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With Banire, Lagos APC internal bickering gets messier


APC National Legal Adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire

Since the All Progressives Congress (APC) defeated the erstwhile ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 general elections, one of the things that the party has been noted for is internal bickering, not just at the centre but also across almost all the states where it is in control.

Unfortunately still, the ruling party in the last two years has also been unable to reconcile itself with its policies and articulate same in clear terms to Nigerians particularly as it concerns the purpose of taking over the reins of government.

The party is always been identified with one story or the other that are synonymous with internal crises. As an amalgam of political platforms that just got the instruments of power, the party started on a wrong footing on June 9, 2015 with the election of the leadership of the National Assembly where it incidentally has majority control.

That initial crisis saw the emergence of Dr. Bukola Saraki as the President of the Senate and Mr. Yakubu Dogara as the Speaker, House of Representatives against the desire of party leaders.

The crisis got deeper when the presidency had a headlong collision with the legislature on the appointments of principal officers of the Senate in particular, where Saraki allegedly flouted the order of the party on the premise that the National Assembly is an independent body that is not subject to party interference or external influence. The alleged consequence of the “insubordination” was his (Saraki) accusation and prolonged trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).

Apart from the series of crises the APC had at the federal level, which of course led to what Nigerians now regarded as the emergence “Abuja Cabal” that has allegedly hijacked the power of presidency, the ruling party is not known for peace in states like Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Taraba among many others.

In Lagos State, which is the bastion of opposition politics since 1999 until 2015 and where much of the galvanization for the formation of the APC was conducted being the home turf of the man behind the merger, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the ongoing faceoff between the National Legal Adviser of the party, Dr. Muiz Banire and the state chapter of the APC is taking a new dimension.

Political analysts believe that if the Lagos crisis is not amicably resolved, it might affect the fortunes of the Southwest geo-political zone in the political calculations of the country in the nearest future.

The cracks in the Lagos chapter of the party became public when it was rumoured that some powers within the state did not want President Muhamadu Buhari to appoint the immediate past governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola as a minister.

The fight became so obvious that some interests within the party allegedly went as far as releasing damaging information about Fashola, who, despite the onslaught got three ministerial portfolios, Works, Housing and Power, from Buhari.

Those fingered to be behind Fashola’s ordeal then were no other than the incumbent governor of the state, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode and the national leader of the party, Tinubu along with others who, supposedly, are not on the same page with the immediate past governor.

After the Fashola ministerial appointment ordeal, the Lagos chapter found itself in another messy waters when Ambode openly accused the Minister of deliberately frustrating the state’s efforts at reconstructing the Lagos Airport Road, which has been in contest between the former PDP Federal Government and the state as far back as the tenure of Tinubu.

Fashola was however forced to come out publicly to explain himself a situation that exposed the dept of the hatred, bickering and politicking going on among the Lagos APC stalwarts.

However, the ongoing misunderstanding between the Banire and some members, as observed by some concerned leaders, is not only sending a damaging signal to the integrity of the APC but also indicating that something is fundamentally wrong with a ruling party that is battling to manage a situation where there are issues surrounding the state of health of Mr. President, high rate of insecurity and economic downturn.

The latest mudslinging between Banire and the party was the suit filed against him (Banire) by the Deputy Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Wasiu Eshilokun Sanni over forgery.

In the suit, Sani is asking the Lagos High Court to remove Banire over forgery of his purported withdrawal letter from the 2015 election into Lagos Island Constituency 1 of the House.

Sani is also seeking the court to remove Banire over anti-party activities and breach of Constitution. The Deputy Speaker who filed the suit alongside two APC chieftains, Babatunde John Kehinde and Alhaji Kazeem Olatunji, is asking the court to declare Banire as not a fit and proper person to keep occupying the office of the party’s National Legal Adviser owing to the forgery of the purported letter of withdrawal, series of anti-party activities and breach of several provisions of the APC Constitution.

In a 37-paragraph supporting affidavit detailing Banire’s atrocities, Sanni averred that having scaled through the nomination and screening of aspirants processes, he contested the primaries of APC on December 2, 2014 along with seven other aspirants and emerged as the party’s candidate for election into Lagos Island Constituency 1 of the House of Assembly by pooling 186 votes out of the total number of 279 valid votes cast, with his closest rival, one Akeem Masha pooling a distant 70 votes.

Before Sani’s suit, on Tuesday July 18, four days to the July 22 local council elections and coincidentally, the same day a rerun primary was held for the chairmanship candidate of Odi Olowo Ojuwoye Local Council Development Area (LCDA) in Mushin, Banire’s ward, thousands of APC faithful almost shut down business activities around Ikeja when they stormed the Lagos House, House of Assembly and APC secretariat, demanding for immediate expulsion of the National Legal Adviser from the party over alleged anti-party activities.

The protesters, mainly leaders and members of the party also demanded for the expulsion of Banire, just as they called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to prosecute him for allegedly bribing a judge.

