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APC NWC tenure extension, Buhari’s intervention and matters arising

When the All Progressives Congress (APC), won the Presidential election in 2015 just about a year after its formation, following a merger of three political parties and factions of two others, not many political watchers believed that the marriage of the political parties was going to be for the long haul.

While some were of the view that the difference in political ideologies of the key political players was going to be an undoing for the new party in power, others however believed that being in power and the desire to remain in power was going to be enough motivation for the political players to do whatever it takes to keep the relationship going.

Three years down the line, it is yet not clear the direction the APC is headed, at least where the issue of political cohesion is concerned.

Within the period, the party has been unable to hold its congresses and convention to either elect new party executive or re-elect the ones already holding positions.

Infact many political watchers believe that the tension between members of the national executive of the party and some very senior members is so high that it can be felt by ordinary members and non members alike.

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu

A case in point was the Ondo State governorship election, where the National Leader of the party and former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu preferred a particular aspirant to pick the ticket of the party, but the aspirant who Tinubu favoured was allegedly schemed out.

The alleged scheming did not go down well with supporters of Tinubu who insisted that the result of the primary election be cancelled.

However, the national leadership of the party would not agree to that, rather they set up a committee to investigate the primary election and at the end of the day the verdict was that there was not enough evidence of manipulation to warrant cancellation of the outcome.

This development did not go down well with Tinubu and his supporters who accused the national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun of compromise and therefore called for his sack.

This pitched Oyegun and Tinubu’s supporters against each other and there was a tirade of verbal attack from both camps, creating high level tension in the relationship between the groups ever since.

Chief John Odigie-Oyegun

Earlier, the Oyegun and Tinubu camp had crashed over the Kogi State governorship election following the death of the candidate of the party, Alhaji Abubakar Audu, with his running mate and member of the House of Representatives, Hon James Faleke insisting that he should become the beneficiary of the death of his principal, but the national leadership of the party refused.

Despite all efforts by Tinubu’s camp to ensure that Faleke becomes the governorship candidate of the APC, it failed and the ticket was given to Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who came second in the party’s primary election, though he was said to have worked against the party at the election, this did not go down well with the Tinubu group and they obviously took it personally against Oyegun.

This tension was still on ground when the National Executive Committee of the party met and decided to extend the tenure of the leadership at all levels by 12 months to give them room to conduct the party primary and the 2019 elections at all level without rancor.

The reasoning is that because of the tension within the party, if it is to conduct congresses across the states and local governments and also hold elective convention of the party before the 2019 election, the party may not have enough time to deal with the crisis that will ensue from there and be able to conduct primary and elections and still remain a family. The committee’s tenure is to expire in June 2018.

The tenure extension was the major decision taken after a three-hour meeting of the APC National Executive Committee held at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja.

At the end of the meeting, the Kogi State governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, announced the NEC’s decision to the media.

Bello, who was flanked by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, and some state party chairmen, said, “At the end of the National Executive Council meeting today, a major decision was taken in line with the constitution of our party.

We are all aware that the tenure of the current NWC and the executive members of this party both elected and appointed comes to an end in June this year.

“Considering the time left for the party to conduct all the congresses and convention and considering that our leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, has been charged with the responsibility of reconciling all aggrieved members of our party, we cannot afford to approach the general elections with more dispute and crises.

“So, relying on Article 13 of our constitution, which empowers the NEC to carry out the function of the convention, the NEC has decided to extend the tenure of the current National Working Committee and other executive committees at various levels for another 12 months, starting from June 30th.”

The development is a major victory for the party’s governors who have been speaking in support of the extension.

Earlier, President Muhammadu Buhari, in his opening remarks, had called for support for the Tinubu-led All Progressives Congress reconciliation committee that he set up to reconcile aggrieved party members.

He said, “We all know that elections are looming in the horizon. We must therefore get our acts together. Accordingly, I implore all members of the party to give the Asiwaju committee full cooperation to resolve existing differences among our members in the states affected.

“We must not lose sight of our common purpose as a party to break the mould of Nigerian politics and take the country to new heights. Therefore, we have asked Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to lead this process of restoring order, manage differences and strengthen the party.”

Earlier, the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, had said the party must do all it could to win the forthcoming governorship elections.

He said, “We obviously have a very tough year ahead of us. It is a year of challenges, multiplicity of activities beginning from the month of April, the process of conducting challenging elections in Ekiti in July and in Osun in September.

