Untold story of APC’s NEC meeting and how Oshiomhole survived ouster plot
By the time the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of All Progressives Congress (APC) ended last Friday in Abuja, it became obvious that the party’s leaders did not buy into the impeachment plot hatched against the party’s national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole. It was gathered that Oshiomhole’s saving grace came from President Muhammadu Buhari, who did not accede to the quest of aggrieved APC chieftains to remove the party’s national chairman.
Sensing that their major reason for insisting on the NEC meeting was ripe for execution, Zamfara State chairman, Lawal Liman, was signaled to move a motion of impeachment, only for the meeting to be brought to an abrupt end at the instance of Oshiomhole, who was said to have called instead for an adjournment motion.
Sources within the contentious NEC meeting confided in The Guardian that President Buhari, being conscious of the fact that the event could turn rowdy, took his leave to the consternation of anti-Oshiomhole forces led by Governors Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) amongst others who had warmed up for a showdown with Oshiomhole.
At the end of the inconclusive NEC meeting, such salient issues such as the need to reconcile Oshiomhole and Obaseki, filling existing vacant positions in the National Working Committee (NWC) were not ratified during the NEC as a result of the development. However, Buhari, who had been inundated with allegations of high-handedness against Oshiomhole prior to the meeting, reminded his party stalwarts of the need to ensure cohesion, just as he called for concerted efforts to ensure that APC does not “collapse” even before the end of his second term tenure in 2023.
Also, aside from the quest by Obaseki and Akeredolu to secure their second term tickets on the APC platform next year, the renewed push for Oshiomhole’s removal was seen as their last joker, particularly as the national chairman is widely seen as Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s man Friday.
Those who want to control the party machinery even before the buildup to the 2023 politics are also battling Oshiomhole. Prior to the NEC parley, the APC National Secretariat turned out as a battleground in the early hours of Friday as a pro and anti-Oshiomhole supporters brandishing stones, cutlasses, and sticks engaged in a free-for-all clash forcing passersby to seek alterative routes. It took the intervention of heavily armed security personnel, who fired several canisters of teargas, to restore peace before the NEC parley commenced at about 4.00 pm on Saturday.
Battle for 2023 presidency
WHAT could not be mistaken in the brouhaha was the fact that the battle for who succeeds Buhari when he completes his final term in 2023 has begun in earnest and the ruling party was receiving the impact.
Notable in the ensuing division among members of APC’s NEC is the struggle between forces loyal to the former Lagos State governor, Tinubu, and those stoutly opposed to him, particularly the forum of state governors elected on the party’s platform who have an axe to grind with Oshiomhole.
A member of APC NEC, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian: “The whole issue revolves around the race for the presidency in 2023. All those who want to run for president have the feeling that he (Oshiomhole) is a Bola Tinubu’s man.
“And coming from ACN (defunct Action Congress of Nigeria), they believe that Tinubu’s wings had to be clipped before the race actually starts. Now all the power blocs who see Tinubu as a serious threat feel like ‘okay, let us combine now to deal with Tinubu’s man before our fight later.’”
It was also gathered that state governors angling for the presidency have also been split into various power blocs with the Ekiti State helmsman, who is also the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, with key allies like Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) on the one side. Fayemi, who edged out Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai in the race for NGF chairman, was said to have settled for Mr. Atiku Bagudu as his possible running mate in the event he achieves his goal.
The Ekiti State governor, who is serving second term also enjoys the support of Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State, while the group, led by el-Rufai, has Governors Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Simon Lalong (Plateau) to his side in the plot to succeed President Buhari in 2023.
But the pro-Tinubu group boasts of governors of Lagos, Osun, Ogun, Kano, Katsina and Kwara States, majority of chairmen in the 36 states, members of National Assembly, NEC members as well as NWC and non-NWC members.
In the unfolding stratification, there are also the governors from Gombe, Yobe and Nasarawa States, who for strategic reasons prefer to be seen as the ‘unaligned governors’ pending where the pendulum swings to a particular group. Sources explained that the plot to unseat Oshiomhole was the backlash from the outcome of the governorship primaries in Zamfara, Ogun and Ondo States, particularly the ongoing schemes preceding the governorship primary for the Edo State governorship poll next year.
It was gathered that the emergence of David Lyon as Bayelsa State Governor-elect was also part of the trouble that the Oshiomhole-led NWC faced during the riotous NEC meeting.
A source summarized the power play thus: “The plot was supposed to succeed on Friday if it was not doomed to fail. You can see the whole issue for over six months; now they have been calling for his removal. Lawal Shuaibu sent that letter, ‘let’s go to NEC, now we have gone to NEC and nothing happened.’
“All these machinations have nothing to do with Oshiomhole as chairman. Of course, he has his own problems, because, yes, he is autocratic coming from the labour background. Running the party to him is like a fight, as every enemy has to be crushed. So, he is not diplomatic.
“So that is not the issue. He is not new on the political turf having served as chairman of NLC and governor for eight years. He has not changed anything about his character. I think the Bagudu-led Progressive Governors’ group thought they had control of the situation, but when NEC convened, they found out really they don’t have the numbers.
“Of all the NWC members, majority knows the imperfection of the chairman, but like Buhari said, constitutionally how do you just say you have removed the chairman of the party because there are set down rules and regulations. For now, it has to be back to the drawing board.
“What they actually wanted to do was to take control of NWC. You know Lawan Shuaibu, the Deputy National Chairman (North), was suspended. They wanted to start the fight from there if he were denied entry into the venue. They decided to let the NEC take place. What can they do?
