Governors elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, have commenced moves to take over the leadership of the ruling party on the claim that they cannot depend on President Muhammadu Buhari for re-election or to position loyal successors in the 2019 round of elections.
The governors, Saturday Vanguard gathered, are focusing on not just their states, but also the zonal and national leadership of the party. It was in furtherance of the move that the governors have now commenced a monthly meeting of themselves and the National Working Committee, NWC during which party policies and programmes are rehearsed.
The move of the governors follows concerns among them that Buhari on whose coattails majority of them rode to office may be too infirm or may have lost his popularity to help them in 2019.
The governors, under the aegis of the Progressive Governors’ Forum,PGF, had a meeting with the NWC on April 26 following which Governor, Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State told newsmen that there was no cause for alarm over the president’s health. However, Saturday Vanguard gathered that “one of the North-West governors had expressed concerns about the President’s health,” a top-level party source who was privy to the meeting said.
“He (the governor) reminded his colleagues that with the exception of perhaps Imo, Plateau, Lagos, Benue and one other state, all the other APC governors rode on the back of the president to clinch their current positions. He said since the president would have to take care of his health, it will now be an On Your Own situation for them”, said the source. He said as a fall-out of that meeting, the governors resolved to effectively take over party financing, with a condition that the party’s leadership cedes more influence to them in terms of party processes and decisions.
“By implication, the governors are moving to seize the political reins of the party, since the president has failed or is unable to provide leadership for the Party at the national level,” he added. Even before the president fell ill, there had been concern over the distance he put between himself and the party leadership who were not consulted on government policies and programmes. Even more, the usual kind of support provided by a ruling party was not forthcoming to the extent that the funding of the APC national secretariat became a major problem for the NWC. Another sore point was the president’s failure to attend meetings of the party a development that has resulted in the APC not holding a National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting for more than one year.
Another source at the meeting, also quoting a governor at the meeting, said: “Apart from, Benue and Plateau states, all other northern governors won their elections because of the goodwill of President Muhammadu Buhari and his mass appeal as at then. In 2019, things could be very different for those of us seeking re-election or planning to bring in successors we are comfortable with.
“With the situation of things (health of the president and poor approval rating), how can we be sure that Mr. President will be able to campaign for us? If we do not take over the reins of the party now and make it very viable, we will be swimming in troubled waters by 2019.” Saturday Vanguard recalls that El-Rufai had confirmed the resolve of the governors to strengthen the party by funding it and also deciding on when and how its mid-term non-elective convention should hold.
In order to maintain a more dominant grip on the party, the governors had also resolved to make the meeting with the NWC, monthly. On some of the issues raised during the meeting, El-Rufai had said: “The most important decision is that henceforth we will hold a meeting here at the National Secretariat once every month. This is with a view to increasing interaction, fostering relation between the national and state branches of the party as well as work towards strengthening the party. We also took certain resolutions and the first is that the Progressive Governors have committed to work assiduously at strengthening and rebuilding the party and ensuring reconciliation and unification of the party at all levels.
“We have committed to providing the NWC all the support that if needs. We will also engage in fund raising from our donors, sympathizers of the APC to ensure that the national headquarters of the party and indeed all organs of the party have the wherewithal to continue with the difficult work they have been doing within the party.
“The joint meeting between the NWC and the governors also resolved that at our next meeting, we are going to look at the arrangements for the mid-term convention and put in place the resources necessary to ensure that the convention holds as required by our party.” The move by the APC governors to provide logistics direly needed by the party would, in turn, give them the leeway to dictate policy and programmes that would put them in the ascendancy ahead of the 2019 elections.