A letter signed by twenty of the twenty four state governors of the ruling All Progressives Congress [APC] is to be delivered to President Muhammadu Buhari shortly demanding that the party’s National Working Committee [NWC] led by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun immediately constitute a Convention Planning Committee to organise a national convention to elect new national officers in June.
Daily Trust learnt yesterday from top party sources that governors were signing the letter one by one folowing the deadlock and heated arguments of the previous day when the governors met with the president at the State House, Abuja.
As at late afternoon yesterday, 15 governors had signed the letter. First to sign was Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha. Others who signed were Governors Abdul-Aziz Yari of Zamfara, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano, Kashim Shettima of Borno, Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi, Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos and Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo.
Others who had either signed or were expected to sign include Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger, Samuel Ortom of Benue, Andrew Obaseki of Edo, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa, Mohammed Jibrilla Bindow of Adamawa, Abdul-Fatah Ahmed of Kwara and Mohammed Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa.
Our top sources said three APC governors were out of the country and did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. They are Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina, Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe and Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi.
Daily Trust learnt that while the first two would sign the letter, the Bauchi governor could be swayed by his close friend, Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi, not to sign the letter. Amaechi is among the party top shots that are pushing for tenure elongation for Oyegun. Four APC governors who strongly advocate tenure extension are not expected to sign the letter. They are Governors Nasiru el-Rufa’i of Kaduna, Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo and Yahaya Bello of Kogi. The latter however was overheard saying at the private meetings, “Let’s go for the convention! What is there?”
The governors’ letter to Buhari also demanded that the convention planning committee to be constituted “should be fair” and should “reflect all interests in the party.”
This clause was added, Daily Trust learnt, because APC National Leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu circulated a draft list of convention planning committee members heavy with his allies from the defunct AC. The committee is to be made up of three members from each geopolitical zone, including a governor.
Tinubu nominated persons such Senator Abu Ibrahim and Senator Lawal Shu’aibu from North West, Alhaji Kashim Imam and former SGF Babachir David Lawal from North East and Senator George Akume from North Central. All of them were AC members or his personal friends.
It was also learnt that the push for a convention committee stemmed from the drama that ensued at Tuesday afternoon’s meeting at the State House. A top source said there was much confusion in the run up to the meeting. The meeting with Buhari was fixed for 2pm but another notice told the governors to come an hour earlier but when many of them arrived, confusion arose until Buhari walked in at 2pm.
The sitting arrangement was such that Okorocha, as chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum sat immediately to the president’s right, followed by Yari as chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum [NGF], then Kashim Shettima as chairman of Northern States Governors Forum [NSGF], and then other governors in alphabetical order of their states.
Okorocha therefore spoke first; he said APC governors completely aligned with Buhari’s speech at the party’s National Executive Committee [NEC] where he said tenure elongation for party executives was illegal. Yari spoke next and supported Okorocha but Shettima declined to speak.
At that point, Governor El-Rufa’i exploded. He accused Okorocha and Yari of speaking for the governors without authorisation. He said nobody could speak for him and nobody should misinterpret Buhari’s statement at the NEC meeting.
The Kaduna governor said he knows Buhari better than all other APC governors because he has been with him since 2010 and he knows his body language very well. Buhari, he said, never said tenure elongation was illegal but that party leaders should go and discuss it.
President Buhari then spoke. He said after APC NEC voted in February to elongate executives’ tenure, he asked several lawyers to examine the decision in relation to the 1999 Constitution, Electoral Act 2010 and APC Constitution. All of them, he said, told him that the action was illegal and could be struck down by the courts.
Buhari said, “The people we are fighting are very rich and they will go to court and defeat us.” Okorocha then tried to end the meeting by saying Buhari had made his stance clear but other governors still spoke. Among them, Ganduje of Kano said the issue should be wrapped up because “too much analysis will lead to paralysis,” while Shettima of Borno said his colleagues should be “measured, calm and considerate” in all matters.
The meeting ended on that note, which was why most Nigerian newspapers reported yesterday that it was deadlocked.
After numerous caucus meetings on Tuesday night to Wednesday morning still failed to resolve the issues, the majority APC governors drafted the letter to Buhari which they began to sign yesterday.
The move, Daily Trust also learnt, was to stymie the Technical Committee led by Governor Simon Lalong that Oyegun inaugurated on Tuesday, allegedly at the behest of pro-elongation governors.
Opponents said Oyegun stuffed the Technical Committee with pro-elongation governors Lalong, el-Rufa’i and Akeredolu as well as its secretary, Muiz Banire. They said the Lalong committee is expected to submit a report to Oyegun saying tenure extension is not illegal.
At the APC NEC meeting, both Akeredolu and Banire, who are SANs, were asked to comment on the legality of tenure elongation and both gave long winded speeches in which they suggested it could be legal. At which point Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, also a SAN, spoke and said they were both wrong.
APC to announce congresses date as NEC meets Monday.
Meanwhile, the party would hold another NEC meeting on Monday where recommendations from Governor Lalong’s 10-man technical will be discussed.
Party Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, announced this yesterday after two and a half hours’ closed -door discussion with some of the party’s governors at the national secretariat in Abuja.
He said: “Today (yesterday), the governors and the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party decided to sit and look at the issues that are seemingly dividing us. I want to say to you with absolute satisfaction and pride that all the issues you have been commenting about in the last two days have been completely and totally resolved.
“We are back in business as one united and happy family. I want to say also that yesterday (Tuesday), we set up a technical committee as ordered by NEC. From the very first minute that we called them to action, they have worked nonstop because I emphasized when I was inaugurating them that their report was time sensitive.
“It is sensitive because we have already sent out notices for the meeting of NEC which will hold on Monday. I am glad to say that the chairman of the technical committee has reported that his report will be ready this evening or tomorrow morning.
“This report will be placed before NEC on Monday, April 9 and appropriate decision will be taken. Thereafter, we will announce to you the further steps that we are going to take resulting from NEC consideration on the recommendations when we receive them.
“The bottom line is that the APC leadership is back as one happy united and focused party, strongly behind our president and strongly behind our governors in all the states.”
Daily Trust, however, gathered that next Monday’s NEC meeting would rather be used to endorse the need for congresses and convention and announce the dates for the exercise.
The governors at the meeting with NWC were Abdulaziz Yari, Zamfara; Ibikunle Amosun, Ogun; Yahaya Bello, Kogi; Abubakar Badaru, Jigawa; Atiku Bagudu, Kebbi; Akinwumi Ambode, Lagos; Abdullahi Ganduje, Kano; Rochas Okorocha, Imo; Simon Lalong, Plateau and the deputy governor of Niger State Mohammad Ahmed Ketso.
Daily Trust also gathered those who felt “defeated” by the outcome of the various meetings held in the last two days are now working towards ensuring that the national convention hold in Abuja.
“Those against the tenure elongation have been strategizing to take the convention to the South and probably Lagos in order to complete their scheming but this would be resisted,” a source said.
“The convention must hold at a neutral ground which is Abuja where delegates from all over the states and the FCT would converge,” he added.
Another source said some of the NWC members would seek for a second term but declined to mention names.