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THE AFTERMATH: Buni displaced as APC chairman — can Jonathan’s ‘salesman’ recover from the blow?

THE AFTERMATH: Buni displaced as APC chairman — can Jonathan’s ‘salesman’ recover from the blow?
March 08
09:50 2022

Mai Mala Buni, governor of Yobe state, was compelled to step aside as the national chairman the All Progressives Congress (APC) caretaker committee even as he had fiercely held on to the position. If his ouster is described as a “palace coup”, it will not be far from the truth. With heavy security surrounding APC headquarters in Abuja on Monday, a leadership change was forced with Buni many miles away on medical leave in Dubai. 

Before the axe fell on the caretaker chairman, John Akpanudoedehe, the then national secretary of the caretaker committee and Buni’s ally, had described reports of a leadership change as fake news. But a few hours later, it became clear that both men have been asked to step aside from the party’s leadership reportedly by President Muhammadu Buhari, who appointed Abubakar Sani Bello, governor of Niger state, as the new acting chairman.

Buni was appointed to pilot the affairs of the APC after the national working committee (NWC) led by Adams Oshiomhole, former national chairman, was dissolved in June 2020.

His appointment was due to the urgency to address the crisis in the party.

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One of the pertinent agenda for the Buni committee was to plan and hold a convention as “soon as possible”.

Buni initially scored some achievements in the new position; he kicked off a nationwide registration drive that saw the party add millions to its number and oversaw the massive defection of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors and influential politicians into the APC.

ABANDONED HIS STATE

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Saddled with both party responsibility and constitutional duty as the governor of Yobe, Buni, perhaps, allowed party affairs to override his constitutional responsibility.

He jettisoned duties of the state and became largely absent from Yobe.

When he was criticised for abandoning his state and focusing on party politics, but he responded by saying he spends three days in a month in Yobe.

“On the issue of staying, there is no way I can spend a month without spending three or four days in Yobe state. And then even if I return to Yobe, I won’t advertise or make it public that today I will be in Yobe and tomorrow I will be leaving,” the governor had said.

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“Wait, Let me land, listen to me. I won’t be revealing to the public that I came to Yobe or when I am leaving. And at this age of technology, when will anybody say that there were a bunch of files waiting for me? Even before I came here, I don’t know the numbers (of files I treated).”

According to a former national officer of the APC, the lack of assurance that he will be picked as APC chairman is the sole reason he did not resign as governor.

“If Buni is very sure he would be unanimously picked as the next national chairman of the party at the February 26 convention, he will resign as governor immediately,” he told TheCable.

‘SIT TIGHT’ AMBITION AS APC CHAIRMAN

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TheCable understands that Buni prefers the party’s chairmanship to being governor.

Atiku Bagudu, chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) and Kebbi governor, and Simon Lalong, governor of Plateau, had been at the forefront of calling for the party to have its convention, and got Buhari to approve February for the convention.

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Bagudu convened several meetings with APC governors and party stalwarts, after which the convention was slated for February 26.

This was said to have angered Buni, who chose to fight the two governors by entertaining petitions against the congresses in Jigawa and Plateau states.

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In the petitions, some aggrieved APC members in Jigawa and Plateau accused the governors of not “complying with the party’s rules” in selecting party officials and “exclusion of party stakeholders” during the exercise.

“Buni is going after all those governors who want him to leave the affairs of the party and focus on his state,” a source had told TheCable.

A governor had told TheCable that the Buni wanted to tweak his way into extending his tenure as the party’s CECPC chairman.

“Buni is definitely up to something — he wants to inaugurate the state executives this week, and we are hearing he wants them to use a voice vote to say he should continue in office… this will only create more friction and confusion,” the governor had said.

PLANS TO SCUTTLE NATIONAL CONVENTION

Just a few days before February 26, the scheduled convention was abruptly postponed for another month.

A new date was set for March 26 by the Buni-led caretaker committee.

The committee then conjured another scheme to scuttle the party’s national convention on the newly-announced date.

TheCable reported that Buni and Akpanudoedehe, national secretary of the APC caretaker committee, had hatched a plot to hold on to the party’s control.

The duo had used a third party to obtain a court order temporarily restraining the ruling party from holding its convention until a substantive suit has been heard and determined.

The suit, filed by one Salisu Umoru at the high court in the federal capital territory (FCT), had the APC and Buni as respondents.

“That the 1st Defendant/Respondent can only conduct its national convention after the hearing and determination of the substantive suit pending before this honourable court,” the court order seen by TheCable reads.

“That in the interest of justice, accelerated hearing of the substantive suit is hereby ordered.

“That this matter is hereby adjourned to the 10th day of January 2022 for hearing of the substantive suit at High Court No. 15, Kubwa, FCT-Abuja.”

The discovery of this plot and court order led to the impromptu ouster of the Buni-led caretaker committee.

PUSHING THE GOODLUCK JONATHAN AGENDA BECAUSE HE WANTS TO BE VICE-PRESIDENT

An insider reliably informed TheCable that Buni is the orchestrator of the campaigns asking former President Goodluck Jonathan to join APC.

TheCable understands that the Yobe governor was working for Jonathan’s candidacy on the party’s platform with the intention of being his running mate.

In 2020, Buni, just a few months after assuming APC leadership, had led a team of the party’s governors into a private meeting with the former president. Although the purpose of the meeting was not revealed, a highly-placed source to TheCable “2023 permutations are taking shape”.

Akpanudoedehe, Buni’s ally, said the former president joining the APC “will be great news” to “strengthen the party”.

He also added that Jonathan will be given the opportunity to contest for the office of the president in 2023 under the party’s auspices, just like any other individual who is interested in running for office.

IS THIS THE END FOR BUNI?

TheCable understands that Buhari’s decision has stripped Buni of his former sympathisers, and the Yobe governor is currently facing the consequences of his action alone.

Another source told TheCable that Muhammad Badaru, Jigawa governor; Nasir el-Rufai, Kaduna governor; Atiku Bagudu, Kebbi governor; and Yahaya Bello, Kogi governor, are believed to have turned their backs on Buni.

“Buni does not have anybody to speak for him now. The APC governors who supported him have taken sides with Mr President,” the source added.

With Buni now effectively stripped of his power over the party’s affairs, isolated from his political allies, and his ad-hoc gig as Jonathan’s ”brand manager” sullied, what does the future hold politically for the 54-year-old?

Will he return to the state he abandoned and start rebuilding his base or continue to squabble for power in the APC?

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