By Adamu Abuh
Abuja — The decision by the President Muhammadu Buhari to seek second term in office in the forthcoming 2019 poll did not come as a surprise to key members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress Party (APC), including its 24 governors.
Unknown to many tough, Buhari would have declined to re-contest for the presidency if he had failed to secure the support of the governors over the tenure elongation for party executives members.
As at late last week, he was said to have threatened not yield to pressures mounted by the governors who had earlier maintained that the NEC tenure be extended for a year.
The Guardian learnt that the moment President Buhari echoed the threat; governors who were pushing for the elongation of the tenure of the party officials quietly retraced their steps for peace to reign.
Five of the governors comprising Umar Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State; Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State; Simon Lalong of Plateau; Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State were at the centre of the last minute consultations with the President, which eventually yielded expected results.
It, therefore, did not come as a surprise that it was the duo of Yari, the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum and Okorocha, the chairman of the APC Governors Forum that broke the news on the decision to backtrack on the earlier position of not allowing President Buhari have his way on the issue.
Yesterday’s emergency NEC meeting on the issue was a mere formality as the 36 states chairmen of the party who are at the beck and call of the governors rubberstamped the decision to hold party congresses and convention as canvassed by the President.
President Buhari who declared the tenure elongation decision as illegal and unconstitutional is widely regarded as a rallying point for the party, particularly in the populous North West and North East and parts of the North Central geopolitical zones of the country.
Most of the 18 governors from the three geo-political zones who are wary of the fact that their re-election bid is also tied around the candidacy of Buhari realised that it would amount to a political suicide to oppose the reversal of the tenure elongation for the party officials.
Expectedly, the northern governors found ready allies in the Governors Rauf Aregbesola of Osun; Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos and Godwin Obaseki of Edo, who are also in sync with the position of the National Leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu on the issue.
The controversial decision that pitted the party chieftains against one another was earlier taken at the NEC on Feb. 27.
President Buhari insisted the opposition could take advantage of the situation to wrestle power from the APC in the 2019 poll.
Ganduje dropped the hint that the decision to extend the tenure of the party officials would surely be reversed when the NEC meet tomorrow at the party secretariat in Abuja.
He further hinted that key decisions bordering on the date and timetable for congresses and the National Convention would be taken at the occasion.
He said: “There was controversy on this matter, but we were able to put it at rest. Let me tell you the issues involved, those who are advocating for tenure elongation are doing that on the premise that when we hold congresses and convention according to their own perception, there will be a lot of problems and that problem will linger into election period.
“Well that is a perception, that way and it could be that some people wanted to retain power. Therefore, that reason could be biased.
“However, I don’t belong to that school of thought. The constitution of our party has made a provision for four years and at the end of it, we have to hold congresses and convention. The constitution of Nigeria has also provided for that, so we have no reason whatsoever to do otherwise.
“If you are saying that there would be some problems, problems are part of ingredients of politics, there is no way you can practice democracy in a developing country without having some problems.
“There must be problems, there must be divergent views and disagreements. There will never be a time that things will be 100 percent normal. So even if there is problem, that is part of democracy and we will be able to move forward.
“So for those who thought they would be able to continue, we said “no” and so I think Mr. President finally hit the nail on the head, by saying that he is not in favour of any tenure elongation.
“Tenure elongation is undemocratic. It may lead us to litigation, which will not be good for the party, and we are happy that we have convinced the few governors that were for the elongation. And we hope to have our NEC meeting where the previous decision will be reversed and by then timetable will be out for congresses at the ward level, local government level; the state level and finally, convention at the national level.
“That is the situation. I am happy to say that the chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum issued a statement, the chairman of the APC governors Forum also issued a statement and the national chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun made a statement as well to say that all is well.”
Pundits believe that President Buhari’s belated position on the issue was seen as a deft move aimed at securing the support of Tinubu, who can muster votes for him from the Southwest geopolitical zone.
Tinubu who had never hidden his disdain for the Odigie-Oyegun led NWC of the party described Buhari’s position as straightforward.