Abuja and Benin — The crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) took a new twist yesterday with the Court of Appeal upholding the suspension of Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, as the national chairman of the ruling party, and the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, renouncing his membership of the party.
To stave off a leadership vacuum in the party, its National Working Committee (NWC) convoked an emergency meeting to find a replacement for Oshiomhole.
The NWC members, in line with Section 14.2. (iii) of the APC Constitution, named Deputy National Chairman (South) and former Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, as the interim national chairman.
However, Ajimobi may not be able to discharge the functions of that office for now as he is said to be battling for his life at an undisclosed hospital where he is on admission for treatment for a disease suspected to be COVID-19.
In his absence and in line with the APC Constitution, the party would have to mandate its National Vice-Chairman (South-south), Chief Hillary Ettah, to act instead.
THISDAY gathered that the NWC meeting was a stormy one as members were sharply divided. While 14 NWC members are pro-Oshiomhole, three are neutral and three others are opposed the suspended national chairman.
Those neutral are National Financial Secretary, Tajudeen Bello; National Youth Leader, Sadiq Shuaibu-Abubakar, and National Disabled Leader, Misbau Lawal Didi.
Those in the anti-Oshiomhole camp are Deputy National Chairman (North), Lawali Shuaibu; Deputy National Secretary, Victor Giadom and National Vice Chairman (North-east), Mustapha Salihu.
It was also learnt that APC governors were planning to intervene prevent the crisis from worsening further.
Earlier yesterday, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal had affirmed the judgment of Justice Danlami Senchi of a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, which on March 4, ordered Oshiomhole to step aside as the national chairman of the ruling party.
Oshiomhole's travail began from the Edo State chapter of APC, where he has been locked in a war of attrition with Obaseki, culminating in the factionalisation of the state chapter of the party.
Obaseki, who was disqualified by the APC from actualising his second term ambition on its platform, allegedly at the behest of Oshiomhole, quit the party yesterday.
In a statement yesterday, National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said the decision to name Ajimobi as the acting national chairman became imperative following the appeal court judgement.
He said: "Guided by advice from the party's legal department in line with the provisions of Section 14.2. (iii) of the party's constitution, the Deputy National Chairman (South), Senator Abiola Ajimobi, will serve as the party's acting national chairman.
"According to Section 14.2. (iii),of the APC Constitution, the Deputy National Chairman, North/South "Shall act as the National Chairman in the absence of the National Chairman from his zone."
However, Giadom kicked against the decision of the NWC, saying going by an earlier court pronouncement, he should be the interim national chairman of the party.
In a statement by his counsel, Chief Wole Afolabi, obtained yesterday, he demanded compliance with
the order of the FCT High Court of March 16, 2020 by Hon. Justice S.U Bature that he, Giadom, is to act as the national chairman of the party due to the suspension of Oshiomhole.
According to him, Justice Bature's order remains valid, thereby rendering Ajimobi's appointment null and void and of no effect.
Afolabi said: "Our attention has been drawn to a statement purportedly issued by the publicity secretary of the APC to the effect that Senator Abiola Ajimobi is to act as the national chairman of APC following the suspension from office of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole by the Court of Appeal.
"We wish to state that the statement must have been issued in complete ignorance of the order of the FCT High Court issued on 16th of March, 2020 by Hon. Justice S.U Bature in Suit No. FCT/HC/M/6447/2020 to the effect that Chief Victor Giadom is to act as the national chairman of the party due to the suspension of Adams Oshiomhole as the national chairman.
"The order was given the same day that the Court of Appeal earlier gave Oshiomhole a temporary respite by staying the execution of the said order suspending Oshiomhole. Now that the Court of Appeal has affirmed the order of suspension, it is only proper that the order recognising Chief Victor Giadom is implemented.
"Consequently, we have written to all law enforcement agencies to implement the said order and any one who attempts to parade himself/herself other than Chief Victor Giadom as the Acting Chairman of the APC would be facing contempt of court proceedings."
Earlier, the Court of Appeal panel, led by Justice Eunice Onyemenam, in a unanimous judgment, had dismissed Oshiomhole's appeal challenging his suspension, for lacking in merit.
