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Intrigues as Tinubu suppresses internal dissent in Lagos APC

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Leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu delivers a speech during a rally organized to celebrate his 66th birthday in Lagos, on March 29, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / STEFAN HEUNIS

Except the Fouad Oki-led faction that organised a parallel state congress decides to take legal redress in the court of law, the Bola Ahmed Tinubu side, whose executive was among those inaugurated by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja on Monday, has won the battle.

Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State and National Leader of APC has once again proved his political strength over the opposition ‘within’ in terms of having the firm grip of Lagos politics like he did during the days of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) when he battled the leaders of Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, took over the party’s structure from them and transformed it into Action Congress (AC) in 2003, to sustain himself in power.

He was the only Southwest governor of the AD that was reelected for second term in 2003 while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) defeats his colleagues.

Tinubu also repeated his control of Lagos politics in 2007, when over 11 members of his cabinet wanted to succeed him against his preferred candidate and incumbent Minister of Power, Housing and Works, Mr. Babatunde Fashola.

While Tinubu was fighting the battle within his party on one side, he was also confronted with the operation ‘capture Lagos’ which the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the Lagos PDP governorship candidate, Mr. Musiliu Obanikoro in collaboration with federal security forces waged against him, yet he succeeded in installing his successor.

The national leader of the APC repeated same feat in 2015, when against all odds and the internally orchestrated crisis by some of his political protégés, including Fashola, he installed preferred governorship candidate, Akinwunmi Ambode.

This was aside the fact that the erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan’s-PDP Federal Government and the opposition governorship candidate, Mr. Jimi Agbaje invested so much federal might to overrun Lagos.

Two days ago, Tinubu scored another political victory, when the NWC had no choice but to inaugurate his side of the state executive along with other recognised state executives.

This left him with the full grip of Lagos politics and barring any circumstances between now and 2019, the possibility of him deciding who becomes the next governor of the state for the fourth time is not in doubt.

Genesis of the latest battle

The latest battle, which culminated into the first parallel state congresses held in the history of the ruling party in Lagos, 19 years after commencement of civil rule, started in 2014 when other arms of the APC merger; the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); the newPDP and some aggrieved members of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) felt the era of one man ‘dictating the pace’ should end in the party.

A slogan was then coined, which says “No more Baba so pe,” meaning, “No more Baba said so.”

The development generated bitter struggle for the APC governorship primary in 2015 when Tinubu’s close loyalists and beneficiaries insisted there must be free, fair and open primary for all elected positions instead of the usual consensus arrangement, which only meant mere endorsement of the leader’s choice.

The battle lasted till the July 22, 2017 local government elections in which Tinubu and Ambode successfully used the party’s structure under their control to ensure election of their candidates as chairmen of the 20 local governments and the 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs).

Some members of the party who felt sidelined in the process contested the outcome.

The opposition also felt the outcome of the 2017 council polls would give undue advantage to Tinubu and Ambode to determine the delegates ahead of the 2019 governorship primary election.

After serious and bitter complaints that placed the leadership of the Lagos APC against the National Legal Adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire, the national leader and the governor eventually had their way in taking total control of the party structure at the grassroots level.

But the internal opposition, which was allegedly working with the perceived cabal in the presidency, waited for another opportunity in the last ward, local government and state congresses to re-launch their offensive against Tinubu’s grip of Lagos.

When the tenure of the NWC and the state executives was initially extended by a year in February at the National Executive Council (NEC), the Lagos chapter was one of the first to kick and threatened to head to court, saying the extension was targeted at no other person than Tinubu with the aim of continuing the perceived marginalization of the national leader in Abuja.

The decision was eventually reversed on the advice and intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari and the party settled for congresses.

Thereafter, Oki, who served as the Director General of the campaign organisations of Tinubu in 2003, Fashola in 2007 and 2011 as well as that of Ambode in 2015 and was later appointed as Director General, Lagos Safety Commission before being sacked by the governor, formed the Broom United Movement (BUM), which major objective was to insist on free, fair and open primary in the party.

Other objectives of the movement include campaign against imposition and use of consensus candidates and the stoppage of one man’s dictatorial approach, which it considered as anti-democracy, and lack of internal democratic principle in the party.

The ultimate goal of Oki’s movement was to use the congresses to create fairness in the party by insisting that the ward, local government and the state congresses should not only be made transparent but must also be contested based on the constitutionally recognised 20 local government and 245 wards instead of 57 local government and 377 wards.

However, the movement accused the party leadership of using the 57 councils and 377 wards to contest the ward and local government congresses on which basis it decided to organise a parallel one on May 19 claiming legality and constitutionality of its action against what it described as the illegality of Tinubu’s group.

