An Abuja High Court ruling wednesday, ordering the party's National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, to obey his suspension by his ward in Edo State, opened the fault lines of the ruling party, pitching its governors against their National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu.
Tinubu is known to have installed Oshiomhole and has been his back bone, shielding him from the party's ambitious state chief executives who see the national chairman as a stumbling block to their 2023 presidential aspirations.
With the court ruling, believed to have been procured by proxy by the governors, analysts close to the power play in the party, say the stage is set for an epic battle with the national leader, believed, however, to have the ears of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The party, however, quickly moved to avert a power vacuum that the court ruling would have created, announcing the approval of nominations into vacant positions in the National Working Committee.
According to a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the nominations approved on January 14, 2020 are Deputy National Chairman (South), Senator Abiola Ajimobi; National Secretary, Mr. Waziri Bulama; and National Auditor, Mr. Paul Chukwuma.
The officers, he said, would hold their positions in acting capacity pending confirmation by the National Executive Committee (NEC).
With the development, Ajimobi, who was the immediate past governor of Oyo State, would step into Oshiomhole's shoes as acting national chairman, being the most senior officer of the party.
He would mount the saddle based on Article 14.2 (iii) of APC constitution, which states that: "Deputy National Chairman, North/South shall act as the National Chairman in the absence of the National Chairman."
However, Oshiomhole said last night that he had proceeded to appeal the ruling, insisting that he remained the national chairman of the party.
The embattled chairman in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Simon Ebegbulem, said that he had appealed the ruling and filed for a stay of its execution.
He said: "We have filed for a stay of execution and appealed the ruling. With those processes currently before the Appeal Court, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole remains the National Chairman of the party."
But Oshiomhole was immediately countered by his main adversary in the NWC, Mr. Mustapha Salihu, the party's national vice chairman (North-east), who said the fresh appointments announced on the prompting of the suspended national chairman could not stand, opening another window of crisis for the ruling party.
THISDAY analysts in the know of the power game last night said the court ruling only ventilated the fault lines of the party and appears set to open windows of opportunities for contending forces to reengage and realign in the bid to grab the soul of the APC for the 2023 presidential fight.
Although Oshiomhole's instant problem arose from his quarrel with the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, it was learnt last night that the suspended national chairman might have unwittingly allowed the local affair to be taken advantage of by national forces, which see him as a stumbling block to their presidential aspirations in 2023.
Obaseki was joyous last night, saying the court ruling had brought peace to Edo State.
Addressing APC members during the Edo South senatorial rally of the party in Benin City, the state capital, Obaseki stated that when they planned the rally last week, they did not know that God had a plan for them yesterday.
"No man is God. God is God. No man can play God. With what God has done today... what we should do now is to just thank Him," he said, adding: "The meaning of what happened today is that peace has now finally come to our party. The purpose of God for Nigeria in our party will now be fulfilled."
According to him, "My problem with Comrade Oshiomhole is that when people started saying that they were Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), I called him and urged him to denounce them.
"I told him (Oshiomhole) to come out and say something. I told him, Comrade, denounce them, you are the National chairman; disassociate yourself from these people that are destroying our party. Up till today, he did not denounce them.
"But the court has taken the right decision today... It does not make me a happy person because it would not have come to this.
"So, my message today is when a child put his hands in faeces, you do not cut off that hand, you take that hand and wash it."
The police had beefed up security at the national secretariat of the APC following the order by Justice Danlami Senchi that Oshiomhole should step aside as the party's national chairman.
A team of policemen arrived at the party's secretariat about 5 pm in nine trucks and one Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) to reinforce those already stationed there.
The police personnel restricted access into the party's secretariat.
The party, however, pledged to respect all lawful court judgment as a law-abiding party.
Justice Senchi had ordered Oshiomhole to step aside while ruling in an interlocutory injunction filed by one Mustapha Salihu and five others.
The order is pending until the hearing and determination of the substantive suit seeking Oshiomhole's removal from office as the national chairman of APC.
Justice Senchi also ordered Oshiomhole to stop parading himself as the national chairman of the APC until the issues challenging his leadership of the party are resolved.
The plaintiffs in the application filed on January 16, 2020 and argued by their lawyer, Mr. Oluwole Afolabi, had urged the court to declare Oshiomhole's continued stay in office as illegal having been suspended from the APC.
