•Suspends attendance at tomorrow’s NEC meeting
•Tinubu backs national chairman
By Deji Elumoye, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Ejiofor Alike in Lagos
Embattled National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, gets a lifeline today as President Muhammadu Buhari meets with the party’s governors in Abuja.
Oshiomhole, who has been battling to retain his position following his suspension by an Abuja High Court, also got a hefty relief yesterday as the party’s National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, threw his weight behind him, dismissing the move to oust the national chairman as a selfish one being organised by those he said saw Oshiomhole as a stumbling block to their 2023 ambitions.
THISDAY was informed last night by reliable presidency sources that the president has decided to intervene in the leadership crisis that has produced multiple court rulings, which threaten to tear the party apart.
Subsequently, said the source, the National Executive Committee meeting scheduled for tomorrow would no longer be attended by the president since he intends to use today’s meeting with the governors to douse the crisis.
Oshiomhole’s seat was endangered by an Abuja High Court ruling earlier in the month, which gave teeth to his suspension by his ward in Edo State. Although he got another ruling from Federal High Court, sitting in Kano restraining the party from implementing the suspension by his ward, he also appealed the Abuja High Court ruling and applied for a stay of execution.
His application for stay comes up today at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division.
Whatever the outcome of the appeal, the president’s meeting with the party’s governors today holds the ace for the national chairman as it would take the sail out of the wind of his traducers that have been pushing for his ouster.
The rebellion, which has also polarised the National Working Committee (NWC), is believed to be backed by some of the party’s governors who are said to be nursing presidential ambition for 2023.
Buhari, who presidency sources had told THISDAY authorised tomorrow’s meeting, is said to be pulling out of the parley on the ground that it might not be sustained by the provisions of the APC constitution.
THISDAY learnt that the president had sanctioned the meeting in the mistaken belief that the Acting National Secretary, Chief Victor Giadom, that signed the letter of request for the date was authorised to do so.
“With the controversy generated, the president directed the Attorney-General to look into the constitutional issues around the meeting and he would appear to have advised caution,” a presidency source told THISDAY.
Tinubu, THISDAY further learnt, was also said to have prevailed on Buhari to reconsider his decision to attend the meeting, warning that the parley could eventually divide the party down the middle, a possible occurrence that would do incurable damage to the president’s legacy.
He was also said to have told the president from faraway London that although everyone, including himself, had issues with the national chairman, but that if he had to be removed the constitution of the party had to be followed.
Tinubu would appear to have persuaded Buhari to bark out as THISDAY was told authoritatively last night that tomorrow’s meeting is no longer on the president’s schedule for the week.
Perhaps emboldened by Buhari’s change of mind, Tinubu stood up for Oshiomhole yesterday with a statement, dismissing the efforts to oust the national chairman as a product of ‘old ambition 2023 virus,’ capable of undermining the unity of the APC.
However, the National Vice Chairman North-east of the party, Mr. Salihu Mustapha, at the weekend, dismissed efforts to stop the NEC meeting, saying no court order will stop it.
Speaking against the backdrop of the order of a Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, that a former Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi; Mr. Waziri Bulama and Paul Chukwuma must be allowed to take part in the gathering, he said they would only be allowed to take part in the meeting if they are NEC members.
Ajimobi was at the last meeting of NEC in February named the deputy national chairman of the party (South); Bulama, secretary and Chukwuma as auditor.
Tinubu, who described the APC crisis as a sickness he identified as ‘old Ambition-virus 2023,’ said this illness, unlike the coronavirus, afflicts many in the political class along with their allies in the media.
He noted that while coronavirus has been presently contained in Nigeria, the old ambition-virus 2023 has become another sickness that seems rampant within a certain segment of society.
He faulted the convocation of the NEC meeting, saying the convener had no power to summon such a meeting.
He added that the convener had the temerity to make such a move because he was instigated by powerful individuals, who he thought would reward him or protect him for committing the wrongful act.
He described Oshiomhole as a tireless campaigner and mobiliser for the party.
According to him, Oshiomhole has steered the ruling party through difficult elections.
“His contributions should not be undervalued now that the bulk of elections are behind us. To do so would be an act of ingratitude,” he added.
Tinubu acknowledged the dispute between Oshiomhole and the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, but added that the party had activated the proper organs to resolve the spat.
He said despite the efforts to settle the rift, those who were motivated by ambitions that have nothing to do with the quality of Oshiomhole’s performance, have shunned the agreed party reconciliation mechanism and resorted to other means to sack him.
“The plotters launched their attack solely because they perceive the chairman as an obstacle to their 2023 ambitions. People went to court knowing full well the party constitution prohibits such action because these people had not yet exhausted all internal disciplinary procedures. We even had a national deputy secretary improperly call for a NEC meeting on the basis that he believed himself the acting national chairman. Clearly, this man would not have summoned the temerity to make such a move had he not been instigated by powerful individuals who he thought would reward or, at least, protect him for committing the wrongful act.
