In the next 48 hours, the future of the six-year old All Progressives Congress (APC) would have been defined in a make or mar manner. With the intrigues surrounding the position of National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, gathering pace in the last week, the ruling party faces the very real prospect of implosion. In this piece, YUSUF ALLI, MANAGING EDITOR, NORTHERN OPERATION reviews the plots, counterplots and their implications for the party.
WITH a tone of finality, the Deputy National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Victor Giadom, on Thursday announced that the controversial National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party will hold on Tuesday, March 17.
Giadom, who leads an eight-man faction of the National Working Committee (NWC) out of 21members, exuded much confidence at a briefing in Abuja on the NEC session.
He said: “As NWC, we just concluded our meeting just to inform the public that the NEC meeting scheduled for the 17th March will still hold and every preparation towards that meeting is in hope gear. I want to use this opportunity to invite all NEC members to attend the meeting.”
Asked if he was served any court order, Giadom, who has been holed up not to receive any order, stated: “Not to my knowledge.
We will like to see the court order and if that happens we refer back to our constitution. We will take it up from that point.”
Shortly after the briefing, all billboards and portraits with photos of the National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, were
provocatively brought down and destroyed to indicate that his era was gone. Giadom’s confidence was buoyed by the support of nine governors, the interlocutory order of Justice Danlami Senchi of the FCT High Court of FCT and the sudden security wall around him provided by the Nigeria Police Force and other agencies.
In spite of the assurance of the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to keep the national secretariat of APC locked in order to be fair to all feuding parties, Giadom and other anti-Oshiomhole NWC members have since Monday been allowed to access to the secretariat; re-accredit staff, journalists, security men and party leaders who should be allowed in.
The conference hall where the NEC meeting will hold has even been repainted. Added to the new world around Giadom and his co-travelers were the covert hands of some members of the kitchen cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Deputy National Secretary now operates like an untouchable party official and commands obeisance from many who are unsure of his backers and who do not want to lose out.
About six months ago, the new caretaker of APC was at the mercy of Oshiomhole and NWC members, pleading with them to make him the substantive National Secretary of the party.
The emergence of Mai Mala Buni (erstwhile hitherto National Secretary) as Yobe State governor created the vacancy.
Instead of retaining the office in the North-East, Giadom’s godfather, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, wanted the slot for the
South-South – especially Rivers State – in what will amount to the alteration of the party’s zoning formula. Without the stamp of the national convention of the party some saw this as an ambush.
Other geopolitical zones felt it was not politically ideal for the national chairman of APC and national secretary to come from the South-South zone.
The situation was compounded by the in-fighting among APC leaders in the North-East, especially between Yobe and Borno States, for the office of the national secretary.
As the immediate past occupant of the office, Yobe State sought to retain the slot. Borno State demanded a concession in line with the agreement of the stakeholders in the North-East.
Those agitating for Yobe include the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and Governor Mai Mala Buni. Their argument also bordered on the fact that the National Vice Chairman (North-East), Mustapha Salihu is also from Borno State.
APC members can understand the position of the governors of Borno and Yobe States; both are solidly behind APC. The position of Amaechi is difficult to understand by many APC leaders.
To them, Amaechi is “a political reject, a politician withoùt base. How can somebody who has no base, who has been thoroughly rejected by his people, who contributed nothing to the success of the APC last year now want to be the one deciding who gets what and who gets kicked out ?”
While the ‘rebels’ have seized the secretariat, Oshiomhole and other NWC members have been trying to consult with President Buhari, the governors and other party leaders on the developments in the party.
As this is being done, there are conflicting court orders, a pending appeal and controversy over the legal basis of summoning of the NEC meeting.
The pro – Oshiomhole group has stuck to the nation’s laws and the APC constitution to drive home their points. Notwithstanding, different caucuses of the warring actors in the party have been holding nocturnal meetings which have left Abuja an intrigue-filled city.
POLITICS OF THE CONTROVERSIAL NEC MEETING
It has been hectic for Oshiomhole who is fighting battles against sundry foes: governors, renegade NWC members, and the Edo State chapter of APC and few members of the ‘cabal’ in government.
