In a fresh twist to the crisis in the ruling All Progressives Congress, governors elected on the platform of the party are insisting that the embattled National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, will not be allowed to handle the primaries for the 2023 general elections,
The governors are also discussing with party stakeholders on the decision to be taken to determine the fate of Oshiomhole, who was governor of Edo State for two terms before becoming the leader of the party in 2018.
A judge of the Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja, Justice Danlami Senchi, on Wednesday granted an interlocutory injunction restraining Oshiomhole from functioning as national chairman of the party.
The judge, who premised his order on the November 2, 2019 resolution of the Ward 10, Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State, where Oshiomhole comes from, held that the former labour leader could not continue to function as the APC national chairman when he had been suspended by his ward.
Senchi therefore ordered Oshiomhole to stop parading himself as the APC national chairman, adding that the party should deny him access to its national secretariat.
The court order was, however, greeted with mixed reactions. While the supporters of the embattled chairman opposed the order, those against him celebrated his suspension by the court.
But there was confusion on Thursday when the Federal High Court in Kano, which is a court of equal jurisdiction with the FCT High Court, voided Oshiomhole’s suspension within 24 hours.
Justice A. Lewis-Allagoa held that the November 2, 2019 “purported resolution of the Ward 10, Etsako West Local Government Area, Edo State APC,” suspending Oshiomhole as a member of the APC was of no effect. He also voided the suspension of Oshiomhole as a member of the APC, adding that the Independent National Electoral Commission should not recognise anybody, except Oshiomhole, as the party’s chairman.
But in his response, Oshiomhole, who said he had done his best not only when he was governor but also as the chairman of this party, claimed a minister and some governors were the brains behind the move to oust him. Speaking to State House correspondents in Abuja on Thursday, he explained that those behind the plot were those eyeing the presidential seat in 2023.
He added, “They are the ones who will plot how do we get rid of him because they want to be president in 2023 even when their hold on their state at the moment is doubtful if they were to go for referendum in terms of their approval rating.
“But you see, whatever you do, those who want to fight you will fight you. But I know that my tenure will be defined by God not by man.”
Meanwhile, an APC governor, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity on Friday, said it would be difficult for Oshiomhole to command the support of the majority of the governors, adding that the governors would hold informal discussions on the crises in the party and the fate of Oshiomhole.
Though the source refused to name the governors who he said were either backing or working against the ex-governor, he revealed that “not more than six of our colleagues are fully with the chairman.”
He added that there were also some governors who had yet to take a stand on whether Oshiomhole should go or be allowed to finish his tenure.
He said, “We are talking to ourselves (governors) and we are also talking to stakeholders. However, no decision will be taken without informing the President.
“Yes, he (Oshiomhole) was right to say governors are against him. We were also the ones that made him national chairman. He was a governor and he knew how important his office was. He cannot deny that we are a serious integral part of the party. So, if we are working with the minister he once abused are against him, that is fine. It is also an indication that he is losing grip of the party.
“We will not allow someone to de-market the APC ahead of the 2023 elections. That is why he has to go. A national chairman that is being teleguided by an individual because of his ambition can no longer lead us.
“Already, we have become the laughing stock of Edo and Ondo politics. How do we have a chairman that cannot reconcile warring factions in his state? He is also watching as the party is being rubbished by its members in Ondo State. What type of a father does that?
“There are so many of our governors who have wondered why the national chairman would give different directives to states on the mode of party primaries to be conducted. It is never done. Party primaries ought to be uniform in all the states. But in the book being read by our national chairman, all states are not equal. He will ask a state to go for open primary, then another for delegates’ primary. We are tired of inconsistencies.”
…fear national chairman may deny Akeredolu, Obaseki tickets
The governor also said there was no way he and his colleagues would allow the fate that befell a former Governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwumi Ambode, to repeat itself in Edo and Ondo states, both of which have their governorship elections later in the year.
Ambode could not secure a second term ticket owing to what some of his supporters called a gang-up against him, especially the decision of the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, not to support his re-election.
However, the source said, “They are working towards repeating what they did in Lagos in 2018 in Edo this year. We will not agree to that. They are also the same set of people who are plotting to deny the Governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, a second term ticket.
“We will not allow our colleagues to be disgraced just because of the ambition of an individual. The governors must be allowed to participate in transparent primaries as stipulated in the constitution of our party.”
Asked if there would be terms of agreements between the warring parties, the source said it was not impossible. “But we will not be cowed; politics is give and take,” he added.
Party must appoint acting chairman now –Govs Forum DG
Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, the umbrella body for governors elected on the platform of the APC, Salihu Lukman, has called for the appointment of an acting national chairman for the party, saying this would provide the necessary atmosphere for the APC to rebuild and reposition itself for the future.
Lukman, who on November 13, 2019 called on Oshiomhole to convene the National Executive Council meeting or resign, said in Abuja on Friday the remaining members of the party’s National Working Committee, in consultation with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), governors and other party leaders who are leading members of the national caucus could resolve all issues and convene a NEC meeting to appoint an acting chairman.
