President Muhammadu Buhari gave the order for Governor Mala Buni to be shoved aside as the All Progressives Congress (APC) interim national chairman, one of the party’s governors has told PREMIUM TIMES.
The governor said Mr Buhari, influenced by some APC governors, had no choice but to order Mr Buni’s removal following the endless crises and turbulence in the governing party ahead of its national convention slated for March 26.
He was also alleged to be hatching a plot, backed by three governors, to frustrate the convention where new leadership of the party would be elected.
Many Nigerians were shocked when reports of the replacement of Mr Buni by another governor surfaced on Monday. Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State, also a member of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), was on Sunday night, appointed to steer the affairs of the ruling party.
On Monday morning, Mr Bello made a dramatic entry into the party’s national secretariat in Abuja to preside over the caretaker committee meeting. He, thereafter, administered the oath of office on the controversially elected state chairmen of the party.
Although it was not clear what his mission was, PREMIUM TIMES noticed that the Niger State governor, upon arrival at the secretariat, parked his official car on the exact spot reserved for the national chairman of the party.
The parking space is never occupied when the national chairman is not at the secretariat.
Addressing journalists before meeting with the APC Zoning Committee, Mr Bello did not expressly admit that Mr Buni had been removed but merely said he had been acting as the caretaker committee chairman “since” the Yobe governor travelled out of the country for medical attention.
“I have been acting for a while since the chairman travelled,” he said, adding that he had the approval of Mr Buhari.
Buni, three other governors working against APC – Gov.
According to our source, Mr Buni, backed by three of the party’s governors, namely Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Hope Uzodinma of Imo State and Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, are against the conduct of the much anticipated national convention.
It was learnt that the Yobe Governor, by proxy, had allegedly conceived a plot to serve the APC a court injunction two days to the convention and thereby, halt the much-clamoured change in leadership.
Though our source did not reveal the entire content of the said court injunction, he said some APC governors leveraged it to force Mr Buhari’s approval to kick Mr Buni out of office.
“He (Buhari) gave the order to us (APC governors) to rejig the caretaker committee and shove aside Mr Buni because he has not committed himself to the job assigned to him,” the governor said.
While the governors bank on Mr President’s statement to rejig the party to initiate the removal of one of their colleagues, the final decision was taken by members of the caretaker committee, who, in turn, appointed Mr Bello as the Yobe governor’s replacement.
“The committee met constitutionally and asked Bello to take over the leadership of the party and ensure that the convention was held as planned,” the governor, who was part of the end game, further confirmed to this newspaper.
The governor said before the dramatic takeover, members of the caretaker committee aired their displeasure with Mr Buni’s recent political game plan.
With reference to the notice of Zonal Congress sent to INEC the day APC declared March 26 as the date for the convention, one of them said Mr Buni made the decision without carrying them along.
“As far as many of us are concerned, there is no letter to that effect. It was not our decision. I can only tell you that March 26 is our agreed date for the convention, anything outside that cannot stand,” a member fumed as he disclosed other leadership gaps within the committee.
Buni yet to be informed – Aides
When this newspaper approached two of Mr Buni’s aides with the account of how their boss was removed, they refused to confirm or dispute it.
However, the aides, who preferred not to be named, in separate interviews, told PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday, said their principal had not received any official letter indicating that he had been replaced.
They added that they had strict instructions not to comment on the development.
“We have not received any communication to that effect but in any case, they said we should not talk on this.
“You know that he is not in the country and I can confirm to you that there is no communication from anybody to him,” one of the aides said while urging this reporter to be patient and expect a reaction in the next 48 hours.
Efforts to speak with Mr Buni’s spokesperson, Mamman Mohammed, were unfruitful as he did not respond to this newspaper’s text messages on this development at the time of this report.
From party saviour to alleged sit tight chairman
Amidst applause and relief, Mr Buni and 11 other members of the CECPC were ushered into office in June 2020, after the controversial removal of the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) from office.
His leadership, originally meant to last for six months, has dragged for a year and two months with different excuses and melodramatic twists in party activities.
At the point of his appointment, the Yobe governor, a former national secretary of the APC, was tasked to organise a national convention to elect a new set of NWC officers and unified party members, a feat many party members believe he has not significantly achieved.
Mr Buni’s elongated “tenure” has, however, earned the party three additional governors and more lawmakers at both the state and National Assemblies.
Some members of the APC had alleged that the Yobe governor had been using his position to make some negotiations with interested parties for the vice-presidential ticket in the 2023 election.