Before the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held last November, chieftains of the party and Nigerians who had followed developments in the ruling party were watching with bated breath what would become of the former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress and chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole.
Two weeks to the NEC meeting, the Director-General, Progressives Governors Forum, the platform of APC governors, Salihu Lukman, had called for the resignation of Oshiomhole over what he described as his poor management of the party.
Addressing journalists, Lukman accused the APC chairman of usurping the functions of the National Executive Committee (NEC) and the national caucus by deliberately failing to convene meetings of the two statutory organs of the party.
Insisting that the national chairman of the party tender his resignation letter, the DG of the PGF said the governors had individually expressed their frustrations to Oshiomhole about his leadership style in private discussions with him.
Before Lukman’s call for his resignation, the APC national chairman had ruffled feathers in the party especially when he placed two prominent members of the party, Ibikunle Amosun and Rochas Okorocha, on suspension.
In the same vein, Oshiomhole’s axe fell on the deputy national chairman, North, Senator Shuaibu Lawan, who was placed on indefinite suspension.
Sunday Tribune checks revealed that Senator Lawan was the first to call for the resignation of Oshiomhole as national chairman. Lawan, who incidentally is from Zamfara State, had accused the APC national chairman of being responsible for the loss the party suffered in Zamfara and Rivers states where the APC was stopped from fielding candidates in the last general election by pronouncements of the courts and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
A ubiquitous Oshiomhole has equally been locked in a war of attrition with his estranged political son and governor of his home state of Edo, Godwin Obaseki, over the control of the party structures in the South-South state ahead of next year governorship election.
Thus, with his overwhelming ‘sins,’ the stage was set for the party’s NEC meeting where aggrieved governors had prepared to pull the rug from under the feet of their national chairman. The meeting, which ended abruptly, however, turned out to be an anti- climax: Oshiomhole survived the plot having adjourned the meeting indefinitely.
Leader of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari, summed the crises in the party as he expressed concern over its fractured state while addressing the gathering. His speech was instructive as he did not mince words with the top APC chieftains, appealing to them to think about how to build the party into a more formidable platform ahead of 2023 general elections.
President Buhari recalled that at the meeting of the national caucus which preceded the NEC, he had admonished every member of the NEC to think about how to reposition himself or herself to make sure that they dominate their immediate constituency politically. He further said: “The aim is that, as I mentioned yesterday, history will not be fair to us outright if the APC collapses at the end of this term.
“History will be fair to us if the APC remains strong and not only hold the centre but make gains. People will reflect with nostalgia that once upon a time, the builders of APC made a lot of sacrifices, worked very hard. The sacrifices are physical, material and moral to make sure that we maintain the leadership, politically of this system.
“This is what we should all aim at and ensure that our constituencies understand us and follow us to this great objective. This is the only way we can make this party survive, this is the only way history will be kind to us that we have led with absolute concern for the country and for the people. If for any other reason, you divide the party at any constituency and it causes failure, then, be prepared that history will not recognise you as a leader at any level at anytime.”
Despite his admonition, certain chieftains of the party still regrouped at a location in Abuja to review their strategy on how to oust Oshiomhole. Last week, President Buhari, however, put a final nail on the anti-Oshiomhole move in separate meetings with the governors led by Kebbi State governor and chairman of PGF, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, and the Forum of State Chairmen accompanied by Oshiomhole to a meeting with President Buhari.
Why did the plot fail?
Sunday Tribune checks revealed that a former Lagos State governor and national leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, was able to rally the forum of state chairmen behind the APC national chairman.
A party source told Sunday Tribune that a few months before Lukman blew the lid on the governors’ plot to oust the national chairman, the former Lagos State governor had met with the state chairmen and sought support of the forum for the chairman. Further checks revealed that in the heat of the call for Oshiomhole’s resignation by Senator Lawan, the forum of state chairmen had met and passed a vote of confidence in the former’s leadership of the National Working Committee.
Barely 24 hours after the call for Oshiomhole’s resignation by the DG of the PGF, the forum of APC state chairmen kicked against the call through a statement signed by Ali Bukar Dalori and Ben Nwoye, chairman and secretary respectively. They described the PGF Director-General as a paid agent whom they alleged was working with certain elements within the party and the Peoples Democratic Party to destroy the APC.
