Joshua Omoloye, Abuja
Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni is expected back in the country soonest from his medical trip to Dubai as uncertainty surrounds his status in the hierarchy of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Until Monday morning, he was the chairman of the party’s Caretaker Committee but the rug was swept under his feet with the appointment of his colleague governor of Niger State, Mohammed Sani Bello in acting capacity as Chairman of the CECPC.
While his fate may have been sealed with the obvious change in leadership, his hope of getting a reprieve on the other hand is being rallied by a powerful organ of the party, the legislative caucus.
Therefore, Buni’s is causing ripples in the party as interests are clashing over his fate in APC leadership.
Buni’s travail dated back over a year when agitation to unseat him started gathering momentum on the ground that he reneged on the mandate of conducting national convention within a stipulated six months time frame.
He was made CECPC chairman in June 2020 following the suspension of former national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the Committee was given six months to conduct the APC national convention, The Trumpet gathered.
Foremost among protagonists of Buni’s supreme reign in APC are some of his colleagues in the party.
The arrowheads of his foes in the Progressives Governors Forum are Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nazir el- Rufai, Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo- Olu and Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello. Surprisingly is the Niger State governor, Sani Bello who is also a member of the CECPC.
His many sins include allegedly taking unilateral decisions on party matters particularly conducting of state congresses in APC states. Buni, allegedly stepped on toes by influencing the election of state executive to please some governors to the detriment of interests of other stakeholders neglected but powerfully close to Aso Rock.
President Buhari, it was learnt had received many complaints of how the Buni leadership deepened crisis across APC states.
In the same vein, Buni was not forgiven by party chieftains for the role played in governorship primaries and the emergence of party candidates in a few states. He was accused of creating more crisis than he met as chairman of the party.
However, his sacking was largely blamed on the refusal of the CECPC to hold a national convention. Different groups within the party has taken Buni to the cleaners, calling him names.
Prominent among his protagonists is former Director General of the PGF, Dr Salihu Lukman who accused Buni and his associates of deliberate efforts to block the APC Convention from holding based on alleged personal ambitions.
Buni was alleged to be nursing vice presidential ambition. He was said to be delaying the convention to perfect permutation of who to align with among the APC presidential aspirants.
The Yobe governor has been severally linked with the Yemi Osinbajo presidency, thereby courting the anger of other presidential hopefuls such as Bola Tinubu and Rotimi Amaechi.
The embattled governor, it was said, also got entangled in the zoning of party positions ahead of the planned national convention.
He got himself enmeshed in the battle royale between the el- Rufai and Amaechi factions over zoning of certain positions.
The disagreement over zoning list necessitated the constitution of the Gov. Abdulrazaq – led Zoning Committee which submitted its report on Monday to the acting chairman.
Describing him as an undertaker, Lukman said several actions of Buni were tantamount to selling out the party by working against the interest of APC.
In a self-serving move, Buni was accused of sponsoring a group, which had secretly in November 2021 obtained a court injunction against the Convention and waiting until three or two days to the Convention before serving it on the party to scuttle the March 26 APC Convention from holding.
Lukman said “between November 2021 and January 2022, the APC Convention had to be postponed three times because of deliberate refusal to initiate most, processes required, such as booking venue for the Convention and serving statutory three weeks’ notice to INEC.
“There are specific allegations of Mai Mala Buni, striking some deals with some Presidential aspirants to ensure their emergence as the Presidential Candidate of APC for the 2023 elections.
“Some of the allegations suggests extorting monies from these aspirants, including someone who is yet to join the party. It is being alleged that campaign offices for the aspirant are already being opened even before such a person joined the party.
“All these highlight problems of trust, which the leadership of Buni represented. A good confirmation of why it will be difficult for party leaders and members to continue to invest any trust in his leadership of the CECPC”
Armed with some of these allegations, forces against Buni, it was learnt, pleaded with President Buhari to relieve the erstwhile chairman and Secretary of their positions.
On the verge of his foreign trip, a source close to the Presidency said Buhari bulged into the request purposefully to save the party. He therefore in his characteristic manner ordered that Buni’s sack be carried out in his absence on Monday.
Unconfirmed source told The Trumpet that more trouble may await Buni as there is an alleged directive from the Presidency that should Buni fail to accept the party’s decision, an impeachment process against him should be commenced by the Yobe State House of Assembly.
However, The Trumpet had it on vintage source that not all the governors are against Buni. Only that more governors are against the embattled Buni those with him. Even, Kaduna governor, el- Rufai on a national television interview alluded to the fact the majority of the governors backed the appointment of Gov. Sani Bello as acting chairman.
He was emphatic in saying that not more than four governors are backing Buni. This, in itself, is a confirmation that Buni’s interest has created a crack in the rank of the Progressive Governors Forum.
Surprisingly also, is the bold declaration by APC senators that Buni remains chairman of the party.
As important stakeholders, and as a caucus in the party, the APC Senate Caucus met twice this week to dissect all the issues that have been affecting the party since the formation of the caretaker extraordinary convention planning committee and expressed concern over the challenges facing the party very close to its national convention.
Chairman of the Caucus and Leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abdullahi dispelled the rumour that the Governor Mala Buni led executive has been sacked, adding, “the national convention planning committee is in place”.
Talking about the latest development, he said “we realized is that the chairman of the convention planning committee has been sick and he went for medical checkup.
” Governor Buni to us remains the Chairman of National Caretaker / Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the party.
” He will resume in that capacity any moment he returns from Dubai where he went for medical check.
“The Niger State Governor, from the grapevine and from the knowledge that is available to us is actually the deputy chairman and in the absence of the chairman, he is acting till the chairman comes back.
” Governor Sani Bello who is acting in that capacity now is doing so to avoid vacuum in leadership and most importantly, to put in place required arrangements for the forthcoming National Convention of the party 17 days from now”.
The Senate did not stop there, it went ahead to commend activities of the CECPC, which has been condemned in some quarters within the party.
“We are quite aware of the challenges that they have faced and we are also aware of the successes that the committee has recorded, particularly when it comes to registration of members, they came to harmonizing some of the congresses of the party, carrying out congresses at the ward, local government and at the state levels.
“We commend the performance of that committee, we ask you to do more by as much as possible by trying to reconcile those chapters where there are still challenges trailing the ward, local government and state congresses because a loss in any state is a loss for the party”.
Promising not to take side in the crisis, the Caucus said its major concern is to ensure that APC did not go to the convention as a divided entity.
“The Senate Leader said “so, from our standing, coming from all the states in Nigeria, we have to come and establish a national platform where all these things can be articulated so that all of us will come up with one mind and strategize for the success of the party.
“All personal and individual bitter struggling for power is subordinated to the chances of the party so that the party would be strong. We are the strongest party; we have the largest membership. Therefore, we should, as much as possible, move to make sure that our party is united in the interest of every member”.
While the battle line has been drawn between pro- Buni and his antagonists, the golden silence in the party, hopefully will be broken at next week’s meeting of National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Abuja.
Whether the storm will blow in favour of Buni or otherwise remains uncertain.