The NEC meeting was hurriedly called penultimate Thursday to give bite to the order of the FCT High Court barring Oshiomhole from parading himself as national chairman because he has been suspended at his Etsako West Ward level.
The NEC session is designed as a political jab to seal his fate. To spite him further, some members of the ‘cabal’ engineered a letter of commitment from the Presidential Villa acknowledging that Buhari will be at the NEC meeting on Tuesday.
The same letter is what Giadom has been clinging to like a holy book to insist on holding the NEC meeting. The same forces blocked Oshiomhole’s appointment with the president last Friday at the Villa where he ought to formally present newly-appointed three members of the NWC to Buhari.
The officers are Sen. Abiola Ajimobi (Deputy National Chairman, South); Arc. Waziri Bulama (National Secretary) and the National Auditor, Paul Chukwuma.
The president had consented to receiving the troika but something suddenly went amiss, their names disappeared from the schedule of guests/ leaders to meet with him. Whatever the omission pointed to is still a mystery to APC leaders.
The legality or illegality of the proposed NEC meeting has created more confusion within APC such that some governors are unsure of whether or not to attend.
The Nigeria Police Force has also departed from its initial stand to be neutral. Instead, it interpreted only the interlocutory order of Justice Danlami Senchi of the FCT High Court to open the secretariat for anti-Oshiomhole members of the NWC.As key stakeholders in APC, most governors were in the dark over the president’s disposition to the NEC meeting.
While some have met with the President for clarifications, a few others were busy coordinating how the controversial NEC meeting will hold. Some governors have, however, been on the sideline to read the body language of Buhari before deciding if they will attend or not.
A top source, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, said: “Most of the governors are confused; they are looking to the President for direction in the light of conflicting rulings by some FCT High Courts and some Federal High Courts.
“Besides the legal factor, there had been issues on the competence of the Deputy National Secretary to convene NEC meeting in violation of the APC Constitution.
“The conflicting roles of the Nigeria Police Force have created more confusion. Penultimate Friday, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu had locked up the National Secretariat of APC to prevent pro and anti-Oshiomhole gaining access. He said he was awaiting the decision of the Court of Appeal.
“The same police force since Monday allowed those who are against Oshiomhole, led by Victor Giadom, to move into the secretariat and have been holding meetings there. Other members of the National Working Committee, who are backing Oshiomhole, have been barred from APC secretariat.
“Some of the governors do not understand why the police changed its position and on whose authority the force acted.
“This explains why some of these governors have consulted with the President because they do not want to act in a manner that will undermine him as the leader of APC.
“They also sought to know where the President stands on the situation at hand in the party.” Although the President warmly received some of the governors, they kept what transpired between them under wraps.
A governor, who spoke with our reporter, said: “I only went to compare notes with the President and the leader of APC. We are waiting for his directive.
Once we hear from him, we will know what to do. Going by the spirit and letters of the APC constitution, the procedures for summoning NEC meeting have not been followed.”
The crux of the matter is the legality of a Deputy National Secretary of APC summoning a NEC meeting without the knowledge of the NWC members who were mostly not affected by the suspension of Oshiomhole as contained in the interlocutory order of Justice Senchi. Section 25 (B) of the party’s constitution empowers only the National Chairman of APC to summon the NEC meeting.
Following the unilateral convening of the NEC meeting the National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has queried the Deputy National Secretary of the party, Victor Giadom for violating the party’s constitution. Giadom has 24 hours to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against him by the NWC.
The query provided insight into the party’s constitutional provisions. The query reads in part: “The attention of the National Working Committee (NWC) of our great party has been drawn to certain actions taken by you that contravene Article 21 of the constitution of our great party.
“You are by this letter required to explain within twenty-four hours:
“Why you wrote a letter informing the President and inviting him to an illegal NEC meeting contrary to the provisions of the APC Constitution. Article 25 B (i) and (ii) which states:
“The National Executive Committee shall meet every quarter and or at any time decided by the National Chairman or at the request made in writing by at least two-third of the members of the National Executive Committee provided that not less than fourteen (14) days’ notice is given for the meeting to be summoned.