Oshiomhole had lodged the appeal to challenge the verdict of Justice Senchi that he was validly suspended and he should step aside as the national chairman of the ruling party.
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 were resolved.
The suspension order was sequel to an interlocurtory injunction motion filed by one Mustapha Salihu and five others, who had argued that Oshiomhole could not continue to occupy the office of the national chairman of the APC having been suspended from his Etsako ward in Edo State.
The order was made pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit seeking his removal from office as the national chairman of APC.
However, dissatisfied with the decision of the lower court, Oshiomhole had approached the appellate court to set aside the judgment of the lower court.
He hinged his appeal on the grounds that plaintiffs/respondents lacked locus standi (legal rights) to initiate the court process.
He also challenged the jurisdiction of the trial court to entertain the suit, adding that the trial court did not accord him fair hearing before arriving at its decision.
But in the lead judgment delivered by Justice Mohammed Lamido, the three-member panel resolved all four issues raised by Oshiomhole in favour of the respondents.
The court accordingly upheld the decision of the FCT High Court.
On the issue of jurisdiction, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court was right to hear the suit because Oshiomhole as the first appellant is based in Abuja while the APC also has its national headquarters in Abuja.
On the issue of locus standi, the appellate court disagreed with the appellants, stating that the plaintiffs/respondents are key officials of the party in the state.
The court also disagreed with Oshiomhole that his right to fair hearing was breached, noting that the ruling of the trial court only ordered his suspension and not removal from office.
The court also disagreed with Oshiomhole that the plaintiffs/respondents did not place sufficient material before the trial court to warrant the issuing of the interlocutory injunction.
According to the appellate court judgment, there was enough evidence to show that Oshiomhole's suspension from Ward 10 of Etsako Local Government of Edo State was ratified at the ward, local government and state levels as required by law.
Justice Lamido also noted that Oshiomhole did nothing to challenge his suspension at the ward level, which was ratified until about 72 days after.
"In these circumstances, the position taken by the lower court that the plaintiffs have made a case for the issuance of the interlocutory order is proper and that part of the decision is hereby upheld.
"The appeal is unmeritorious, appeal dismissed and the ruling of the lower court upheld," Justice Lamido said.
Obaseki, Deputy Dump APC
Obaseki yesterday visited the State House to inform President Muhammadu Buhari about his decision to quit the APC, but he was unable to see the president. Rather, he met with the Chief of Staff to the president, Professor Ibrahim Gambari.
He later told State House reporters that he came to formally inform the president of his resignation from the APC to enable him to realise his re-election bid on the platform of another party.
He said having finally decided to leave APC, the platform that brought him to power, he had deemed it necessary to inform the president of his decision.
However, he did not disclose that he was unable to see the president.
Asked what was the president's reaction to the information that he was leaving APC, Obaseki responded with a sense of diplomacy, that "you will hear from the president."
He explained that the decision to quit the party was a fulfilment of his earlier tweet after his disqualification that he would make his next line of action known after making the right consultations.
Obaseki, who had spent the better part of the weekend, consulting stakeholders in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said he would announce in the next few days the platform on which he would contest the September governorship election in Edo State.
"You remember in my last tweet, I said that I'll make a decision, after my disqualification was announced by APC that I'll make a decision after I've consulted with the leadership and my supporters in Edo State and also having informed the president.
"Just here today to inform you that I have now decided, formally, to resign my membership of the All Progressives Congress. Having done that, I will now announce in the next few days my specific line of action and what platform I will be contesting the gubernatorial election on.
"I'm sure the whole country knows and is aware of what has gone on between me and the party chairman in party leadership, which culminated in my disqualification as a gubernatorial aspirant; and upon that unfortunate decision by the chairman of the All Progressives Congress, I've decided to go and seek my gubernatorial aspiration on another platform," he added.
Asked if there were inconsistencies in his certificates, as claimed by the screening committee which disqualified him, Obaseki denied the insinuation.
However, he attacked Oshiomhole, saying he lacked understanding of the meaning of "inconsistency," because he did not go to school.
He narrated the challenge he had earlier about his certificates prior to the 2016 governorship election in Edo State and how he overcame the challenge, saying he didn't know what they meant by inconsistencies.
