- Party prepares for congresses, convention, NEC to meet Monday
Omololu Ogunmade and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
After a flurry of meetings spanning over 24 hours, the All Progressives Congress (APC) Wednesday finally caved in to President Muhammadu Buhariâ€™s rejection of the tenure elongation approved for the elected and appointed executives of the party at all levels, and resolved to go ahead with congresses and a convention for the election of new party executives
Following the resolution reached by various stakeholders of the party on the tenure elongation, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC led by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as well as executives at the state and local government levels will be expected to step down on June 13.
By siding with Buhari on the issue, it means that the National Leader of the APC, Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who had pushed for Oyegunâ€™s ouster, has gotten his way.
At a meeting held Wednesday between some governors of the APC and members of the NWC, the party agreed that it would adhere to Buhariâ€™s advisory to drop the one-year extension granted to the executives at the February meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the APC.
The decision was a follow up to the meeting five governors of the party had with Buhari at the State House, Abuja Wednesday, where it was agreed to hold the congresses and convention of the APC to pave the way for the election of new executives.
It was also agreed at the meeting with the NWC that the job of the technical committee set up by the party leadership on Tuesday to review the tenure elongation issue was a mere formality.
However, the committee headed by the Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong was asked to go ahead and conclude its assignment including a position paper that will be presented to the partyâ€™s next NEC meeting scheduled for Monday.
Addressing reporters at the end of a four-hour meeting with the governors, Oyegun said all issues relating to the disagreement over tenure elongation had been resolved.
â€œToday, the governors and the National Working Committee of the party decided to sit and look at the issues that are seemingly dividing us. I want to say to you with absolute satisfaction and pride that all the issues you have been commenting about in the last two days have been completely and totally resolved,â€ he said.
Oyegun, who was flanked by Governors Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Abubakar Badau of Jigawa State, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, Jubril Bindow of Adamawa State, Simon Lalong of Plateau State and Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, however, appeared to contradict the governors when in one breath he said that with the resolution of the issue, APC was now â€œback tougher as one big familyâ€, but in another breath added that the technical committee headed by Lalong would take a decision on the tenure elongation quagmire and present its recommendations to NEC on Monday.
â€œWe are back in business as one united and happy family. I want to say also that yesterday we set up a technical committee as ordered by NEC.
â€œFrom the very first minute that we called them to action, they have worked non-stop because I emphasised when I was inaugurating them that their report was time sensitive.
â€œIt is sensitive because we have already sent out notices for the meeting of NEC which will hold on Monday. I am glad to say that the chairman of the technical committee has reported that his report will be ready this evening or tomorrow morning.
â€œThis report will be placed before NEC on Monday, April 9 and the appropriate decision will be taken. Thereafter, we will announce to you the further steps that we are going to take resulting from NEC consideration of the recommendations when we receive them.
â€œThe bottom line is that the APC leadership is back as one happy, united and focused party; strongly behind our president and strongly behind our governors in all the states,â€ he said.
Reinforcing Oyegunâ€™s remarks, APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdulahi, also said whatever option the party takes will be decided by the technical committee.
â€œIt is left for the NEC to decide and if the committee recommends that the position of NEC should be maintained then there would be no need for an elective convention and then the president and those who are concerned that the decision we have taken is correct or not will have more confidence in the position of the party.
â€œBut if the committee recommends that congresses should be held then NEC will consider the report and at the same time decide whether to reverse itself. However, as I speak with you there is no evidence whether the committee will recommend this way or the other way,â€ he said.
Abdullahi said what the Zamfara Governor Abdulaziz Yari had told journalists that there will be congresses and convention to replace the out-going executives was his personal opinion and not yet that of the party.
However, a party source dismissed the contradictory statements by Oyegun and Abdullahi, stating that they were face-saving remarks made to give the impression that the technical committee will reverse the decision to jettison the tenure elongation for the party executives.
According to him, the governors had met with Buhari in the morning and proceeded to meet with the NWC where it was firmly decided that there will be no tenure elongation but congresses and the convention of the party.
He also revealed that the governors are committed to funding the elective convention to ensure its success.
The source added that governors had to go to Oyegun to appeal to him not to be obstinate on the extension of his tenures and that of other executives, and in return, he demanded that as long as he remains the chairman of the party, he should be allowed to pick members of the convention committees in accordance with the APC constitution.
