Internal conflicts within political parties are no strange news. They have led to the fall of a lot of political parties in Nigeria and no party is immune to it, even the ruling party. It takes an assertive and dedicated leader to resolve internal party conflicts and it takes a man like Governor Mai Mala Buni to not only re-unite the aggrieved members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) but to also attract prominent opposition leaders to the party.
In June 2020, when President Muhammad Buhari set up and inaugurated a 13-member Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) with Governor Buni as the Chairman, they were tasked with 3 major tasks: reconciliation of aggrieved members of the APC across the nation; holding congresses, and organising the annual National Convention in six months. This decision met with objections from some party members and the opposition party to the extent that some party members contested the legality of the committee at the Supreme Court, with the claim that the committee’s very existence was against both the Nigerian and APC constitutions. The Supreme Court eventually ruled in the favour of the committee.
Over a year later, the committee’s tenure has been extended and the party is in a much better state than it had been after Adams Oshiomhole was unseated as the National Chairman of the APC — the party has Governor Buni and the caretaker committee to thank for that. This brings to mind how he has been able to restore peace, sanity and previously defected members back to the party whilst serving as the Governor of Yobe State.
Born on the 19th of November, 1967 in Buni Yadi, Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe State, Buni is an illustrious businessman and experienced politician. He started out as the councillor for the Buni Yadi ward in 1992 under the defunct National Republic Convention (NRC) party. Subsequently, he was elected as the speaker of the council. Before he was elected as Governor in 2019, he served as the national secretary of APC, and it is safe to assume that he possesses the experience to successfully execute his duties as the Caretaker Chairman of APC.
As the governor of a state that has been affected by terrorism, he has done quite a lot in a short period. Some of his achievements as Governor include the return of internally displaced persons (IDP) back to their houses which he reconstructed and the provision of livelihood support packages to over 5000 IDPs in collaboration with the African Development Bank. He is also working towards revamping the education sector in Yobe by building new schools, employing more qualified teachers, and giving free secondary education to all. One can say Governor Buni is rebranding Yobe State the way he rebranded APC.
With his laudable achievements, Governor Buni seems to have a weakness. It was a shocking surprise to the public when he tied the knot with Gumsu Abacha, daughter of the late General Sani Abacha, early this year, making her his fourth wife. Many considered it a marriage of political interests like his third marriage to Ummi Adama Gaidam, daughter of his immediate predecessor whom he married almost immediately after he was elected Governor. Even with four wives, he manages to keep his personal life on the low.
One can’t help but notice, however, that since his recent marriage, his level of performance has reduced. He isn’t as active as he used to be and this development may come from having too much to handle. He is a husband to four wives and father to many, roles he has to combine with his political office as Governor and Caretaker Chairman of APC. The demands of these roles may simply have become overwhelming for him. But this is not to undermine his many political achievements.
His success as the chairman of the CECPC has been commended by the President and other peace-loving members of the party. It has earned him the title Defector General because of the high-profile politicians he has been able to convince to either return to the party or defect from the opposition party. Among the defectors include Femi Fani Kayode or FFK as he is popularly called, a staunch critic of the Buhari-led administration and the APC; Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State; Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State; Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State; former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Honourable Yakubu Dogara; former national Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Barnabas Gemade and many more.
Governor Buni’s consultative and inclusive leadership style must have been the main attraction for the defectors. How else does one explain the defection of major leaders of the opposition party in such a short period? He has been praised by many to be the right man for the job after the chaos that ensued following the suspension of Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of APC in 2019, with many believing that the end was near for the ruling party. Together with the other members of the committee, they saved the party from the edge of self-destruction, united it, and made it better. None of the committee’s actions so far lacks the support of all important party stakeholders — not much of a surprise since he visited all the stakeholders across Nigeria to seek their support as soon as the committee was inaugurated, thus showing his dedication to doing things the right way.
However, there are several people who believe that it isn’t right for him to be Governor and caretaker Chairman at the same time. Some also claim that the committee’s extended tenure is wrong as it has only been able to achieve one of the tasks assigned since it was inaugurated, and the 6-month deadline it was given is long expired. Whilst holding the annual national conference is crucial for the party, there is a greater need for peace and resolution of internal conflict to ensure the smooth operation of events, including the conference and the upcoming elections. Governor Mai Mala Buni understands this and is making it his mission to first achieve a strong and united party with the right people before anything else.
Despite what anyone may be saying, Governor Buni has proven himself to be quite efficient; we only hope the expansion of his family won’t slow him down any further. Now more than ever, he needs to prove his leadership by having a balanced home front, thus shutting off detractors from using his weaknesses against him if he does run for a second term (or other political posts).
From his choice of marrying two daughters of prominent political families to his skills in bringing leaders of the opposition over to his party, and to his conflict resolution skills, Governor Mai Mala Buni is, without a doubt, a strategic fisher of political men.