•Tinubu’s group preps Ajimobi for caretaker chair, others want position retained in South-south
•Govs divided over possible replacement
•Appeal Court to decide stay of execution of suspension order this week
Chuks Okocha and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The vultures are gathering around the national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. They are gathering, ready to devour him. The forces against him are relentless, and they have been plotting and circling him for months to pull him down. Those who smiled with him in the morning and hid behind the darkness of the night to plot his fall are no longer hiding. They have drawn their swords in plain sight.
Oshiomhole is equally mustering everything within him to fight off his enemies. But with some of the political developments of last week already shaping up the tendencies for 2023 power struggle in the APC, it is evident that the fate of the national chairman of the party currently hangs in the balance. This is on account of the moves by some forces within the party, mainly governors and ministers, to edge him out of the equation and pave the way for a new leadership – the type they itch to call their own.
The plan to sack Oshiomhole had been on for a while and has caused division among the governors, between those for him and those against him. The plot became more pronounced shortly after the 2019 elections, especially on the back of the party’s controversial primaries in October 2018. But the former labour leader had also been lucky to survive some of the mines laid for him at different times.
However, the reality of a possible forced ouster, which now stares him in the face, dawned on him last week, when a Federal High Court in Abuja validated his suspension by the state chapter of the party and forbade him from parading himself as national chairman of APC.
The suit instituted by the Deputy National Chairman of the APC, North-east, Salihu Mustapha, and some aggrieved leaders of the party in Edo State, Oshiomhole’s home state, momentarily changed the tenor of the game.
Interestingly, immediately the ruling suspending Oshiomhole was handed down, the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) declared support for his suspension. Curiously, a few hours after, another court of coordinate jurisdiction, in Kano State, gave a counter order, reinstating Oshiomhole, a situation that introduced a new twist to the travails of the former governor of Edo State and the APC leadership, in general.
In response to the crisis, the APC leadership announced a meeting of its National Executive Committee (NEC) for Tuesday, March 17, to comprehensively consider the issues, decide the fate of Oshiomhole, and address a situation that is threatening the unity and existence of the party.
But the forces against Oshiomhole appeared not comfortable with the March 17 date and had begun to moot a possible shift in date back to Thursday, March 12, which if pulled off would mark the first step to sealing the fate of the national chairman.
NWC: Ignore Purported NEC Meeting Notice for March 17, it’s Illegal
But the confusion continued on Saturday, when members of the National Working Committee (NWC) issued an emergency NEC meeting notice disclaimer. The counter statement called on APC members to disregard any purported notice of emergency NEC meeting scheduled for March 17 as “a product of mischief.”
Acting National Secretary of APC, Chief Victor Giadom, had in a statement on Friday given notice of the emergency NEC meeting. The meeting, which would have had President Muhammadu Buhari in attendance, was scheduled to take place at the party’s national secretariat.
However, in a statement jointly signed yesterday by APC National Legal Adviser, Mr. Babatunde Ogala, National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, and National Secretary, Arc. Waziri Bulama, described the purported NEC meeting as illegal. The statement said, “The National Working Committee, therefore, disassociates itself from the said illegal and unauthorised Notice of Meeting of the National Executive Committee.
“Members of the National Executive Committee and the totality of the members of our great party are, therefore, requested to ignore the said notice or invitation as a product of mischief that should not be given any probative value.”
It added that the party’s constitution provided under Article 25 (B)(i) that a NEC meeting shall be convoked at every quarter and/or at any time decided by the National Chairman or at the request made in writing by at least two-third of the members of the NEC provided that not less that 14 days notice is given for the meeting to be summoned.
Besides, in section 25B(ii), the APC constitution provides, “Without prejudice to Article 25(B)(i) of this Constitution the NEC may summon an emergency NEC meeting at any time, provided that at least seven days notice of the meeting shall be given to all those entitled to attend.”
It further stated that neither the national chairman nor the resolution of two thirds of members of the NEC had directed nor made any request to summon a NEC meeting of the party. “The said Victor Giadom is not vested with any constitutional powers to convene any meeting of the National Executive Committee. Neither has he been so directed by the National Chairman.”
But the PGF countered in a statement released Saturday night signed by Director-General, Salihu Lukman. The statement asked APC members “to ignore any statement signed by Babatunde Ogala Esq, National Legal Adviser, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, and Arc. Waziri Bulama. The statement dated 7th March, 2020 sought to misinform members of APC NEC and the public that the provisions of the APC constitution was not followed in convening the emergency NEC meeting and the National Working Committee (NWC) did not meet to appropriately decide on convening the meeting.”
The APC governor insisted that the standard procedure was followed in calling the emergency meeting, saying the meeting scheduled for March 17 stands.
Yet, there are feelings that even if the NEC meeting were convened and the matter was subjected to vote, there might not be enough votes to remove Oshiomhole from the chairmanship seat.
Besides, to remove the chairman, there is no debating the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari’s endorsement would be required. Oshiomhole’s opponents seem not to have this at the moment.
There is also the problem of succession, which has remained a major concern in the party. APC members appear not to have a consensus on who would succeed the national chairman. But this would be contingent on whether the party would go the way of caretaker committee or convoke an emergency convention to replace Oshiomhole with someone from the same state, since APC only does micro-zoning. But party sources claimed the current Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, was averse to a successor from his state.
Generally, the anti-Oshiomhole forces are, allegedly, worried that they have yet to find a suitable candidate from both the South-south and the South-east zones, just in case they succeed in sacking the current chairman of the party.
