By Dr Ali Ibrahim Abbas PhD
In one of his famous lines, Shakespeare once wrote: “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Today, most powerful leaders fall to any of these three categories. These famous lines aptly describe the immediate past Chairman of the APC Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State. Even at his youthful age, most of Buni’s childhood associates affirm that he was born with unfathomable energy for political engagement. It is not therefore surprising that by providence and share destiny with hard work, he gradually but surely found his way up to the pinnacle of national power.
Throughout the trajectory of his political life, Buni was never known to be an ambitious person. He has never out of his own volition sought for any seat he has occupied in his political journey. Rather he has always been called by relevant stakeholders to offer himself to serve. And yet, when each moment came, he did his best to rise to the occasion no matter the sacrifices the position entails. In the recent national CECPC assignment, Buni has proven to be a great leader by bringing some semblance of collective leadership to a party that was hitherto in turmoil. He brought that wow-factor to the APC at a time it was most needed. With a magnetic charisma and an unparallel commitment, matched with talent for inspiring countless all and sundry, Buni has steered the APC toward the terminus of history.
Upon assumption as the CECPC Chairman, Governor Buni immediately embarked on a genuine and all-inclusive reconciliation process that provided a true sense of belonging and reassurance to substantial stakeholders in the collective ownership of APC. Those frank discussions built new bridges of hope, confidence and determination in the hearts and minds of most party members who were aggrieved, such that, they reconsidered their stance and stayed back in the party. Even those who left, were left with no option than to return. President Buhari who was highly elated by the successes recorded by Buni led CECPC recently said he was glad the Party under the CECPC has bounced back to life.
As part of a strategy to bolster its support base and give back ownership of the party to its members through mass mobilisation, the Buni led CECPC organized a National Youth summit in Abuja that mobilised youth from all the political wards of the country in order to enhance their commitment and sense of belonging to the party. In addition, some strategic women and People Living with Disabilities (PLWD) from across Nigeria were assembled in Abuja and sensitized on the need for their support and active participation in all the party’s programmes and activities. I must say, there is no precedence for any of this kind of strategic mass-enrolment campaign by any ruling party in independent Nigeria.
Interestingly, the social strata restructuring of the party happened even at the lowest levels: polling units, wards, local and state levels. Governor Buni’s novelty indicates an effort to decentralisation and empowerment of local politicians, reservation of some posts for previously politically under-represented social groups (youth, women and PLWD) and the enhancement of the functions and management of party activities and functions at multi-layer levels. This deliberate measure by the Buni’s CECPC that recognized youth, women and PLWD has now provided these earlier neglected strata of the society a true sense of representation in every function of the party. Similarly, the manner of such enrolment suggests a novel strategy of mass mobilisation at work, where Buhari’s administration record of achievement in its people oriented social welfare programmes reinforced the APCs derive to an all-inclusive government and a party that really cares for the ordinary folks. This would no doubt enhance mass mobilization of the electorate and their active participation in election processes.
Having reconciled key stakeholders in the party, Buni embarked on an ambitious membership enrolment campaign, registration and revalidation exercise. Despite some intrigues on the initial ownership of the database of the party, Buni strategically developed an updated database of the legitimate members of APC, enhance the party’s numerical strength and give back ownership of the party to its members. With such drastic organisational change, the APC can today boast of 41.7 million registered members each with their Permanent Voter Cards and passport photographs from the previous 11 million members, Buni inherited. Put plainly, the APC grew its membership 400 times of fourfold its initial number under Buni’s 18 months of heading the party. As it stands, APC is today, the largest political party not only in Nigeria but in Africa and the 4th largest in the world. This large membership would provide the party with an advantage of winning future elections in 2023 and beyond.
The Buni led CECPC have recorded massive and historic high-powered defections into the party by 3 serving governors of the states of Ebonyi, Engr. Dave Umahi, Cross River, Prof. Ben Ayade, and Zamfara, Alhaji Bello Mutawalle, as well as the Deputy Governor of Anambra State who all defected along with millions of their supporters from PDP into the APC. Additionally, the party witnessed the grand defection of the former Speakers of the House of Representatives (Rt. Hon. Dimeji Bankole and Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara), former PDP national chairman, members of PDP Board of Trustees, several serving and former Senators and members of House of Representatives and state assemblies, among several other heavyweights cutting across all the geo-political zones of the country.
Since Buni was sworn in as CECCP Chair, the PDP has suffered major setbacks especially with mass defection of its leaders and followers to the APC. No wonder Governor Buni was nicknamed “the Defector General” and to an extent that some TV commentators wondered if Buni was using “Juju” to woe such high level defections into APC. This feat is not achieved by sheer luck, because, unless political constituents see you as highly credentialed politician with specialized experience capable of leading them to success, it will be difficult for you to be respected, admired, or followed. Indeed, there is no doubt that Governor Buni has provided the leadership which saw APC gaining momentum day by day, that if maintained by the new leadership of the party would culminate into retaining power at the center as well as expanding its winning spree to other frontier states across the country.
It should be noted however that the unprecedented increase in defections and members enrolment was the outcome of efforts put in place by the CEPC in the last 18 months of their rescue mission. As I have mentioned earlier and going into the future, a genuine and all-inclusive reconciliation process that provided true sense of belonging and reassurance to substantial stakeholders in the collective ownership of APC is an important strategy that must be sustained. Recall, under Buni’s CEPCP, anyone and everyone is considered important. He preached and practiced the idea that progressive politicians should be partners for progress and not rivals for power. It must be noted that such efforts were not before but after the APCs crisis and turmoil. In essence, more long-term and sustainable strategies in building party cohesion and confidence among the stakeholders and members, and the creation of a deliberate party systems that are more than just a “vote-catching machine.”
