The All Progressives Congress Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee will be holding its inaugural meeting today (Monday).
The PUNCH on Sunday gathered that the caretaker committee would at the meeting, which would be held at the APC national secretariat, Abuja, set up sub-committees as part of preparations for the party’s congresses and the national convention.
Among the sub-committees expected to be set up are finance and publicity sub-committees.
The APC’s National Executive Committee, during its meeting at the Presidential Villa on Thursday, dissolved the party’s National Working Committee and set up the caretaker committee headed by the Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni.
The caretaker committee was given the mandate to organise the party’s ward, local government and state congresses as well as the national convention in the next six months.
The ruling party was on June 16 marred by a leadership crisis when the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja upheld the suspension of its National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, by the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
Two factions on June 17 emerged in the party with one led by its suspended Deputy National Secretary, Victor Giadom, and the other consisting of 18 NWC members loyal to Oshiomhole.
Despite the opposition of the 18 NWC members, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Wednesday declared his support for Giadom and attended the NEC meeting convened by him on Thursday.
The dissolution of the Oshiomhole-led NWC at the instance of Buhari has been accepted by leaders of the party including Oshiomhole himself and some party officials, who initially opposed the President,
The PUNCH gathered that the notice of Monday’s meeting had been sent to the APC caretaker committee members.
A highly placed member of the party’s NEC, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “After their inauguration, the committee is expected to set up sub-committees to handle the various aspects of its assignments.
“The issue of zoning will come up later because they have six months. But right now, the focus will be on general housekeeping, preparations towards organising congresses to elect delegates for the national convention and so on.
“And you know, congresses will be held from ward, local government and state levels to elect delegates who will eventually participate in the national convention. It is procedural. Members of our party will now pay serious attention to their ward leaders considering what just happened to Oshiomhole.”
Oshiomhole’s problem began when he was suspended by the APC chapter in his Etsako Ward 10 in Edo State.
The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, which suspended him as the APC national chairman in March, hinged its judgment on his suspension by his ward.
Another leader of the party, who confided in The PUNCH, said, “What one will expect now is for the committee to start the process of healing wounds through words and deeds. They were appointed to solve a problem. We are confident they have what it takes to do so.”
When contacted, the Caretaker Committee Secretary, James Akpanudoedehe, confirmed to one of our correspondents that he had received the notice of the meeting.
Akpanudoedehe said, “I have received a text message. I align myself with what my chairman said. I have no approval to add or subtract. When we go there, what we will do will be unveiled. I cannot preempt what we will do. I am secretary of the committee. Maybe by tomorrow, a spokesman will be appointed to speak.”
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, also confirmed that the meeting would hold. In response to the question as to whether the caretaker committee would be meeting today (Monday), he told one of our correspondents over the telephone, “Yes, they are meeting.”
Besides Buni and Akpanudoedehe, other members of the APC caretaker committee are the Osun State Governor, Isiaka Oyetola, representing the South-West; Ken Nnamani, South-East; Stella Okorete, (women representative), the Niger State Governor, Sani Bello, North-Central; Dr James Lalu, representing persons living with disabilities; Senator Abubakar Yusuf (Senate); Akinyemi Olaide (House of Representatives), David Leon (South-South); Abba Ari (North-West), Prof Tahir Mamman (North-East) and Ismail Ahmed (Youths).
You can’t dictate to Buhari where to hold meetings, Presidency replies critics
Meanwhile, the Presidency has said since the President lives in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, no one can dictate to him where he can hold meetings within the premises.
It said no law barred the President from holding meetings in any section of the Presidential Villa.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, made the clarification in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja.
Some individuals, including a former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, had criticised the President for hosting a meeting of the APC inside the Council Chamber last Thursday.
They argued that the chamber was meant for government business and that the party’s NEC meeting did not fall under the category of government business that should be conducted in the hall.
But Shehu said it was erroneous to say that the meeting was convened at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said the meeting was a virtual one so that the protocol of social distancing could be observed and the President needed to address party leaders from any of his offices inside the Presidential Villa.
The presidential aide said while it was true that state governors and leaders of the National Assembly joined Buhari from the chamber where he spoke, the majority of the members connected via video calls.
He said, “The stubborn opinion held by the critics of the administration is that President Muhammadu Buhari had called a political meeting in the ‘hallowed’ chamber of the Federal Executive Council, as if there is a law that says the President is barred from holding meetings in certain sections of the vast Presidential Villa.
“Since the President lives in the Villa, no one can, legally speaking, choose or dictate to him where he can sit to hold meetings. So, what is wrong in the President presenting himself before a camera and a TV screen in a digital conference at a given location within the Villa?
“Just for the sake of the argument, this meeting, we say emphatically, was not convened at the Council Chamber. It was virtual, not a physical meeting.
“Why was it a virtual meeting? The idea was to observe social distancing in view of health concerns. Knowing how small the conference hall of the party is, social distancing would only have been observed in the breach.
“President Buhari was billed to address the meeting from his office (just any of his offices) and chose the Council Chamber where the digital facilities are located, and other members, including the bulk of National Executive Committee members, state party leaders and members of the National Assembly were all linked using video conference calls. You saw them all on TV.”
But the Peoples Democratic Party rebuked the Presidency for denying that the APC NEC meeting was held inside the chamber of the Federal Executive Council.
The opposition party said the Buhari presidency should “tender an unreserved apology to the nation and desist from further desecration of our national values.”
The PDP said it was unfortunate that the Presidency would post a denial when there were photographs and videos of the NEC meeting, with the APC leaders physically in attendance inside the FEC chambers where Buhari presided.
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it was shocked that Buhari’s Presidency could make such a denial.