Before meeting with the NWC, five governors of the APC had met with the president Wednesday, with a resolve to abide by the partyâ€™s constitution.
The five governors, who are also staunch supporters of the president and his call for fresh party elections were Yari, Lalong, Okorocha, Ganduje and Amosun.
The president had at the NEC meeting of the party held on March 27, expressed his objection to the February approval given by the same NEC for the extension of the tenure of the APC executives, saying the extension violated both the Nigerian constitution and that of the party.
But Wednesday, the governors said following their meeting with the president on Tuesday at the State House, they resolved to hold another meeting later at night on the same day, during which they resolved to abide by the presidentâ€™s admonition that the provisions of the partyâ€™s constitution on the party elections should be upheld.
According to the governors, the entire APC Governorsâ€™ Forum had resolved that in accordance with the presidentâ€™s counsel, fresh congresses and convention should be conducted from the ward to the national level.
In his briefing after meeting with the president Wednesday, Yari who admitted that they failed to brief journalists after the Tuesday meeting, claimed that there was no disagreement among them as widely reported.
On Tuesday, following the intensity of the argument among them, the governors emerged from the meeting wearing long faces and declining to answer questions from journalists.
But Yari said following consultations after the Tuesday meeting, they had all resolved to support the presidentâ€™s position.
â€œGentlemen of the press, you know yesterday (Tuesday) we left you in the dark after the meeting and today (Wednesday) we have seen so many headlines that there was a disagreement between the governors over the issue of party chairman or about the party leadership.
â€œNo, we had a meeting with Mr. President yesterday (Tuesday), and we extended the meeting till last night and we followed up with the consultations with the president now.
â€œWe consulted and all the 24 governors of the APC are on the same page with Mr. President that we are going to respect our party constitution.
â€œWe are going to respect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, we collectively agreed that we will have congresses at all levels â€“ local, state and national.
â€œAnd the committee set up by the national secretariat of our party headed by the governor of Plateau State is presenting its report later today (yesterday).
â€œThe governors are also meeting with the National Working Committee of the party today (yesterday) so that we come up with convention committee names as well as the timetable for the congresses and the convention.
â€œSo, there was no deadlock in our meeting. We have progressed and very soon, you will have the names of the convention committee members as well as the timetable,â€ he said.
Also briefing, Okorocha said there was no crisis among the governors, noting that they only had to contend with the belief among some of them that there was insufficient time to conduct fresh party congresses, arguing that it was in the attempt to thrash out the matter, that it was insinuated that there was a rift among the governors.
Okorocha, who echoed Yari that they again met with the president and resolved to proceed with Buhariâ€™s suggestion to conduct fresh congresses leading to the election of new party leaders, added that their resolve on reversing the issue of tenure elongation did not translate to a no confidence vote on the current leaders of the APC.
Okorocha, who said the outgoing party leaders were free to participate in the proposed fresh elections in their respective domains, added that an election timetable would soon be rolled out.
â€œI just want to let you know that there is no crisis in the APC at all. And we want to use this opportunity to advise the media to stop spreading rumours of a crisis in the APC. There is no single crisis in APC.
â€œThe issue was that some people believed that we did not have enough time to organise party congresses and the convention. Some people felt that it was a good idea, but the most important thing is that if we do not go ahead (to organise fresh congresses/convention), we will be contravening both our party constitution and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That is the major issue that we had that they called a crisis. We do not have such a thing.
â€œThis morning, we met with Mr. President to fine-tune issues. One, regarding the congresses and convention and we have resolved that the congresses at all levels will be held and the chairman is also fine-tuning the arrangement for the convention in that same light. To this effect, the convention committee will be set out. It will be announced.
â€œBut let me correct one impression: the issue of congresses and convention does not mean that the previous people who have served the party have done badly. And it does not mean that they cannot come back or that they cannot re-contest. That is not the case.
â€œWe are simply saying that their tenure has ended and those who wish to re-contest can re-contest and can be elected into our party structures. So, we are all one as a family and we are set to go for 2019 elections in victory,â€ the Imo governor explained.
Echoing Yari and Okorocha, Lalong said: â€œIâ€™m submitting my report today. There is no crisis in our party.â€