Nigeria: APC Crisis - Osinbajo, Govs, Others Seek Safe Landing Options

3 August 2021

FOLLOWING the ominous bent the crises ravaging the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, have assumed, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, APC governors and some stakeholders are seeking a safe landing for the party.

On the instruction of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Vice President is working out a safe option to resolve the internal political quagmire that came on the heels of the Supreme Court ruling, last week on the fate of the current APC national caretaker leadership led by Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State.

Since last week, Vanguard gathered the Vice-President had been holding consultations with party leaders and governors on a solution that will save the party from future legal traps and at the same time be acceptable to all within the APC.

Last Friday, on the eve of the ward congresses, the Vice President first held a legal review session with lawyers in the federal cabinet where the issue was discussed. He later engaged APC governors and others in wide consultations before the ward congresses of Saturday.

Buni was also reported to have rushed down to the Villa over the weekend with Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, to explain the stance of the party leadership to Osinbajo after efforts to reach him earlier on Friday failed.

Sources said last night that the Vice-President is widening the scope of the engagement on account of the dangerous dust spewed by the ward congresses in many states of the country.

One source said had the APC harkened to informed 'pleas' to suspend the primaries the party would not have been mired in the snarl it is now.

Hard options

Options before the party are hard and require nervy deliberations and understanding to push through.

The options include: retaining Buni as chairman with olive branch and accommodation extended to aggrieved APC stakeholders; getting Buni to step down; cancelling the Saturday ward congresses and fresh ones conducted in crises-prone states by a new national chairman to avert legal swords of Damocles cutting APC's electoral fortunes in the future.

Now, Osinbajo is determined to ensure that the party benefits from what seems to be a legal warning from the Supreme Court ruling which had a 4-3 verdict with three justices questioning the constitutional validity of a sitting governor holding such an executive post as national party caretaker chairman.

While a last minute cancelation of the congresses was on the table Friday night, APC governors were said to have told the VP that majority of them would rather prefer to go on with the exercises even though some felt an outright cancelation would be inevitable if it went ahead.

A source familiar with ongoing consultations said it is not true that the VP directed the Attorney-General on the matter, especially since the AGF is not a party official. As for Governor Buni, there was no communication between the VP and him until late Friday night when he reached out to the VP around midnight. By then the governors had already argued for the continuation of the congresses, although some governors including one from the North had strongly argued against proceeding with the ward congresses.

A top Villa source said last night that "the VP is of the firm view that the Supreme Court ruling, last Wednesday, is a clear legal ditch which is best avoided, and he wants to ensure that the interest of the party is what is paramount, hoping that all stakeholders will eventually find a way in the interest of Nigerians who have reposed so much confidence and support in the party."

Buni doing a caretaker job --Umahi

Speaking on the development, Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, said Buni has not erred and has been doing his job.

"The day-to-day running of the party rests on the national secretary of the party. So you have to look at it as a committee work and that is what it is. I am too happy to be here. My friends in the PDP are finding their way to the APC. The APC is doing very well and every day we see lots of PDP crossing over and I am happy I took the lead. So, I don't believe there is a problem. My interpretation is on the constitution of the party. What Governor Buni is doing is a caretaker job directed by our party.

"So there is no other definition of what a committee can do and what they cannot do; our caretaker chairman is doing committee work and anybody can do committee work. It is not an executive position. But when you talk about the executive work, you talk about the day-to-day running of the party. And again, he's taking no salary."

Buni's job not in conflict with APC constitution -- Sule

On his part, Nasarawa State Governor, Abdulahi Sule in a television interview, yesterday, said: "I don't see the crisis in APC, if you do, tell me maybe I will be able to address them. When you talk about the paid job, all governors irrespective of political affiliation, definitely take one committee work or the other. Today for instance, I am the chairman of the mass mobilization committee of the party and nobody is questioning that and nobody is paying me for that and also I am the co-chair of the poverty reduction committee set up by the Federal Government, nobody pays me for that.

So, are you saying as a governor, you cannot take any caretaker job? So as far as the judgment is concerned, it didn't address section 183. It says 'you did not join the gentleman.' If they had joined him, the petition would have been dead on arrival. A lot of senior advocates are also saying there is no case to answer. We read through the constitution of the party, we read through the Nigerian constitution, we don't see the conflict. Some people are just focusing on those that say there is a risk, so where is the risk?"

APC leaders at daggers drawn in Delta as crisis worsens

Meanwhile, the crisis rocking APC in Delta State has escalated with the leaders at daggers drawn over who controls the party.

At the moment, Deputy Senate President, DSP, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, representing Delta Central Senatorial district and Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, representing Delta North Senatorial district, who, recently defected from Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to APC are the two most influential power brokers.

However, Minister of State for Labour and Employment and chairman of the party's Leaders' Council in the state, Festus Keyamo, SAN, and other leaders, including serial governorship candidate, Olorogun Great Ogboru, have risen against their dominance, which culminated, last Saturday, with the ward congresses boycotted by the leaders and party members loyal to them.

Former speaker of Delta House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Victor Ochei, co-chairman of the Leaders Council, Dr. Alex Ideh, another former Speaker, Delta House of Assembly, Monday Igbuya, former Executive Director, Projects, NDDC, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, Dr. (Mrs.) Marian Ali, AVM Okorodudu (retd.), Dr. Eugene Okolocha and Hon George Timinimi are unanimous in their rejection of the current happenings in the party.

The Leaders Council in a statement by Keyamo and others calling for boycott of the ward congresses, noted with utter disbelief "the wrongful and potentially disastrous decision of our great political party to go ahead with the controversial ward congresses slated for Saturday, the 31st day of July, 2021."