Without prejudice to Article 25(B)(i) of this Constitution the National Working Committee may summon an emergency National Executive Committee meeting at any time, provided that at least seven (7) days’ notice of the meeting shall be given to all those entitled to attend.”
“Why you issued a public notice to the same effect thereby exposing the party to public ridicule.
“Furthermore, you fully know that neither the National Chairman nor the resolution of two-thirds of members of National Executive Committee (NEC) has directed nor made any request to summon a National Executive Committee (NEC) Meeting of our great party.
“Accordingly, the National Working Committee (NWC) has set up an investigation Committee where you shall appear before the Committee to explain why Disciplinary action should not be taken against you for gross misconduct and for specifically breaching Article 21(A) I, ii and iv of the APC Constitution.
“While looking forward to a timely response, please accept assurances of my warm regards.”
CONFLICTING COURT RULINGS
Both pro and anti-Oshiomhole groups have resorted to seeking refuge in the court, in such a ridiculous manner that it is obvious they are taking undue advantage of the nation’s judiciary. Courts of coordinate jurisdiction have given conflicting rulings on the crisis.
The tone of the legal battle is unsurprising to some APC leaders because the key actors battling for the soul of the party are veterans at oiling their political machinery in court.
What is baffling is that the old ways of using the court for political mileage are becoming rampant in a government formed by a party which promised to uphold the rule of law.
At a random count, the APC crisis has bred four suits with more in the offing. The cases are as follows:
- The suit before Justice Danlami Senchi filed by the National Vice Chairman(North-East) of the APC which led to the suspension of Oshiomhole as National Chairman
- A case filed by Aliyu Muhammad Rabiu before Justice Lewis Allagoa last Thursday which ordered the police and Department of State Service (DSS) to provide security for Oshiomhole to resume in his office.
- A suit before the Federal High Court, Lagos which led to a ruling by Justice Mohammed Liman, restraining the APC and its officials from “disturbing, preventing or obstructing Bulama, Ajimobi and Chukwuma from carrying out their duties as acting national secretary, acting national deputy chairman (South) and acting national auditor of the APC, respectively.
- Another Federal High Court in Ekiti fixed March 23, 2020 for hearing in a suit challenging the appointment of Ajimobi as the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the APC.
All the parties will certainly go to the Court of Appeal irrespective of the outcome of the final judgments of the High Courts.
The desperados in courts have messed up the 12-man National Reconciliation Committee, headed by Chief Bisi Akande, which was raised by Buhari.
IMPLICATIONS OF HOLDING THE NEC MEETING
Although the hawks among the APC governors and some influential individuals in the Presidency are desperate to hold the NEC meeting to push out Oshiomhole and hijack the party’s structure, there are weighty implications for APC.
Going ahead with the session will amount to a violation of the party’s constitution because it is unclear how and where Giadom derived the powers to convene the meeting.
If the meeting is held, it will also confirm the lawlessness of APC because there are conflicting rulings on the fate of Oshiomhole and issues over the NEC meeting which ought to be resolved conclusively by the courts at the appropriate level.
APC has become a tinder box. Those for Oshiomhole will never accept whoever emerges the new national chairman unless he or she is from their group. But if Giadom eventually becomes the new national chairman, as being plotted, the party will run into deeper litigation crises which may lead to its collapse.
If Oshiomhole survives, his opponents will go back to the trenches in order not to give him a breathing space. There is no clear cut signal that pro-Oshiomhole leaders in APC will also not embark on vengeance against coup plotters in the party. Whatever may the scenario, the party may be on the edge unless there is genuine reconciliation.
Definitely, the NEC meeting will polarize the party along its fault lines. Those behind the plot to oust Oshiomhole have the aspirations of taking control of the machinery of APC in order to determine those who will get the presidential and other tickets in 2023.
A few others have no other ambition than to ease out some leaders from APC because they cannot tolerate their alleged “over-bearing influence.”
Once a new set of power brokers takes over APC, those who conceived the party will be displaced and there won’t be a level-playing ground for all presidential aspirants. The cracks will be difficult to mend and APC may end up breaking up.
Since the party is an amalgam of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN), the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party(ANPP), and some elements from the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), all the leaders may retreat back to their platforms ahead of any eventuality of a break-up.
