Port Harcourt, Abuja, Benin — All Progressives Congress (APC) governors moved yesterday to save the party from the multiple crises it has been plunged into by the contests for power among its top officials at state and national levels.
A delegation of the governors, led by Chairman of the Progressive Governors' Forum (PGF) and the Kebbi State Governor, Senator Abubakar Bagudu, met President Muhammadu Buhari to seek his intervention and proffer ways forward for the party.
Other members of the delegation were the Chairman of Northern Governors' Forum and Plateau State Governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, and the Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Abubakar Badaru.
The APC governors' confirmed THISDAY exclusive report last week that they were planning to move in to save the party from collapse.
The simmering crisis in the party worsened last week as the Court of Appeal affirmed the suspension of the party's National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, by his ward in Edo State, and stripped him of his duties and privileges as party chair.
His suspension was the fallout of the internecine conflict between him and Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, which dragged on for over a year and culminated in the governor's disqualification from the party's primary to pick its candidate for the September governorship election in the state.
Oshiomhole's suspension triggered a bitter power-grab rivalry among contending forces in the party, leading to the emergence of three acting chairmen for the party in less than 24 hours of the suspension.
The party's National Working Committee (NWC) met a few hours after Oshiomhole's suspension and picked one of his zonal deputies, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, as the acting national chairman.
However, the next day, APC Deputy National Secretary, Chief Victor Giadom, riding on an earlier order of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, declared himself as the acting national chairman.
With Ajimobi in hospital, where he is receiving treatment for contracting COVID-19, the NWC, in line with the party's constitution, asked the National Vice Chairman (South-south), Chief Hilliard Eta, to act instead.
Concerned members of the APC also yesterday stormed the national secretariat of the party in Abuja, demanding the dissolution of the NWC.
However, amid the wrangling over the party's leadership, the APC governors met Buhari, a day after Senate President, Dr. Lawan Ahmad, discuss the party's crisis, among others with him, to intervene.
They advocated the necessity for relevant party organs to meet to resolve the festering crisis.
The governors dropped the hint after the Chairman of the Progressive Governors' Forum and the governor of Kebbi State, Senator Abubakar Bagudu along with the Chairman of Northern Governors' Forum, Mr. Simon Lalong, and the Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Abubakar Badaru, met with Buhari in the State House over the party crisis.
Briefing State House reporters after yesterday's meeting with the president, Bagudu said everything that should be done to resolve the crisis, including calling a meeting of party organs, would be done.
According to him, a meeting of the party's organ, which may be the National Executive Committee (NEC), needs to be convened as a matter of urgency to promptly resolve the crisis.
"I believe that whatever needs to be done, including the possibility of calling any of the organs of the party that is necessary for the resolution of lingering issues, will be done immediately. Let me again say that the party is never a perfect assembly. There will always be issues and that is why we talk; but yes certainly, organs of the party needs to meet and Mr. President, without directing, is always supporting the necessity of party organs meeting appropriately," he stated.
Bagudu, who said they presented the position of APC governors on the crisis to the president, explained that he listened to them and also informed them about briefings he had received about the crisis.
According to the governor, the president assured them that the crisis bedeviling the party would soon be resolved.
He added that they also told the president that the governors would support every step aimed at unifying the party and resolving its crisis.
"The reason for our visit is to discuss with him as our party leader as the leader that millions of Nigerians trust, to discuss party issues and the position of the progressive governors to support all steps to unify and bring about peaceful resolution in our party, the All Progressives Congress, and Mr. President listened attentively and discussed with us as a father, as a party leader and he gave us all the assurance we needed to know that resolution of contentious issues will soon be arrived at," he added.
On the frequent twists to the crisis, especially the suspension yesterday, by Rivers State chapter of APC, of Wogu Boms, who was chosen to replace Giadom, earlier sacked by the court, as well as the protest which rocked the national secretariat of the party in Abuja yesterday, Bagudu said the developments only portrayed APC as a party that provides the platform for people to express their views.
According to him, APC is a party which believes in dialogue, and following Buhari's belief in adherence to constitutional provisions, the party will continue to follow due process in all its actions.