“These elections are precursors of the national elections. It is therefore necessary that we treat them with great seriousness because they are elections we should do everything to win.”

However, despite the reasons adduced for the extension of tenure, many members of the party were not happy with the decision.

The Lagos State chapter blamed its chairman, Henry Ajomale, who is the chairman of caucus of state chairmen for not objecting to the extension which was first mooted by the chairmen who suggested two years extension to the NEC, but Ajomale said he was helpless in the circumstance, but the state vowed to challenge it.

But, respite came the way of those opposed to the tenure elongation last week when President Muhammadu Buhari made a u-turn to say he was no longer comfortable with the extension.

Members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party were indeed shocked last week when President Buhari called for the cancellation of tenure extension for party officials.

At its NEC meeting on February 28 the party had extended the tenure of members of National Working Committee (NWC) led by John Odigie-Oyegun by one year, with the President seated.

Speaking shortly before the commencement of NEC meeting that Tuesday, Buhari told a packed hall at the APC national secretariat to consider cancelling the tenure extension decision because “it is against the party constitution and the Nigerian constitution.”
He therefore, presented the matter “for discussion” at the meeting.

Buhari said he is having a change of heart because he doesn’t want the party’s activities to be faulted by any court of law.
The President’s request was not discussed at the national caucus meeting which held at the Presidential Villa Monday night, Mr. Odigie-Oyegun had said.

Caucus meetings are precursor to what would normally be discussed at NEC.
The President noted that if the decision to extend party executive tenure can be legally faulted, then any nomination and primary election can also be faulted.

“In particular, I think it is important to talk on the contentious issues of the tenure of our national and state executive officers. As we all know, the motion was moved in the last NEC, February 27, 2018, to the effect that when the tenure of the current executive expire in June this year, they should be allowed to continue for one year.

“This motion was moved by majority of members present at the last NEC meeting, even though some of our party members have since spoken very vehemently against it, others have even taken the matter to court.

“On my own part I have taken some time to review and seek advice on the resolution and what I have found is that it contravenes our party constitution and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

According to him, while the APC constitution article 17, limits the tenure of elected officers to four years, renewable once by another election, the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended, in section 223, also prescribes periodic election for party executives at regular intervals which must not exceed four years.

“Furthermore, article 31 of our party’s constitution provides that any principal officer wishing to re-contest or contest for another post must resign from his current post at least one month before the election.

In this circumstance what is expected of us is to conduct fresh election once the tenure of the current executives approaches its end.

“If the tenure of our party executive can be legally faulted then it means that any nomination and primary election can also be faulted”, he said, adding that this is not to talk of the crisis that will arise and is already arising within the party when some of its members feel that they are being denied the right to aspire to executive positions.

“I am therefore of the firm belief that it is better to follow strictly the dictates of our party and national constitution rather than put APC and its activities at grave risk.

“The only thing I feel too strongly about is that we should not allow our party to be vulnerable to the opposition,” he said.

This new turn of event did not however go down well with many members of the party who felt betrayed by Buhari’s sudden stance that the elongation of party chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun was unconstitutional when he was part of the last NEC meeting where the decision to extend NWC’s tenure was taken.

A NEC member who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “The session became rowdy at some point when members of NEC shouted down the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Doguwa, for saying there was no need to debate the issue since the President had spoken.

“The noise was so much that security details of the President stepped into the hall as a precautionary measure.

“At this point, the National Chairman (Odigie-Oyegun) stood up and threatened to use his powers to walk out members if they continued to be rowdy.

“He said if anybody had a better argument he should raise his hands and be recognised to speak. He also asked us all to have respect for the President who was at the meeting.”

Dr Muiz Banire, SAN

The source explained that earlier, the party’s National Legal Adviser, Dr Muiz Banire, SAN, had “tried to dismiss the constitutional queries raised by the President on the tenure elongation.

He said, “Our legal adviser said NEC relied on powers conferred on it by Section 13.3 of the party’s constitution. He argued that the President’s position was subjudice, because the matter was already in court.

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu

“After he spoke, the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, aligned himself with the legal position espoused by Banire.”

The source explained that the Ondo State governor added that the decision was subjected to a vote with 104 members voting in favour and four against the decision.

However, the position of the Ondo State governor, may not be popular with the executive of the APC in his State, as the Chairman of the APC in the state, Hon Isaac Kekemeke has branded those pushing for tenure elongation for members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) as doing so for pecuniary interest.

