Last week’s outcome of the National Executive Committee meeting of the All Progressives Congress, has put the party on a different road to the 2023 elections, writes Chuks Okocha
In the beginning…
What happened Thursday, when the emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) dissolved the National Working Committee (NWC) was like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.
This expression aptly described a needlessly self-destructive fight over the leadership of the party. It was a fight between the various groups in the APC over, who controls the party structure ahead of 2023.
For emphasis, the APC is currently and principally made up of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) led by Ahmed Tinubu; the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) led by President Muhammadu Buhari and the breakaways from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) otherwise known as the New PDP (NPDP) here led by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi.
Since 2015, there has been a struggle for supremacy in the affairs of the government among these groups. As Buhari leads the executive arm, former senate president, Bukola Saraki led the nPDP, while the soul of the party was led by Chief John Odegie-Oyegun and such had remained the struggle for supremacy till 2019, till Saraki was eased out of the equation, when he lost his bid to return to the senate.
Under the new dispensation, the battle for 2023 became imminent as Buhari who is expected to conclude his second term in office and hence who will become his successor became a struggle between the NPDP and the ACN for soul of APC. Who will have advantage of the NWC structure? This is when and where this present power struggle started.
The earlier suspended and now sacked national chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole was seen as the political man Friday of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and therefore would presumably do everything possible to bring his presidential ambition to reality.
Amaechi and the nPDP, on the other hand, do not feel comfortable with the Oshiomhole/Tinubu power equation. However, within this equation is the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-rufai and the Ekiti State Governor. Kayode Fayemi as two other power centres.
These power factors used the Edo State governorship election as a testing ground for supremacy and as it is said, when two elephants clash, the grass suffers. The pawn in the power chess game, however, is the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki.
It all started, when Oshiomhole was announced suspended by his Etsako ward 10, and subsequently, a Federal High Court in Abuja upheld the suspension. The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Jabi, Abuja, ordered an interim suspension of Adams Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress.
Delivering a ruling on an application for an interlocutory injunction, Justice Danlami Senchi, ordered Oshiomhole to remain on suspension pending the determination of the main suit. The court held that the party wrongfully continued to retain him as its national chairman while he was under suspension as a member of the party
But the crisis entered a new phase, when the APC NEC meeting was scheduled and there was a disagreement over whether Oshiomhole should preside over it or not. The matter boiled over, but with the intervention of the late Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, the Court of Appeal in the evening gave a temporary relief to Oshiomhole to preside over the NEC meeting. But, the NEC never took place
Before the order by the Court of Appeal that gave Oshiomhole a relief, agreements were purportedly reached between Obaseki, and the Bourdilon group.
The main point of the agreement was that Obaseki should be allowed to contest as the APC gubernatorial candidate in the September 19 governorship election, while Oshiomhole should continue as chairman. But with the death of Abba Kyari, the agreements were abandoned. This was the last straw that led to the now festering crisis.
At the APC governorship screening committee, Obaseki was disqualified, hence the decision by the chairman of APC Governors Forum, led by the Kebbi State governor, Atiku Bagudu to intervene.
However, when the APC governors’ forum intervened and the crisis was taken to the presidential villa, the response of Oshiomhole was believed to have triggered what led to his suspension by the Court of Appeal.
Little wonder that, when Oshiomhole told State House reporters that the party could not bend its rules to accommodate Godwin Obaseki, a Court of Appeal that did not have in its schedule, judgment or ruling on the federal high court suspension, suddenly convened and suspended Oshiomhole.
In a unanimous judgment, the first appeal delivered by Justice Eunice Onyemanam, the court held that the trial court had territorial jurisdiction to have entertained the suit as it did and also withdrew his rights and privileges as national chairman of the party including his security details.
The appellate predicated its decision on the ground that Oshiomole as the first appellant was based in Abuja while the APC also had its national headquarters in Abuja.
In the judgment in the second appeal delivered by Justice Mohammed Lamido, the court further held that there was no basis for the two appellants to hold the view that they were denied fair hearing during proceedings at the trial court.
It therefore upheld that the suspension of Oshiomole from ward 10 in Etsako Local Government Area of Edo State was ratified at the ward, local government and state level as required by law.
Now, the Blame Game
Oshiomhole has since blamed some members of the Rivers State Chapter of the party, as the brain behind the crisis rocking the ruling party.
