Thursday, 8th June 2023

Respite for Oshiomhole as APC’s NEC meets amid protests

By Leo Sobechi (Lagos) and Adamu Abuh (Abuja)
22 November 2019   |   3:49 am
Despite obvious ambush by state governors elected on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) against the party’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, today’s meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC)

President Buhari

Despite obvious ambush by state governors elected on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) against the party’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, today’s meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) would not discuss his speculated removal. Insider sources said the mood of critical stakeholders, especially the presidency, is that there is no need to change a winning team in reference to the outcome of the recent Bayelsa and Kogi States’ governorship polls.

However, in the absence of removal, the NEC meeting, which was preceded by a caucus meeting yesterday, would adopt strategies for the replacement of some vacant offices in the National Working Committee (NWC). The offices to be filled include those of National Secretary, National Deputy Chairman (South) and National Auditor, whose former occupants, Mai-Mala Buni, Niyi Adebayor and George Moghalu, have been displaced by other elective and appointive offices.

While Buni was elected on March 9, 2019, as Yobe State governor, Adebayor was appointed into the federal cabinet as Minister of Trade and Investment, just as Moghalu became the Director-General of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).

Although the replacement for the vacant offices ought to be through a mini-convention, sources within the ruling party disclosed that in a bid to avert possible recriminations and further delays, the caucuses to which the positions are zoned have been mandated to forward names of consensus candidates to today’s NEC meeting.

Coming more than one year after the last meeting, today’s NEC had been a subject of much speculation, particularly against the background of growing discontent within the party over the national chairman’s style of leadership.

Some high net-worth stakeholders, including the Forum of State Chairmen, were said to have latched on Oshiomhole’s refusal to convene the NEC as evidence of his sole-administration approach to the management of the ruling party and therefore calls for his removal. At the height of the building, the tension was the call by the Director-General of Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Alhaji Salihu Mohammed Lukman, on the national chairman to convene NEC or tender his resignation from the position.

Lukman, who spoke on behalf of APC governors, explained that most of the crises threatening the stability and internal cohesion of the party, including the purported suspension of the national chairman by his Edo State local government chairmen, as such only the NEC could avert or resolve.

As APC’s NEC holds today, most observers believe that it would afford the governors the opportunity to exert their own pound of flesh on the national chairman, especially following the judicial pronouncement on the fate of former Bayelsa State deputy governorship candidate. But contrary to the speculations of an uproarious NEC bordering on calls for Oshiomhole’s ouster, sources embedded in the presidency confided in The Guardian that those who would have championed the national chairman’s removal have seen him as a “loyal and obedient servant.”

Said the source: “Back in his home state, he is embattled. The chairman is also at loggerheads with the state governors. So that makes it inevitable that his only line of support is the presidency, therefore since he has been carrying out orders effectively, nobody is talking about his removal any longer.”

Perhaps, it could be part of the assurances of the safety of his office that President Muhammadu Buhari is billed to attend the NEC meeting at the APC National Secretariat, Abuja. It was also gathered that apart from filling the existing vacant positions in the NWC, the meeting would look into the raging feud between the National Chairman and Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, which revolves around the state’s 2020 gubernatorial poll.

Without doubt, the NEC would examine certain developments arising from the conduct of the recent governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States, notwithstanding that Oshiomhole seems to be earning some plaudits for the feat. The national chairman has been at the centre of storms over his handling of state structures. For instance, yesterday, a band of protesters stormed the national secretariat demanding his immediate removal. While accusing Oshiomhole of failing to uphold the party’s constitution, the protesters urged President Buhari, a former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other national leaders of APC, to prevail on him to step down.

The protesters, who brandished big banners, appeared in different groups with the inscription “Oshiomhole must go.” One of the leaders of the angry protesters, Iyoha Toni Osakbovo, from Edo State, said the protest is about saving the soul of APC as a national party.

“I’m from Edo State and I am a member of APC Patriotic Stakeholders Forum,” Osakbovo said. “We have come to save our party; the person that we gave the mantle to uphold our constitution, we have realised that he is the person attacking the constitution. He sworn to protect our great party but so far what we have seen is not what is working. He is the person attacking the constitution; he has factionalised the party in our state, Edo state. As I’m talking to you now he has created a faction in the party.

“We are begging Mr. President that by this motion I am going to move now to please save this party, because Adams Oshiomhole came to meet this party. There was a national chairman before Oshiomhole became chairman. We do not see the reason why Adams Oshiomhole will destroy this party.

“We are begging the president to come to our aid because the person that is supposed to uphold the constitution is now the person that is destroying the constitution. Our constitution is very clear; the National Working Committee (NWC) has no disciplinary power, but under Oshiomhole, the NWC is usurping the power of NEC.”

The protesters contended that the APC constitution did not at any point empower the NWC with disciplinary powers, wondering how come under Oshiomhole the issues are now different and pleaded with the president to start the process of healing.

But apparently incensed by the development, the Edo State APC caucus in the National Assembly rose from an emergency meeting and expressed their confidence in Oshiomhole’s leadership style. The Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Peter Akpatason who spoke on behalf of the caucus, made reference to the victories recorded by the APC in the controversial Kogi and Bayelsa governorship polls to buttress their position.

The forum of 36 states chairmen of All Progressives Congress (APC) had last week thrown their weights behind the Oshiomhole-led NWC of the party. The forum, in a statement by its chairman, Mr. Ali Bukar Dalori, maintained that the position of the Director-General of the APC Governors Forum, Mr. Salihu Lukman, on APC and Oshiomhole was not a true reflection of the position of the APC Governors.

The forum described Lukman as a man of questionable character who is being used by some disgruntled elements and even the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with a view to causing disaffection in the party. The states’ chairmen, who called on Lukman to resign his position, vowed that they could not continue to condone any act that could undermine the party.

Absolving Oshiomhole of blame over his inability to convene NEC, as at when due, the forum believed that Oshiomhole has done enough to reposition the party since last year.

They noted: “We want to tell the world that this man called Salihu Lukman is an enemy of the APC and he is being sponsored by some anti-democrats who are bent on creating the crisis in the party for their selfish interest. But we want to reiterate our support to the national chairman and once again pass a vote of confidence on the national chairman of our great party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

“We use this opportunity to warn trouble shooters and those sponsoring people like Salihu Lukman to cause disaffection in the party to desist from it because as chairmen of APC in the states, we can authoritatively say that it is the first time that states are given financial support during our elections. It happened in the past 2019 general elections. All the states were supported financially by the NWC to ensure the success of our party during the general elections.

“We are grateful to God that as a party, with the leadership of the current National Working Committee (NWC), led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, we successfully overwhelmed our opponents at the polls, re-electing our dear President, Muhammadu Buhari, maintained our dominance in the states and won overwhelming majority in the National Assembly. 

“The NWC galvanized other leaders of the party to ensure that we produce a national Assembly leadership that will work in tandem with the APC-led executive in ensuring that we give dividends of democracy which the party promised Nigerians. We as chairmen are shocked that Mr. Lukman and his co-travelers are not seeing this great feat achieved by the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC.”

It is possible that the situation in Edo State could end up with Oshiomhole retaining his position while Obaseki would be assured of his second term ticket depending on his willingness to issue a fresh proclamation for the united sitting of the state legislators.