2023: How APC govs wrestled party structures from Tinubu




BODE OLAGOKE, in this piece, writes on the developments that led to the sacking of the crisis-ridden national working committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

Takeover

The current political development the in ruling APC has indeed changed the dynamics and permutations of the old order for 2023 which may likely pave the way for the emergence of new gladiators.

The decision by the National Executive Council (NEC) to dissolve the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC took the APC national leader, Asiwaju Ahmed  Tinubu camp by surprise. It was a culmination of a grand design to whittle the overwhelming influence of the Jagaban Borgu who is believed to be nursing presidential ambition in 2023.

Oshiomhole is a known ally of the Jagaban.

If the majority of political analysts are not wrong, with the emergence of Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe state as caretaker chairman of the party, the members of the Progressive Governors Forum have successfully wrestled control of the party structures from the Jagaban of Borgu.

How it all started

The first executive governor of Edo state, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who succeeded the Chief Bisi Akande-led interim committee, had a turbulent stewardship until he left office in June 2018, following a voice vote that produced Adams Oshiomhole at a national convention held at the Eagles Square in Abuja.

Exactly two years, three days today (Saturday), the Oshiomhole-led NWC emerged with high hopes from party members that the former Labour leader would bring more fortunes to the ruling party, from where Chief John Oyegun-led NWC stopped. However, the fortunes of the party drastically reduced by seven states, in addition to a badly managed governorship election victory Bayelsa state.

The state lost under Oshiomhole-led NWC are Oyo, Bauchi, Adamawa, Sokoto, Benue, Zamfara and Edo. Apart from losing those states, some members saw Oshiomhole’s leadership as divisive, vindictive, arrogant, lacking in forgiving spirit and always ready to attack whoever was against their interest.

For example, the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC practically made the national secretariat of the party redundant soon after he emerged by setting up a parallel secretariat of his own at Aso Drive area of Abuja. Party staff and others who had businesses to do with the national chairman’s office ‘must kiss the dust, at Aso Drive; even the members of the NWC were described as “Pas” to Oshiomhole’s exalted office.

Oshiomhole vs  Obaseki

The last war between Comrade Oshiomhole and the now PDP governor of his home state, Godwin Obaseki, worsened the crisis of confidence between Oshiomhole and his party’s governors operating under the aegis of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF).

The Edo state House of Assembly, since July 2019, has been polarised into pro and anti-Obaseki lawmakers, following the defeat of the APC national chairman’s favoured person for the office of speaker of the state assembly, Victor Edoror, by Frank Okiye (Esan North-east constituency I), the anointed candidate of Governor Obaseki.

Despite the insistence of Comrade Oshiomhole and the intervention by the National Assembly that Governor Obaseki issue a fresh letter of proclamation, the latter stood his ground. He dismissed the political debacle in the state assembly as a non-issue.

The governors of the APC made several efforts to beg and convince the party’s national leader, Tinubu, to prevail on Oshiomhole, but the later reportedly ignored the advice and rejected the plead of PGF delegation to Bourdilon in Lagos.

On returning from the Bourdilion, the same PGF delegation visited Oshiomhole at the national secretariat, but all efforts to prevail on the former Edo state governor to forgive his successor failed as Oshiomhole refused to change his stand. Obaseki thereafter left the party with his deputy and all his structures in Edo APC after the drama that trailed the party primary screening exercise which saw to Obaseki’s disqualification on the basis of the same certificates he used to contest governorship election in 2016.

Alleged constitutional breaches under Oshiomhole

The NWC led by Oshiomhole was accused of breaching provision of the constitution when they changed the existing Edo state Secretariat of the party on May 29, 2020, without recourse to NEC, in a letter addressed to the chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), inviting the Commission to take note of the new address of the state secretariat without approval of NEC.

The anti-Oshiomhole also said since the inception of the sacked NWC, there was neither a compilation of register of members nor membership update every six months as provided by the Constitution.

The party’s constitution provides for number of times necessary party organs are expected to meet. However, since the inception of Oshiomhole-led NWC, the national executive committee did not meet in line with the provision of the Constitution of the party.

The appointment of some national officers of the party by the National Working Committee (NWC) under the leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was allegedly done in violation (ultra vires) of the Constitution of the party. The power to do so, in the absence of a National Convention, rests with the NEC of the party as well as the appointments of deputy national chairman (South); national secretary, and national auditor in breach of APC constitution.

Those who campaigned for the sack of Oshiomhole NWC also accused him among others that the adoption of guidelines for election and regulations for election into party offices and selecting candidates for elective offices were done without NEC approval and that even the regulations used recently in conducting primary elections in Edo state on Monday, June 22, 2020, was not proposed to the NEC for ratification.

Polarised NWC

Before the NEC meeting, a faction emerged among the national officers of the party. While Hilliard Eta was leading a group loyal to Oshiomhole who had earlier suspended by his ward, a decision upheld by both the High Court and Appeal Court, a supposed deputy national secretary of the party, Chief Victor Giadom, was also leading another faction relying on a court order making him the acting national chairman.

Giadom’s earlier call for a meeting of the NEC was surprisingly backed by President Muhammad Buhari against the will of pro-Oshiomhole NWC. Although, the said majority of NWC members cried that the Thursday’s NEC meeting was unconstitutional, in a political party, NEC meeting is the second highest decision making body.

The governors’ coup

Key members of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) in the mould of governors Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai, Kayode Fayemi, Rotimi Akeredolu, Simon Lalong, Abubakar Badaru and Atiku Bagudu who had been working underground to achieve the goal latched in on the leadership crisis that rocked the party to score momentary victory against Tinubu, whose the sacked NWC was said to be protecting.

With Governor Mai Mala Buni Yobe state in the saddle albeit for six months on caretaker basis, the forum of APC governors may have succeeded in swinging the pendulum to their side ahead of the 2023 Presidency.

It is, however, unlikely if Tinubu’s interest could be protected with the presence of just one of his key ally, Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun state, in the thirteen-member caretaker committee which is a mix grill of party stakeholders from diverse background.

The gains of APC crisis

When contacted to react to the development in the party, the director-general of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Salihu Lukman, said, “It is the responsibility of the Convention Working Committee to ensure that all the rascally conducts of party leaders that characterised the APC leadership conflict are brought under control. We should on no account tolerate conduct of any leader of the party, which makes them more associated with activities of bandits who don’t respect any rule or any leader.

“Finally, it needs to be emphatically stated that APC leaders have put to shame all the bullish media analysis that attempted to divide them. Our APC leaders have resoundingly demonstrated that it is healthy to disagree, but it is not impossible to have a consensus, no matter the disagreement. So-called media analysts can project whatever conclusions based on their fantasies; it doesn’t stop our leaders from having a rational consideration of proposals before them. The critical question will be, are Nigerians ready and willing to support this brand of politics and encourage it to become mainstream politics?

Buni’s assurance

The new caretaker committee of the APC headed by governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe state, has aassured that his committee will resolve all the crisis rocking the party and do justice to all the members.

Buni said without justice there can never be peace, promising to carry all the members along within the short period his committee will be in place.

“I am a team player and am here to manage a crisis and if you do not manage crisis, crisis will manage you so without justice there will be no peace, so am ready to do justice to every APC member.

“NEC is the highest organ of the party except the convention, and NEC can function for convention in-between, so any decision taken by NEC is the final decision.”

Conclusion

The historical event APC NEC meeting, however reminds one of the rise and fall of Ashante-Fante empire in 1806. The question now begging for an answer is whether APC drifting to relocate the golden stool that has already been dropped into the webs of political abyss.

Notwithstanding the NEC has finally axed the troubled making NWC and immediately set in motion a caretaker committee to convene hitch free convention to help champion a new course for the party leadership.

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