Kekemeke, who described proponents of tenure elongation as enemies of democracy and the party, said those pushing for extension of tenure of the NWC members were the corrupt elements within the ruling party.

Kekemeke in his reaction to President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech at the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting where he ruled out tenure elongation for the NWC members, led by the National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun commended the President for the decision to halt the tenure elongation. Kekemeke said: “The President has just shown to us that he is a defender of constitution of the party and of our nation, as the chief executive of our country who must lead by example.

“I do not think the promoters of tenure elongation were or are altruistic; I think they were motivated by peculiar interest and they need to make plenty of money during the incoming primaries, they wanted to see if they could be bought by the highest payers.

“I thought Chairman Oyegun, the National Organizing Secretary and all of them who are ordinarily in charge of election were already looking up to how much money was going to come.

“They did one for 2015 and they were looking forward to do another one for 2019, so it is not anything patriotic, it is destructive and this impunity and an attempt at impunity for a group of people to extend their own tenure, it is immoral, shameful and we thank the President for putting an end to this.”

This was also the position of Senator Shehu Sani, the senator representing Kaduna Central who praised President Buhari for saving the party from what he described as a national disaster.

“The intervention of the President, if it was not done, it would have been disastrous for the party. I feel highly relieved.

“So, in every sense of the word, it has saved the party from what would have consumed it at the end of the day.

“If we went ahead with that tenure elongation, and someone from the opposition party goes to court after all the processes of congresses and primaries had been done, the point is that we may end up without a governorship or presidential candidate and without a candidate at all the legislative arm of government.

“On my part, I told him (Buhari) right to his face that as a man who has seen it all, who has achieved so much as a public officer, he should outrightly reject that extension because the members of the party, we are outrightly opposed to it.

“What happened is that there were people who misled the President, misled the party and are trying to use that extension for them to achieve their own end,” he said.

But, the stand on the President might have met a stiff opposition as the party has come out to say that their position on the tenure extension still stands.

National Publicity Secretary of the Party, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, disclosed this to newsmen in a chat in Abuja.

According to him, President Buhari only aired his personal view which cannot be considered as the decision of the National Executive Council (NEC) which approved the extension in the onset.

He maintained that the decision still holds until the NEC reverses itself.

“The President’s position has not changed the position of NEC. NEC has not reversed itself on the tenure extension. The decision of the NEC on the one-year tenure extension still stands.

“The president is not NEC. The NEC will have to reverse itself but right now, it has not done that. So, the tenure extension still stands,” Abdullahi said.

Many political watchers are of the view that Buhari’s decision to turn around and oppose a decision that was taken in his presence without his raising an eyebrow was only aimed at pacifying Tinubu, whose chapter of the APC, the Lagos State chapter has vowed to challenge, in other to curry his favour and support for 2019.

Earlier Buhari had set up a reconciliation committee headed by Tinubu, to bring aggrieved members together and again build a cohesive party, in recognition of the fact that the only man who will have the ear of the majority of APC members is Tinubu who was instrumental to its formation in the first place.

But the fear of many APC sympathisers now is that if the party is to hold congresses and elective convention before the 2019 election, it may not be able to survive the crisis that will fall out and have enough time to prepare well to make impact in the election and it also may not be able to manage the crisis that will follow, especially with the President’s utterances and the resultant backlash in failing to hold convention, either to extend the tenure of the executive or hold an election.

So many political watchers are now worried that the APC may be heading towards a serious crisis no matter which direction it may choose to turn, either the NEC extension stays, an elective convention holds or a non elective convention hold to formally extend the tenure, they say crisis looms ahead.

Quote
We all know that elections are looming in the horizon. We must therefore get our acts together. Accordingly, I implore all members of the party to give the Asiwaju committee full cooperation to resolve existing differences among our members in the states affected. We must not lose sight of our common purpose as a party to break the mould of Nigerian politics and take the country to new heights. Therefore, we have asked Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to lead this process of restoring order, manage differences and strengthen the party.

Quote 2
But the fear of many APC sympathisers now is that if the party is to hold congresses and elective convention before the 2019 election, it may not be able to survive the crisis that will fall out and have enough time to prepare well to make impact in the election and it also may not be able to manage the crisis that will follow, especially with the President’s utterances and the resultant backlash in failing to hold convention, either to extend the tenure of the executive or hold an election.

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