Lagos State and Arigbaruwo’s controversial suit against APC’s caretaker committee
Lagos State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) and one of its members, Chief Lateef Arigbaruwo, are engaged in a game of hide and seek over the court suit filed by the latter, challenging the creation of the Caretaker and Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee.
The APC National Executive Committee (NEC) had at a virtual meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, on June 26, 2020, sacked the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) headed by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
In a statement by its chairman, Chief Tunde Balogun, the Lagos State APC denied Arigbaruwo and his case at the Federal High Court seeking the invalidation of the Mai Mala Buni committee.
Although the sacking of the NWC followed the unceasing leadership crisis following Oshiomhole’s suspension by his ward executives in Etsako West, the anticipated end to the hostilities continued to elude the party.
Crisis Of Leadership
Absence of peace has been the lot of the governing party ever since Oshiomhole succeeded his kinsman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun after the party’s 2018 national convention.
Under Oshiomhole, APC lost the Zamfara State governorship election to the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as well as non-participation in the Rivers State gubernatorial poll.
Intriguingly, the APC NWC under the immediate past Edo State governor could not address most of the grievances that trailed the party’s 2018 congresses from the state through the local governments and wards across the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari, had in attempt to solve the crises variously set up reconciliatory committees, including those headed by the APC national leader, Bola Tinubu and pioneer interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, but all ended in futility.
In the bid to prosecute its mandate, the Akande committee received not less than 170 petitions from aggrieved members, most of them bordering on the outcome of the 2018 congresses. Unfortunately, the former Osun State governor could not resolve any.
At a point, some state chapters like Ondo, Ekiti and Edo among others expressly rebuffed the Akande’s committee, denying there was any issue to be resolved in their states, which was a far cry from the realities on the ground and developments in the party.
The crisis actually led to the suspension of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, after they were accused of anti-party activities that led to President Buhari losing in bot states during the 2019 presidential election.
The Ogun State chapter was not insulated from the infighting in the party, because former Governor Ibikunle Amosun went against the party directives to support Adekunle Akinlade as the governorship candidate of Allied Peoples Movement (APM), against the APC candidate, Dapo Abiodun, who eventually won the election. Amosun was also suspended by the NWC under Oshiohole.
Even within the NWC, the former national chairman was also at loggerheads all through his tenure with some executive members of the committee just, as he battled with Governor Obaseki over the control of Edo State chapter, which culminated into his (Oshiomhole) controversial suspension.
While he challenged the matter in court, the inauguration of legislators in the Edo Assembly that was a then factionalized, with the majority supporting the erstwhile national chairman and the minority queuing behind Obaseki.
But amid all these crises, embittered members blamed Tinubu, through whose support and backing threw up Oshiomhole as APC’s national chairman, for instigating the problems ahead of his (Tinubu) perceived 2023 presidential ambition.
All these festered until the Court of Appeal in Abuja on June 16 2020 affirmed the ruling of a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Jabi that had on March 4 upheld Oshiomhole’s suspension.
While Oshiomhole was battling with his suspension, the Southern zone, which was to produce the acting national chairman in accordance to the party’s constitution, had its own issue.
The appointment of the former Deputy National Chairman, Otunba Niyi Adebayo from Ekiti as minister by President Buhari created a vacuum. But, instead of the Southwest leaders to allow Adebayo’s replacement to come from Ekiti, it rather decided to push forward the late former governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi despite Ekiti State’s choice of Gbenga Aluko.
The Southwest leader’s preference of Ajimobi as the acting chairman was challenged in court by a member of Ekiti State chapter on the grounds that it was only the APC convention or NEC that has the right to change the zoning formula of national officers as stipulated by the constitution.
In the development, Tinubu and Oshiomhole were also accused of playing some political mind games, which the likes of Governor Kayode Fayemi and Amosun rebuffed. Both men were allegedly not on the same page with the erstwhile national chairman and the national leader.
As things played out, Ajimobi, who was been paraded as the acting national chairman in absentia while the National Vice Chairman (South South), Prince Hilliard Etta stood in for him, passed on. The former Deputy National Secretary, Chief Victor Giadom, with the backing of some anti- Oshiomhole, Tinubu forces also lay claim to the acting national chairman position, which further compounded the crisis in the ruling party.
While the scheming lasted, President Buhari remained aloof until the June 25 NEC meeting, when both Etta and Giadom were given the marching order just as the NWC was dissolved, thus paving the way for the Buni-led caretaker committee.
But like it happened in 2018, when the NEC moved to extend Odigie-Oyegun-led NWC’s tenure but with fierce opposition, especially when the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo a professor of law explained to his principal the implications of extending Odigie-Oyegun’s tenure before it was reversed, some members of the party also felt that the Buni caretaker committee contradicted the APC’s Constitution and that action taken by the committee may be null and void if challenged in court.
