Members of the dissolved Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress risk being expelled from the party should they go ahead with their threat to consider a legal action against the party on account of their removal from office on Thursday.
Saturday PUNCH gathered in Abuja on Friday that the provisions of Article 21(v) of the party’s constitution were being considered for activation.
The National Executive Committee of the party had at a meeting presided over by the President, Major Gen Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Thursday dissolved the NWC. The meeting was also attended by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President, Ahmed Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, many state governors elected on the platform of the party and other key stakeholders.
The meeting, held inside the Council Chambers at the Presidential Villa, Abuja replaced the NWC with a Caretaker/Special Convention Committee, chaired by the governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, who was sworn in by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
But after the dissolution of the NWC, 18 members of the NWC loyal to the party’s sacked national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, a few hours after their dissolution, issued a statement, insisting that the APC NEC meeting attended by Buhari was illegal.
But in the statement signed by the acting National Chairman, Hilliard Eta and acting National Secretary, Waziri Bulama, the group made it clear that they were consulting other stakeholders and their lawyers on the dissolution as well as other decisions taken by the NEC.
Meanwhile, a high-ranking party source who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of being reprimanded, said, “Consultations are ongoing. You know the powers of a President in the kind of system we practise in this part of the world. To dare the President especially if you belong to the party will definitely have dire consequences.
“When the President said at the meeting that those who dare the party’s resolve to halt the descent into anarchy should be prepared to face the consequences, he meant it. I’m aware that some of them have consulted their governors and have been advised to resist the temptation of going to court. This is a political problem which requires a political solution.”
Expel sacked exco if they sue party, PGF DG tells NEC
One of those against Oshiomhole’s rule, Salihu Lukeman, who is the Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, advised the committee not to hesitate to activate the expulsion clause in the APC constitution if the sacked NWC members went to court.
In a statement in Abuja, Lukeman stated that although the crisis in the party could not be said to be over, the dissolution was the right step.
He added, “We have a Convention Planning Committee that will manage the party for a period of six months and organise a National Convention to elect a new leadership.
“Given that a section of the dissolved NWC is threatening legal action against the decision of the NEC, it simply means a section of the dissolved NWC is working against the party.
“Perhaps the Convention Planning Committee should consider invoking provisions of Article 21: Discipline of Party Members of the APC constitution.
“Based on that, those members of the dissolved NWC who attempt to institute legal actions against the decisions of NEC should be appropriately sanctioned.”
Article 21 V of the APC Constitution 2014 (As amended) reads: “Any member who files an action in court of law against the party or any of its officers on any matter or matters relating to the discharge of the duties of the party without first exhausting the avenues for redress provided for in this constitution shall automatically stand expelled from the party on filing such action and no appeal against expulsion as stipulated in this clause shall be entertained until the withdrawal of the action from court by the member.”
Lukeman further said, “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.”
It was learnt that governors in APC-controlled states, who are on good terms with some of the affected NWC members, have waded in the matter and an announcement accepting the new reality could be made within days.
Already, some of the NWC members, who met and issued a statement, are said to be having a rethink and started pledging allegiance to the committee.
One of the affected NWC members, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, who until the dissolution was the National Publicity Secretary of the party, in a statement on Friday pledged allegiance to the President and the newly constituted committee. He is said to be close to his state (Kwara) governor as well as the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
In the statement, Issa-Onilu said, “I was not just a proud member of that organ (NWC), I was also the spokesperson for the party.
“However, by this statement, I’m speaking in my personal capacity. I have reflected on the events of the past few days and the outcome of Thursday’s NEC meeting and as a party man, I declare my support for the actions taken by Mr President.
“Like the President said, the party was ominously hanging on a cliff, and as expected, something had to give way because the APC could not have continued along that obvious path of destruction.”
He called on party members to rally round the committee, which he described as comprising compatriots.
Speaking with one of our correspondents, he added, “I cannot go against the President. The interest of the party supersedes that of any other person.”
Asked if there were others in the dissolved NWC that embraced the dissolution, he said he did not know.
Meanwhile, another member of the defunct NWC, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the situation in the party was still fluid and he had to be careful not to be on the wrong side.
Citing Articles 21A (ii, iv and vi), he said, “I understand some of our opponents are already calling for our heads alleging that even with the statement we issued yesterday (Thursday), we breached the party code, I really don’t understand. All we said was you cannot right a wrong using the instrumentality of illegality.”
Attempts to get some other members of the dissolved NWC to speak were futile. Calls made to the former National Legal Adviser, Babatunde Ogala, were neither answered nor returned. A response to a text message sent to him on the subject was still being awaited as of 11.10pm. Similar calls made to mobile of the former National Vice Chairman (South-South), Hilliard Eta, were also neither picked nor returned. he had also yet to respond to text messages as at 8.42pm.
Buhari, govs to decide new party chairman, others
The President and APC governors are major stakeholders that will determine the party’s new national chairman,
Sources close to party stakeholders said the governors had agreed to work together and reach a consensus on who would pilot the affairs of the party.
One of the governors, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “It was a tough decision to sack the NWC led by Oshiomhole. Some governors owe their coming to office to him but some of us believe that we had to take over the party and exert our authority before the party would be finally hijacked by an individual.
“We couldn’t sit by and allow the ambition of a few persons to destabilise the party we all suffered to build. The chairman was unilaterally taking decisions on sensitive issues with a few individuals, even without carrying the President along.
