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Parallel Congresses: Lagos APC factions blow hot as appeal begins

By Kehinde Olatunji
02 November 2021   |   1:30 am
The aftermath of factional state congresses held by All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State is still unsettling some members of the party, who have approached the Appeal committee set up by the national body.

The aftermath of factional state congresses held by All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State is still unsettling some members of the party, who have approached the Appeal committee set up by the national body.

Some aggrieved members have expressed confidence in the Appeal committee headed by Barr. Fatima Zahra Umar, others have sounded a note of warning that any attempt by the committee to do the bidding of the “godfather” by suppressing their ambitions would be resisted.

But Umar, who assured them of fair hearing, told the factional leaders that all petitions and complaints would be addressed without fear or favour.

The Appeal committee that held its first meeting on Monday invited stakeholders including: Governance Advisory Council (GAC) members, National Assembly members, State Executive Committee members, principal officers of the Lagos State House of Assembly, 20 local council Caretaker Executive Committee Chairmen, 10 Commissioners/Special Advisers from Lagos State Executive Council.

Others include: 20 local council chairmen, 20 Legislative Council Leaders, 20 Ward Chairmen (1per local government), 20 members each of the groups that have submitted petitions to the Appeal commitee (Lagos4Lagos group, Conscience group, AAMCO group, among others.

Umar stated that the committee was put together by the national headquarters of the party to look into any petition or complaint any group might have after the last state congress.

“We are here to right the wrongs and heal the wounds. We can always iron things out as a family. When there is unity, we can achieve great things as a family. You don’t throw away your family because you are upset. You don’t throw away your family because things do not go your way. We should not allow the people we took power from get back into power.

“We should not allow any disagreement within the family to distract us from our noble cause. I will operate an open door policy. Please feel free to tell us what went wrong so that we can fix it,” she said. Umar, who led the five-man committee, urged all members to forgive one another so that the party could move forward.

According to her, “Lagos is an example of what unity in a political party can achieve. Lagos is an example of what progressive leadership can achieve. Please, we are here at your service and we look forward to hearing from you, and we look forward to interacting with you.

According to her, as progressives, members of the party should obey the rule, do the right thing and follow due process and comply with guidelines to help the committee, stating that the committee would make recommendations to the APC National Caretaker Committee, that would make the final decision.

There was mild drama during the meeting as the elected factional chairman of the Lagos4Lagos group; Hon. Sunday Ajayi introduced himself as the authentic chairman of the party in the state. But Umar claimed she was not aware of his position and called for calm.

Speaking with The Guardian, Ajayi said he did not have faith in the committee, noting that the opening ceremony was biased, as there was no formal introduction of those that were present, a situation he described as an opportunity to act script. He, however, urged them to be focused and ensure that all parties are given fair chances.

Ajayi said, “What is the outcome of the Appeal committee that was set up for the ward and local government congresses? There’s no result to show for it and now you are bringing up another appeal committee for state congress, where are we heading? These issues should be sorted out one after the other.”

He noted that for the party to move forward, the time has come to put an end to impunity and imposition, saying this was what gave rise to their grievances.

“We don’t want anybody to impose a candidate on us few months to elections. During the 2019 governorship election, they brought a man from nowhere; a man that is not known to us and presented him as our governor. This must stop! Lagos must work for Lagos. Lagos APC is not a one-man affair. We must collectively decide who takes what position in the party. We are the only faction that did ward and local government congresses while the sitting governor did not attend his local congress congress, which means it didn’t take place. This is wrong.”

Ajayi added that the party in Lagos has disintegrated; stressing that there is a serious crisis in the party. He said, “Apart from the emergence of factions, I can tell you for free that there is a serious crisis in the party. How many of the delegates attended state congress? They were fighting within themselves. Even a group led by former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had its state congress. If you are alleging that Lagos4Lagos is working towards destroying the Lagos APC, this same Lagos APC has 2.5 million registered members and they contested a local government election without any faction contesting with them but they couldn’t record 600, 000 votes. So, has the house not disintegrated?

To save the party from imminent implosion, Ajayi said, “It is left to the national secretariat of the party, they have the facts and figures and they know what steps to take to salvage the situation. We have submitted results of our congresses and they have received and stamped them. We have also paraded our strength for them to see, so it’s left for them to do the needful.

“But whatever decision they take now will determine the performance of the party in the subsequent elections. In fact, it has actually started to affect the party. In 2019, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu became governor of the state with 11 per cent of the voting strength of Lagos State. He recorded 711, 000 votes out of over 6.6million. It can only dwindle if the needful is not done. They need to give us democratically elected officers to save the party from implosion.”

Speaking in the same vein, Chairman, Democrat group, one of the aggrieved groups in Lagos APC, Mr Fouad Oki said if nothing is done to address the grievances and fallouts of the state congress, it might have a negative impact on the outcome of the 2023 general elections in the state.