He said the APC national chairman was only out to create what did not exist just to get rid of him, lamenting that the party was handed to a person whom he said had unilateral power to get rid of perceived enemies.
According to him, any institution handed over to the like of Oshiomhole, whom he said lacked the finesse, a sense of justice and character to run it, without the mechanism to check his excesses, is already imperilled.
He said: "Someone who hasn't gone to school, who doesn't have a certificate himself will not know and understand what inconsistencies in certificates are. That's the starting point.
"What is the inconsistency? There's no inconsistency in my certificates. The issue was in 2016, when I contested for gubernatorial election, I could not find the originals of my certificates because I hadn't required them for more than two decades.
"So, I deposed to an affidavit that I couldn't find the originals. Subsequently, I found all the original copies of all my certificates and they are with me. So, I don't understand what's inconsistent about that. Maybe the inconsistency in the youth corps certificate, where he said my surname was missing an 'i' at the end, but if you look at that, it was like a cursive. It was written in a cursive manner.
"So, if that's inconsistency for him, then it's really sad that people of that quality are leading the Nigeria's ruling party. For him, it was just to look for an excuse to take whatever decision he wants to take and it's really sad that the party structure today gives him that sort of authority without checks.
"That is dangerous for any system or any institution - when you give authority and responsibility to people who don't have character - people who do not have finesse, a sense of justice, then that institution is imperilled."
Asked about the outcome of his meetings with PDP governors at the weekend, he said some of them had gone through events similar to his current ordeal and hence, it was only necessary to share his current travails with them for advice.
When told that Oshiomhole had expressed optimism that he would be fair to APC on June 22 when it will conduct its governorship primaries, he queried if Oshiomhole himself had been fair.
He further lampooned Oshiomhole, alleging that the former labour leader is only afraid of educated people because he's not properly educated and he lacks the capacity to stand before people of substance.
He explained that it was high time Nigeria moved beyond handing responsibilities to people who lack the character and capacity to drive such responsibilities.
"He, Adams Oshiomhole, has he? As Governor Wike said, he should practice what he preaches; he has never done so. He has not provided a level-playing ground even in the selection process, the disqualification process: what is the basis for disqualifying someone like Chris Ogiemwonyi?
"You are afraid of people who are educated because you didn't go to school. You are afraid of people who have something to offer because all he knows how to offer is brigandage, crisis.
"So, for us, Nigeria has to move forward beyond some of the characters who are currently overseeing our political polity and they are scared. They are scared that when people of substance, when people who are proven, when people who have succeeded in other aspects of life come into politics, they will be history.
"For me, this fight is not about grabbing political power. It's not about me. It's not about trying to prove a sense of importance, no. It's for us, 21 years into this republic, democracy must mature; but as democracy is maturing, we need to begin to show that politics cannot and should not be the preserve of a certain character of people. People of accomplishment, people of knowledge, people of character must also be accommodated in the political space. You don't have to be a ruffian to be a politician. You don't have to be a brigand to be a politician. You don't have to be a thief to be a politician," he stated.
Also asked if he thought he had chances of winning the election on the platform of another party, the governor said the volume of goodwill of the people of Edo State towards him had been massive, adding: "they've said to me, 'wherever you go, we will go'."
However, unlike Obaseki who was unable to see the president, his counterpart in Ondo State, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, who was also in the State House to inform the president of his intention to seek re-election, met with the president.
Akeredolu who described the president as a father, added that the president had visited Ondo State and was proud of what he saw.
"Mr. President is a father to all of us. Let us be fair to him but he knows what we have tried to do. Remember, I saw in a photo display (in the State House), the president's visit to our Ondo industrial hub. That is a monumental achievement and the president was proud of it and he even said that we were able to come up with this idea with the Chinese companies and other companies there in Ondo is worthy of emulation by everybody.
"That can go for giving you a pass mark. It can go for president supporting you. But all I know is that the president is a father to all. You don't expect him to say this is my candidate. But I know that he has seen our work and he has said to me pointedly, you have done very well in Ondo State," he said.
Obaseki's Deputy Resigns from APC
Shortly after Obaseki announced his resignation from the APC, his deputy, Hon. Philip Shaibu, also quit the party.