"The council cannot be silent in the face of the monumental catastrophe which the said decision portrays for the future of our great party if not corrected, neither can the Council bury her head in the sands like the proverbial ostrich in hope that the definite arrows of the opposition parties will not hit its un-hindered target. This statement is necessitated for the sake of posterity and to make the councils' position clear.

"We hereby categorically state that we have since informed all party members to boycott the said ward congresses as same is devoid of any legitimacy in both procedure and substance as it relates to the guidelines (and in the face of the Supreme Court judgment, the legitimacy of those guidelines may be called to question later).

"We are confident that the duty to set things right now falls on us and we shall do that for the sake of posterity. We shall give further updates on actions already taken and subsequent decisions to follow," the leaders said.

According to them: "The recent decision of the Supreme court in the case involving Ondo State between Jegede and Akeredolu has shown that our great party narrowly escaped the judges' gavel which would have sent our hard-earned victory in Ondo state into the waiting arms of the opposition party, the PDP."

"The narrow split decision of 4-3 deliberated amongst others on the legality of Gov. Mai Mala Buni as a sitting governor to run the affairs of our great party as Chairman of the caretaker committee. The minority decision contended that our great party ought to have been sent packing from the Ondo State Government House on the basis that Gov. Mai Mala Buni being a siting governor and also concurrently serving as Chairman of the APC caretaker committee offends Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and our own Article 17 of the APC Constitution, having signed the nomination with which Gov. Akeredolu was selected as our party's candidate in Ondo State.

"The said minority decision portrayed that the official actions of Gov. Mai Mala Buni serving as Chairman of the APC Caretaker Committee in respect of our great party is a nullity. The council is of the opinion that the saving grace by the technicality-based majority judgment of the apex court wherein the non-joinder of the said chairman of the APC caretaker committee to the suit was the basis for our narrow escape should be something with which we should not further gamble.

"It must be known that the decision by our great party to proceed with the ward congresses in Delta state and across the country is a 'gamble taken too far'. Perhaps it is pertinent to take the party through memory lane via one of the most recent ill fortunes of the party in Zamfara state, where all the victories of the party in that state were overturned in one fell swoop. The Zamfara State episode promises to be a child's play in terms of the monumental kill-stroke which this decision is positioned to deal to our great party if not reversed.

"Assuming, but not conceding, that the contrary interpretations of this clear and un-ambiguous judgment by forces who wish to go ahead with this botched congresses were probable, the question that must be answered is that; 'should we gamble the entire ambition, fortunes and structure of our great party on probabilities'?

"The resort to reasoning by temporarily suspending these ward congresses until a new leadership which comes without any legal liabilities is inaugurated will cost the party nothing and consequently leave the same with a clear future not hindered by any pending legal death-blow. Let us eschew ego and personal ambitions and be properly guided on this.

"On another hand, the said fatal decision to go ahead with the said ward congresses was made without consideration to the fact that the same was already procedurally botched in Delta state and many other states as well, where pockets of court litigations have already been set in motion. In particular regard to our dear Delta state, the events have been particularly an embarrassment. "Thousands of party faithful made payments worth millions of naira to the provided party accounts within the timetable stipulated in the guidelines, but were not issued with forms. This is coming in the light of revelations given by the party agents sent for the exercise, wherein the said forms were hijacked by fellows, who are loyal to a man that has done nothing more than to cause rancor within the party ranks due to his personal interests.

"However, the said forms which were hijacked were subsequently distributed to the un-grounded loyalist of this stakeholder even though no payments were made to the bank. The said hijacked forms as at today the 31st day of July 2021, have not been submitted to the party. The question that comes to mind has to do with the essence of the unnecessary hijack of same.

Delta APC passes vote of confidence on Buni-led CECPC

However, the Delta State Caucus of the APC, yesterday, passed a vote of implicit confidence on the Governor Buni-chaired Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC for the successful conduct of ward congress of the party across the country.

The Caucus in a statement by Prophet Jones Ode Erue - Delta State APC Caretaker Chairman, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege - Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi - Current Senator representing Delta North Senatorial District, Air Vice Marshal Frank Ajobena - Former Military Administrator of Abia State, Olorogun Otega Emerhor- Member of Board of Trustees of APC & Governorship candidate 2015 and 17 others, expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the ward congress.

The statement read in part: "The attention of the Delta State Caucus of the All Progressives Congress has been drawn to yet another unnecessary attack on leadership of our great party by mischief-makers operating under the false and lawless style of 'Delta State APC Leaders Council'. Few but noisy, they are bent on derailing the broadly successful Governor Mai Mala Buni-chaired Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC, but it will never happen on our watch.

"Mainly, the grouse of this 'Axis of Artificial Troubles' against the CECPC is its total support for an all-inclusive growth strategy for our Party in Delta State. A strategy that is working miracles everywhere in Delta, as the APC continues to take new grounds, thanks to the purposeful leadership of the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the commitment of the State Caretaker Committee ably led by Prophet Jones Erue and the commitment of this Caucus. We are pleased with the CECPC's preference for pragmatic, result-driven politics instead of narrow, selfish and unproductive politics.

"Following the recent decision of the Supreme Court in Jegede V. Akeredolu, some hastily wrote and released supposedly "confidential" memos to the public to threaten, blackmail and stampede the CECPC from carrying out its hugely important assignment as delegated by our NEC - the highest organ of our Party.

"However, the futility of that scheme was smartly exposed and buried by many, including the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami and our own Deputy President of the Senate. Confused about their dead-on-arrival plot to sabotage our Party from within, they have chosen to insult leaders who rallied our members to respect the directive of our Party to participate in the hugely successful Ward Congress of yesterday, Saturday, 31st July, 2021."

Vanguard News Nigeria

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