Oki expressed hope that the Appeal committee chairperson would stand by her words in looking at the process, law guiding the process and the party constitution.

He said all aggrieved groups are trying to exhaust all conflict resolution mechanisms before taking next actions. Also, Mr Jimi Shobayo of the Conscience Forum, another aggrieved group within the party, told the Appeal committee that all that the factions were asking for was fairness, equity and justice. He decried that various aggrieved groups within the party have not received results of the ward and local government areas congresses set up by the national headquarters of the party.

He said, “Let justice and equity be the watchword. What we are contending for is that there must be inclusiveness in the Lagos APC. APC in Lagos is one big family and what we are seeing today are minor issues and I believe they can be resolved. We are open to reconciliations,” he said.

On his part, the newly elected Publicity Secretary of the APC, Lagos State, Seye Oladejo, however stated that the party is one and there are no mainstream or factions in whatever guise in the state because all the congresses were as directed by the national secretariat of the party under the supervision of various congress committees.

He said, “We followed the rules and guidelines as published by the national secretariat of the party. The state congress was a huge success. It was held at the venue recognised by the national headquarters of the party and it was supervised by the seven-man member committee led by Chief Adebayo Adelabu deployed to Lagos state by the national.

“We used the delegates as forwarded by the national. The statutory delegates made up of political office holders who are members of our party from the governor, to members of his cabinet, the deputy governor, senators, and members of the House of Representatives, local government chairmen and councillors and all other statutory delegates and five state delegates from each of the 245 wards in the state that was how the list of 1,615 delegates were generated. Our congress was witnessed by the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC), at national and state.

“So, you need to ask those who claimed they held a factional state congress how they generated their list of delegates. What you’ll hear from them is laughable. The APC state congress wasn’t an all-comers’ congress. They need to go and learn the rudiments of politics because they have no idea what they are talking about. They just gathered somewhere and said they were holding a congress. They should learn to crawl before running. They need to learn the rope, so as far as we are concerned the state congress was hugely successful and that’s it.”

He added that it was sad that some of the aggrieved members are bewildered by their ambitions and it is getting clearer by the day that what they are doing is an exercise in futility.

“It will end in failure because it is a recipe for failure. Although there is an appeal committee in place, I can assure you that with all the facts I have stated earlier, the outcome of that committee is predictable; all the factions are going to fail just like they failed at the local government and ward appeal committees.”

A Political Economist and member of APC, Mr. Ayo Oyalowo described the situation the party found itself as unfortunate, stating that while consensus is good it should not be imposed on all stakeholders.

For him, the party has refused to learn from the mistake of the party they took power from and has decided to copy hook line and sinker all the unpalatable tendencies they were known for.

He said, “Consensus should be what everyone agreed to do, not what you impose on others, it must involve the buy-in of every stakeholder. You don’t wait for people to campaign for a particular position, you don’t wait for people to buy forms and traverse the length and breadth of their state and then on the last day you now say you are doing consensus without carrying such people along.

“Although, we know a committee will be set up to handle this, we could have avoided all these things from the beginning. The truth is, we have refused to take corrections. We refused to learn from the mistakes of the party we took power from, we decided to copy hook line and sinker all the nonsense that they used to do, rather than become a better party when we promised change. This is very unfortunate and sad, I never prayed for this to come but it has come and so we have to face it.”

Oyalowo added that the party needs a rebirth, to reorganise itself in such a way that everybody would be carried along. He said, “We took power, we promised change, we said we are going to do things correctly, we are not going to copy, that we are going to be better but we didn’t get better, but rather start acting exactly the way they used to act.

“The issue is that APC must have a rebirth and the rebirth means, as a political party we have to re-organise ourselves in such a way that everybody is carried along. We do not want a party of exclusion where only people who are the friends of somebody or who know somebody get something. It should be a party where everything is open to everybody.”

Jide Adeniran also known as Jandol said there was a need for the national body of the party to look into the affairs of the party in the Southwest.

He said, “Those that are governing the party in the Southwest are in the minority, Lagos for instance. It’s so unfortunate when you hear the word discipline and you look at the quarter this is coming from. Our chairman that was elected (Ajayi) is ready to extend his hand of fellowship to others and we will accommodate them. If politics is a game of numbers, they cannot say to us that they have got the numerical strength.”

The APC Director Organisation, Prof. Ussiju Medaner, urged aggrieved members to seek the modalities laid down by the party to solve their grievances.

He said, “The party has put in place mechanism to resolve conflict, the first is the appeal committee, second is the reconciliation committee and thirdly, the report will be submitted to the Party’s Caretaker and Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), which is the final arbiter to reconcile members.”