The All Progressives Congress members opposed to its National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, and his supporters on Sunday stepped up the battle for control of the party ahead of its Tuesday’s National Executive Committee meeting.
While some members of the ruling party told The PUNCH that there was no going back on their decision to remove Oshiomhole, the Chairman of the APC in Lagos State, Alhaji Tunde Balogun, said state chairmen of the party would not abandon the former Edo State governor.
He stated this just as the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on Sunday hit hard at members of the party pushing for the removal of Oshiomhole, saying they had been afflicted by 2023 virus.
He said those who were afflicted by 2023 virus were undermining the APC and weakening the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
The crisis in the APC worsened on March 4 when the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Jabi, Abuja ordered an interim suspension of Oshiomhole as the APC national chairman. The court hinged his decision on Oshiomhole’s suspension as a member of the APC in Edo State.
Twenty-four hours later, a Federal High Court sitting Kano gave a contradictory judgment by nullifying Oshiomhole’s suspension.
The National Working Committee members of the APC opposed to Oshiomhole fixed the party’s NEC meeting for Tuesday, but his supporters described the decision as illegal.
Prior to the March 4 court order, crises had hit Zamfara, Ondo, Bayelsa and Edo state chapters of the party. In Edo State, the party is divided into two factions, one loyal to Oshiomhole, while the other has the backing of the state Governor, Godwin Obaseki
On Sunday, Tinubu, in a statement he personally signed, said anti-Oshiomhole forces shunned agreed reconciliation mechanism in the party because they were motivated by their personal ambitions.
Explaining the implications of the plot to remove Oshiomhole, the APC national leader said anti-Oshiomhole forces were doing a great disservice to the administration of Buhari.
He stated, “Those afflicted with the 2023 virus do a grave disservice to President Buhari and his administration. They should be trying their best to help the President. Instead of seeing President Buhari as our present leader and commander-in-chief, their sole contemplation is upon his eventual exit.
“Yet, not even a full year has passed since his second inauguration. How can they be committed to helping him realise his mandate when the fullness of their gaze is affixed to seizing this very mandate for themselves?”
Tinubu, who dismissed allegations against Oshiomhole, stated, “The chairman is human; thus, he has his merits as well as his flaws. Yet his humanity cannot be grounds for his dismissal. If so, the position will forever go vacant.”
He described Oshiomhole as a tireless campaigner and mobiliser for the party. Tinubu recalled the national chairman steered the party through difficult elections.
“His contributions should not be undervalued now that the bulk of elections are behind us. To do so would be an act of ingratitude,” he added.
Tinubu noted that there was a dispute between Oshiomhole and the Edo State governor.
He, however, said the APC had “moved through proper procedures within the proper organs of the party to hopefully resolve this spat.”
The APC national leader said Oshiomhole’s attackers disregarded the party’s procedures for resolving crises not because of the chairman’s performance, but their ambitions.
Oshiomhole’s obstacle to his attackers’ ambitions
Tinubu stated, “The plotters launched their attack solely because they perceive the chairman as an obstacle to their 2023 ambitions. People went to court knowing full well the party constitution prohibits such action because these people had not yet exhausted all internal disciplinary procedures.”
Berating the APC Deputy National Secretary, Victor Giadom, and others, he said the party officer improperly called “for a NEC meeting on the basis that he believed himself to be the acting national chairman.
“Clearly, this man would not have summoned the temerity to make such a move had he not been instigated by powerful individuals who he thought would reward or, at least, protect him for committing the wrongful act.
“Those engaged in these manoeuvres see themselves as clever or cunning. They do so because they only understand the mean craft of political intrigue. They have yet to understand the value and long-term utility of democratic governance. Thus, they embark on the strangest of quest. They would rather dismantle and weaken the institutional core of their party just to gain control of that weakened edifice in order to pilfer the party nomination, which they crave.”
He recalled that he and others expended their sweat, tears, toil and sleepless nights to build the APC.
We didn’t build APC simply as vehicle for personal ambitions, Tinubu tells anti-Oshiomhole forces
He stated, “Our personal sacrifices were not insignificant. We built this party not simply as a vehicle for personal ambitions. We built the party because we saw it as perhaps the only enduring hope to bring progressive governance to this nation
“Those who now seek to abuse the party by using it as their personal device do it great harm. They should not be allowed to sacrifice this collective enterprise on the altar of their self-aggrandizement. Somehow, some way they should find in themselves the bearing to adhere to the democratic spirit on which the party was founded.”