“Those engaged in these manoeuvres see themselves as clever or cunning. They do so because they only understand the mean craft of political intrigue. They have yet to understand the value and long-term utility of democratic governance. Thus, they embark on the strangest of a quest. They would rather dismantle and weaken the institutional core of their party just to gain control of that weakened edifice in order to pilfer the party nomination, which they crave. This is more than sad,” he added.
Tinubu said he built APC along with others, not simply as a vehicle for personal ambition.
“We built the party because we saw it as perhaps the only enduring hope to bring progressive governance to this nation. Those who now seek to abuse the party by using it as their personal device do it great harm. They should not be allowed to sacrifice this collective enterprise at the altar of their self-aggrandisement,” he said.
He stated that those afflicted with the 2023 virus were undermining President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration.
Tinubu called on those fighting Oshiomhole to help the president.
“The president is faced with many challenges. He is fighting hard on security to keep the population safe. He is pushing for economic reforms that will augur future sustainable growth. His disdain for corruption remains unwavering,” he said, adding that this is the time for governance and not for politics of 2023.
The former Interim National Chairman of the party and Chairman of party’s Reconciliation Committee, Chief Bisi Akande, had earlier warned that the many court cases filed over disputes in the party were harmful to the party in compound ways.
“I must remind party members that the party constitution requires that all internal dispute resolution measures be exhausted before a member carries a matter to court. I dare say this provision has not been honoured either in spirit or in the letter by those initiating these court cases seeking to oust party officials,” Akande said in a statement on Saturday.
No Court Order will Stop Meeting, Says Party Chieftain
Meanwhile, Mustapha has said no court order would stop tomorrow’s NEC meeting.
He told THISDAY in a telephone interview yesterday that preparations were in top gear for the NEC meeting.
When asked if the conflicting court order would prevent the NEC meeting from holding, he stated that no court order would stop the NEC meeting from holding.
“The court order that the people are parading…court order cannot stop us from having our meeting now, unless if the court is trying to say we are no more an organisation and deregister us as an organisation. We have freedom of association and what have you. So you cannot just come and stop us from doing something. In fact, there is no court order that can stop us from doing NEC meeting. So we are doing NEC meeting,” he stated.
When asked if Ajimobi and others would be allowed to be part of the meeting, Mustapha said: “We are going to look at the constitution. If they are members of the NEC, we will admit them, if they are not, we will not admit them. What I’m assuring you is that we are going to adhere to our constitution.”
While responding to the allegation made by Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Yekini Nabena, that the ‘acting National Chairman,’ Mr.
Victor Giadom, resigned his position as NWC to contest as running mate to the governorship candidate of the party in 2019 election in Rivers, Mustapha said Nabena was not a member of the NWC and did not know what happened at the NWC.
The APC vice-chairman added that Giadom was given a waiver like most of the people that contested.
APC Senate Caucus Rallies Support for Oshiomhole
More support, however, came for Oshiomhole at the weekend as the APC Caucus in the Senate threw its weight behind him.
THISDAY gathered that the caucus, headed by the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Ajayi Boroffice, met on Friday in Abuja to take a broader look at the crisis rocking the national leadership of the party in recent times.
Sources told THISDAY that the caucus expressed worry at the unfolding scenario in the party and stressed the need for cohesion among the party leaders.
A ranking APC senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told THISDAY that the caucus resolved to stand by Oshiomhole by ensuring that he is not removed.
He stated that although few of his colleagues supported the removal of the APC boss, most members were of the view that Oshiomhole should not be rubbished at this particular time in the party’s history.
According to him, the leadership of the Senate has impressed it upon the caucus to support Oshiomhole.
The leadership was said to have reminded the APC Senate Caucus the role Oshiomhole played in the emergence of some of the senators as well as the leadership of both the Senate and House of Representatives in 2019.
“We have been told that this is payback time for Oshiomhole for spearheading the emergence of the Ninth National Assembly leadership. Don’t forget that he single-handedly told President Buhari in the build-up to the inauguration of the National Assembly in June 2019 that Senator Ahmad Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila were the party’s choice for the leadership of the Assembly”, the lawmaker added.
THISDAY also learnt that invitation to tomorrow’s NEC meeting of the party in Abuja had been extended to members of the National Assembly who are NEC members.
According to APC constitution, a total of 38 members of the National Assembly are members of the ruling party’s NEC.
They include the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, House Speaker, Deputy House Speaker, Majority and Deputy Majority Leaders of the two chambers, two serving senators from each of the six geo-political zones to be nominated by senators from the zones as well as three members of the House from each of the geo-political zones.
THISDAY further learnt that ahead of tomorrow’s NEC meeting of APC, the National Assembly caucus of the party will meet today to take a definite stand on the matter.
“We will meet again on Monday on the proposed NEC meeting to take a stand whether the caucus will attend or not and by then we will have a clearer picture of the whole matter from the presidency which had been quiet on the issue ever since,” the senator said.