“We could not wait till 2023 before taking a decision. Waiting for long would spell doom for us and the party.”
The source added that the caretaker committee members had been saddled with the responsibility of taking a decision on the zoning formula to be adopted in allocating offices among the six geo-political zones, including whether the next national chairman would still come from the South-South.
Our correspondents learnt that while some members of the party would prefer the continuation of the old zoning formula, others had been advocating adjustment.
The source added, “When Chief John Odigie-Oyegun was removed as the national chairman, they brought Oshiomhole from Edo State. But when Otunba Niyi Adebayo from Ekiti State was appointed as a minister, those who want to control the party by force argued that the position of the National Vice Chairman, South, was zoned to the entire South-West and unilaterally appointed the late Senator Abiola Ajimobi from Oyo State. Is that fair? They think we don’t know what we are doing?”
Convention may hold after Ondo election
While the committee is also said to be taking its time before coming up with its plans, some party leaders have insisted that the convention should not hold until after the Ondo State governorship election on October 10.
The plan, it was gathered, was to enable the party prepare for the governorship election in Ondo State.
Caretaker committee for inauguration Monday
Findings have also shown that the committee will be inaugurated on Monday.
A member of the committee told one of our correspondents that the inauguration would take place at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja.
The member did not give details of the event but said the first inaugural meeting would hold immediately.
We did no wrong, APC govs tell sacked NWC members
The Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, Atiku Bagudu, on Friday said the party’s NEC did no wrong by dissolving the NWC and installing a caretaker committee.
He said the President as the leader of the party would never do anything contrary to the party’s constitution.
After leading APC governors on a “thank you” visit to Buhari at the Presidential Villa on Friday, Bagudu insisted that the President received “due legal advice” before he took a position on the party’s crisis.
“Mr President will never do anything against the party’s constitutional provisions, let alone the country’s constitution,” he added.
Bagudu said he was at the Villa with Buni; the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi; a member of the committee representing the North-Central and Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello; and the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, to thank Buhari for all he had been doing for the party and the country.
But, in spite of the nationwide concerns over the security challenges across the country, Bagudu said he was hearing of “security gains” daily across the country.
Bagudu added that the delegation thanked Buhari on behalf of the PGF for including three governors in the committee.
He said the President was happy that the leadership crisis in the party had been resolved.
APC state chairmen back Giadom-led NEC meeting
A cross-section of state chairmen of the party, who spoke with our correspondents, also said they agreed with the outcome of the NEC meeting.
The state chairmen, including those of Imo, Bayelsa, Kano, Sokoto, Ebonyi, Enugu, Ekiti and Gombe states, said the action was needed to resolve the crises rocking the party.
The APC Chairman, Sokoto State, Isa Acida, said, “We have no doubt that the action will bring about sanity in the party and weed out bad eggs who have been more of stumbling blocks than the assets that they are supposed to be.”
The Bayelsa State chapter of the APC said it had no choice but to support the dissolution, while the Ebonyi State chapter said the party remained a united family despite the dissolution.
The APC Chairman, Yobe State, Alhaji Adamu Chilariye, said the chairmen had decided to pay a “courtesy and congratulatory visit on the caretaker committee” led by Mala-Buni.
The APC Chairman in Imo State, Daniel Nwagor, said the state would support the caretaker committee towards ensuring that the APC returned to its winning ways.
Also, the APC Chairman in Gombe State, Mr Nitte Amangal, said, “The position of the state is not more than what the national has decided. We are in support.”
Meanwhile, in Kaduna State, an APC chieftain, Senator Abubakar Girei, described the dissolution of the NWC as rancorous.
In Ekiti State, the APC Deputy Chairman, Sola Elesin, expressed support for the decision of NEC to dissolve the party’s NWC. The Enugu State APC chapter also said it was in support of the dissolution.
The Kano State APC chapter said the dissolution was a welcome development, adding that those threatening to take legal action against what happened would before next Monday change their minds if they had good advisers.
Lawyers react on possible expulsion
Meanwhile, a former National Legal Adviser of the APC, Dr Muiz Banire (SAN), said the issue of exhausting the party’s internal conflict resolution mechanism before going to court was a matter that could be debated, noting however that it was within the right of aggrieved persons to go to court.
He said, “It is neither here nor there in law. There is a provision in the constitution of the party, which I’m aware of, but the court has decided in about two cases that you don’t need to exhaust the internal mechanism because that provision is against Section 6c of the constitution of Nigeria. It gave an unfettered right to a litigant to go to court. So, it’s their right to go to court.”
Notably, the party’s screening committee for the governorship election in Edo State had said part of the reasons it disqualified Governor Godwin Obaseki was because he sued the party.
Also speaking, a former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Monday Ubani, said when people joined a political party, there are rules and regulations. He said the moment people subscribe to such a group, they are bound to comply. “And if you don’t, there are penal measures that are also put in place, including expulsion,” he added.
Ubani stated, “When the President said they would be dealt with if they don’t abide, what he meant was that the penal measures that are prescribed by the party constitution for any erring member would be invoked.
“I think every political party should try as much as possible to abide by their own terms and conditions for peaceful resolution of issues. They say the party is supreme, so if you go contrary to them, they can suspend, expel or deny you of some privileges.”