Many of the first term governors, who hold their emergence to Oshiomhole, are said to be solidly behind the embattled chairman. Also on his side are a few second term governors of the party. A source said the speed with which Governor Abdullahi Ganduje got a Federal High Court in Kano to nullify Oshiomhole’s suspension is indicative of that support.
To underscore the problem lurking on the side of those who want Oshiomhole out, both the presidency and the aggrieved governors are believed to be looking in different directions and considering different interests in the bid to shop for a suitable successor. The choice of former Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba as replacement was quickly resisted. The challenge, according to a source, “is we can’t seem to agree on a particular candidate with enough clout and that is acceptable to all the tendencies in the party.”
While some presidency forces were said to be considering a former governor of old Cross River State, Chief Dan Etiebet, the governors handling the “Oshiomhole Must Go” project were said to have listed such names as former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio; former governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan; former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani, and a former governor of Cross River State, Chief Clement Ebri..
THISDAY gathered that most of the governors were inclined to looking in the direction of the South-south, since it is the region to which the chairmanship of the party is currently zoned.
Ultimately, though, the permutations may be dependent on the outcome of Oshiomhole’s appeal of his suspension at the Court of Appeal and his application for a stay of the order by the court last Friday. Ruling on the appeal is expected within this week. Should his application prevail at the Appeal Court, the plot to oust him may lose some steam. But should that fail, it will only rev up the plots against him.
Perhaps, that was why a national leader of APC and a presidential hopeful, Tinubu’s group in the political tendency, was said to have begun to prepare a former governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, as a possible chairman of the party’s caretaker committee, just in case Oshiomhole loses out in the power struggle. But others are said to favour a retention of the Chairmanship of the party in the South-south.
Sources within the ranks of the governors, however, said Senator Gbenga Aluko was also being positioned for the chairmanship post.
The governors, sources further claimed, believed the choice of Ajimobi coming after Oshiomhole could land the APC in a fate similar to that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), when the former ruling party had Senator Ali Modu Sheriff to deal with.
Aluko, the sources claimed, is a choice both the presidency and the governors would be comfortable with, more so as he had been in the Buhari camp for a long time, long before the coming to life of the APC.
The permutations are unceasing in all camps. The first indication as to whether Oshiomhole is going to be pushed out eventually would be thrown up at the NEC meeting of either March 12 or 17, before other considerations start to fall in place.
Meanwhile, the PGF said all disciplinary decisions initiated and executed by the Oshiomhole-led NWC) of the party should be declared a nullity at the emergency NEC. Director General of the forum, Dr. Salihu Lukman, in a statement issued yesterday, noted that apart from the issue of appointing acting National Chairman, the resolution of cases of so-called suspension of members of the NWC would have to be addressed.
He said this was important given that part of what the emergency NEC meeting would be required to achieve is to lay solid foundation for the resolution of all the major leadership problems facing the party.
Lukman noted that the NEC would have to review all cases affecting all leaders of the party, especially, members of the NWC and as much as possible ensure they were settled. He claimed that the so-called suspension of members of the NWC, including Oshiomhole, Deputy National Chairman (North), Lawal Shuaibu and National Vice Chairman (North West), Inuwa Abdulkadir, should be resolved.
According to him, Abdulkadir was suspended by his Magajin Gari “A” Ward, Sokoto North Local Government of Sokoto State, for alleged anti-party activities during the 2019 governorship election and the NWC endorsed it, while Shuaibu was suspended because he wrote a letter to Oshiomhole asking him to resign due to alleged incompetence.
He, however, lamented that the suspension of Oshiomhole was similar to that of Abdulkadir, but that the NWC refused to take any action, adding that under no circumstance should the ruling party allow double standards in the application of disciplinary proceedings.
He also decried the suspension of the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, former Governors of Imo and Ogun, Senators Rochas Okorocha and Ibikunle Amosun by the NWC.
Lukman stated, “It is very difficult not to conclude that by its actions, the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC arbitrarily handled issues of discipline such that even where there could be valid cases of activating disciplinary proceedings against Senator Shuaibu, Akeredolu, Amosun and Okorocha, it was compromised to the extent of such comprises therefore rendered the so-called suspension, acts of nullity.
“It is important that the NEC take steps to ensure that we are able shift our politics to a rule-based conduct and not impulsive and opinionated driven by the ego of our NWC leaders. Anything short of this will just amount to waste of time.
“The recommendation, therefore, is that all disciplinary decisions initiated and executed by the NWC as was the case with Senator Shuaibu and the three governors should be declared a nullity.
“Although the NWC has announced the withdrawal of the suspension against the three governors, it is important that the NEC is able to affirm the provisions of the APC constitution with respect to the powers of NWC on matters of disciplinary hearings.”
Lukman said while there might be reasons to consider necessary disciplinary actions arising from problems around the 2019 elections, Article 21 of the constitution of the party, which made provision for discipline of party members, gave the power to the “respective Executive Committee of the party at all levels,” stressing that the NWC is not given such power.
“Somehow, all these so-called cases of suspension and the speed with which the Oshiomhole-led NWC acted on them further demonstrate the intolerant disposition of the APC NWC under Oshiomhole.
“Unfortunately, it also exhibited a disturbing reality about the inability of members of the NWC to cross-check provisions of the APC constitution before arriving at their decision. Such conducts are only the credentials of tyrants and despots and not political party leaders under a constitutional democracy.”