Omololu Ogunmade and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari’s master stroke, by agreeing to the convocation of a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which he rallied other party leaders to attend, yesterday arrested the drift of the ruling party into an abyss.
The meeting, which held at the State House, Abuja, despite opposition from the National Working Committee (NWC), pulled the break on the spiralling leadership crisis rocking the party with the dissolution of the NWC.
In its place, the NEC, which ratified the president’s proposal to dissolve the NWC, also accepted his suggestion to raise a 13-member caretaker committee, which is now headed by Yobe State Governor, Mr. Mai Mala Buni, a former national secretary of the party.
However, the dissolution did not go down well with the NWC, headed by Adams Oshiomhole, who is now on suspension, as it said it would consult its lawyers, possibly to file a lawsuit to challenge the action.
At the virtual NEC meeting, attended by Buhari, the 13-member committee, which has Senator Akpan Udoedehe as its secretary, was also dubbed as the Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee and saddled with the task of organising a convention to elect a new leadership for the party.
Other members of the party include the Governor of Niger State, Abubakar Sani Bello, and his Osun State counterpart, Gboyega Oyetola.
The committee has a six-month duration to run the party affairs and organise a national convention through which members of the next NWC of the party will be elected.
The NEC meeting was called by a former Deputy National Secretary of APC, Chief Victor Giadom, in his capacity as the acting national chairman of the party following a range of crises, which followed the decision of the Court of Appeal on June 16 that upheld the ruling of an Abuja High Court that had earlier upheld the suspension of Oshiomhole by his ward in Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State.
The constitution of a caretaker committee for the party yesterday and other decisions taken by the meeting followed suggestions made by the president in his earlier speech.
In his speech, the president who also called for the withdrawal of all litigations instituted by members of the party, advocated the need to ratify the candidature of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the APC candidate in the September 19 governorship poll in Edo State.
He said: “The meeting may adopt the developed resolution as contained in the agenda and pass resolutions including: approving the immediate discontinuation of all pending litigations involving the party and its members; ratifying the primary election conducted in Edo State; dissolving the current National Working Committee, and appointing caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee for the party.”
The president, who expressed concern over various crises rocking the party since June 16, said APC had begun to self-destruct and putting the fortune of the party in jeopardy, a development he said called for interventions at the highest echelon of 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 ongoing litigations amongst some party members and we cannot clearly ascertain the status of certain National Working Committee (NWC) members.
“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 drift 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.”
Following the ratification of Buhari’s recommendations by NEC yesterday, including the constitution of a caretaker committee, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), immediately swore in Buni as the chairman of the caretaker committee.
Briefing journalists in the State House after the meeting, the Governor of Kebbi State and Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, Senator Atiku Bagudu, gave the summary of decisions taken at the meeting.
He said: “Today, June 25, 2020, the National Executive Committee meeting of our great party, the All Progressive Congress, held in Abuja and it was attended by other members in virtual manner consistent with the COVID-19 -19 regulations that are in place.
“The meeting was well attended most importantly by President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, speaker, deputy speaker, governors from different APC states.
“Among other items, Mr. President, in his speech, called for the dissolution of the National Working Committee and appointed in its place, a caretaker committee which at the same time will serve as a convention planning committee, and membership was 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. Among the committee members are also other governors – governors of Niger State representing the North-central and Osun State governor, representing the South-west and other illustrious members of the party.
“We are indeed very grateful that the president and the NEC expressed confidence in the governors by appointing these distinguished personalities and we are happy that today, the issues bedeviling our party, has 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 today, the party issues should not distract him but has been sorted out.”
Bagudu added that the NEC meeting ratified all decisions taken so far over the conduct of the governorship primary in Edo State, including the decision to forward the name of Ize-Iyamu to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the party’s candidate for the September 19 election.
He also said following the resolution of the crisis, APC would accordingly put in place the required machinery for the conduct of the governorship election in Ondo State.
He added: “Equally, the meeting ratified all decisions that have been taken in Edo State primary and screening and a name will be forwarded properly to INEC. The name of our candidate in the Edo gubernatorial election and equally the schedule of activities that will commence on the Ondo State primary, for which by God grace, we will also be presenting a candidate, will commence under the leadership of the caretaker committee.
“We thank all our supporters for putting faith in our party and our party leaders for all the support they have been giving Mr. President to achieve this wonderful outcome.”
Aside Buni, Udoedehe, Sani-Bello and Oyetola, other members of the caretaker committee named yesterday were: Ken Nnamani, Stella Okotete, Dr. James Lalu, Senator Abubakar Yusuf, Akinyemi Olaide, David Lyon, Abba Ari, Prof. Tahir Mamman and Ismail Ahmed.
Asked if the outcome of the meeting would survive litigations that might follow, as a result of beliefs that the meeting was called following the alleged breach of various provisions of the party’s constitution, particularly that the seven-day notice ahead of the meeting, among others, was not adhered to, Buni said no provision was breached because the meeting was just a continuation of the last meeting of NEC that was adjourned.
“I want to tell you that it is a continuation of the last notice that was issued and we said we had adjourned, and now it’s a continuation of the last adjourned NEC meeting. All the notices were issued accordingly. So, in no way we are in any aberration,” he said.
Also responding to allegations that a national leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, was deliberately sidetracked during invitations to the meeting, Buni disagreed, saying Tinubu as a founding father of the party was also involved in the rescue mission for APC.