Oshiomhole, who appeared on a Channels Television programme, Politics Today, alleged that the crisis was instigated by some APC elements in the Arivers State, who were trying to drag the party NWC into their local fight.
A Chieftain of the APC, Daniel Bwala, also appeared on the programme and pointedly accused President Buhari’s minister, of being behind the crisis. He went on to call on the President to fire him, for destabilising the ruling party.
But the minister being insinuated is Rotimi Amaechi, who is in charge of the transportation ministry, and a stalwart of the APC in Rivers State, Magnus Abe, have been at loggerheads over control over the party’s lever in Rivers State.
The crisis, which escalated shortly before the 2019 general election, had forced Amaechi to adopt the African Action Congress (AAC) candidate, Biokpomabo Awara during the governorship election, after the APC was barred from partaking in the elections in the State.
But before the elections, Abe had in a chat with Journalists, warned that the minister’s alleged dictatorship would hurt the APC badly in the election.
The Deputy National Secretary of the APC, Victor Giadom, who had laid claims to the party’s Acting National Chairmanship position, following court suspension of Oshiomhole as the APC helmsman, is a close ally of Amaechi, a development that forced many to see the Minister as the unseen hand behind the crisis that since rocked the party to its foundation.
Curiously, President Buhari had last month, appointed Abe into the reconstituted Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), a development that did not go down well with the minister, who was Rivers State governor for eight years. Amaechi, according to inside party sources, believed that the NWC was “pampering” Abe, by refusing to sanction him for the crisis in Rivers State.
The Court of Appeal on Tuesday, upheld the lower court’s suspension of Oshiomhole as the APC National Chairman, a few hours after the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, announced his intention to leave the party, following his disqualification from the party’s governorship primary election.
Concerned Lawmakers Intervene
Some members of the party operating under the aegis of the APC Forum of former members of the House of Representatives said before the NEC meeting that the immediate solution to the crisis was for the President to call for a NEC meeting to uphold constitutionalism in the midst of chaos and deep polarisation of the NWC.
The former lawmakers include Hon. Isa Ibrahim Bio, Hon. Usman Balkore Mohammed, Hon. Chidi Duru. Hon. Eng. Janet Adeyemi, Hon. Dr. Shuaibu H. Abdullahi, Hon. Dr. Ibrahim Olaifa, Hon. Hassan Jonga, Hon. Lumumba Dah Adeh, Hon. Idris Yahaya Yahuza, Hon. Chidi Nwogu and Hon. Bala Kaoje
They said that the NEC meeting would avail the members the missing trust to resolve all pending knotty issues and discuss the way forward for the party. It was recommended that the meeting should discuss the future of the current leadership, which might involve its dissolution and appointment of a caretaker committee to organise a special national convention to elect new national officers within 12 weeks.
The caretaker committee, if appointed, should overhaul, recalibrate and reposition the party to face the challenges of future elections. The committee members must be all-inclusive and reflective of all interests and tendencies within the party as well as possess the desired competence, experience, impartiality and integrity.
On the road towards peace, they suggested should include the composition to consist of all former chairmen of national political parties, who are now members of the APC, and other accomplished and evidently neutral persons. The chairman, who may emerge from the South-south zone, must never be seen to be controversial but enjoy the goodwill of a wide spectrum of all tendencies, amongst others.
The Last Game:
With this enters the struggle of who will succeed Oshiomhole as the national chairman. First, the members of the APC NWC loyal to Tinubu and Oshiomhole threw up the late governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who in March was appointed the deputy national chairman. But due to ill health, which eventually took his life, the South-south national chairman, Hilary Etta was chosen by the factional NWC that was loyal to Oshiomhole to act as the national chairman.
But the Amaechi group of the nPDP moved against Etta and insisted on Victor Giadom. This resulted in court and counter court actions, threatening the very existence of the APC and even the two governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States.
For instance, the chances of the APC fielding candidate in the October 10 Ondo State governorship election is unlikely as the electoral umpire, last Monday, rejected the party’s notification for its primary.
The APC had in its letter to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), received on June 18, 2020, fixed July 20 as date for its primary for the election of its candidate for the Ondo governorship. The letter was, however, signed only by the APC Acting National Secretary, Waziri Bulama.
