The All Progressives Congress is holding its much-anticipated national convention today in Nigeria’s capital Abuja.
It is the first time the party will be holding a national convention since it swept to power at the Federal level and in most states in the country while also taking control of the National Assembly.
The convention is taking place eight months before the 2019 general elections and at a time the party is facing increasing internal problems.
Since 2015, the party has witnessed divisions among its members in some states, a development that threatened its ward and state congresses, which were held in May.
There have been friction and clashes between members of the party in the National Assembly, Kogi State, Kaduna State, and Rivers State. The National Assembly has also had an often-frosty relationship with the executive despite APC’s control of both arms of government.
The party’s internal crisis led President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint the national leader of the APC and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, to lead the party’s reconciliation efforts in February this year.
Months after, not much has changed in Kogi State where Senator Dino Melaye and Governor Yahaya Bello remain at odds with each other and in Kaduna where the two APC senators from the state have been suspended by the party and did not participate in the congresses.
The crisis within the party was evident during the congresses as factional state congresses were held in some states, including Rivers State.
Tinubu himself and the National Chairman of the Party, John Odigie-Oyegun, have not enjoyed the best of relationship with the former Lagos State governor accusing Odigie-Oyegun in February of sabotaging his reconciliatory efforts.
Furthermore, the decision to hold a national convention was not without its own controversy. It was taken after an initial decision by the National Executive Committee of the party in February to extend the tenure of its National Working Committee by a year effective June was met with criticism by members.
It took the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari for the tenure elongation to be reversed in favour of a national convention.
With ward and state congresses held, the APC is now looking to put its challenges aside and complete the process of choosing leaders as it seeks to consolidate its grip on power in 2019.
Delegates, chieftains, and other members of the party have converged on the nation’s capital for the convention which is taking place at the Eagles Square.
According to a member of the Publicity Sub-Committee of the National Convention committee, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, a level playing field will be provided for all contestants.
Of the 65 positions to be filled at today’s convention, 23 are unopposed thereby leaving the contest for 42 aspirants.
About 7,000 delegates are expected to vote.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Party, Odigie-Oyegun, will not be seeking re-election at the convention, leaving former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole as the sole candidate for the position of National Chairman.
One other position many, especially young people, will be looking out for is that of the Youth Leader. That is because Abdulmumin Abiola, son of the late MKO Abiola, is in the race for the post.
Stay with us for updates as the convention unfolds:
Security arrangements for today’s convention are very tight. Five thousand police personnel were deployed for the exercise along with two helicopters and six armoured personnel carrier.
09:30 am: Activities have yet to pick up with the convention venue, the Eagles Square, still largely empty.
10:23 am: Delegates and key party officials have started arriving at the venue of the convention.
Senator Ovie Omo-Agege is among those who arrived early.
10:59 am: Rainfall has helped to slow things down but more party members are arriving at the venue of the convention. It is still raining, but not heavily.
11:06 am: Some delegates are already seated for the exercise.
Meanwhile Senators Ajayi Boroffice and Adesoji Akanbi have both spoken about their expectations at the convention and the challenges facing the party.
More delegates are arriving at the venue of the convention, which is scheduled to start fully at 1 pm. Many more delegates are already seated for the event.
Meanwhile, here is what the schedule for today’s convention looks like.
It is, however, unclear to what extent the morning rain will affect the schedule.
1:56 pm: The Eagles Square is buzzing now as APC governors, senators, leaders and other prominent politicians have arrived there for the convention. Several ministers, including the Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi, have also been spotted at the convention.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Senate President Bukola Saraki have also arrived at the convention. But they left not long after and are expected back when things kick off proper.
President Muhammadu Buhari who was scheduled to give a speech at 2 pm, has not arrived at the venue.
2:50 pm: President Buhari, Vice President Osinbajo, Senate President Saraki are all at the convention now and the programme is set to take off.
— Bashir Ahmad (@BashirAhmaad) June 23, 2018
3:15 pm; The national convention has commenced fully and the Chairman of the National Convention Planning Committee and Governor of Jigawa State, Abubakar Baduru Mohammed, is addressing party members.
3:24 pm: Governor Mohammed rounds off his speech by calling all party members to think progressively and to work towards unity and peace.
3:27 pm: APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, is now addressing the convention. He praised President Buhari for his performance and focus despite attacks and challenges.
3:42 pm: Comedian MC Tagwaye entertains participants at the convention with his usual ploy of mimicking President Buhari.
3:48 pm: President Buhari addresses the convention. He has called on all contestants to accept the outcome and work together to ensure the victory of the party in the general elections.
Governor Baduru is now briefing the participants about the schedule of the election. He is now calling out unopposed candidates for affirmation of their positions.
3:58 pm: BREAKING: The National Convention of the APC has affirmed former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole as National Chairman of the party. Oshiomhole was unopposed.
4:40 pm: Following the affirmation of unopposed candidates and the withdrawal of two others, voting has commenced for the remaining positions.
President Buhari has also voted:
— Bashir Ahmad (@BashirAhmaad) June 23, 2018
BREAKING: Imo, Delta Delegates Clash At Convention
Meanwhile, just before President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the convention, violence broke out among delegates from Imo and Delta states.
22:27 pm: Voting is still ongoing at the convention. Chairman of the National Convention Committee, Governor Abubakar Badaru Mohammed of Jigawa State, said the process is about 70 per cent completed.
According to him, more aspirants have stepped down taking the total number of positions that are unopposed to 26.
11: 12 PM: Voting has ended and counting has begun.