“You mention the name of one of our leaders, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a founding father of this party. We are all together to rescue this party from all this. Nobody is happy with the situation under which the party is now operating because we are in court for various problems and crises.
“So, this decision was taken by NEC to address some of this issues. So, nobody is targeted and it is against nobody. Asiwaju is one of the leaders of this party and a founding father of the party,” he stated.
Earlier, Giadom, while declaring the meeting opened, said the suspension of Oshiomhole by his ward and subsequent court orders which upheld the suspension, led to various internal crises and confusion in the party.
He said calling the NEC meeting had become compelling in view of the necessity to restore peace, unity and progress to the party.
According to him, the sacked NWC had been divided and had consequently been unable to steer the ship of the party since the commencement of the crises.
He also said the party had been rocked by various violations of its constitution, adding that if the situation was not quickly arrested, the party might lose another state to the opposition.
He said: “The National Working Committee of the party is regrettably divided and unable to provide leadership at this time. Our party, for the past two years, has been characterised with 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, yesterday (Wednesday), INEC wrote to us to state that they do not reckon with the acting national secretary that signed the notice of party primary 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 internal recklessness…I therefore most respectfully opine that the present crises in the party can only be resolved by the National Executive Committee of the party.”
Present at the meeting were Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege; Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Idris Wase; the House Leader, Hon. Hassan Doguwa and the House Deputy Chief Whip, Hon. Nnenna Ukeje.
Some of the staunch supporters of Oshiomhole that attended the meeting were Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State and the Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Peterson Akpatason.
Other state governors that were present at the meeting were: Sule Abdullahi (Nasarawa), Sani Bello (Niger), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Mai Mala Buni (Yobe), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Mohammad Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe) and Oyetola (Osun).
Also in attendance were Abiodun (Ogun), Sanwo-olu (Lagos), Abdurazak Abdulralman (Kwara), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna) and Bagudu (Kebbi).
Some of the senators present at the meeting were Ajayi Boroffice (Ondo), Abdullahi Sabi (Niger) and Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia).
Sacked NWC Gears up for Legal Battle
The sacked NWC has said that it is studying what it described as the unfolding drama and would be consulting with stakeholders and team of lawyers on the next line of action.
The 18-member NWC in a statement issued yesterday and jointly signed by National Vice Chairman (South-south) and factional acting National Chairman, Hilliard Eta and acting National Secretary, Mr. Waziri Bulama, restated its opposition to the NEC meeting attended by the president and other party leaders.
Other NWC members that were part of the decision included; the National Vice Chairman (North-east), Hon. Inuwa Abdulkadir; National Vice Chairman (South-west), Mr. Bankole Oluwajana; National Vice Chairman (North-central), Mr. Ahmed Suleiman Wambal, and National Vice Chairman (South-east), Hon. Emma Eneukwu.
The statement read: “The National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) 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 statutory quarterly meetings and seven days in respect of emergency meetings.
“We note that Chief Victor Giadom had convened and conducted a virtual meeting purportedly to be a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of our party wherein certain far reaching resolutions were purportedly reached. 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.”
Buni Assumes Office, Promises to Be Fair
Shortly after the inauguration of the caretaker committee, Buni went to the party secretariat that was earlier sealed off by the police, to assume duties.
He arrived at the APC national secretariat in company with some APC governors and Giadom.
Buni told journalists that he would do justice to every member of the party, adding that without justice there would be no peace.
He said: “After being 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.”
APC State Chairmen Back NEC’s Decision
The Forum of APC State Chairmen has commended the NEC of the party over the dissolution of the NWC.
Chairman of Zamafara State chapter of the party, Mr. Lawal Lima, while speaking on behalf of the forum, described the dissolution of the NWC as a right step in the right direction.
He stated: “I believe all the NEC members are happy with the decision, because when the leader of the party was given his speech, many things were listed, some of us were nervous, we were touched that whoever has this party at heart will be happy about this decision. The needed action has been taken which we believe will strengthen our party.”
Also, the non-NWC members of the party have dissolved the executive of the forum led by Hon. Nelson Alapa with immediate effect.
Addressing journalists yesterday in Abuja immediately after the NWC was dissolved, the acting Publicity Secretary of the forum, Mr. Muhammed Ibrahim, said a three-man member committee had been put in place to run the affairs of the forum pending when a proper election would be held.
APC Writes INEC over New Caretaker Committee, Ondo Gov Primary
The APC has written the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) following the composition of a 13-man committee to direct the affairs of the party after the dissolution of the NWC.
Buni stated this in a letter dated June 25, 2020 and titled; “Composition of the National Caretaker Committee of the APC”.
The letter read: “I wish to please inform your commission that the National Executive Committee (NEC) of our great party at its 8th resumed meeting on Thursday, 25th June, 2020 approved the immediate dissolution of the National Working Committee (NWC).
“The National Executive Committee also constituted a National Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee.”
The caretaker committee in another letter to INEC and dated June 25, 2020, notified the commission of its plan to conduct the Ondo governorship primary election on July 20.
The Ondo State primary election letter was jointly signed by Buni and the secretary of the committee, Senator John J. Akpan Udoedehe.
Police Unseal APC Secretariat as Caretaker Committee Resumes
The police have lifted the blockade on the national secretariat of the ruling party.
This happened moments after the NEC meeting of the party presided over by Buhari dissolved the party’s NWC.