The major huddle for President Muhammadu Buhari to run as the candidate of the All Progressive Congress, APC , in next year’s Presidential elections was cleared with Tuesday’s nod to the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party to retain their positions for another 12 months after the expiration of their tenure in June.
The elongation also favours party leaders from the ward to State levels.
But technically, it also signals the end of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s one-member reconciliation committee as it indicates that Chief Odigie-Oyegun now has the upper hand and the ears of President Muhammadu Buhari and his aides on the way forward for the APC and not the short-lived peacemaker of the party, Asiwaju Tinibu.
On February 6, 2018, President Buhari had given Tinubu a presidential mandate to reconcile all the warring factions of the party before the 2019 elections. But February 21, 2018, Tinubu, in a letter to President Buhari, identified Odigie-Oyegun as a clog in the wheel of his reconciliation process citing Kogi as one of the States where the National Chairman was thwarting his efforts. He got no reply from the President.
Tinubu had been pushing for a convention that would see to the exit of Chief Odigie-Oyegun, including conducting congresses from the ward to the national level. The constitution of the party provides for a four-year tenure for its executives. The current executives were elected in June 2014 for a four-year mandate, which is expected to lapse on June 30, 2018.
The elongation plan has exposed the rumbles in the belly of the party and triggered a new legal hurdle as it has triggered a court case with a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Imo State, Chief Okere Uzochukwu, who last Friday, approaching a Federal High Court in Abuja, challenged the extension of the tenure of members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
Uzochukwu, who said he was an aspirant to the state chairmanship position of the party in Imo State, contended in the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/219/2018, that the tenure extension was undemocratic and violates the provisions of the constitution, the Electoral Act and the constitution of the APC.
He argued through his counsel, Barr. Nnamdi Okere, that the extension of the tenure of the officials of the party at various levels was “the primary function and responsibility of the national convention” by virtue of the provisions of Article 13 and 13 (3) of APC constitution, 2014 (as amended).
He stressed that the tenure extension was unconstitutional and undemocratic since the national convention did not hold. The plaintiff urged the court to hold that the tenure extension for the NWC, the State Working Committees, as well as the local government and ward executive committees of the party commencing from June, 2018 to June 2019, “is illegal, unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect”.
He urged the court to compel the incumbent John Oyegun-led NWC and others to vacate their respective offices with effect from June 1, 2018, when they would have completed their four-year tenure.
The plaintiff also sought an order compelling INEC to “reject, cease to recognise and stop dealing with or having official communications with the Odigie-Oyegun- led National Working Committee” and others effective from from June 1, 2018 “for having spent the constitutionally allowed tenure of office”.
Politically, the elongation plan was a “smart” move to avert pre-election crisis and likely emergence of a splinter group if the congresses were allowed to hold. This was to avert the PDP disease of 2013, when the ‘New PDP’ emerged after the party’s convention and later merged with APC.
The forces aligned with President Buhari pushed for the extension because they don’t want to leave anything to chance as a new party executive especially at the centre may not be clearly and quickly committed to the re-election of the President.
It was assumed that Article 13 of the APC constitution empowers the NEC to carry out the functions of the convention, thus extending the tenure of the current NWC members and other executive committees at various levels. But it triggered silence and grumbles that by Tuesday night, there has been acrimony on the tenure extension with some saying that it contravenes the constitution.
Towards this, Chairman of the Governors’ Forum and Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, said the decision reached at the NEC meeting was a “mere expression of interest,” adding that it is only at the National Convention of the APC that a constitutional amendment can be carried out to extend the tenures of the executives.
According to Yari, “What has been done is a mere expression of interest. The power of the convention to extend tenure is exercised only by way of a constitution amendment. The power of the National Executive Committee of our party cannot go beyond doing so by way of constitution amendment. Article 30 of the APC constitution states that the ‘constitution and the schedules hereto can be amended only by the National Convention of the party.
“The process of amending the constitution is also expressly provided in Article 30 sub section 2. What was done today (Tuesday) was only an expression of a desire to extend the tenure of the Chief Oyegun-led national executive”.
To underscore the politics behind the plan, Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, who had earlier climbed on the back of the Odigie-Oyegun leadership to impose a new set of party executives in his state, was the one mandated to brief the media of the success of the elongation option. The new party leadership in Kogi state was publicly condemned by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The Kogi governor had been at loggerheads with James Faleke, a known protégé of Tinubu who currently represents Lagos at the House of Representatives and who as running mate to the late erstwhile APC governorship flagbearer in the state, Abubakar Audu, is believed to have been schemed out by powerful anti-Tinubu forces after Audu’s sudden death, before the 2015 governorship election was concluded.