"I think our party, the All Progressives Congress, is a party that believes in dialogue and contentious issues arise when you are dialoguing and we will recall that because of the sanctity which President Buhari attaches to constitutionalism, we held our national convention literally at the same time we are holding primaries because Mr. President has always said that we told Nigerians that our party is going to be a party of due process and we will do that no matter the challenge of the moment.
"So, young people expressing their views by demonstrating, members of the party challenging court processes show that the people are free to express their views, and dissent is not to be suppressed. What is important is that all will be taken on board in arriving at a conclusion that will be to the satisfaction of most party members and indeed Nigerians," he said.
Ize-Iyamu Emerges Edo APC Candidate
The much-awaited shadow poll to pick APC governorship candidate in the forthcoming election in Edo State turned out to be a coronation for a former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who trounced two others to win the primary.
Ize-Iyamu won with 27,838 votes to beat a former Deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, and Mr. Osaro Obaze with 3,776 votes and 2,324 votes. respectively.
Announcing the results submitted by the 18 local government returning officers who described the exercise as peaceful, and transparent, the Chairman of the Edo APC Governorship Primary Committee and Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodimma, said with the results, Ize-Iyamu would fly the party's flag in the governorship election slated for September 19.
He said: "Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, having scored the highest number of votes cast, is hereby returned as the candidate of APC in the Edo State primary election."
Uzodinma noted that three aspirants were cleared to contest the primary, adding that before the primary, words got to the committee that two of the aspirants had withdrawn, "but in line with the Electoral Act as amended, we decided to go on with the primary election.
"I like to commend the security agencies for the peaceful environment and officials of INEC for observing the most peaceful and clinically-conducted election."
"Dr. Odubu and Hon. Obaze earlier stepped down, but their names remained on the ballot papers. Despite the heavy rain, we insisted that the election must go on and APC members came out in their numbers. We observed the COVID-19 regulations and the people voted in batches of 18 persons, in order not to exceed the maximum of 20 persons. The election was very transparent, free and fair. Now, we have a candidate.
"Edo State belongs to APC. I am a member of APC. I am committed to my party. I will do everything to encourage Edo people to vote for APC. So that a few weeks from now, we will recover Edo State back to APC," he added.
Addressing journalists shortly after he was declared winner of the primary, Ize-Iyamu, gave glory to God for making the exercise possible devoid of any incident of violence in the 192 wards and in compliance with COVID-19 regulations.
Protesters Seek Dissolution of NWC
Concerned members of the APC yesterday marched on the national secretariat of the party in Abuja, demanding the dissolution of the NWC of the party.
Its Convener, Mr. Okpokwu Ogenyi, while addressing journalists in Abuja on behalf of the protesters, said the successes of the party in the 2015 general election was allegedly being wasted daily by managers of the party.
The protesters were armed with placards with inscriptions like: 'The current NWC had destroyed our party'; 'Our NWC is a disgrace'; 'NWC has failed us', we want it dissolved; the confusion is in the NWC,' 'We Want it Dissolved,' 'Concerned APC members says APC NWC must go', among others.
Ogenyi added that the NWC has caused the party to lose seven states to the opposition, adding that APC had 24 governors before the present NWC, but now the party has 18.
He said on Sunday, the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Agboola Ajayi, left the ruling party to join the PDP, asking if the party was making progress or retrogressing.
Ogenyi stated: "Today, we have four individuals who are members of the National Working Committee parading themselves as acting national chairmen of our party; what a dance of shame! We are being ridiculed on daily bases. The same NWC caused the party not to feature candidates in Zamfara and Rivers States in the 2019 general elections.
"We are calling on the highest decision making body, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of our great party, to immediately call for NEC meeting and dissolve the National Working Committee with immediate effect."
Giadom Writes INEC Not Recognise Edo Primary
However, there seems to be no end in sight to the crisis rocking the ruling APC, as Giadom, a claimant to the acting national chairmanship of the party, has written the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to recognise any governorship primary in Edo State.
Giadom in a letter dated June 18, but received and acknowledged by the commission yesterday, stated that he had not authorised and constituted any committee for Edo State governorship primary.