He said, “With the appointment of an acting National Chairman, the next action would be to seek to invoke provisions of Article 25 A(i) of the APC constitution, which stipulates that the national convention of the party shall be held once in two years at a date, venue and time to be recommended by the National Working Committee and approved by the National Executive Committee, subject to the giving of statutory notice to INEC and at least fourteen days’ notice given to members eligible to attend.”
The PGF DG further said with or without the party’s current challenges, a national convention was due given that it was already two years since the last convention held, where the Oshiomhole-led NWC was elected.
He described the current crisis as a litmus test for the party’s leaders to demonstrate their capacity in organisation, consultation and negotiation.
Govs issue notice of emergency NEC meeting for Tuesday
The governors have called an emergency NEC meeting for Tuesday to decide the fate of Oshiomhole.
The notice of the meeting, which was seen by one of our correspondents, was sent to the NEC members on Friday night.
The notice, which was signed by the party’s acting National Secretary, Chief Victor Giadom reads, “In line with Article 25 (B) (II) of the constitution of our great party, members of the APC National Executive Committee are invited to attend an emergency meeting which is scheduled to hold on Tuesday, March 17, 2020 at 3pm.
“All members are expected to be seated before the arrival of the President.”
Most progressive govs still behind ex-Edo gov –Eta
Also, the National Vice-Chairman (South-South) of the APC, Chief Hilliard Eta, on Friday said most APC governors were still behind Oshiomhole.
Eta, in an exclusive interview with Saturday PUNCH, also criticised his North-East colleague, Salihu Mustapha, for describing as nullity the order of the Federal High Court in Kano voiding Oshiomhole’s suspension.
He explained that Salihu had no power to speak for the party, adding the apart from the chairman, only the National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, could speak for the party.
…says Fayemi, Bello, four others behind chairman’s travails
On reports that some governors and a serving minister were behind Oshiomhole’s ordeal, Eta said, “Those people mentioned in that story are the major culprits; perhaps if you add Yahaya Bello of Kogi State there, it will be complete.
“Of the APC governors, only about six are against him. All the governors in the South-West, except Fayemi, are for him, including those of Katsina, Kano, and others. Those who want to cause mischief are usually the loudest.”
He added that the main reason behind the crisis in the party was the 2023 general elections, adding that he was sure that the ongoing national reconciliatory committee, headed by Chief Bisi Akande, would address the issues.
He also blamed the Peoples Democratic Party for fuelling the crisis, adding that opposition had always wanted to get Oshiomhole out of their way.
“I believe the party would emerge from all of these crises stronger than it used to be,” he added.
Meanwhile, security personnel drawn from the police, Department of State Services and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps on Friday barred members of staff of the party, journalists and visitors from accessing the party secretariat.
One of our correspondents, who visited the secretariat, located at Wuse Zone 2 of Abuja, also observed that more than 20 police vans were strategically mounted at the entrance of the secretariat.
The vans were positioned from one end of Blantyre Street, where the party secretariat is located, to the other end, even though the reason for the heavy deployment of the security personnel in the area was not clear.
It was learnt that they were instructed to ensure that the embattled chairman does not gain access to the building.
Sources also said the action might not be unconnected with plans to avert possible clashes between the supporters and opponents of the embattled national chairman.
In a related development, Oshiomhole and the recently-announced acting Secretary, Waziri Bulama, were at the Police Headquarters on Friday to meet with the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu.
Although details of the meeting were not made public as of the time of filing this report, the embattled party chairman was said to have left Louis Edet House for his private office at Aso Drive in the Federal Capital Territory.
It was also gathered that a rash of meetings are being planned by pro and anti-Oshiomhole members of the NWC at separate locations in Abuja.
The Imo State governorship candidate of the Action Alliance for the 2019 election, Uche Nwosu, has appealed to the President to intervene in the crisis in the APC.
Speaking on Friday, Nwosu, who has since returned to the APC, noted that since Buhari remained the father of the party, his intervention would administer justice, heal all grievances and restore peace and progressive ideals on which the party was founded.
Nwosu said, “It will take the intervention of the President as the leader of the party to restore peace and harmony in the party. The crisis in our party should not be allowed to continue beyond this; that is why I am appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene as the father of the party and bring the warring factions together and resolve the issues.
The All Progressives Congress in Oyo State has taken a swipe at Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, saying his role in the crisis in the state chapter of the party was an act of ingratitude against Oshiomhole, who made him who he is in Edo State politics today.
The Publicity Secretary of the party in the state, Olatunde Abdul-Azeez, told Saturday PUNCH on Friday that, “In our view, Governor Obaseki’s action was a demonstration of an ungrateful soul to his benefactor.”
Meanwhile, there are fears in some quarters that the ruling party stands the risk of not fielding candidates for the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states.
One of our correspondents learnt in Abuja on Friday that this was due largely to the determination of feuding power blocks within the party to seek judicial intervention up to the Supreme Court.
A member of the party’s National Working Committee who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “This battle has just started. The litigations will continue up till the Supreme Court. The matter we are currently dealing with is that of the injunctions issued; the court has not even touched the substantive suit yet.
“One of the courts has even adjourned the matter till April 8 and if you look at the INEC time table, the Edo governorship primary is supposed to hold in April while that of Ondo is supposed to hold in July. The question now is who is the National Chairman in the light of what is happening? Unless that is sorted out before then, we will be forced as a party to contend with further litigations.