Post-May 19 parallel congresses

Just like the outcries that characterized the APC’s congresses, which in most cases were held at parallel venues across the country, the Lagos chapter was no exception.

Although, the APC State Congress Committee-led by Senator Uche Ekwunife and the delegations of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) observed the one held at the party’s headquarters in Ogba, Ikeja and declared that any other exercise outside the arena was null and void, Oki’s congress, which held at Lagos Airport Hotel, insisted that his was held in accordance with the party’s constitution and that of the Federal Republic.

Another factor the Oki laid claim on is that instead of the affirmation of officers, which was done by the other faction, its congress went through the normal process of voting.

It would be recalled that a day before the congress, names of anointed executives have circulated in the media.

Intrigues of inauguration

At first, the NWC through its spokesman, Bolaji Abdullahi gave the impression that any congress that was done outside the constitution would be nullified based on the recommendation of the committee set up to look into the crises after the congresses.

This position initially gave the Oki’s faction the false impression that the NWC has recognized its congress, which some media rushed to publish.

But the Lagos chapter through its spokesman, Biodun Salami said the party would challenge the NWC decision in court if it goes ahead to recognise Oki’s executive.

However an inside source told The Guardian that for the intervention of the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the general consensus at the NWC meeting where the decision was taken last week, was that the Lagos congress should be cancelled on the ground that it was based on 57 councils and 377 wards.

According to the source, it was Odigie-Oyegun who prevailed on his executives that it would be improper to rubbish Tinubu by cancelling the congress or recognising Oki’s faction.

He however pleaded that they should allow the state to harmonise the positions of the two factions.

But while the public was left in a fix in the early hours of Monday over which of the factions would be recognised by the NWC based on the statement credited to Abdullahi and the reaction of Salami, the shocker came that the chairman of Tinubu’s faction, Tunde Balogun was among the 36 state chairmen inaugurated by Odigie-Oyegun but with a condition that Lagos, Oyo and Delta should not inaugurate their executives until the issues with their congresses are resolved.

In a discussion with Abdullahi to clarify the confusion over the Lagos issue, the APC spokesman explained to The Guardian that contrary to what he said earlier before the committee set up to look into the crisis submitted its report that the Lagos executive inauguration would be put on hold until there is a resolution of the legitimacy of the number of councils, that “After due consideration of the report, we discovered that the congress was held based on 20 local government and in accordance with the constitution. We therefore had no choice than to reverse ourselves and inaugurate the state executive.”

However a pertinent question being asked by people since Monday was whether Abdullahi’s explanation was a genuine one. One of the doubts over it was that he (Abdullahi) would have no moral justification to sit in council along with others to stop the faction loyal to Tinubu from being inaugurated considering the underhand dealings that allegedly took place behind the scene.

Another issue was the far-reaching implications of not recognising Tinubu’s faction to the chances of the party especially when the national convention is around the corner and the general election fast approaching. The presidency was alleged to have intervened to forestall another crisis in the party, most especially the one that would involve Tinubu.

Oki alleged bribery, compromise

Oki in a statement yesterday however alleged bribery and compromise by some members of the NWC to subvert the rule of law and constitutionality of the congresses in Lagos State.

He also called on President Buhari and Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo and other leaders of the party to direct Odigie-Oyegun and the national headquaters to reverse itself as their action was against the decision of the NWC.

The statement reads: “We members of the APC in Lagos State seeking for a truly internally democratised party enshrined in the rule of law, equity, fairness and justice are deeply concerned about the developments in the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led NWC and its rascality related to and following the purported swearing in of Mr. Tunde Balogun, as Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of our party today (Monday) in Abuja.”

Oki claimed that Odigie-Oyegun disregarded the decision of the NWC meeting of Friday June 1 2018, which was to consider reports of congresses from states across the federation.

He stressed: “We are concerned by allegations made by a member of the NWC at the instant meeting of bribery and compromise by some members of the NWC to subvert the rule of law and constitutionality of the Congresses in Lagos State.”

He added that the decision of NWC is to suspend the swearing in of anyone from Lagos State, having decided that what took place was illegal and to find a political solution through the five-man committee empanelled to look into the matter.

Meanwhile, Salami in a reaction dismissed the allegation of bribery and compromise by Oki. He said the dissdent members of the party were only looking for a cover up.

According to Salami, “We know the national chairman is part of them and at what point they parted ways is what we cannot say.”

Salami further disclosed to The Guardian that Oki and his group are under investigation to unravel the level of damages they might have done to the party and how to address it.

According to him, “The event of yesterday in Abuja really exposed a lot of thngs and very soon the whole world would know who is trying to destroy our party, not only in Lagos but in the country.”


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