The other plaintiffs in the suit are: Hon. Anselm Ojezua, Alhaji Sani Gomna, Mr. Oshawo Steven, Mr. Fani Wabulari and Mr. Princewill Ejogharado.
The respondents alongside Oshiomhole include: APC, Inspector General of Police (IG) and Department of State Services (DSS).
Arguing the motion wednesday, Afolabi told the court that Oshiomhole has up till now failed to challenge his suspension from the party.
According to him, Oshiomhole's right as a member is currently abated and cannot continue to act as chairman of the party as well as continue to enjoy benefits from the APC, despite his suspension as a member of the party.
The Ward 10 executives of the APC had late last year suspended Oshiomhole from the APC. The suspension was ratified by the Etsako West Local Government Executive Committee and was subsequently upheld by the State Executive Committee of the party.
The plaintiffs accordingly prayed the court for an interlocutory order restraining Oshiomhole from parading himself or performing any function as the national chairman of the APC.
They also prayed the court for another interlocutory order restraining the APC from recognising or continue to recognise Oshiomhole as the national chairman of the APC, including giving effect to any of his decisions.
In addition, they prayed for another interlocutory order directing the police and the SSS to deploy their staff to prevent Oshiomhole from continuing to occupy the office of the national chairman of the APC and from having access to the office.
Delivering ruling in the interlocutory application, the judge held that the plaintiffs have been able to show that Oshiomhole was suspended by his ward, Etsako West Ward 10 in Edo State.
Justice Senchi added that political parties must be bound by their constitution and having been suspended by his ward, Oshiomhole is restrained from functioning as the national chairman of the party pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
The court also ordered that Oshiomhole should stop parading himself as the chairman of the party and for APC to desist from acknowledging him as its chairman.
The court has also given the APC orders not to grant Oshiomhole access to the party secretariat.
Hearing has been fixed for April 7 and 8, 2020.
The APC in Edo State had last year suspended Oshiomhole over his role in the crisis rocking the state chapter of the party.
The decision followed the vote of no confidence passed on him by the chairmen of the APC in the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Edo State.
A statement signed by Edo APC Chairman, Mr. Anselm Ojezua, and Assistant State Secretary, Mr. Ikuenobe Anthony, said: "Consequent on the development, the State Executive Committee has adopted the vote of no confidence passed on him and the subsisting suspension order from the organs of the party in the state."
They said the decision was necessary to prevent a repeat of what happened in Zamfara State, where the party was unable to field any candidate in elections.
APC Pledges to Respect Court Judgment
Reacting to the court ruling, the APC stated that it would respect all lawful court judgment as a law-abiding party.
The acting National Secretary of the party, Chief Victor Giadom, while addressing a press conference in Abuja, confirmed that the party had received a copy of the court order, adding that the ruling party would respect the court judgment.
He also said the party's NWC would soon meet to deliberate on the matter.
"As a party, we are aware of the injunction. As a law abiding party, we will respect all lawful court orders. Very soon, the National Working Committee will meet and you will hear further from the party. I am trying to say that the All Progressives Congress will respect all lawful court orders. We will soon do that."
He explained that there is a court injunction, adding that it is binding on the party to respect all court injunctions.
On the security beef-up at the party's secretariat, Giadom said there was nothing new about it, adding that there had always been security at the national secretariat of the party.
The team of policemen had told the staff to go into their offices and those that decided to go outside the premises were told they would not be allowed in again.
THISDAY also gathered that it was the leadership of the party that called for security to be beefed up at the headquarters of the party because of the presence of some political thugs.
More Intrigues Ahead
With Oshiomhole insisting yesterday that he remained in office in view of his appeal, and Salihu contending that the national chairman could no longer parade himself as an official of the party, THISDAY learnt that the National Executive Committee of the party might be called to resolve all outstanding issues.
The fear, though, is that if care is not taken, the party might fall apart. It was learnt that governors opposed to Oshiomhole are already mobilising for a NEC meeting where they hope to do their national chairman in.
But he is said to be fighting back by reaching out to powerful forces, which hitherto had been on his side but he had alienated in recent times. This, it was learnt, was responsible for the announcement of the approval of the nominations for the vacant positions in the party yesterday. For instance, the National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, is said to have been taken aback by Oshiomhole's vacillation over the announcement of Ajimobi as the acting deputy national chairman in the South. Also, Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, is said to be aggrieved that despite his moderating influence on his brother governors in favour of Oshiomhole, he dillydallied in the announcement of Bulama as the acting national secretary.