Two Days to NEC, APC Govs Still Divided on Oshiomhole

Adams Oshiomhole
  • Imo, Ogun, Lagos, Osun, Nasarawa, Borno, Kano, Kwara, Gombe, Katsina govs back embattled chair
  • Appeal Court to decide stay monday
  • First-term govs standing firm by Oshiomhole
  • Anti-chairman govs send emissaries to Tinubu in London
  • Akande is disturbed, laments multiple litigation

Chuks Okocha in Abuja, Gboyega Akinsanmi and Bayo Akinloye in Lagos

Ahead of Tuesday’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC), there are strong indications that critical stakeholders are still sharply divided on the question of removing the embattled National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, from office. Ten governors of the party are said to have made up their minds that he must go, while 10 have vowed to back him. Also the Deputy Senate President and the Speaker of the House Representatives are said to be solidly behind Oshiomhole.

THISDAY findings showed that the governors of Imo, Ogun, Lagos, Osun, Nasarawa, Borno, Kano, Kwara, Gombe, and Katsina states were standing firmly on the side of Oshiomhole. One of the governors, who craved anonymity, vowed that the successes attained by APC could not be sacrificed on the altar of greedy ambitions of those angling for positions on the party’s platform. “Their push to oust him is to pave way for their selfish 2023 ambition.”
Oshiomhole is also said to enjoy the backing of a good majority State Chairmen of the Party.

Oshiomhole’s support base consists mostly of first term governors of the party who are said to not only be rooting for him, but have also hinted at setting up an association of first term Progressive Governors to register their displeasure at the way the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) is being run and have a unified platform to pursue common interests. A handful of second term governors have aligned with the first term governors to back the embattled chairman.

But more crucial, it seems, is Oshiomhole’s appeal for stay of his suspension order by a Federal High Court, which triggered the tsunami of activities leading to the emergency NEC meet scheduled for Tuesday. The matter comes up for determination at the Court of Appeal tomorrow. Should that appeal succeed, the entire gamut of the plots and permutations will change.

However, the anti-Oshiomhole governors are said to have already pushed their game a notch up by reaching out to one of the national leaders of the party, Bola Tinubu, who is currently in London, with a view to securing his buy in. But close sources to the National Leader told THISDAY last night that Tinubu is unshaken in his support for the embattled Chairman.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the APC reconciliation committee and former protem national chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, has lamented the multiple litigation in the party, saying a resort to the courts is not the solution to the crisis plaguing the ruling party.

THISDAY, however, gathered that about nine APC governors decided to support their Edo State counterpart, Godwin Obaseki, instead of allowing him to be humiliated by Oshiomhole, the very reason they are not taking chances as far as the Oshiomhole-Must-Go project is concerned. They have argued in discussions that with Oshiomhole as national chairman of APC, the party would lose the forthcoming Edo and Ondo governorship elections.

At the South-south meeting, which drew attendance from ministers and members of NEC, among others, it was resolved that Oshiomhole should be asked to go. Following this, officials of the party were said to have started removing his posters from the party’s secretariat, the venue of the NEC meeting. But an observer pointed out that Ministers are not members of the Party’s NEC and that they have no say on the matter.
Although many big names from the zone did not attend the meeting, like the APC national vice chairman for the South-south, Hillard Eta, who called for its boycott. Others equally conspicuously absent were Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipire Sylva.

Those who attended the South-south meeting included Obaseki, who hosted it; Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Obong Godswil Akpabio; Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo; Minister of State for Power, Jeddy Agba; and the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire.

There were also a former governor of Edo State, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor; former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani; former Minister of State for FCT, Senator James John Akpanudoedehe; former Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba; and former Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, among others.

Briefing newsmen at the end of the meeting, Obaseki said, “The meeting was attended by leaders from the six states of the zone, comprising serving ministers, serving members of the National Assembly, members of the zonal executive of our party, and members of the state executive of our party. We also had former ministers, former senators, and leaders, who had served this country in various capacities.

“At the meeting, the leaders of the zone deliberated extensively on situations in the party and at the end of the meeting, they adopted the following resolutions: that as a party, we commend our brother, the acting chairman of the APC, Victor Giadom, for rising to the occasion by providing leadership for the party in this trying times.

“That we fully support the convening of the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on Tuesday, March 17th, as the NEC is the only recognised organ under the constitution of our party to resolve these crises; that we insist that the party should respect the current zoning arrangement by retaining the chairmanship of our great party in the South-south zone even in an acting capacity.
“We resolved that the most senior officer of the party from the zone, being the national acting secretary, Chief Victor Giadom, should be conformed acting chairman for the time being.