In his resignation letter addressed to the Ward Chairman, APC Ward 11, Etsako West Local Government Area, he said: "I write pursuant to Article 9.5 (i) of the Constitution of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to formally resign my membership of the All Progressives Congress and to inform you of my formal withdrawal from all or any of its proceedings and processes whatsoever.
"Please note that this resignation takes immediate effect."
Indications that Obaseki and Shaibu may have joined the PDP emerged when their aides were seen on a viral video shouting "PDP Power," after removing the APC flag in their offices.
In the video that went viral from the office of the deputy governor, his aides removed the APC flag from the deputy governor's office and were shouting PDP's slogan.
But the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said Obaseki and his deputy were expected to pick the party membership forms from their various wards in Edo State
He explained that it is after they have officially become card-carrying members of the PDP that the party will commence further discussions on their ambitions.
Also, the Edo state chairman of PDP, Dr. Anthony Aziegbemi, told THISDAY that at press time that the governor has not registered at his Ward 4 in Oredo LGA, adding that Obaseki would do so soonest.
He said: "The first bridge has been crossed. He is no longer in the APC. We are waiting for him to formally pick the PDP membership form and other discussions will follow."
18 LGA Chairmen Reaffirm support for Obaseki's Re-election
The chairmen of the 18 LGAs in Edo State have reaffirmed their support for the re-election bid of Obaseki, saying that they are fully committed to the progressive ideals of the governor and his battle against godfatherism, thuggery and impunity.
In a statement signed by the Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Edo State, Hon. Jenkins Osunde, and the 17 other council chairmen in the state, the association described the disqualification of Obaseki from the APC primary election as a theatre of political fraud staged with predetermined outcomes and decisions sponsored by the surrogates of Oshiomhole.
"We the undersigned local government chairmen of all the 18 area councils in Edo State have held an emergency meeting to review what we consider an outrageous and undemocratic process of both the screening exercise as well as the prejudiced decision consequently reached," the statement said.
The LGA chairmen said rather than weaken the support for the governor, the disqualification by the committee has garnered more support for the governor across all the senatorial zones of the state.
The chairmen reiterated their support for Obaseki's re-election bid, noting, "that as the chairmen of the third tier, people-oriented paradigm of Nigeria's federalism, we carry with us the hopes and aspirations of our constituencies as we reaffirm our commitment to the progressive agenda of continuity till 2024 for the governor- all the way with Obaseki and Shaibu!"
We've No Record of Obaseki's Resignation, Says APC
However, in a statement issued yesterday by Issa-Onilu, the APC said the party had no record of the governor's resignation.
He said: "The party has no record of the reported defection of Governor Godwin Obaseki from the progressive party. We cannot comment at this moment on media reports suggesting the Edo governor or anyone else has left our great party."
However, the Chairman of the pro-Obaseki faction of APC in Edo State, Mr. Anselm Ojezua, has said he will not move with the governor to another party.
Ojezua, in a telephone interview, said he was elected as chairman of APC with a four-year mandate, which expires by 2022.
"I still have my mandate as the elected party chairman of APC in Edo State which expires by 2022 and I intend to complete that mandate," he added.
Appeal Court Adjourns Suit on Mode of Primary
The Court of Appeal, Benin, yesterday, adjourned hearing in the suit filed by the APC challenging the jurisdiction of the lower court to hear the case filed by two allies of Obaseki challenging the mode of primary election adopted by the party's NWC.
The Deputy Chairman of the Edo APC faction, Mr. Kenneth Asekomhe, and one of the governorship aspirants on the party's platform, Mr. Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, had filed a suit at the Federal High Court challenging the direct primary adopted by the NWC.
When the case came up Thursday last week, counsel to APC wanted an order on jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, Benin to hear the case, while Oshiomhole is seeking an order for stay of further proceedings in the suit at the lower court.
When the matter came up yesterday, Justice Morenike Ogunwomiju adjourned hearing till tomorrow.
She mandated respondents in the suit to file their brief in response to the appellants' brief already filed.
The judge also ordered the appellants to within 12 hours if need be to file their reply to the brief.