HEADLINE | Posted: Friday, June 26, 2020

APC crisis: Why Buhari moved against Oshiomhole


Buhari and Oshiomhole

• NEC dissolves NWC; Yobe Gov, Mai Buni now Caretaker/Convention C'ttee chair

• Party members to withdraw pending litigations; ratifies Ize-Iyamu for guber polls

• NWC dissolution not targeted at Tinubu-Buni; ex-NWC members mull legal options

• APC govs, founding groups, other power blocs battle for APC's soul ahead 2023

By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Omeiza Ajayi, Ozioruva Aliu

Reasons President Muhammadu Buhari moved against the suspended National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, emerged last night, as the National Executive Committee, NEC, wielded the big stick to check the crisis ravaging the party and avert what the President described as self-destruction.

At an emergency meeting in Abuja, the NEC dissolved the factionalized National Working Committee, NWC, and set up a caretaker/national convention committee headed by Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, a former national secretary of the party.

The emergency virtual NEC meeting, presided over by President Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, also appointed Senator John Akpanudoedehe as national secretary of caretaker committee.

Party insiders told Vanguard that Buhari moved against Oshiomhole because he "narrowed the party to himself'" and one of the founders of the APC, committed many infractions, sidelined the NEC and carried out solely many actions that needed NEC's ratification.

One of the actions that needed ratification was setting up the screening committee for the Edo State primary of the APC.

The insider said all the governors who attended the NEC meeting were not in support Oshiomhole and did not dissent to the dissolution of the NWC.

"Can you imagine? Oshiomhole narrowed the party to himself and a leader of the APC; 19 members of the NWC were for Oshiomhole and that leader. There were so many constitutional infractions. Many decisions of the party that were supposed to be ratified by the NEC were taken by Oshiomhole. We could not continue like that. The President had to save the party," the source said.

On Tuesday, President Buhari threw his support behind the faction of the APC led by court-backed Acting National Chairman, Chief Victor Giadom and the NEC meeting he fixed for yesterday. The NWC led by Hilliard Eta, who stood in for late Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who was appointed acting national chairman following the suspension of Oshiomhole as national chairman, kicked against the NEC meeting and urged members to disregard the notice. Senator Ajimobi died yesterday.

Oshiomhole is in support of the Eta-led NWC, which enjoys the backing of 17 NWC members as opposed to Chief Giadom backed by two members

Governor Buni was sworn-in immediately by Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN.

However, some aggrieved members of the dissolved NWC now headed by Eta are determined to challenge their dissolution in court, arguing that the emergency NEC meeting was illegal and had no power to do what it did.

Yesterday's decision of the NEC, Vanguard gathered is an output of the underground raging battle for the soul of the APC ahead the 2023 general polls among leaders of various groups that formed APC, governors elected on the platform of the party, and other power brokers.

Disagreements could lead to self-destruction - Buhari

In his remarks at the NEC, President Buhari advised members of the party to bury their hatchet, warning that mutating disagreements have dire consequences and could lead to destruction.

He said the party's gains could be reversed as conflicts overshadow the primary objective of service to the people. He urged members to refocus on the larger picture and place more emphasis on uniting the party.

He said: "Fellow party members, this is a very crucial moment in the life of our party and it is with a deep sense of concern that I stand before you today to speak as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who has been elected on the platform of our great party - the All Progressives Congress.

"The issues currently confronting our party at this time are such that should worry every party member. At the moment, our great party is faced with internal wrangling; there are on-going litigations amongst some party members and we cannot clearly ascertain the status of certain National Working Committee (NWC) members."

The President expressed worry over shifting loyalty within the party and inconsistency in leadership, which had opened the governing party to mockery.

He said: "There are also other associated disputes as to the legitimacy or otherwise of holders of certain national offices of the party. The party is also contending with judicial claims and counter-claims, orders and counter-orders and indeed, judgments and counter-judgments that are predominantly at cross-purposes.

"Confronted with these issues, it is obvious that the fortunes of the party are currently in jeopardy, administration of our party is becoming impossible and there is consequently an urgent need for intervention to immediately arrest further drifts and internal wrangling which may lead to total disintegration.

"What we see clearly emerging, is that we are beginning to self-destruct. This, my dear party members, is not just regrettable but utterly gut-wrenching."