“So, he was allowed to enter. They thought if they moved and the chairman is removed, in the absence of the chairman, the deputy national chairman should act, but he has to come from the zone that produces the chairman. The Deputy National Chairman (South) Niyi Adebayo, is now a minister.”
The source hinted that since the position of Deputy National Chairman (South) is vacant, the plotters reasoned that the next in line was the Deputy National Vice Chairman (North), Lawal Shuaibu.
“So the question was, how can you have him in that position?” the source added. “That was why they fixed another meeting in Jos, Plateau State on Monday in the name of APC Governors’ retreat with President Buhari in attendance so that after the coup, Lawal Shuaibu would be in Jos as APC National Chairman.”
Expatiating further on the failed impeachment, the source stated: “The idea is for Fayemi to have control of the NWC with Shauibu as chairman, but the scheme was countered, because while they had signatories of 33 members, the Oshiomhole camp was able to corner 87 members, excluding NWC members, governors, and National Assembly members.
“It was in realisation of the fact that they could not move the motion for a no-confidence vote on Oshiomhole that a counter-motion was readily moved by the Enugu State Chairman, who had an overwhelming number of supporters.
“The Bayelsa State election brought up another challenge. The Bagudu camp seems to have already promised to assist Lokpobiri Heineken to add up to their number. So, the governor of Jigawa actually led the meeting to plead with Oshiomhole that David Lyon should not be allowed to emerge because he is a militant apart from not being uneducated.
“You know, he is in charge of the contract for overseeing pipelines and they are of the opinion that he too is a typical militant. So they felt he is not educated and felt he was a militant and so Lokpobiri should be assisted to become governor so that he could add up to their number. And unfortunately, the primaries were conducted.
“The governor of Yobe, who was sent to conduct the primaries, was neither here nor there. While Timipre Sylva’s thought he was with him, Bagudu’s group thought he was with them. In the end, Lyon emerged. So that is also part of their real fight with the chairman. That is the emergence of the Bayelsa governor.
“Because you can see that the most vocal critic of the chairman happens to come from Zamfara. They are still bitter he didn’t allow them to have their way. The truth is, the constitution of the party is very clear. States can only conduct primaries in respect of local government councilors and chairmen. Any other election is the duty and responsibility of NWC. I think Abdulaziz Yari was desperate. He wanted somebody to take over from him to cover up his tracks.”
However, Liman vowed that his group comprising states chapter chairmen like Arc. Bala Kangiwa (Kebbi), Habibi Sara (Jigawa) Ade Adetimeli (Ondo) Abdullahi Abbas (Kano), Abba Yaro, Omotosin Paul (Ekiti), Mohammed Jibril Iman (Niger) Anslem Ojezua (Edo), Philips Shekwo (Nasarawa), Rtd Air Com Ikeda (Kaduna), Lakep Dabah (Plateau), Shitu Shitu (Katsina), Isah Sadiq Acida (Sokoto) will not back down on their demand for the removal of Oshiomhole.
It is possible that by quickly adjourning the NEC meeting Oshiomhole merely postponed the battle for the soul of APC. His accusers alleged that the national chairman was ignoring President Buhari’s admonition that the party’s organs at the state, local councils and ward levels be strengthened and accorded due respect in accordance with the powers and responsibilities conferred on them by the party’s constitution. They also alleged that the tenets of internal democratic practices has taken a downturn, principally due to the dictatorial and despotic tendencies of Oshiomhole, who they said has usurped the powers of APC’s NEC.
In their words: “Most, unfortunately, the facade conducted by the National Chairman today, the 22nd of November 2019, at a NEC meeting, leaves much to be desired. He completely ignored Mr. President’s advice and rather defied all known rules for meetings by precluding contributions from members and ending the meeting abruptly without achieving anything. This is most unfortunate and undesirable.
“Arising from the foregoing and having regards to the huge responsibilities bestowed on us as officers of the party and in the overriding interest of our members, we are left with no option but to demand that Comrade Adams Oshiomhoie resign his position, as national chairman in other to stem the slide and provide an enabling environment for genuine healing, reconciliation and the practice of true democracy within the party across the country.”
But in a swift reaction, the chairman of the Forum of States’ Chairmen of APC, Mr. Ali Bukar Dalori, alongside Mr. Nelson Alapa (Chairman Forum of Non-NWC NEC members) disowned the Lawal-led group, stressing that the NEC meeting held successfully.
While insisting that there was no iota of truth that the NEC meeting ended abruptly as everybody who wanted to contribute was given the opportunity to air their views, the forum expressed confidence in the Oshiomhole-led NWC, even as it admonished the Liman group to change their ways and allow peace reign in the party.
Governor el-Rufai, who bared his mind on the outcome of the NEC meeting, denied that there was a plot to remove Oshiomhole from office, saying: “There is nothing that was discussed in the meeting about pro and anti-Oshiomhole. You have to understand that leading a national party is a risky exercise.
“You will have your supporters and you will have your adversaries and this is normal and what is important is that in the political party there must be expressions of various views; there must be the accommodation of tendencies, but what should never be allowed is to engage in anti-party activities. We didn’t even discuss that because it is not yet a major issue for the attention of NEC.
“The meeting discussed the audited account and the draft budget of the party and referred both of them to the finance committee to consider and bring back to the next NEC meeting for approval. That was essentially the biggest thing discussed.”
APC National Publicity Secretary, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, who acknowledged that the NEC meeting was the shortest ever held since the formation of the party in 2014, maintained that it was peacefully conducted without any form of rancour.