On June 25, 2020, at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) dissolved the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party and appointed Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State as the Acting Chairman of the Caretaker Committee.
Buni, a circumspect former Secretary of APC, was then sworn in by the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami. He simply hit the ground running immediately, pledging to carry all the party factions then along in seeking lasting peace for the party.
True to his word, Governor Buni has covered considerable ground in overseeing the orderly resolution of intra-party grievances, stabilizing the APC and attracting many big chieftains of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling APC.
Today, the governors of Ebonyi State and Cross River states, the immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, former national chairman of the PDP, Senator Barnabas Gemade and several important chieftains of PDP have crossed over to APC.
More, Buni’s leadership has since opened communication with several other chieftains of the main opposition party who have since promised to swell the rank of the ruling party. This certainly is no mean feat. The APC Acting Chairman and his team have successfully achieved reconciliation in more than fifteen of its states’ chapters.
In Buni’s words: “You will all recall the ugly and unfortunate incidences that bedeviled our party which threatened its existence and resulted in the dissolution of the National Working Committee, and the emergence of the Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Committee, which I am opportune to be chair. I am glad to state that, the committee upon assumption of office engaged in genuine reconciliation to rebuild people’s confidence, trust and hope in the party.
“Let me say with all sense of appreciation and fulfillment that the committee had reconciled life-threatening challenges for the party in 11 states across the country. Today, we proudly parade political heavyweights like the former Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Former PDP National Chairman, Senator Barnabas Gemade, several members of the national assembly, Chief Jimoh Ibrahim, former Head of Service of the Federation, Mr Danladi Kifasi, Sen. Isa Hamma Misau, Alhaji Salisu Takai and several others while, many others have also indicated interests to join the party. This was possible with the support the committee is enjoying from the stakeholders as we continue to move the party away from unnecessary wrangling, squabbles and disputes. We must not allow the good foundation laid by the President Muhammadu Buhari government to be wasted and for Nigeria to be taken back to the dark ages.”
Besides doing a commendable job of building bridges across the length and breadth of the country, Buni has also done a lot in refocusing the party back to its original concept of rule of law. This is perhaps not surprising because he is a leader very desirous of a disciplined, respected and responsive party. His extensive experience in party administration has clearly come in handy in here as he was the party national secretary before becoming governor.
In a political season of partisan frenzy, with many red-eyed politicians focused on various power-grab projects often dressed up as patriotic ventures, discipline, party supremacy and rule-governed processes become threatened. It is in this kind of situation that a firm hand is needed to provide stability. And this is the forte of Governor Buni.
Although much of the internal political landmines that ruffled APC then were laid well before his ascendancy as Acting National Chairman, instructively, Buni was never heard to grumble about these but set about defining a new direction. That is leadership. Like other leaders of note, Buni disdains hazy journeys and consequently prefers to define a direction clearly.
Without buck-passing, he seized the bull by the horns. Before his coming, there had been serious crisis between some governors and National Assembly members in their states. But these were effectively and adroitly resolved by the acting chairman.
By effectively overhauling the party’s internal governance template and processes and resolutely standing down party spoil-sports, the APC Acting National Chairman simply proved he was indeed a sublime command room guru. Without the enforcement of party discipline, a political party’s journey becomes an unduly hazardous enterprise.
In his diplomatic but firm style, Buni made it clear then that the era of petulant, rambunctious anti-party intrigues to achieve personal interests were over. Members of the APC must submit to orderly, disciplined conduct and use prescribed channels to seek redress of any grievances, he insisted. These positions positively impacted the APC.
Notwithstanding that Buni is operating in an acting capacity, clearly, the position of national chairman of a political party should be appreciated because it carries considerable weight, especially in charting the course of informed engagement with the critical elements in a democratic mix.
That the inherent power of that office, its responsibility and authority have been watered down and often caged by forces out of sync with transformative politics doesn’t mean the occupant must jettison plucky, principled and disciplined conduct. Buni has operated on pluck and principle and the result can be seen and appreciated by all.
Drawing from a history of prior, tough political engagements, Buni unquestionably provided nimble guidance, intellectual spunk and bold party governance leadership for the ruling APC. It’s worth recalling that significant, unresolved deficits in these areas led to the sacking of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, from power in the 2015 poll and its rejection again in 2019.
Any observant analyst tracking pronouncements and actions of Buni since he assumed this interim office would probably take home at least several novel game-plan elements that suggest a different approach to traditional party governance.
In his approach, he could never be justifiably accused of being impetuous or adversarial. That’s not Governor Buni at all. He signaled a total break from the old way of doing things to help reposition the ruling party and align it with 21st Century best practices.
Buni also diplomatically enforced party supremacy and discipline, features that have curiously gone downhill since the wistful days of Chief Adisa Akinloye, then national chairman of the ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN, under the Alhaji Shehu Shagari presidency in the Second Republic.
Notwithstanding that Buni has a raft of serious governance responsibilities on his shoulders as the executive governor of Yobe State, he is still totally committed to transforming and repositioning APC as well as his primary constituency of Yobe.
Clearly, Governor Buni is not a saint. Indeed, the parameters for electing the Acting National Chairman of a political party in Nigeria do not specify sainthood as a key requirement. His choice, simply acknowledged the capacity of focused individuals to change their society for the better. For decades, both as a party administrator and politician, Buni has provided clear, pragmatic leadership during periods of self-doubt by a challenged society.
Today, as both governor of Yobe State and the Acting national Chairman of the ruling APC, he continues to do just that.
*Lewis Chukwuma, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja.