BODE OLAGOKE takes a look at the issues surrounding tenure elongation for the All Progressives Congress (APC) executives at all levels which was decided at the third National Executive Committee meeting of the party.
Contrary to its constitution that its National Executives Council meeting be held three times in a year, the All Progressives Congress (APC) held its third NEC meeting since the party came into power at centre in 2015. The meeting in itself was the first in 2018 and many think it was a marked departure from the previous haphazardly approach to the matter of holding the party’s highest lawmaking meeting. Though, the meeting has come and gone but the dust raised might not settle down before soonest, instead might continue to feed topical public discourse from now till the 2019 general elections.
After severally denying media reports that it was planning to extend the tenure of its national and other executives, the party at the recent NEC meeting finally rubber stamped the too-well known secret of by adopting the proposal for the incumbent National Working Committee (NWC) under Chief John Oyegun to continue in office beyond June 2018, when it members’ tenure of four years ought to have ended officially.
Before this decision Blueprint Newspapers had consistently reported the muted intention of the Chief Oyegun-led NWC to seek tenure extension but this was repeatedly denied by the party’s spokesman, Bolaji Abdullahi, who took an offense and the media to task on what he called ‘mere speculation’.
Before the NEC meeting
Barely 24 hours to the NEC meeting, a forum of the state chairmen of the party, had met in Abuja where a communique was signed by 31 out of 37 state chapters, including FCT to endorsed two years extension of tenure for the executive members of the party at all levels.
Also, a forum of Non-NWC members had met and issued a statement on tenure elongation. Even then, the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had never hidden his opposition to Chief Oyegu’s leadership. Tinubu, who was recently appointed the chairman of a presidential panel to reconcile all the aggrieved members of the party, had written a letter, which was leaked to the press, accusing the National Chairman, Chief Oyegun of sabotaging his efforts.
Indirectly, the thinking of Tinubu and his men was to pass a vote of no confidence on Chief Oyegun’s leadership but the power play between the factions of the two leaders did not only divide the governors of the party, it also forced the presidency to take an untoward stand, the result of which some analysts said was the outcome of the NEC meeting.
The NEC’s decision
Even before the end of the meeting, one of the pro-Oyegun’s governors, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, flanked by other governors and the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said it was the decision of the NEC to extend the tenure of the executive of the party at all levels by 12 months.
Bello 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 June this year.
“Considering the time left for the party to conduct all the congresses and convention and considering that our leader, Sen. Tinubu, has been charged with responsibility to reconciling all aggrieved members of our party, we cannot afford to approach general elections with more dispute and crisis.
“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 NWC and other executive committees at various levels for another twelve months, starting from June 30th.”
Why governance is slowed -Buhari
For President Muhammadu Buhari, who was physically at the meeting, it was an opportunity to state the reason for the slow pace of his government. Buhari attributed to slow progress in almost all areas of his administration to the recurrent disagreement between the National Assembly and members of his cabinet. President Buhari also acknowledged that the government has not met the expectations of many party members and Nigerians as a whole.
“I must acknowledge that the face of government has not met the expectations of many within our party. But few of us know or appreciated the depth of the wrath when we took office and that we spent the last two years bringing the country out of the mess we met it.
“Furthermore, the standoff between the executive and the National Assembly slowed down the process of governance. We are working hard to resolve the differences so that the country can move forward.”
According to the President, the current leadership of the country has successfully stabilised the nation. Buhari said: “I am happy to report that slowly and steadily, we have managed to stabilize the country and redirect the ship of state.
“We have restored prudence to the management of resources and confidence in Nigeria has been restored. On February 23, Nigeria floated a 12 year and 20 year Eurobond in the international market which was both oversubscribed. The 12 year bond was, within days oversubscribed by 332 percent, while the 20 year bond was oversubscribed by 372 percent.
“We have stabilized the naira and increase our foreign reserve from $20 billion to $40 billion. Inflation rate is down. With considerably less resources available to the country, we have improved all the indices towards a stronger economy.
“Above all, we must pay tribute to the Nigerian people who massively support the government in spite of distractions from proponents of business as usual. Nevertheless, I am not asking us to relax and take things easy. 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. It is, perhaps, inevitable that there will be differences of opinion within the party. If we resolve them, then we can build a genuinely democratic party. But we must not lose sight of our common purpose as a party to break the mule of Nigerian politics and takes the country to new heights.”
While commenting on Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s reconciliation panel, Buhari said he has asked National Leader of the APC to “lead this process of restoring order, manage differences and strengthen the party.
“Soon, primaries at the wards, local government, states and the centre will soon be due. I urge all members to take account of the fact that the APC has a history of conducting free and fair primaries whenever consensus about any position is not reached. Regardless of the outcome of the primary processes which is imperative, we should all work together to ensure victory for our party.”
Party executives’ welfare
In his welcome address, Chief Oyegun had told the NEC that that a voice was raised in favour of the NWC members at the caucus meeting held on Monday night at villa.
“My colleagues from the NWC, we have a voice raised on our behalf during the caucus meeting and I want to assure you that as quickly as possible we will have a welfare package before the next NEC meeting so that our welfare can be better catered for.”
At the meeting, the presence of Senate President Bukoka Saraki, Speaker Yakubu Dogara and some other key members were sorely missed. Others in attendance include; Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal. Also, the governors of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, Borno State, Kashim Shettima, Bauchi State, Muhammed Abubakar, Jigawa State, Badaru Abubakar, Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, Zamfara State, Abdulazez Yari, Kastina State, Aminu Bello Masari, Kaduna State, Nasir El’Rufai, Niger State, Sani Bello and Kogi State, Yahaya Bello.
Others were; Minister State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, Senators, Magnus Abe, Francis Alimikhena, Abdullahi Adamu, Andy Uba, Sani Yarima, and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Hon Ado Dogiwa, among others.
Reactions to tenure extension
Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, was the first to publicly deny that the NEC meeting approved tenure elongation. According to Yari, what happened at the meeting was mere expression of interest.
Zamfara governor, who is also the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), said “what has been done is a mere expression of interest. The power of the convention to extend the tenure is exercised only by way of a constitution amendment.
“The power of the National Executive Committee of our party cannot go beyond doing so by way of constitution amendment. Article 30 of the APC constitution states: ‘This constitution and the schedules hereto, can be amended only by the National Convention of the party”.
“The process of amending the constitution is also expressly provided in Article 30 sub section 2. This states that: “Notice of any proposed amendment by any member or organ of the party shall be given to the National Secretary at least 14 days before the date of the National Convention. The Notice shall be in writing, shall contain a clear statement of the proposed amendment and reasons for it.”
Yari added: “What was done today (yesterday) is only an expression of a desire to extend the tenure of Chief Oyegun-led National Executives.”
Also reacting, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Timi Frank, expressed disappointment in the decision taken by the National Executive Committee (NEC) which extended the tenure of Chief John Oyegun and others for another twelve months.
Frank said the party has proved to the world that it does not respect even its own laid down rules and guidelines which he said does not give room for such decision. Comrade Frank described the tenure elongation as laughable, saying it has shown that the main opposition People Democratic Party (PDP) is far better than the APC when it comes to internal democracy.
“I am personally disappointed with the tenure extension of Chief John Oyegun led leadership. This has clearly shown that the APC is an undemocratic party. A party which has been in existence for three years but has never obeyed its own constitution.
“I challenged anybody to tell me which part of the APC constitution has been religiously obeyed in the past? This is has shown again the difference between the PDP and APC, but I know that the former is better.
“I will not relent in speaking the truth which I’m known for. This decision is against the wish of the majority but for the oppressors within the party.”
We didn’t expect 100% to support elongation – Oyegun
While reacting to those opposing the 12 months extension, Chief John Oyegun said it is natural for people to speak against tenure elongation granted his leadership of National Working Committee (NWC) and others by the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting.
He added that expecting a hundred percent support for such decision was impossible. Oyegun said: “Well, I don’t want to talk on this sensitive political issue, suffice to say that whatever is happening naturally will be contrary view. So, it will be so difficult if you come out with one hundred per cent unanimity.
“But I think the reasons the party decided not to hold some of these elective congresses this year are very clear, and we have much work to do this one year all of which have potential of causing crisis. It has always been so anyway once there is an election; it always creates its own issue.
“We are going to have first set of party election, second set of election to governmental aspirants, other State House of Assemblies, House of Representatives, Senate, Governorship and so on.
“So, We just felt we could defer some of these issues or the party felt some of these challenges can be deferred for one year for the serious task before us which is the national elections. People gave the examples of Ekiti and Osun states respectively where because of this same problem and elections were due in those two states, the filling of party offices had to be deferred. That was why they were not part of election,” Oyegun explained.
…And legal battle commences
As expected, those that felt uncomfortable with the tenure elongation have started approaching courts of law for redress.
Already, the Federal High Court in Abuja has been urged to void the extension of the tenure of the APC National Working Committee (NWC) by the NEC. This was contained in the prayers by Okere Uzochukwu, who described himself as a member of the APC in Imo State.
Uzochukwu, in the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/219/2018, said he was an aspirant to the state chairmanship position of the party in Imo State and that the tenure extension violated provisions of the constitution, the Electoral Act and the Constitution of the APC.
The suit filed by his lawyer, Nnamdi Okere, has the APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as respondents.
Uzochukwu is of the view that the extension of the tenure of officials of the party at various levels was “the primary function and responsibility of the national convention” by virtue of the provisions of Article 13 and 13 (3) (ii) of the Constitution of the APC 2014 (as amended).
In a supporting affidavit, he said “the plaintiff is a registered and card carrying member of the All Progressives Congress, who registered at Ulakwo, OAU ward of Owerri North, membership card number 11013379 and has been participating in all programmes and activities of the party.
“The said APC membership card is hereby pleaded and shall be relied upon as exhibit 1. The plaintiff is aspiring and contesting the Imo State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress slated to hold during the party elective convention in July 2018.
“The four-year tenure of the present National Working Committee, State Working Committee, Local Government Area Executive Committee and Ward Executive Committee of the party will expire in June 2018 and new elective conventions ought to be conducted to elect party leadership at the various levels.”
While it is not clear for now what the outcome of the legal battle will be, analysts opined that if the current legal battle raging in the ruling party continues in addition to the many crises across its state chapters are not properly managed, the APC might be going heading for doom.