But INEC in the letter by the Secretary to the Commission, Mrs. Rose Oriarari-Anthony, said the letter did not meet the provisions of its guidelines and regulations. INEC therefore directed APC to ensure that the notification letter be jointly signed by the National Chairman and National Secretary of the party.
This is apart from the fact that the election of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was standing on one leg, as his nomination was also backed by the Oshiomhole group and led by Hilary Etta. Fearing therefore that if nothing was done, the party stood the risk of losing the two states, then, the biggest plot was hatched.
The plot was to convince Giadom to convene a NEC meeting, which would take place within the presidential villa. This was to give the impression that the President was backing the Giadom faction to hold NEC.
A minister, who should know and a member of the CPC group in the APC, deceived Giadom to agree to call NEC that the President was with him, just to spite the Ajimobi led NWC. He excitedly called NEC without knowing the under-plan. The news set the media agog that Buhari had backed Giadom, not knowing that it was a Greek gift.
The intriguing aspect of the plot was that the President and his CPC allies never sought the views of the purported national leader of the party, Tinubu, in the quest for a solution to the crisis and never was invitation extended to him as the national leader, a position not recognised in whatever capacities.
At the NEC meeting, Giadom was seated as the acting Chairman, with the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and other presiding officers of the National Assembly as well as the governors privy to the plot, were also in attendance.
Then, the President read his speech to the shock of all present, including Giadom, who thought that NEC was going to ratify him as substantive chairman. He got the shock of his life. After listening to Mr. President’s speech asking for adoption of his resolutions, amongst which was the dissolution of the NWC, it was then that it dawned on him that power had moved out of his grip.
The President asked that resolution of the NEC meeting be adopted and that the NEC should formally recognise the outcome of the Edo and Ondo State primaries, affirming that the processes that brought them to office was very credible and transparent following due processes.
The emergency NEC directed that in six months, all interested aspirants including the sacked ones of today could re-contest if they so wished. In six months, precisely in December 2020, the national convention of the party will be held.
Buhari was blunt at the meeting as he charged party faithful to embrace peace and withdraw all pending court matters or face dire consequences.
Like a patient vulture, the CPC in the APC swooped clearly on the ACN and the nPDP caucuses of the party. The membership of the caretaker committee suggested so. Pundits have asked why did the chairman of the caretaker committee come from the north. Why not the South-south from where Oshiomhole hails from?
In the place of the NWC, a caretaker committee to be headed by Governor Mai Buni of Yobe State will administer the party and also organise the national convention. Governor Buni is the immediate past national secretary of the party.
Apart from Governor Mai Mala Buni (Yobe) who will serve as Chairman, other members of the caretaker committee are Isiaka Oyebola, Southwest; Ken Nnamani, Southeast; Stella Okorete, Women Representative; Governor Sani Bello, North Central; Dr. James Lalu, physically challenged; Senator Abubakar Yusuf, representing the senate, and Hon. Akinyemi Olaide representing the House of Representatives.
David Leon from Bayelsa is to represent the South-south, while Abba Ari, North West. Prof. Tahir Mamman is Northeast, Smail Ahmed, Youth and Senator Akpan Udoedehe will serve as Secretary.
They have moved into the party secretariat and had already written INEC to intimate the commission of developments. A closer perusal of the membership of the caretaker committee shows clearly that the nPDP and the ACN groups have lost out.
But, it is not yet uhuru as some members belonging to the Pro-Oshiomole NWC said that they have concluded to seek a legal redress.
Faulting NEC decision, the sacked NWC member insisted that there was no provision of a caretaker committee in the constitution of the ruling party, insisting that they have many grounds of infractions committed from the resolutions of NEC.
“We will soon issue statement but we have resolved to head to court for the legal interpretations of the decision of NEC especially, as it concerns our dissolution. Yes, we know that Oshiomhole has his faults, but with all the positive contributions he has made to reposition the party, won’t he have been given the honours of telling him to resign?” he queried.
The pro Oshiomhole group insisted that the appointment of the Yobe State Governor to serve as caretaker committee chairman was against the APC constitution 18 (iv), which said inter Alia “No officer in any organ of the Party shall hold executive position and office in government concurrently.”
Yet, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the federation, Abubakar Malami, a former member of the CPC, has offered sound legal advices to the president.
The caretaker committee is unknown to the APC and interestingly the word dissolution is also not in the APC constitution, so the dissolution was unlawful and illegal, many reckoned. But only time would tell who laughs last.