Testing The Constitution
A Lagos based lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, said the dissolution of Oshiomhole’s led NWC might have violated the party’s constitution, as Mr. Oshiomhole and others were not given fair hearing before their sack.
It was cited that Article 21 D (vi) of the APC Constitution stipulates that an officer or officers of the party must be given a right to fair hearing before they are removed by any organ of the party but that the NEC did not give the former national chairman and other members of the sacked NWC an opportunity to defend themselves against any allegation before they were removed, lawyers said.
Effiong noted that there is a very high chance that the dissolution of the APC NWC could be nullified if challenged in court, saying the way the NEC decisions were taken without reference to those affected by the decisions is an infraction.
Perhaps this position must have gingered Arigbaruwo, a Lagos APC member to challenge the Buni’s committee in court but the development contradicted Tinubu’s position that had earlier indicated support for the NEC decision.
During a visit by Buni and his committee members to Tinubu in Lagos on July 3, the national leader expressed confidence and sincere support for the APC’s Caretaker Committee.
According to Tinubu, “The President has spoken and his decision has been accepted. It is now beholden on all of us, as members of the APC, to recommit ourselves to the ideals and principles on which our party was founded.
“President Buhari is much more than a mere beneficiary of the party.”
The national also rebutted the insinuation that he had been marginalised by the leadership of the APC after it dissolved its NWC, sent Oshiomhole packing and the demise of Ajimobi, who was considered as another stooge he would have used like the former governor of Edo State. Rather said the party dissolved its NWC based on the recommendations of Buhari whom political critics said allegedly plotted cutting down on Tinubu’s influence at the party.
According to Tinubu, “Some of the reasons why the committee members visited are not far fetched. Of course, we have lost one of our brothers, Senator Ajimobi they came to express condolences to the family and also looked at our party APC, which is the cure for aches.
“So, we will apply ingredients of APC on what appears to be pains in our party to heal it. We discussed the future from here. “Sincerely, we have trust and respect for the character of the chairman of the caretaker committee and willing to support him to succeed in the party. That’s all.”
But the interpretation especially from mischief-makers and some political opponents of the national leader was that the president has completely shut him out and also nailed Tinubu’s 2023 presidential ambition. As a respondent in the party put it, “Arigbaruwo, is doing the biddings of the national leader to fight back. Lagos chapter vehemently stood against tenure extension for Odigie-Oyegun in 2018 at with the concept of Tinubu until the decision was reversed and Oshiomhole, a crony of Tinubu emerged as national chairman.”
To correct the negative impression, Balogun in his statement Saturday said the Lagos chapter has seen a report in a national newspaper that a purported APC member in the state had instituted a case at a Federal High Court, against the party’s National Caretaker Committee.
The party said it believe the person who instituted the suit is not a member of Lagos APC because it was highly doubtful that a bonafide member of the APC in Lagos in good standing would initiate such an action; we will, however, investigate the matter.
Reiterating the stance of the APC in Lagos, Balogun said, “No party member should file a court action regarding the June 25 NEC meeting of the party in Abuja particularly if that person has not even sought to initiate internal conflict resolution processes to resolve any dispute they may have with the NEC decisions.”
He said filing any such legal action is clearly against the spirit and letter of the party constitution, which prohibits legal action before a member exhausts all internal resolution mechanisms. Our resolve against institution of any court case by any member is in consonance with the constitution of the party.
“Lagos APC will not turn a blind eye to the flouting of the constitution in this manner. We are trying to restore order and decorum to the party and thus no member should seek to sow confusion. Any party member involved in the institution of any such case should withdraw the case from court forthwith. Failure to do so, will subject that party member to sanctions enumerated in the constitution, which may include suspension or expulsion.
“No party can flourish when members engage in instituting frivolous court cases for the sole purpose of causing disunity and turmoil. This is an act of gross indiscipline which cannot be sustained and which we will not allow.”
Also, another constitutional lawyer, Mr. Kayode Ajulo warned to party urged for urgent amendment of the party’s constitution to avoid future crisis.
Ajulo, who is a Secretary of the APC’s Appeal Committee for the Edo State Governorship Primary Election, said it was dangerous to have a ruling party without an adequate structure for dispute resolution.
He recalled the predicament of former Deputy National Chairman, North, Senator Lawal Shaibu, who after complaining of marginalisation in the NWC could not table his grievances.
Meanwhile, the Publicity Secretary of Lagos APC, Mr. Seye Oladejo, disclosed that the party would not want to preempt the leadership over whether any disciplinary action would be taken against Arigbaruwo.
Oladejo could not say whether the suit had been withdrawn from the court when contacted yesterday.
Oladejo further expressed the support of Lagos chapter fort the Buni committee, stressing that the national leader was also against the activities of mischief-makers and pledged his support for Buni.
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