President saved party from legal turmoil – Tinubu
NEC’s decision on Oyegun-led NWC subsists – Spokesman
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will in the coming days announce a date for its national convention to elect new leaders, sources told Daily Trust yesterday.
This became necessary after President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday declared as illegal the extension of the tenure of current party leaders led by Oyegun by one year.
The president’s position was upheld at a closed meeting of the NEC, our sources said.
The tenure of the party executives will end on June 30 which means the party has less than 90 days from now to complete its ward, local government and state congresses as well as the national convention where new leaders will be elected.
On January 9 this year, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) issued the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2019 General Elections, fixing the conduct of party primaries including the resolution of disputes arising from primaries for August 18, 2018 to October 7, 2018 for national and state elections; while that of the FCT Area Council is slated for between September 4 and October 27, 2018.
With this in view, the APC will need a new set of elected leaders to organise primaries for the national and state assemblies, governorship and presidential elections.
The shock at NEC meeting
Daily Trust gathered that there was shock and apprehension among APC leaders yesterday after the president made his remarks.
“President Buhari has succeeded in resolving what would have been a big legal issue. He would still have to have a strong machinery to resolve emerging political issues ahead of the convention. Some leaders are already feeling that they have defeated others in the tussle,” a source said.
Another source said some governors and ministers who allegedly “contrived” the tenure extension for Oyegun and others were also disappointed with the new development.
“You all know the governors that wanted Oyegun and other NWC members and officials at all levels to stay. They are the governors that have issues with the party leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Other governors and ministers have issues with some serving members of the National Assembly and they are all looking towards the APC primary to deal with them by edging them out.
“The argument before was that there was no time to do primaries because of pending crisis in states; that current leaders should lead through the 2019 elections.
“So, a big problem has been resolved but many others would crop up. For now, Tinubu who felt betrayed has been emboldened; he is very happy with President Buhari and you would notice improved activity by his committee.
“Besides the legal issues, Buhari cannot afford to lose the South West and Tinubu is a factor; Tinubu also needs Buhari because the election is around the corner. “
The APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who had earlier yesterday said that the NEC meeting would only discuss the reports of the party committees on Constitution Review and True Federalism, was visibly stunned when Buhari said plans for the convention to elect new leaders should continue.
‘Caretaker c’ttee would not remedy the situation’
President Buhari, who spoke in Abuja at the party’s national secretariat, said the outcome of his consultations with legal advisers showed that the tenure elongation contravened not only the APC’s constitution but the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well.
Buhari said: “What is expected of the party is to conduct fresh elections, once the tenure of the current executives approaches its end”, adding that a caretaker committee would not remedy the situation and could not “validly act in place of elected officers.”
He said, “As we all know, a motion was moved at the last NEC meeting of February 27, 2018, to the effect that when the tenure of the current executives expire in June this year, they should be allowed to continue for one year.
“This motion was duly carried by a majority of members present at the last NEC Meeting, even though some of our party members have since spoken up very vehemently against it. Others have even taken the matter to court.
“On my own part, I have taken some time to review and seek advice on the resolution. And what I found is that it contravenes both our party Constitution and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“While the APC Constitution, in Article 17(1) and 13.2(B), limits the tenure of elected officers to four years, renewable once by another election, the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), in section 223, also prescribes periodic elections for party executives at regular intervals, which must not exceed four years.
“Furthermore, Article 31 of our Party Constitution provides that any principal officer wishing to re-contest or contest for another post, must resign from his current post at least one month before the election,” he said.
President Buhari, who warned that the fortunes of the party might be endangered if they deviated from the constitutional provisions, stated that “if the tenure of our party executives can be legally faulted, then it means that any nominations and primary elections that they may conduct can also be faulted.
“This is not to talk of divisions that would arise, and is already arising within the party, when some of our members feel that they are being denied the right to aspire to executive positions, or that internal democracy is not at play within the party.
“I am therefore of the firm view that it is better to follow strictly the dictates of our party and national constitutions, rather than put APC and its activities at grave risk.”
He also cautioned against any action that would make the party susceptible to the opposition’s plots.
Buhari said, “They (the opposition) can delay or divide us further within the party when they quote appropriate portions of the party constitution and of the country.”
What APC leaders said
Fielding questions from journalists after the NEC meeting, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, said a technical committee has been constituted to advise the party on the matter.
Abdullahi added that the decision of NEC still subsists pending the outcome of the task of the committee even though the membership could not be ascertained last night.
He said, “The president was gracious enough to say well, this is my thinking. But I still want to subject it to debate by NEC. So, members of NEC thanked the president for still throwing the issue to them for a debate.
“So, the NEC decided to set up a small committee to advise the party on this matter. At the moment, there is no decision taken. When that committee submits its report, it means NEC will still meet to either consider it or reaffirm its earlier position,” he said.
Yesterday’s NEC meeting was attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Bukola Saraki, governors of Kogi, Jigawa, Ogun, Edo, Katsina, Nasarawa, Imo, Kano, Ondo, Sokoto, Benue, Plateau, Yobe, Adamawa, Niger, Kaduna, and Bauchi States, including deputy governors of Zamfara, Oyo, Borno, and Osun States.
Also present at the meeting were the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Alh. Muhammad Musa Bello, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, Sen. Babafemi Ojudu, Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, and the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Ado Doguwa.
Buhari has saved APC – Tinubu
In his response, Tinubu yesterday hailed President Buhari for declaring the tenure elongation granted Oyegun and others as an illegality.
Tinubu observed that Buhari had, “in clear, straightforward manner, “affirmed our party remains faithful to the principles of internal democracy and the rule of law.”
In a statement he personally signed, Tinubu enthused that Buhari’s action “saves the party from serious legal turmoil.”
According to the APC National Leader, it would also strengthen the party “by allowing party members, including present incumbents, to seek to contribute to the party by vying for executive offices as they see fit.”
He said, “If the elongations were deemed illegal then all subsequent party actions, including the nomination of all of our candidates for elective offices, might also be of questionable legality.
“Such a predicament would constitute an unnecessary and mortal blow to the party and its role in promoting progressive governance to Nigeria.
“Moreover, President Buhari has affirmed for all to see that our party is one based on the rule of law coupled with a firm adherence to internal democracy. While it would have been easy to allow the ill-conceived motion of 27 February to stand, President Buhari showed principle and courage by steering the party back to its original and correct path.
“The President has spoken. Today is a good day for those who cherish democracy and legality.
“His action will go far in advancing the process of internal reconciliation that is now underway. It is a time for the party to move forward and begin to plan and organize the needed congresses according to the existing timetables,” he said.
Background on proposal for APC congresses and convention
The February 26, 2018 caucus ought to have ratified a comprehensive programme with dates for Ward Congresses, Local Government Area Congresses, State Congresses and National Convention which was brought to the attention of the National Caucus at the October 31, 2017 meeting.
The APC secretariat had told the caucus last year that the tenure of all officers elected into the Ward, Local Government, State and National organs of the party would be expiring in the second quarter of 2018 in line with the provisions of Article 17 (1) of the party’s constitution.
In a memo, the party secretariat told the caucus that it had begun preparations for the conduct of Congresses and National Convention in line with the provisions of the party’s constitution.
The APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, had said on January 6 this year that the meetings of National Caucus and NEC would hold to endorse the timetable for congresses and national convention.
The APC national chairman added that the congresses and convention would hold between January and June this year.
Instead of approving and announcing the time-table for the congresses and convention, the proposal for tenure elongation was adopted at the February 27 NEC meeting.