“We urged all our brothers and sisters from the zone to fully embrace the NEC meeting and not boycott the emergency NEC meeting, which has been slated for Tuesday, March 17th, because boycott in a democratic environment is always counterproductive.”

The battle now for the South-south, it seems, is how to retain the office of National Chairman in the zone. The other option is to recall the suspended deputy national chairman, Shuaibu Lawan, to act as chairman of a caretaker committee, or allow Giadom to continue in office.
Curiously, the APC constitution has no provision for a caretaker committee. This is where those asking that a former governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajumobi, should be made deputy national chairman, which could have put him in a better position to take over from Oshiomhole, lost it, because the APC constitution has made it impossible.

According to article 20(a) of the party’s constitution, “All party posts prescribed or implied by this constitution shall be filled by democratically conducted elections at the respective national convention or congress subject, where possible, to consensus, provided that where a candidate has emerged by consensus for an elective position, a vote of yes or no shall be called, to ensure that it was not an imposition, which could breed discontent and crisis.”
Against this backdrop, the likes of Ajumobi and others appointed as members of the last National Working Committee (NWC) meeting chaired by Oshiomhole would have to depend on the NEC meeting for ratification.

Oshiomhole is said to enjoy the support of many council chairmen across the country, who have so far presented a formidable challenge to those who want him out.

Pro-Oshiomhole Forces Make Their Move

Displeased with the way the secretariat of the Progressives Governors Forum is being used against Oshiomhole, APC’s first-term governors are already standing in the gap for him.

One of the governors stated, “We (the APC first-term governors) are planning to form a new forum: the Progressives First Term Governors Forum. The formation of the forum is to clearly underscore our displeasure regarding how the Progressives Governors Forum is being run.”

Some of the governors, who spoke off the record to THISDAY, raised the alarm that some second-term governors with eyes on the 2023 presidential ticket and the post of vice president were using the Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum, Salihu Lukman, to antagonise the national chairman.
One of them said regarding Lukman, “He is constantly issuing unauthorised statements in the name of governors of the forum without reprimand – all in promotion and advancement of certain ambitious interests of a few individuals. Statements that have no bearing on the collective views of the governors or overriding interest of the party.”

Another governor lamented the deleterious effects of the anti-Oshiomhole moves on the party. He stated, “We cannot sacrifice the successes of the young party on the altar of greedy ambitions of a few governors who want to be president, vice president, or other positions. They are doing this not for the party, but for their own selfish interests.

“We will not let them destroy the young party and the successes it has attained so far. They are misrepresenting the president and misleading Nigerians on what the president said.”
They lamented that the APC governors’forum’s secretariat was being used as an attack dog to weaken the national leadership of the party in pursuit narrow interests.
When THISDAY probed further on when the new forum was likely to come to life, one of the governors responded, “as soon as next week”.
The APC governors also disclosed to THISDAY that apart from the formation of the Progressives First Term Governors Forum, they would also move a vote of no confidence on the chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum, the Kebbi State Governor, Mallam Abubakar Bagudu.

One of the first-term governors said, “We are going to move a vote of no confidence on the chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum, Abubakar Bagudu. Most of the issues they have against Oshiomhole are based on the fact that they see the national chairman of the party as a threat to their interests.
“The second-term governors of the APC are eyeing the presidential seat in the next presidential election and to have their way, they are planning a take over of the party machinery and in the process, they are trying to destroy the party. They are one leg here, one leg there.”

The governors argued that the key problem they had against Oshiomhole was caused by some of them, who refused to adhere to the party’s instructions on primaries.

“Look at what happened in Rivers and Zamfara states, for instance. They were asked to do direct primaries but they refused and did indirect primaries, the same thing almost happened in Ogun state,” he stated.
According to the governors, who all shared concern about the conduct of Lukan, “The views often expressed by the DG do not summarise the thinking of all the governors.”

They accused their second-term counterparts of using subterranean approaches to destabilise the ruling party in their bid to achieve their parochial interests and selfish ambitions.
“They are on their way out. They are looking for how they can get the presidential ticket and the vice presidential ticket. They are looking for someone to put in office (their successors),” said one of them, who warned that the second-term governors were “treading on dangerous waters”.

Emissaries to Tinubu in London

Meanwhile, sources within the party disclosed that the anti-Oshiomhole governors had concluded plans to send emissaries to Tinubu in London or Chicago to brief him on the need to change the suspended national chairman at the next NEC meeting.