President Buhari proposed that: "The meeting may adopt the developed resolution as contained in the agenda and pass resolutions including: approving the immediate discontinuation of all pending litigation involving the party and its members; ratifying the primary election conducted in Edo State; dissolving the current National Working Committee, and appointing Caretaker/Extra-ordinary Convention Planning committee for the party."

'Discontinue litigation'

The President also reiterated the need to discontinue all litigation involving members of the party, which were connected to issues of the party, adding: "The directive had been issued before, unfortunately some members failed to heed the directive. Thus, at this time, it must be made a resolution of the party which must be effectively enforced with dire consequences for members who choose to ignore the directive."

To return APC to "winning ways" President Buhari said, the party must maintain cohesion by closing its ranks. "We must be alive to the time and the task that is before us. As we all know, we are immediately confronted with the upcoming gubernatorial elections in Edo and Ondo States. Therefore, this is the time to get our acts together."

The emergency NEC meeting adopted all the recommendations by President Buhari, and appointed the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, as Caretaker National Chairman, while Senator John Akpanudoedehe was designated Caretaker National Secretary.

APC crisis laid to rest - Buni

Briefing State House correspondents after the extraordinary NEC meeting, Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu said the meeting was attended by other members in virtual manner consistent with the COVID-19 regulations in place.

He said: "Mr. President in his speech called for the dissolution of the National Working Committee and appointed in its place a caretaker committee at the same time that will serve as convention planning committee and membership were proposed and approved by NEC of our party.

"His Excellency the Governor of Yobe State was charged with the burden of leading the caretaker and convention planning committee.

"We are happy that today the issues bedeviling our party have been laid to rest by these momentous decisions and we are equally congratulating Mr President on the exercise of the mandate that has been given to him by Nigerians and we should not distract him.

"Equally, the meeting ratified all decisions that have been taken on Edo State primaries and screening primaries and a name will be forwarded properly to INEC, the name of our candidate in the Edo gubernatorial elections and equally the schedule of activities that will commence the Ondo State primaries which by God's grace we will also be presenting a candidate will commence under the leadership of the caretaker committee."

Buni's plans for APC

Asked his plans for the APC, Buni said: "I know the party very well. It's all about doing justice to every member of the party because without justice there won't be peace. It is all about team play.

"I am a team player, I have a capable team that can work with me. If you don't manage crisis, obviously crisis will manage you. So, I won't allow any crisis to fester henceforth."

Asked whether all the constitutional provisions on convening the NEC was followed, he said: "I want to tell you that it is a continuation of the last notice that was issued and we said we have adjourned and now it's a continuation of the last adjourned NEC meeting. All the notices were issued accordingly, so in no way are we in any aberration."

NWC dissolution not targeted at Tinubu - Buni

On the allegation that the dissolution was done to whittle down the influence of the party's National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Governor Buni said: "You mention the name of one of our leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a founding father of this party. We are all together to rescue this party from all this.

"Nobody is targeted and it is against nobody. Asiwaju is one of the leaders of this party and a founding father of the party."

On the life-span of the Caretaker Committee, he said: "The duration of office is for six months within which we will do whatever we can as enshrined in our constitution and ensure that we strengthen the party and cap it up with the convention."

"Whatever happened during the last NWC culminating in Edo primaries have already been ratified by NEC. So we are good to go. All litigations will be withdrawn."

NEC, only opportunity to save APC - Giadom

In his remarks, former Acting National Chairman, Chief Victor Giadom, said: "As we all know, the party is passing through what I call 'trying times' and the virtual National Executive Committee meeting is the only opportunity available to our great party to act and respond for the good of our party.

"The National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has been suspended by his ward and affirmed by a court of law. This has led to internal crisis and confusion in our party as you can witness conflicting court orders and counter court orders flying around the party.

"Our party for the past two years has been characterized by serious violations of our constitution and time will not allow me to enumerate the numerous infractions that have led to the present crises in the party.

"For instance, just yesterday, INEC wrote to us stating that they do not reckon with the Acting National Secretary that signed the notice of party primaries to them on the forthcoming election in Ondo State.

"That is the precarious situation we find ourselves as a party as we run the risk of freely handing over another state to the opposition through our own internal recklessness."

Roll call

The meeting was attended by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege; and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase.