In the letter, which was copied to security agencies, Giadom said he had been informed that some persons had perfected plan to conduct primary in Edo State under the purported chairmanship of Uzodimma.
"Kindly note that as Acting National Chairman of our party, l did not authorise such a committee, neither have l inaugurated one. The earlier announced date for the primaries, that is June 22, 2020 has been postponed. You are therefore advised not to give any support to any such committee or to monitor any such primaries. A new date for the primaries would be communicated to you soonest. We regret the inconvenience this might cause your commission," the letter read in part.
However, while Giadom is still laying claims to the national chairmanship of the party, the APC NWC yesterday inaugurated Mr. Wogu Boms to take over as its acting deputy national secretary.
Wogu was inaugurated at the national secretariat of the party yesterday by another acting factional National Chairman of the party, Mr. Hilliard Eta.
Boms was nominated from Rivers State to replace Giadom.
APC Not Bothered by Giadom's Letter, Says Spokesman
Reacting to Giadom's letter to INEC, the National Publicity Secretary of APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said the ruling party would not lose sleep over it.
Issa-Onilu while reacting to the letter in a telephone interview with THISDAY, wondered why the party would be bothered by a letter written by "a former member of the National Working Committee (NWC)" of the party.
He stated: "INEC knows what to do; INEC is not lawless; INEC was there to monitor the primaries today (Monday)."
Rivers APC Faction Suspends Igo Aguma as Chairman
The crisis in the Rivers State chapter of the party has continued unabated as some statutory members of the state executive of the party has announced the suspension of the acting State Chairman, Hon. Igo Aguma.
The faction also rejected the suspension and removal from office of Giadom.
Aguma became chairman of the party through a judgment of state High Court presided over by Justice George Omereji in a suit he instituted against the party challenging the composition of the caretaker committee appointed for the state.
Addressing a press conference in Port-Harcourt yesterday, some statutory members of the state executive of the party, led by Senator Andrew Uchendu, announced the suspension of Aguma for acting against the judgment of the court and for activities.
Uchendu also dissociated the group from the suspension of Giadom by Aguma, saying that it was a unilateral decision of the interim chairman.
Uchendu said: "Upon obtaining judgment at the High Court of Rivers State in Suit Number PHC/4355/2019, Hon. Igochukwu Aguma, in violent disobedience, disregard and disrespect to the said judgment, constituted himself into a sole administrator, relegating, abandoning and disregarding majority of the Statutory Members of the State Executive Committee and taking critical decisions that affect the party all by himself."
He also said Aguma did not have the powers to remove Giadom from office as a national officer of the party or from being a member of the party, or to nominate Boms as Giadom's replacement.
He added that the court did not ask Aguma to become a sole administrator of the party and he had worsened the crisis in the party instead of solving it.
Uchendu said majority members of the state executive of the party, in a meeting yesterday, resolved: "That Hon. Igochukwu Aguma is hereby suspended as Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the APC, Rivers State chapter.
"That Hon. Sokonte Davies has been selected by majority vote at this meeting to lead the Caretaker Committee of the APC, Rivers State chapter pending the conduct of fresh congresses to fill the vacant positions in the organs of the party at all levels."
However, Aguma denied all allegations against him and said the suspension was of no effect.
A statement by Aguma's Media Adviser, Mr. Livingstone Wechie, said: "The Chairman, Hon. Igo Aguma denies all allegations in the purported press statements and renews his call for all party men and women to close ranks and join him to restore peace in the party."
Ize-Iyamu No Match to Any of Our Aspirants, Says PDP
Reacting to the emergence of Ize-Iyamu as the APC governorship candidate, the PDP said he was no match for any of its aspirants for the position.
The PDP noted that since Ize-Iyamu emerged through what it described as a crude governorship primary, the people of Edo State had written off the APC.
According to the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, "already, on the streets of Edo State, Ize-Iyamu has become the new lexicon for APC's crude attempt to suppress and lord it over the people of Edo State."
PDP added that APC would be roundly defeated in the September election, adding that going by the figures announced from the direct primary, which the APC conducted to produce Ize-Iyamu, it is clear that the totality of the members of the APC in Edo State is far below 40,000, in a state where the membership and support base of the PDP is above three million.