The source claimed that the governors “have sent two of their colleagues to meet the national leader. The essence is to brief him on the resolve of the governors, who are adamant that Oshiomhole should be replaced. I agreed with the position of the governors. He is still the party’s national leader.”
If the NEC meeting eventually holds as scheduled, the NWC source disclosed that the two national officers – the Deputy National Chairman for the North, Alhaji Shuaibu Lawal and National Vice Chairman, Mallam Inuwa Abdulkadir, who have been on suspension, would be called back.

On the Deputy National Chairman for the South, a different source alleged that Ajimobi’s nomination did not follow due process, because the Zonal Executive Committee had not ratified him for the position before the APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu controversially announced his name.
The source admitted that the party’s leaders “met in Lagos to discuss Ajimobi’s nomination. But the meeting did not agree. The meeting of the APC South-west Caucus held in Osogbo on the same matter a fortnight after the Lagos meeting.

“At the Oshogbo meeting, there was protest and the meeting was inconclusive. The Zonal Executive Committee, the only body that has the power to make such nomination, has not decided whether Ajimobi should be nominated for the position.”

Specifically, the source explained that APC “is using the zoning structure it adopted in 2014, and nothing has changed. For instance, when Alhaji Lai Mohammed left the NWC in 2015, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi from his zone and state replaced Mohammed as National Publicity Secretary.

“The same thing happened when Bolaji Abdullahi resigned in August 2018, Lanre Issa-Onilu also from his state and zone stepped in. When the National Youth Leader, Ibrahim Jalo-Waziri, left the NWC, Yobe nominated a candidate that replaced him. With this trend, on what ground should Ajimobi take over a position originally zoned to Ekiti State? This is not just.”

Akande Laments Multiple Litigation

Akande, in a statement last night, frowned on the state of the party, saying, “I have noticed with growing concern the increasing number of court cases being filed pertaining to disputes regarding the leadership of our party, the All Progressives Congress. Competition and different views on leadership are inherent in political parties.

“Thus, the fact that all party members do not agree on all things is not abnormal. Politics, after all is, in significant degree, the art of resolving conflicts and disputes in a manner that strengthens institutions as well as relationships between the people, who share those common institutions.
“The APC is a democratic body. This means we seek to resolve internal conflict through dialogue, deliberation and ultimately through open and transparent voting procedures.”

He also said, “I am a bit taken aback by the swift resort to the courts by some members, who seek external decisions on what are intrinsically internal matters best determined by the deliberative process that is part and parcel of democratically-oriented party politics.

“I do not know the motivations behind this litigious conduct. It is not in my nature to ascribe negative or harmful motives to anyone. Those seeking access to the courts to decide what are basically politic questions, perhaps, think they are doing the right thing. If this is the case, I must state that they are innocently in error.

“Their actions are harmful to the party in compound ways. First, the subject matter they bring before the court is not amenable to judicial pronouncement. The manner by which court decisions are rendered – one side wins, the other loses – is not the best way to resolve political disputes.
“Again, such disputes are better treated by dialogue and the give-and-take that dialogue engenders. Courts do not proceed in such a manner. Second, to resort to the courts casts the party in a negative public light. Third, this penchant for litigation undermines party discipline, internal dispute resolution mechanisms and institutions.”

Akande reminded party members that the party’s constitution required that all internal dispute resolution measures should be exhausted before a member carries a matter to court, noting, “I dare say this provision has not been honoured either in spirit or in letter by those initiating these court cases seeking to oust party officials.

“More specifically, along with several other respected party members, I have been appointed as a member of the party’s special reconciliation committee. I have been given the further honour to be the committee chairman. This committee was the product of discussion and deliberation of party organs such as the NWC and NEC. No one has contended that this committee was improperly established.”

He stated that the committee’s mandate was to investigate and submit recommendations regarding the dispute in Edo State, involving Oshiomole and Obaseki, as well as look into disputes in other states that might weaken the party.

“All party members are aware of this decision,” he said. “Thus, it runs contrary to the explicit decision of the party and is severely premature for members to seek judicial intervention in areas that form the very subject matter of the special committee’s mandate. To do this even before the committee has had time to do and finish its work not only insults the committee, it offends the NWC, NEC and the entire party.”

Akande called on all party members to honour the rightful and correct decisions of the party leadership. He said members should allow the committee to do its work and stop seeking judicial intervention in matters under the purview of the special committee.

“For members to act otherwise would be to discard the party constitution and ignore the tenets of deliberation and compromise upon which all successful political parties are founded,” he noted.