It is obvious that those from the PDP component and a negligible part of ACN in the APC merger are feeling shortchanged and may not mind spoiling the broth.
Contrary to the permutations of crisis elements in APC, the PDP may either benefit from their mischief or it will lead to realignment of politicians across the divide from where a new national party may emerge. In the end, there may be no APC for any of the warlords to foster their political aspirations in 2023.
An apparent consequence of the crisis in APC is the distraction it will cause for the Buhari administration. The in-fighting will not allow the president to deliver on his promises to provide democratic dividends to Nigerians in his second term.
At a time he is seeking solutions to the crash of oil prices, global recession and economic challenges occasioned by CONVID-19, what preoccupies some leaders of APC is the politics of 2023. Many commentators see the crisis in the ruling party as sheer insensitivity.
There are ominous signs that the crisis may extend to the National Assembly in a likely repeat of the division in the two chambers between 2014 and 2015. Some principal officers of the legislature might lose their choice posts depending on where the pendulum swings.
Already, the National Assembly leadership is split. The President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, is opposed to Oshiomhole’s NWC’s ceding of the office of National Secretary to Borno State. It is difficult to ascertain if his position will translate into joining the forces seeking the removal of Oshiomhole.
But he is on the same page with Yobe governor who is among those showing red card to APC national chairman. Joining the anti-Oshiomhole gang, if true, suggests that the Senate President is abandoning one of the progressive caucuses which brought him to power for the hawks who truncated his ambition in 2015.
Maybe Lawan has found a way of living in the belly of sharks. Party leaders are still busy reading his lips ahead of Tuesday
For his part, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, is coordinating the South-South APC leaders’ support for Oshiomhole.
During the week, he participated in a four-hour strategy vigil session for Oshiomhole. The adoption of Ovie Omo-Agege as the South-South leader in APC strained his relationship with Amaechi, who was the hitherto defacto leader.
The two heavyweights now work at cross-purposes. The Deputy President of the Senate in the week also avoided a meeting of some South-South leaders to boost support for Governor Godwin Obaseki. But the control of APC by Amaechi and others may be at a greater cost to Omo-Agege’s political career.
As for the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, he has been keeping faith with his political camp and Oshiomhole.
To prevent anarchy in Edo State, the House in July 2019 directed the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; and the Director General of the Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi, to seal off the Edo State House of Assembly until a proper inauguration was conducted.
The House also asked Governor Godwin Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation of the Seventh Assembly within one week, which must be published by the media. Both the State House of Assembly Obaseki described the intervention of the House as partisan and illegal.
WILL BUHARI ALLOW APC TO COLLAPSE
Without doubt, President Buhari has been the soul of APC because the opposition was able to win the poll after he agreed to form a coalition between 2013 and 2014. A political conservative, Buhari had rejected a similar offer in 2011.
A former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki had in 2011 met with some leaders of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria on the need for the opposition to unite to form an alternative government at the center.
The same Dasuki later joined the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan but got consumed by the opposition government he had envisioned.
The antecedents of Buhari as a political or an electoral asset is not in doubt but he has never had the wherewithal to go it alone. Now as APC National Leader, the buck stops on his table to pull the party back from the brink.
The colour of his cabinet and other appointments in favour of CPC wing of the APC initially gave the President away as interested in power and not the sustainability and longevity of the party. But his recent pronouncement, according to APC leaders, raised some hope that he wants APC to survive.
Prior to the present crisis of confidence in the party, Buhari had premonition of the evil lurking around. In November last year, he warned the same NEC against the collapse of APC. He said: “Every member of NEC, from today, should reposition himself or herself to make sure that you have dominated your constituencies, politically.
“The aim is that history will not be fair to us if out rightly the APC collapses at the end of this term.
“History will be fair to us if APC remains strong and not only holds the centre, but also makes gains.”
According to investigation, party leaders are worried that Buhari is not being decisive on party affairs. It was learnt that both pro and anti-Oshiomhole have had commensurate audience with him without the President talking about the path the party should tread.
The opposing camps have been claiming to have the support of the President on a sensitive matter like the looming death of APC with which he rode to power.