On the infraction of the APC constitution by the Oshiomhole-led national working committee by not convening the quarterly meeting of the NEC and national caucus, the state chairmen claimed that meetings of statutory organs of the party could be convened at the discretion of the APC national chairman.
The statement read in part: “Salihu Lukman is talking about NEC meeting. I wonder why he is crying more than the bereaved. Some of us have interacted with our progressive governors and we were informed that Salihu Lukman is on his own and they actually expressed their disappointment over his continuous unpalatable comments against the national chairman of our party.
“This man has never held any elective position and we wonder why he is interested in NEC meeting which has no business with him. We, the chairmen, want to use this opportunity to appeal to our governors to sack this man who is obviously being used to cause disaffection within the APC.”
The Forum of state chairmen further described the national chairman as representative of the leader of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari, who should not be desecrated.
At the end of the meeting between the forum of state chairmen, Oshiomhole and President Buhari, the party’s national chairman made a startling revelation that the state chairmen would actually be rewarded for their loyalty. He said the National Working Committee of the party had decided to extend support on a monthly basis to all state chairmen to enable them run their respective offices effectively.
Oshiomhole said: “Whatever support we (NWC) are giving them is a small token in relation to the huge responsibilities entrusted to them.”
A Divided Governors’ Forum
In spite of the claim that the governors’ opposition to Oshiomhole’s stay in office is overwhelming, a party source told Sunday Tribune that the former Edo State governor had succeeded in polarising the rank of the governors across geopolitical divides using the enormous influence of his political benefactor with an eye on the 2023 Presidency.
A party source who craved not to be named fingered two serving governors and one ex-governor in the South-West as the arrowhead of the anti- Oshiomhole forces in the zone. He equally revealed that the Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun and his Osun State counterpart, Gboyega Oyetola, are still not convinced that the national chairman should be shown the exit door at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja. The source further added that in the North-West, while the opposition to Oshiomhole’s leadership by Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, is an open secret, “some of his colleagues in the zone, the likes of Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, and his Jigawa State counterpart, Mohammed Abubakar, have sympathy for Oshiomhole.”
The source further noted that Governor Ganduje has since reined in the Kano State chairman of the party, Abdullahi Abass, who had been fraternising with and supporting the Anslem Ojezua-led faction of the party in Edo State.
APC chairman: Cat with nine lives?
Going by the statement issued at the end of the troubleshooting efforts of President Buhari with the governors and state chairmen, the position of the national leader of the party on the leadership tussle rocking his party is no longer hidden: Oshiomhole must finish his term, which is expected to terminate in 2021, having emerged as chairman in June, 2018.
President Buhari, in a statement issued by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, however, hinted of a review of the party’s constitution.
He said: “I want you to revisit the constitution of the party sooner than later. Your election will soon hold and I am going to take personal interest to make sure that the bottom-to-top is maintained and people are elected by their immediate and subsequent constituencies.
“In Abuja, we want to deal with people who have a solid base from where they come.”
The move to review the APC constitution is not unconnected with the concern over the awesome power enjoyed by the party’s national chairman. By virtue of the APC constitution, only the party national chairman is mandated to convene a meeting of the NEC and national caucus, leaving the statutory organs and stakeholders at his mercy.
According to Article 25 (B) (i, ii) of the party’s constitution: “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-thirds of the members of the National Executive Committee provided that not less than 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 days notice of the meeting shall be given to all those entitled to attend.”
Article 25 (C) (i, ii) also empowers him to convene meetings of the NWC. The section reads: “The National Working Committee shall meet at least once every month at the request of the national chairman;
‘’Without prejudice to the provision of Article 25(C) (i) the meeting of the National Working Committee may be summoned on a request made in writing by two thirds of the members of the National Working Committee at any time, provided that at least seven days notice of the meeting shall be given to all those entitled to attend.”
Feelers from the camp of the aggrieved governors remain unnerving. They are reluctant to let go in their desire to put an end to Oshiomhole’s leadership of the party despite the persuasion by President Buhari as the APC national chairman is perceived as a Man Friday to a potential presidential aspirant from the South-West.
Source: Nigerian Tribune