With many years to come into the future, a serious political party like APC should not continue to operate on a rented property, Governor Buni once said. His idea is that, the party and its legacy must outlive its founders. It was in that regard that the CECPC led by Governor Buni who himself is a youth star, purchased the APC rented National Headquarters. In a valedictory speech at the just concluded national convention which held in Abuja, Governor Buni said, the property is now named after His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR as the National Secretariat of the APC will henceforth be known and addressed as ‘BUHARI HOUSE’. Extraordinarily, the new secretariat should not just be a physical office spaces, but should in the future be equipped with all the best digital gadgets and equipments. It must also serve as an archive for the party’s history and records.
The party under Buni’s watch strategically introduced a Tripartite Consultation Forum (TCF) where the party, the National Assembly APC caucus, and the executive arm of government built a conducive working relationship to speed up the initiation and execution of Buhari’s administration policies and programmes for the benefit of Nigerians. Unlike the previous first term of the Buhari’s regime, that was characterised by unnecessary and avoidable conflicts and disagreements, the Buni initiative with support from both leadership and members of the national legislative and executive arms, has further cemented the very much-needed cordial and mutual relationship among the 3 compartments of government thereby enhancing mutual trust, understanding, collaboration and teamwork.
Before the national convention, the CECPC’s leadership set out its transition process which started with the peaceful and successful conduct of ward, local government as well as state congresses. On the convention day, which is the climax of its assignment, out of the 78 APC zonal and NWC positions, 66 positions were strategically returned through a CONSENSUS arrangement through a unity list unanimously agreed by stakeholders of the party while the remaining 12 were keenly contested and winners emerged. Similarly, the Buni led CECPC facilitated the ratification of the amended constitution of the party. Under Buni’s leadership, the APC has not only successfully conducted its national convention, it has also established landmark triumphs in the national party politics in a way that a few in the APC and Nigeria would only have imagined possible even at the turn of some events.
Having successfully brought back life to Nigeria’s ruling party, the APC, on his rescue mission, no political analyst or pundit would dispute the fact, Buni is arguably today the greatest paradox in Nigeria’s political history that has changed the dynamics of party administration. Although Buni was catapulted to the vortex of history through sheer circumstances and destiny, the APC CECPC which Buni chaired in the last 18 months considered as a child of circumstance constituted by the NEC of the party, has successfully restructured and repositioned the party. In the words of Buni while addressing a cheering party faithful at the just concluded national convention “To the glory of God, and with your generous support, we collectively rescued the party and enriched its fortunes.” The commendation of the Buni’s led CECPC by President Buhari who is leader of the party is quite clear and unambiguous:
“I want to congratulate us all for being part of this history-making event and to specially appreciate the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) which has been on a rescue mission under the leadership of His Excellency, Mai Mala Buni, the Yobe State Governor, for successfully piloting the affairs of the Party in the last 18 months and organizing this Convention to elect a new National Working Committee that will take over from the Caretaker Committee.’’
All said and done, Hon. Mai Mala Buni has fitted in perfectly with what most Nigerian politicians and analysts refer to BRIDGE BUILDER whom can be trusted and relied upon in a time of crisis and even management of success. Buni has these capable personality traits that seem to get along with everyone and anyone. People who work with Buni say, as most great leaders do, he respects the rights and dignity of others as he is equally eminent and a naturally born leader. Everyone has good story to tell. In fact, people told me they are not surprised that President Buhari and the APC NEC endorsed Buni for this plump job of the rescue mission of the party which he has delivered. A common description of the Yobe State Governor from people across APC, Nigeria and beyond is that Buni has shown himself to be a principled and progressive leader who has kept faith with the people.
Most importantly, I learnt about the feelings, thoughts and high hopes the ordinary folks (youth, women, PLWD) mostly have on this man. They mostly described Buni as simple, great, humble, patient, honest, good listener, easily accessible, peace maker and above all a problem solver through his generosity. I also believe that Buni is not only a hope for the youth and other deprived social strata in Yobe State, APC and Nigeria as a whole, but equally an astute politician who has successfully administered the affairs of the national ruling party, APC, in one of the most diverse, complex and complicated countries like Nigeria. Certainly, there must be something so special, unique and extra-ordinary about this cool-headed gentleman in person of youthful Buni that is yet to be unraveled.
The Yobe State Governor, His Excellency Hon. Mai Mala Buni undoubtfully remains a national product and champion of progressive politics. His words and actions reflect true progressivism in all facets. The fact that Buni had contested and always won elections both at sub-national and national levels (currently being the Yobe State Governor, first elected national secretary of APC and its immediate past chairman of CECPC), it simply means that, he is a reputable and marketable political material that could be trusted for any plump job (considering his youthfulness and vast experience) not just for governor of Yobe state but also any political post at the national level in Nigeria. In other words, such age advantage mixed with learned political experience are rarely found.
Dr Ali I. Abbas PhD is an APC Campaign and Election Strategist and North East Zonal Coordinator of the Progressive Minds for Better Nigeria (PMB4Nigeria). Dr Abbas can be reached via email@example.com