Some of his confidants and boys have been implicated in the anti-Oshiomhole campaign but they were never cautioned.
When those plotting against the former labour leader tabled their grievances, the President was quoted by a governor to have said: “Whatever you are doing, follow due process, the party’s constitution and the rule of law.”
Also, when he got to know that the Deputy National Secretary of APC, Victor Giadom convened the NEC meeting in violation of APC constitution, he was shocked that Oshiomhole was not in the know.
He ordered that a query be issued to Giadom for violating the party’s constitution. But the same Giadom “miraculously” got a letter from the Villa confirming the readiness of the president to be at the controversial NEC meeting on Tuesday.
A top source confirmed a drama in IG Mohammed Adamu’s office at a meeting penultimate Friday. He said:” Purported to be acting on instructions from the Villa, a confident Oshiomhole told the IG that he has been directed to present the rulings of the FCT High Court and a Federal High Court in Kano to him. The IG got it without any commitment.
“Despite being late for the meeting, the anti-Oshiomhole walked in majestically indicating the backing of the powers behind the throne.
They even had the audacity to tell the IG that Ajimobi, Bulama and Chukwuma ought not to be at the session. We were in two different worlds at the meeting.”
Later the IG assured the two parties that he will lock up the secretariat without access by all. “When the National Legal Adviser, Babatunde Ogala drew the attention of the IG that the suspension applies to only Oshiomhole and not all NWC members, he said the secretariat will be locked to protect lives and property,” another source added.
Two days after, the police cleared Giadom and physically got involved in the accreditation of those who can enter the premises.
The development devastated Oshiomhole’s camp because no one knew whose orders the IG was carrying out. Since there are many cells in Buhari’s government, investigation showed that he might have acted on the instructions if a powerful cell instrumental to his appointment.
But the IG hid under the guise of legal advice and the import of interlocutory order of Justice Danlami Senchi of the FCT High Court, Jabi. The police looked the other way on the filing of an appeal by Oshiomhole and APC.
WHAT IS REALLY LACKING IN APC?
The missing link in APC is lack of a moral authority which could stem the tide of any crisis. The President might have been living up to his inaugural address of “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.”
Five years down the lane, the declaration has weighed on every APC member. But the reality is that the President’s house is on fire, it is dangerous to stand aloof during inferno.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON TUESDAY
Although outcome of the hearing of the application before the Court of Appeal will either give APC a breather to reappraise itself or set it on the road to Armageddon, Buhari’s decision on the NEC meeting will make or mar the party.
With the police backing for anti-Oshiomhole group leaders, they can determine who will attend NEC meeting and wield simple majority to remove Oshiomhole. The refrain of the group is “just get him out at all cost, leave him alone to sort himself out in the court.”
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS BEFORE APC?
The immediate option is to shelve the NEC meeting no matter whose ox is gored. When tempers cool down, the leaders of the party will have the opportunity to begin reconciliation talks.
As the foremost leader of the party, President Buhari must provide leadership by defining where he stands at any time; being a peacemaker and enforcing party discipline.
The same attitude was employed when Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and ex-Governors Ibikunle Amosun and Rochas Okoricha were suspended.
The party needs to give its National Reconciliation Committee a swift timeline to complete its assignment in order to be able carry out far-reaching reforms and restructuring of the party. The Bisi Akande Committee must do its assignment without fear or favour
One option is reversing the gale of suspension in APC which is turning the NWC of APC into a one-man show or a headmaster enclave.
At present, the NWC has suspended the Deputy National Chairman (North) of the party, Sen. Lawal Shuaibu, and Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir, National Vice Chairman (North West) for alleged anti-party activities. Also, a ward in Etsako West has axed Comrade Oshiomhole. There could be many more of such sanctions.
The party should affirm the appointments of Ajimobi, Bulama and Chukwuma based on zonal consensus. Where there are issues, it should review the complaints and reunite the aggrieved.
The power play so far points to urgent desire for constitution review in APC.
But if some leaders are adamant on Oshiomhole’s sack, APC can call for a mini-convention instead of subjecting his fate to the whims and caprice of a few individuals.
The Ides of March has visited APC, its ability or inability to weather the storm will determine its Next Level.