Specifically, the protesters, who proceeded from the party’s Secretariat in Acme Road, Ogba to the Governor’s office in Alausa, displayed placards of various derisive inscriptions where they called Banire many unprintable names.

But the embattled National Legal Adviser dismissed the protesters as jokers whom he described as a rented crowd to disparage his person. It was therefore not surprising when Esinlokun and some other members of the party came up with the suit

Not long after the protest, the Executive Committee of the APC in Mushin issued a statement that it has suspended Banire from the party, citing anti-party activities.

According to the Acting Secretary of the Ward, Taofeek Ajani-Balogun, “The suspension follows recommendation from his ward (Ward C, Ilasamaja, Mushin).” He said the decision to suspend Banire was reached during the ward meeting held to review the last local government elections.

The genesis of the bickering between Banire and his party could be traced to his governorship ambitions in 2007, 2011 and 2015 when he and other interested members of the party, insisted that Tinubu should allow internal democracy to hold instead of foisting his choice candidates.

The Guardian reliably gathered that most disgruntled members of the APC, including Banire thought the era of Tinubu’s ways and manners of imposition would end with the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) after the 2014 merger but that was not to be when the incumbent governor, Ambode emerged as the APC governorship candidate for the 2015 election.

In one of the interviews, which Banire is yet to deny till today, he openly spoke against imposition insisting that a free and fair primary must be the process that would throw up candidate for all elective positions in the party. His argument has been that the machinery of the party should follow a course stipulated in the party’s constitution.

Meanwhile, during an interview over the weekend, Banire told The Guardian there was no crisis as far as he was concerned but that he was surprised that the state government appeared to be involved in the process.

He noted for instance that the electronic means through which the statement of his purported expulsion from the party was sent to the media belonged to the state and that some aides of the governor were the distributing channels, “that is my worry and reason I want to be convinced that something unusual is fishing.”

On his position concerning the APC controversial chairmanship and councillorship primaries, the senior lawyer stated that he always insisted that every aspirant must be allowed to go through the primary “it doesn’t matter whether I have a candidate or not, that is not the issue but all aspirants must be allowed to go to the primary where the most popular wins.

“I had a meeting with the executive of the party at the party’s secretariat unfortunately, the Chairman, Mr. Henry Ajomale was not around, the meeting was chaired by his deputy. When I explained my position on reason the aspirants should be allowed to go for primary in accordance with the constitution, the members of the executive present at the meeting agreed with me and they also showed understanding.

“My thinking was the issue had been resolved and that the leadership of our party would do the needful but surprisingly something else happened. “I made several efforts to contact the party but there was no response through letters and even phone calls all to no avail.

“I am in this position today and looking at the controversies that surrounded the primary held at Teslim Balogun Stadium, it was evident that many of the aspirants were aggrieved and also condemned the process.”

He also explained that similar things had happened in other states and “I as the legal adviser went to those states and explained the parties position and constitution, why would I then keep quiet and fold my arms if similar things that I condemned and addressed in other states are happening in the state I am from.”

He added that another factor that motivated his action was the fact that “this is now APC unlike when we were ACN. There are members of arms of the merger that are equally interested in contesting and the only way to convince them was to allow for internal democracy.”

On the allegation that his misunderstanding with Tinubu must have been based on his romance with the so-called ‘Abuja cabal’ that were allegedly bent on cutting the former governor to size, he reacted: “Well, I have been hearing it too but the only thing that I am annoyed with is that people need to tell us their names.

“I don’t know them but they said they exist. If they are talking about cabals and they included me, then there is no cabal. You can quote me on that, I wish I could so that I can have some measure of power too, but right now I am just like any other person. How many people have I been able to empower within the government, none to the best of my knowledge”?

But taking a look at the situation, one of the founding members of the party, who did not want his name on print said it is imperative of Tinubu to resolve whatever crises he has with all his lieutenants in the interest of the party and the development of the Southwest region.

The source lamented that part of the implications of Tinubu’s crises with most of the lieutenants was that: “as we speak, the Southwest zone of the APC does not have a coordinating body that would advise and guide our lawmakers on how to debate or the direction to follow on issues that have to do with the region in the National Assembly.”

He cited an example of the recent debate on restructuring and Land Use Act saying, “our lawmakers don’t know the direction to follow because there is nobody coordinating their thinking in respect to the needs of the region. This is the advantage the North has over us when crucial decisions are being taken at the national level.”

As much as the source urges Tinubu to reconcile with his political disciples, he also advised that those in question should demonstrate enough maturity and eschew personal ambition for the general interest of the region adding, “to me the fight is all about self ego, which is not necessary.”

Another founding member of the party also urged Ambode to call some of his outspoken and unruly aides to order in matters that have to do with the party.

According to him, “The governor has performed exceedingly well in the last two years and that alone is enough to create a space for him in the hearts of the citizens of Lagos to earn him second term but a situation where some of his aides disparage senior members of the party or delve unnecessarily into party affairs is not good.”

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