Also present were former Deputy National Chairman (North) Lawan Shuaibu; Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu; Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hassan Dogowa; Deputy Majority Leader, Peterson Akpatason; and Deputy Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha.

The 16 governors physically present were Hope Uzodinma (Imo), Engr. Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Abubakar Bello (Niger), Mohammed Badaru (Jigawa), Mai Malla Buni (Yobe), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Mohammad Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Abdulhahman Abdulrazak (Kwara), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti).

Senators Abdullahi Sabi and Ajayi Borofice were also present.

Dissolved NWC to challenge NEC in court

However 18 members of the dissolved NWC have faulted their purported sack, saying while they are watching the "unfolding drama," they are also consulting with their lawyers and other stakeholders.

A statement to this effect, issued on Thursday evening was signed by factional acting National Chairman, Hilliard Eta and acting National Secretary, Arc. Waziri Bulama.

The statement read: "The following represents the collective decision of eighteen members of the National Working Committee

"The National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress wishes to reiterate its earlier position that Chief Victor Giadom has no authority whatsoever to convene a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of our great Party.

"Article 25(B) of the Constitution of the APC is explicit that only the National Chairman or the National Working Committee (NWC) is given the prerogative of summoning meetings of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Party either for statutory quarterly meetings or for emergency meetings.

"The same provision of the constitution makes it compulsory for a notice of minimum of 14 days in respect of statutory quarterly meetings and seven (7) days in respect of emergency meetings.

"While the National Working Committee is studying the unfolding drama, it will be consulting with stakeholders and team of lawyers on the next line of action.

"Therefore, all members of our great Party and concerned Nigerians are urged to remain calm pending outcome of the consultations

"The 18 members (out of 20) of the NWC who are part of this press statement: Hilliard Etagbo Eta, Hon. Inuwa Abdulkadir, Pastor Bankole Oluwajana, Alh. Ahmed Suleiman Wambal, Hon. Emma Eneukwu, Hon. Adamu Fanda and Hon. Ibrahim Masari.

Others are Hon. Paul Chukwuma, Barr. Emma Ibediro, Sadiq Abubakar, Haj. Salamatu Baiwa Umar-Eluma, Alh. Tajudeen Bello, Lawan Didi, Wogu Boms, 15. Babatunde Ogala, Hon. Lanre Issa-Onilu, Arc. Waziri Bulama (NS) Sen, Abiola Ajimobi (factional acting National Chairman)", which it registered as "indisposed."

However, a member of the dissolved committee who spoke to Vanguard said though there is a plan to legally challenge the NEC meeting and its outcome, he has since moved on and gone back to his private business.

"I have moved on. As we speak, I am in my private office doing my business. Yes, the guys were saying they will challenge the whole thing in court but for me, I have a second address. I was just doing the party work as an added responsibility. I have since moved on", he said, preferring not to be named.

Buni assumes office as caretaker c'ttee chairman

Meanwhile, Mai Mala Buni, assumed duty at the party's national secretariat as caretaker committee chairman and promised to carry all tendencies along in order to restore peace to the party.

Buni arrived the secretariat some minutes before 2pm in company of some APC governors, including Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Sani Bello (Niger), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi) and Gboyega Oyetola (Osun).

The Caretaker Committee chairman left the secretariat just few minutes after his arrival.

In a brief interface with journalists, Buni said: "After being a two-time National Secretary of the party, I can say I know the party very well. I want to assure every APC member that we will do justice to every one because we have a capable team."

In an apparent move to bar members of the dissolved NWC from accessing their offices, security operatives had earlier in the day sealed the national secretariat.

The development came two days after the police sealed and reopened the premises within hours.

Those who had entered the building were sent out at about 9am while four security vehicles were stationed in and around the party facility.

Acting National Secretary in the dissolved NWC, Arc. Waziri Bulama, had at about 10:50am arrived the secretariat while the NEC meeting was going on at the Presidential Villa. He was, however, barred from accessing the premises by armed security operatives.

Why govs want to be in charge

Indications also emerged on why APC governors backed President Buhari's decision on NEC meeting and dissolution of the NWC. One of the reasons was to save the party and take over its structure.

A close aide of one of the APC governors told Vanguard that the APC governors decided to take the party from its leaders who sidelined the governors.

"Our governor was in Abuja for the APC NEC meeting. Those in charge of the party think they are the only ones who have power but we all saw how the President shocked them.

