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Anxiety in APC over plot to hold presidential primaries before convention

There is anxiety in the All Progressives Congress (APC) over an alleged plot to hold presidential, governorship and other primaries before the National Convention of the party, The Nation reports.

The party’s Caretaker/ Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC)  is yet to fix a date or set up a committee for the convention although President Muhammadu Buhari last month advised  the Caretaker Committee to consider February for the convention, according to The Nation newspaper.

But the Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Salihu Moh. Lukman, has warned the CECPC that further delay in holding the party’s national convention is not in the best interest of the APC.

According to The Nation’s investigation, some forces are opposed to the conduct of the National Convention before the primaries for the 2023 polls.

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Those behind this new game felt it is better to hold all party leaders and members “hostage and be loyal” than to leave APC disunited after the National Convention.

It was learnt that shifting the convention till after the primaries may prevent defection of some bigwigs from the party.

It was gathered that as part of the plot, the forces will try to prevail on the Caretaker Committee to continue to shift the convention date when party members would have no choice than to opt for primaries than the convention.

It was gathered that the kite flown by a former Governor of Abia State, Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu, was a tip of the looming plot.

But it was not immediately clear if the proponents of the new game will be able to secure the support of President Muhammadu Buhari.

A former governor however said Buhari will “surely play a key role in the choice of a new chairman and the presidential candidate of the party.”

A top source said: “In spite of the directive of the President, the National Convention of APC is shaky. There is no concrete plan in place for it.

“This poor planning was said to be informed by a fresh plot by some forces pushing for the conduct of primaries before the National Convention.

“These forces claimed that a new National Working Committee of APC should not just be put in place only for primaries without requisite experience. They said the emergence of new party officers after the primaries will put APC structure in solid form.

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“I think these forces do not want party executives who will be selling tickets to 2023 aspirants instead of managing the party.

“Another angle to it is that by delaying the National Convention for primaries, the Caretaker Committee will be able to secure the loyalty and buy-in of all leaders and members. It is like holding everyone hostage to work for the party.

“With primaries coming ahead of the convention, it will be difficult for APC to experience defections.

“The calculation of those pushing for primaries before convention was that the primaries may hold between June and September.”

Some APC leaders had warned against any plot capable of making the party to lose in 2023.

Another source said: “Some APC leaders felt it is in the interest of the party to conduct the national convention before the primaries.

“They said they do not think the Caretaker Committee will defy the February directive of the President on the convention.

“They have been pleading that the President should not accept any further excuse from APC Caretaker Committee.

“They said if party leaders and members are taken for granted and led by the nose, it may lead to a huge loss for APC in 2023.”

One of the affected leaders said: “The Caretaker Committee has only slated Anambra Congress for January but it has chosen to be silent on the preparations for the convention. This is worrisome.”

On the dates for primaries, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary to INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said: “The electoral commission will soon announce the schedule of the 2023 elections, including timelines for primaries.

“You know there are 14 items for the elections and a schedule will soon be released for each item.

“The commission will be guided by the provisions of the Electoral Act in issuing the schedule.”

On April 29, the INEC chairman said the 2023 general elections were exactly one year, nine months, two weeks and six days or 660 days from today.

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“By the principle established by the Commission, the 2023 General Election will hold on Saturday 18th February 2023 which is exactly one year, nine months, two weeks and six days or 660 days from today,” he said.

The Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Salihu Moh. Lukman, has warned the Caretaker/Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that further delay in holding the party’s national convention is not in the best interest of the APC.

Lukman, in a confidential letter to the CECPC Chairman and Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni, said continued delay would only strengthen the opposition and endanger the ruling party ahead of the 2023 general elections.

The APC leadership had following a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari last month announced that the convention would take place in February 2022.

There has been no further word on the convention since then even with February about six weeks away.

Some party members are agitated as no specific date has been fixed or process put in place for the convention.

Last Thursday, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, urged the CECPC to consider postponing the national convention to save the party from implosion.

He also appealed to the party to consider conducting the presidential primary election and national convention on the same day.

But the PGF boss, who is a chieftain of the party, now wants the process for the convention to be expedited.

Lukman in his December 16, 2021 letter to Buni asked the APC caretaker committee chairman to expeditiously work and conclude the assignment given to it by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on June 25, 2020.

According to him, the ability of APC leaders to begin to effectively prepare for the campaign of 2023 is dependent on how fast the CECPC can discharge the responsibility of reorganising the structures of the party at all levels.

“Any further delay in discharging this responsibility is as good as consciously working to strengthen political opposition to APC,” he added.

He said that although all the structures of the party at all levels have been undergoing re-organisation since the dissolution of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole led National Working Committee (NWC) last year, all that should be concluded with the national convention in February 2022.

He, however, said in achieving this task, the caretaker chairman should provide the necessary guidance to party leaders at all levels by elevating internal negotiations within the party through resumption of meetings of statutory party organs to ensure that APC leaders begin to reach agreements on all substantive issues.

Lukman stressed the need for party leaders at all levels to “appreciate that resolving the challenges facing Nigeria today is about developing new orientation, which is more about ensuring that structures meet, take decisions and party leaders at all levels commit themselves to implement the decisions.”

The inability of the CECPC to fix a specific date and set up committees for the convention has sparked tension among party members.