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Confusion as APC gets four chairmen in one day

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While the All Progressives Congress (APC) is constitutionally required to have just one national chairman, a question of who currently occupies that position yielded different answers yesterday.

The confusion followed Tuesday’s ruling by an appeal court, which affirmed the suspension of National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole and created a vacuum that is now the subject of varied interpretations.

Those jostling for the seat in acting capacity are National Vice Chairman (South South) Prince Hilliard Eta and Deputy National Secretary Victor Giadom. While Hilliard enjoys the backing of 15 out of 21 members of the National Working Committee (NWC), Giadom has the support of Deputy National Organising Secretary Muhammed Sani Ibrahim.

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The squabble between both men peaked less than 24 hours after the party decided to appoint Deputy National Chairman (South) Abiola Ajimobi as Acting National Chairman.
Eta told journalists at the secretariat of the party in Abuja that his appointment was based on the realisation that Ajimobi was currently indisposed. He argued that his emergence as acting chairman was not only in line with the party’s constitution but was also ratified at the 45th meeting of the NWC held yesterday.

Flanked by NWC members, Eta declared the seat of Deputy National Secretary Giadom vacant, saying the latter resigned his membership of the NWC prior to the 2019 general elections to contest the polls in Rivers State, and could not, therefore, lay claim to the office of Acting National Chairman. He asked chieftains of the party from the South South geopolitical zone to close ranks and nominate a replacement for Giadom.

He insisted that the disqualification of Governor Godwin Obaseki from contesting the Edo State governorship primary is irreversible, having been ratified by the NWC.“Giadom must be in a fantasy land to create this kind of scenario. If he were still a very young man, I would have advised him to enroll in the military where he could go ahead to do a coup and become a sole administrator. But we are in a democracy and in a progressive party like the APC where the rule of law is held in high esteem,” said Eta.

He thereafter appointed a seven-member body headed by Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma to oversee the conduct of the Edo State governorship primary.Eta told The Guardian: “According to the constitution of our party, in the event that the chairman cannot act in his office or cannot act in his capacity, the constitution provides that the Deputy National Vice Chairman, from his zone take over the reins of leadership. In this circumstance, His Excellency Senator Ajimobi, the Deputy National Chairman (South) is to take over from Adams Oshiomhole.

“But he is indisposed. So, under the circumstance, my colleagues, 15 out of 19, elected me as the Acting Chairman until His Excellency Senator Ajimobi takes the reins of leadership. I am speaking on behalf of Senator Ajimobi. We are going to conclude the Edo primary process and begin proper healing process of the party.”

Giadom had earlier in the day declared himself Acting National Chairman. Addressing newsmen at the secretariat, he said the appointment of Ajimobi as Acting National Chairman was illegal and unconstitutional. He referred to a subsisting court order issued March 16, 2020 by Justice S. U. Bature (FCT /HC/M/6447/2020) as basis for his ascension to the new office.

“That order could not be immediately effected at that time because of the temporary reprieve Adams Oshiomhole got from the court of appeal on the same day.

“However, having removed the temporary reprieve yesterday (Tuesday) by the court of appeal, and considering the fact that we cannot allow for a vacuum, I most humbly inform you that I have assumed office as Acting National Chairman of our great party in compliance with the order of the court.” Giadom, flanked by Deputy National Organising Secretary Muhammed Sani Ibrahim declared the disqualification of Obaseki null and void, and directed governorship aspirants to report to the secretariat for a fresh screening exercise. He added that Emmanuel Ibediro ceases to be National Organising Secretary in line with an Abuja court order, suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/733//2018.

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This came as National Vice Chairman (South West) Bankole Oluwajana maintained: “Ajimobi is automatically the acting national chairman.” Dismissing insinuations that Ajimobi might be unable to lead the party on the grounds of health challenge, Oluwajana said: “As a member of the NWC, Ajimobi may not necessarily attend all the meetings because there are procedures in place.”

On Giadom’s declaration that Obaseki’s disqualification has been quashed, Oluwajana said: “In the first instance, the governor of Edo State has ceased to be member of the party since he resigned. It is therefore strange for anybody to say his (Obaseki) disqualification is quashed.”

But a member of the Ekiti State APC chapter, who did not want his name mentioned, disagreed that all South West NWC members are supporting Ajimobi. He argued: “There is still a ruling in court challenging the decision of the party to name Ajimobi as Deputy National Chairman (South) instead of the constitutional procedure which stipulates that someone from Ekiti should replace former Deputy National Chairman (South) Otunba Niyi Adebayo, who is now a minister.”

Also, lawyers for Akinleye Michael, a contestant for the position of Deputy National Chairman (South), yesterday, warned the NWC not to recognise Ajimobi as Acting National Chairman.

The law firm of Octodas Attorneys, in a letter sent to the NWC dated June 17, informed the committee that the court order directing the APC to maintain status quo, preceding the naming of Ajimobi for the vacant position of Deputy National Chairman (South), has been violated by the party.

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The lawyers argued that until the determination of the case (FHC/AD/CS/8/2020) filed at the Federal High Court, Ado Ekiti, on February 12, 2020, Ajimobi’s purported appointment as Deputy National Chairman (South), and now Acting National Chairman is null.

The letter reads in part: “Be it noted that if the party continues to recognise Abiola Ajimobi as Deputy National Chairman or Acting National Chairman, we will not hesitate to bring a contempt action against the party.

“May we advise that parties allow wise counsel to prevail in this matter in the overall interest of all, as anything done while proceedings are pending in court will be nullified by the court without much ado. You are advised to comply.”

MEANWHILE, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it would not extend the deadline for the conduct of the Edo State governorship primaries and submission of candidates’ names by political parties.

The commission insisted that parties must conduct their primaries within the next 10 days, in line with the timetable and schedule of activities.INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave this warning yesterday during a virtual meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).

Also, some youths from Edo State yesterday stormed the national headquarters of the African Development Congress (ADC) in Abuja to purchase expression of interest and nomination forms for Obaseki. According to the leader of the group, Smith Osazele Akaya, the move aims to put an end to the culture of political godfathers in Edo State.

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