"The governors own the party. Who can mobilize 2,000 delegates? It is only the governors that have the capacity to do this.

"Who has the security when it is time for the convention? If the police decide not to cooperate, governors can decide to come with their security outfits. Those former governors know this and they know how it works.

"You want to pocket the governors, thinking they do not matter. Interest is politics and every politics is local. You have to canvass your own interest; but for you to think you have planted the chairman and secretary so that they can do your bidding, you have gotten it wrong.

"When the chips are down, the secretary you are banking on is also somebody's candidate."

Fresh battle looms

Indeed, the Vanguard gathered that with the governors' position, the battle for the soul of APC ahead of 2023 has begun. There is an intense battle for control among three of the legacy groups that formed the party in 2013. The coalition parties and groups were the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC led by Buhari; Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN led by Tinubu; the N-PDP led by Atiku Abubakar, Rotimi Amaechi, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, and Aminu Tambuwal among others; All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP led by George Moghalu; and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA led by Rochas Okorocha.

At inception, Vanguard gathered that one of the agreements was for the CPC to control government while the ACN controls the party structure. Now, a source said the CPC wants to control the government and party structure sidelining N-PDP and others

Most of the other coalition groups have been sidelined in the scheme of things. Saraki, Atiku, Kwankwaso and Tambuwal have since returned to the PDP, alleging marginalization, leaving a few such as Amaechi. According to a source, whoever controls the party's NEC and NWC will influence the party's candidates in 2023. A host of the leaders at the thick on the ongoing chances are eyeing political slots in 2023.

Non-NWC members of NEC dissolve exco

Meanwhile, the Forum of non-NWC members of NEC has dissolved its executive committee.

Acting Publicity Secretary of the new executive, Muhammed Sani Ibrahim, in a statement said: "On behalf of the majority members of the non-NWC, I am saddled to announce the decision of the members of the NEC to express the displeasure of the members due to the leadership failure, ineffectiveness, uncooperative attitude, lack of transparency and accountability in stewardship, financial misappropriation and party unfaithfulness.

"The forum's caretaker committee led by Hon. Nelson Alapa and 11others is hereby dissolved with immediate effect. In its place, a three-man committee is hereby agreed to run the affairs of the forum in acting capacity, pending when a proper election will be held.

"The officers are: Acting Chairman, Hon. Abubakar Fakai, acting Secretary, David Okumagba and acting Publicity Secretary, Hon Muhammed Sani Ibrahim."

No Victor, no Oshiomhole

An APC chieftain in Rivers, Prince Tonye Princewill, hailed the formation of the caretaker committee, describing the situation as fair to all sides, saying "no Victor, no Oshiomhole."

Princewill, a close ally of Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi said this in a statement in Abuja.

"This is a victory for all progressives. No Victor, no Oshiomole. No victor, no vanquished. The President has shown leadership and an external force has acted upon the party to put it back on track.

The people chosen to run the affairs in the interim are fair, seasoned and progressive. I have no doubt they will reflect all shades of the party and can help us usher in a new dawn.

As a Rivers man, they should look before they leap into my state. It is tricky there. Water, as you know can be very slippery. Some will say it is Rivers State that put us here. Let it not do it to us again. Please.

I want to thank Victor Giadom for kick-starting this peace, Comrade Adams Oshiomole for accepting it and most of all, the President for midwifing it. It is not yet time to celebrate. Implementation is where problems exist. But we pray for God's guidance and wisdom in the affairs of men."

Court declares Ize-Iyamu APC member

Meanwhile, an Edo State High Court sitting in Benin City yesterday declared Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu an authentic member of the APC, and is quaified to contest in the coming governorship election as a member of the party.

Presiding Judge, Justice Emmanuel Ahamiojie in his ruling also said the issue of granting waiver is a matter that is subject to every political party and that it is not for the court to determine who is to be given waiver or not.

He said: "I hereby declare that the Osagie Ize-Iyamu (third defendant) is qualified to contest, being a registered member of the All Progressives Congress", the Judge said.

Recall that state deputy chairman of the party, Kenneth Asekomhe, now expelled; Benjamin Oghumu, Matthew Ogbebor and Unweni Nosa, had filed the suit challenging decision of the APC tor grant a waiver to Ize-Iyamu, to enable him contest the primary election.

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