware that his days as APC’s helmsman were numbered, duly handed over power to Governor Bello, who’s denied receipt of Buni’s letter.
But the youth representative and spokesperson of the CECPC, Ismaeel Ahmed, confirmed on March 17 that Buni wrote a letter, “requesting a leave of absence, and for Governor Bello to take over as APC’s caretaker committee chairman.”
Fielding questions from reporters in Abuja, Mr Ahmed said: “These are two emergencies. He (Buni) had a medical emergency that could not wait for the convention. We have a convention that cannot wait for him to be healthy. So, one has to leave for the other.
“Governor Bello has been acting appropriately, and there is no problem about that. For now, we are doing it with the full authority and backing of the law. So, there is no ambiguity in this.
“Power by the chairmanship was transmitted to Governor Bello, and he is fully driving it right now and we are moving towards the convention with the speed that is needed.”
Certainly, Governor Buni’s health played a cruel trick on him, as the perfect setting needed by the APC head-hunters to sack him, and Sen. Akpanudoedehe. (A member and legal adviser to the CECPC, Prof. Tahir Mamman, has been appointed to act as the secretary.)
The removal of Buni as the chair of the CECPC fits the axiom, “What goes around comes around.” An Esan proverb also says: “The ghoul that kills for meat will also be meat for another ghoul.” Or simply put: “He who rides a tiger will end up in its belly.”
Buni had conspired with some APC governors to sack the duly-elected Oshiomhole-led NWC at a national convention, to serve a four-year term, but was dethroned in just two years in office.
Now, the questions: Will the Governor Bello interim management deliver, in barely three weeks, on the mandate that the CECPC under Governor Buni failed to achieve in nearly two years?
Will the APC backers of Buni’s committee “let bygone be bygone,” as Bello has pleaded, and forge a united front for the national convention, and primaries that will usher in the 2023 polls?
Will they undermine the APC, by defecting to other platforms, chiefly the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), or sabotage the party in similar eventualities that the PDP suffered in the 2015 elections that brought the APC to power?
Ahead of the national convention, the auguries look bleak. There’s controversy over choice of the National Chairman, zoned to the North Central (Middle Belt), that President Buhari has endorsed former Governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu.
Contentious is the zoning of the APC offices, which report, turned in by a committee headed by Kwara State Governor Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman, has been adopted and published by the CECPC, that’s trimmed the membership of the convention committees.
Besides, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had queried APC’s NEC meeting, called by Governor Bello for March 17, as violating the Electoral Act 2022 that requires political parties to provide 21 days’ notice prior to any convention or meeting.
But the CECPC youth member, Mr Ahmed, has clarified that the committee’s notice of February 5, for the aborted February 26 national convention, subsists, needing only a letter of reminder to INEC, for the national convention or any meeting preceding it.
“We served that notice on February 5, and that was the required 21 days. If you are going to make any adjustment to that date, all you need is a letter making an adjustment to the date.” Ahmed said.
He added: “You don’t need another 21 days, and that letter was written about two weeks ago, when we realised that we couldn’t hold it (national convention) on February 26.
“The moment the CECPC agreed on March 26, as the date for the national convention, that letter was written to INEC. INEC has accepted that letter. So, that is long gone; it’s not an issue. It has always been the case; that has never changed, and now we have a convention on March 26.”
As the APC members look forward to a successful national convention, they won’t forget its many unwarranted postponements by Governor Buni, which earned him a palace coup-style removal, to serve as a deterrent to others eying the chairmanship seat!
- Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.