Tension as APC holds convention amidst power play

…Buni re-assures of hitch-free exercise

…Party settles for consensus, releases ‘unity list’

… Consensus violates Electoral Act 2022 – Ajulo

…We’re ready, Lalong says, advises delegates to uphold guidelines

…Party’ll be stronger, more united after this convention – Senate leader

After two postponements, the national convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will be held today at the Eagles Square, Abuja, even as the party is optimistic of a rancour-free exercise.

Speaking ahead of the event, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe state who is the chairman of the party’s Caretaker/Extra-ordinary convention Planning Committee (CECPC), re-assured of a successful conduct of the convention.

His re-assurances were contained in a statement by the director, press and public affairs to Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau state, Dr. Makut Macham, on Friday in Jos.

Macham said Buni lauded the convention venue/site committee headed by Lalong on the preparations made so far.

“He expressed satisfaction with the level of preparations made so far, especially the venue, and all arrangements put in place for the convenience and safety of all delegates during the convention.

“He said the progress made by the committee was a demonstration of the unity and zeal among members of the APC toward a successful convention that would ensure a solid future for the party. He also commended the commitment and synergy among various committees, for the success of the convention,” the statement read in part.

According to the statement, Lalong in his remarks assured that all facilities required to ensure smooth conduct of the Convention had been put in place.

He advised all delegates to adhere to all guidelines, especially the seating arrangements at the venue, to ensure a hitch-free convention.

Nasarawa gov’s assurances

Addressing a press conference Friday in Abuja, as part of preparations for today’s event, the Nasarawa state governor and chairman, national convention sub-committee on media and publicity, Abdullahi Sule, assured that the all-important meeting would lead to a more united, focused and stronger political party.

The governor also revealed that the APC leaders, having settled for a consensus arrangement to elect new party leaders at national level and zonal levels, were working to release an acceptable ‘unity list’ ahead of the convention.

When asked on the modalities to elect new members of the National Working Committee (NWC), Governor Sule said: “Our first choice is always consensus, and we are still on that first choice. However, democracy demands, even our (APC) Constitution demands and the constitution of Nigeria demands that if that doesn’t work, we will go ahead and look at the other options. But right now, that remains our option.

“On the issue of political appointees, our delegates list are actually statutory delegates. So, if you have a former president as a political appointee, if you have a former senator as a political appointee, these are already automatic delegates, you know, so let’s not confuse the two just because being an appointee doesn’t necessarily take you out of being a delegate, because our delegates are classified, clearly.

“So, most of the list that we submitted, you know, if you are talking of the ones we have submitted now, we don’t have commissioners, we don’t have advisers, we don’t have all those unless somebody particularly was a former this or former that. In that case, just being an appointee doesn’t completely exclude such a person from being a delegate.”

The ‘unity list’

Speaking on the much-talk about ‘unity list,’ Governor Sule said, “The issue of unity list is actually an item and from what we have had from the various regions, unity list will be ready today (Friday); it will actually be submitted and somebody was asking whether it is for real we are going to have unity list or not? Of course, yes, if you are talking of consensus, you must have a unity list, because that’s the whole essence of consensus.

“If you’re having consensus, you’re going to have people who have agreed, aspirants who have agreed, stakeholders who have agreed, and also the constituency that have agreed, and in that case, that name automatically will be adopted. And that’s just the meaning of the unity list. That’s how the unity list is going to be put together.”

‘Party will be united’

In his view, the Leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abdullahi ( Kebbi North), said the party “will come out of the convention stronger and more united.”

Senator Abdullahi, who said this Thursday in a telephone conversation with our reporter, noted that strong indications to that effect were already emerging through a series of meetings President Muhammadu Buhari held with some stakeholders of the party.

“The party is clearly out of crisis. The storm is over as delegates and those vying for the various party positions are not taking it as a do-or-die affair.

“APC will be stronger and more united after this convention and make 2023 elections easier for her candidates to win,” he said.

Ajulo’s warning

Meanwhile, a constitutional lawyer, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, has said the consensus arrangement by the APC for its national executive officers is a violation of the Electoral Act 2022.

Ajulo stated this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Abuja, making reference to Section 82(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

“It provides that the election of members of the executive committee or other governing body of a political party, including the election to fill a vacant position shall be conducted democratically,” he said.

He said the section further allowed members of the party or duly elected delegates to vote in support of a candidate of their choice.

According to him, the provision means that the only mode of election of members of the executive committee or governing body of a political party shall be by direct or indirect election.

“It, therefore, implies that the Electoral Act, 2022 has expressly abrogated consensus mode of election of members of the executive committee or other governing body of a political party.”

The lawyer said the position of law was clear to the effect that the provisions of the constitution or a statute should not be interpreted in isolation.

“It is settled that in interpreting the provisions or sections of a statute or indeed the constitution, such provisions or sections should not be read in isolation of the other parts.

 “Section 84(2) of the Act provides that the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions shall be by direct, indirect primaries or consensus.

“Section 84(9) of the Act further provides that a political party that adopts a consensus candidate shall secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the position.”

He said the provisions of sections 84(2) and 84(9) of the Electoral Act specifically deal with conduct of party primaries

“One point that is clear is that if the drafters of the Act would have permitted consensus mode of election of members of the executive of a political party, it would have been stated.”

He stressed that it was imperative to advise decision-makers of APC to be wary of the harms that would be occasioned if the members of the executive of the party were elected by a consensus mode.

Ajulo said if the consensus was used at the national convention of the party, it could be challenged by appropriate party members with potential disastrous consequences for the party at the general elections.

He, therefore, advised the party to “immediately resort to direct or indirect mode of electing members of the executive at the convention.”

Mustapha’s appeal

In the meantime, one of the national chairmanship aspirants, Malam Saliu Mustapha, has appealed to his supporters to remain calm pending a joint decision to be taken by the other five aspirants.

President Buhari had expressed preference for Senator Abdullahi Adamu as a consensus candidate for the position of national chairman.

The five other chairmanship aspirants including Mustapha, Tanko Al-Makura, Sani Musa, George Akume and others have remained silent.

It was gathered that the five aspirants have engaged in different meetings to take a joint position.

But in a statement issued Friday by the director-general, Saliu Mustapha Campaign Organization, Malam Bala Usman, the chairmanship aspirant said all the other aspirants would continue to engage in order to review the options before them and agree on a common and mutually beneficial decision, adding that “until this is done, nothing has been decided yet.”

While recognising consensus as one of the legal options for leadership selection methods, Mustapha said: “for consensus to abide, it must be all inclusive and devoid of any vestige of imposition.

“In the course of his campaigns for the office of National Chairman of APC, our candidate, our team as ably led by the Turaki of Ilorin has had close interactions with party members, supporters and well-wishers, who all share in his fervent desire to build APC into a party that prioritises inclusion, fair reward system and a transparent internal democracy; all of which are the major pillars of his campaigns.

“While he will join other aspirants in the race to work out a most acceptable outcome in the larger interest of the party, we request that all his supporters and well-wishers remain calm. As it’s the tradition in the Saliu Mustapha Campaign Organization, the decision of what to do will be that of everyone involved, not just that of Turaki alone.

“As we all look forward to the national convention, we wish all party delegates who are converging on Abuja a safe and smooth journey to the capital city.”

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