Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday, told the 11th National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja that the party’s leaders must eschew imposition of candidates if APC was to emerge victorious in the 2023 general election.
Buhari said the dictatorial behaviours of some leaders had cost the party many strategic elective positions, and led to the defection of several influential members of the party.
The assertions came as the APC NEC transferred its powers to the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) for 90 days. It was similar to what obtained during the now defunct Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the party led by the governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni.
That was as National Chairman of APC, Abdullahi Adamu, o Wednesday, decried the “cold war” between serving and former governors, claiming the situation, fuelled by ego, is tearing the party apart.
In a related development, the chairman of Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, said there was no explicit discussion at Wenesday’s NEC meeting on the mode of primaries to be adopted by the ruling party, even though the timetable of the party suggested it might settle for indirect primaries.
Meanwhile, APC said it would commence the sale of nomination forms ahead of next year’s general election on April 22. It pegged the cost of its presidential nomination forms at N100 million, with primaries slated to hold between May 30 and June 2.
Speaking at the 11th NEC of the party in Abuja, Buhari commended all the aspirants at the last national convention of the party for their desire to serve. He also appreciated those who had to withdraw their aspirations for the over-all interest of the party. He said he considered it an honour to his person and an unwavering sacrifice for the unity of the party as they approached the coming elections.
The president appealed to aspirants, who were not elected, to support the leadership of the party to achieve its goal of victory in the forthcoming elections.
He also pleaded with all litigants to withdraw cases against the party and trust the party’s internal mechanisms to address their grievances.
Congratulating Adamu and the entire NWC members, the president noted that they came in at a critical time and the party had a high expectation from them. He stressed that the critical task ahead of the NWC remained to continue to forge unity of purpose among party members.
Buhari stated, “I must caution strongly against any tendency towards developing cliques, infighting within the party. We want to win well not succumb to fractions on account of personal bitterness and desire to retain control at all costs. That surely is the road to win.
“I enjoin you all to recognise the place of due process in all our tasks as managers of the party. We must develop party in-built mechanisms against corruption. Our success in 2023 will depend more on our capacity to respect our own extant rules, and regulations.
“I enjoin you all to follow due process in all the party processes and more importantly, to develop more mechanisms against corruption. I call on all party members to abide by all extant laws, rules, and regulations and to leaders of our party to avoid imposition of candidates that cannot win popular elections.
“This dictatorial behaviour cost us many strategic seats in the past. In the recent past, this led to some of our strong members, unfortunately, opting to go elsewhere, because of unfairly oppressive behaviour of party leaders at state level.”
The president emphasised that the principal challenge before the NWC was the ability to forge a united front, adding that it is the responsibility of NWC to keep creating and sustaining useful compromises among party leaders and members across the country.
According to the president, “We must identify elements and factors that would facilitate it. This I urge the new NWC to place as a priority task. Whenever you need help in these critical times, please, do not hesitate to seek out assistance from the appropriate quarters. I stand ready at the service of the party and the country.
“Now that NEC has vested its powers in NWC for the time being, as requested, and in compliance with the party constitution in the overall interest of the party, I want to assure Mr. Chairman and the entire NWC members of my full support.”
Adamu, on his part, decried the political rivalry between serving and former governors, which he said was tearing the ruling party apart.
He stated, “As you see it, this party has two paths to take. The first path is the full and complete unity of the party; the second path is winning 2023 general election. How we handle the first will determine how we achieve the second. We must take urgent and targeted steps now to unite our party at all levels: federal, state, local government, and ward.
“Our political party must emerge from incessant challenges in order to prepare for the coming tasks ahead. Secondly, we must begin the process of banishing disagreement and build, inclusive of our past and present experiences.”
Adamu stressed that the lack of unity in the ruling party was obvious. He said efforts to unite the party led the former caretaker committee to set up a reconciliation committee to find a lasting peace.
He stated, “I know Mr President is not unmindful of what happened to PDP in 2014/2015. Our party is not immune to similar fate should it conduct itself in such a way that continues to undermine the legacy of the founding fathers to build this party.
“I was the chairman of the reconciliation committee and came out of the assignment fully conversant of the problems. The battle really is a battle for supremacy between serving state governors and their predecessors in office.
“It is a crisis fuelled by ego. So ego is the enemy – ego between former and serving governors. Ego has turned them into bitter enemies. Because of ego, the two groups are putting our party in jeopardy and the effect will be in the polls next year.
“The serving governors and past governors are powerful men. Each are leaders in their own rights in their states, but when two elephants fight, the grass suffers. Similarly, when two powerful politicians fight, the party suffers, because the speech and actions of these powerful men will bring a filthy and odious stench to our party.”
The chairman said the ruling party must have the courage to avoid paying lip service to the rivalry. He insisted the serving governors of the party were the leaders of the party in their various states, in line with the party’s constitution.
Adamu noted, “It is important that the former governors recognise that the party structure must be respected. Our party’s constitution makes no room for two party leaders in a state. There is no reason to compete with serving governors for the leadership of the party.”
Speaking, too, Bagudu said the decision of the party to waive certain categories of fees for women and persons with disabilities was commendable. He said while there was no explicit discussion on the mode of primaries to elect the party’s standard bearers, the APC election timetable suggested that the indirect method would be adopted.
“There was no explicit discussion about the mode of primaries, but the timetable seems to suggest that is indirect primaries,” he said.
Bagudu addressed the question of timing of resignation before elections for appointees of government, saying, “We are over-flogging a legal issue. Even the Electoral Act says no appointee should be voted for or vote in an election, it didn’t give specific date or time at which such appointee shall resign. That is number one. Secondly, this matter is sub-judice, because there is a Federal High Court ruling on the issue that is on appeal.”
President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, while speaking at the meeting, assured that the National Assembly would continue to support the party. Lawan acknowledged that insecurity in the country culminated during the APC administration, but insisted that the menace built up over the years.
Noting that the present administration had shown more commitment to the fight against insecurity than previous governments, he said, “I am so confident and optimistic that before we leave in 2023, Mr President would secure our country.”