Tinubu said Buhari was fighting hard to address the country’s challenges by trying to ensure the country was safe.
He stated, “Politicians express loyalty to him but the words of too many of our politicians are like butter under a burning sun; they melt quickly away. Better to be loyal in deed. Instead of trying to manipulate party and other mechanisms solely to their political gain, it is time to shelve political intrigue for the time being.”
He said party members instead of working for their selfish designs, must rally round the President to build a national consensus.
Tinubu stated, “This is the time for governance. It is not the moment to bring the politics of 2023 into 2020. In due course, 2023 shall come. Nothing can prevent it. However, that time is not today. If we are earnest, the present offers sufficient work and challenges for us without trying to add to it by rushing the future.”
The former Lagos State governor said those who were obsessed by their 2023 ambitions would shun the advice that they should focus on improving progressive governance.
Berating such politicians, he said, “Their vision is blurred and judgment made faulty by their ailment. We are democrats so we cannot physically quarantine them. However, we can quarantine their ideas and antics by not falling prey to them. This is the best way we help President Buhari fulfil his mandate and inoculate our party and the nation from grave folly.”
The APC national leader commended Lagos and Ogun states as well as the Federal Government for controlling the spread of coronavirus.
Commenting on 2023 virus, he stated, “The primary symptom of their malady is the driving tendency to believe the events of 2023 will be decided before we even exit the year 2020.
“Consequently, everything they say and do is geared toward obsessive jockeying for position to control and manipulate a race still three years away. In doing so, they recklessly undermine the very party which they claim to serve and weaken the administration of President Buhari to which they claim to be loyal.”
He explained that a person that constantly engaged in political manoeuvring was prone to the 2023 virus.
A’Court hears Oshiomhole’s appeal today
As the battle for the control of the party ranges, the Court of Appeal will today (Monday) hear the appeal filed by Oshiomhole to challenge his suspension ordered by the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
Opponents soft-pedal, to offer Oshiomhole resignation option
There were indications that governors who were bent on Oshiomhole’s removal, had soft-pedalled.
Although it was gathered that the governors were still insisting on his removal, he would be allowed to resign in order to get a federal appointment.
Multiple sources within the party’s NEC who confided in one of our correspondents, in Abuja, on Sunday, confirmed that Tuesday’s NEC meeting would be held as scheduled.
A NEC member, who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “We are considering our options and preparing the party to face future beyond Oshiomhole. Governors and major stakeholders are talking, and if you listen to even those supporting him, what they are saying is that, the chairman should not be humiliated out of office.
“Giadom is not acting on his own even when you read through the letter Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu wrote earlier today (Sunday), he acknowledged that much. But his intervention is coming a little bit too late, the train has left the station.
“Without being told, you should know that with the number and calibre of persons who attended the South-South stakeholders’ consultative forum last weekend, this movement to take back our party is not a hoax.
“The man may be simply asked to resign because security reports on him and the fortunes of the party are to the effect that if he retains his seat, mutual suspicion may deepen and hamper the chances of the party going forward.”
Pro-Oshiomhole APC leaders rally support for him
But supporters of Oshiomhole, on Sunday, passed a vote of confidence in him.
They spoke at an interactive session held in Abuja. The meeting was convened by a chieftain of the party, Mr Blessing Agbomhere.
Declaring the session open, a former Minister of Works, Chris Ogiemwonyi, said those who were against the APC chairman were those who were beneficiaries of his kind heartedness.
He described Oshiomhole as a protector of the oppressed. Ogiemwonyi explained that he was at the gathering because of the personality of the APC chairman whom he had known as a man who respected the rule of law.
The ex-minister said, “He is a man of courage. I think that is what is lacking in Nigeria. The problem is that once you are doing the right thing, you will step on toes. Comrade Oshiomhole is a victim of doing the right thing. What is happening today is about 2023. Oshiomhole is trying to build the party to make it more attractive for people but some are not happy.”
On his part, the Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives, Peter Akpatason, said, “This is a turbulent period in our party. We have issues both at the state and national levels but we thank God that there are good citizens working to ensure the stabilisation of the party.
“It is not unusual for issues like these to come up when you have contestations but what is important is for people to be reasonable enough to quickly resolve such issues.
“The issues we have today have lingered on maybe because of the wrong approaches to handling them or because of deliberate misinformation by those who have access to the media and who would rather change the narrative.”
A member of the House of Representatives, Julius Ihonvbere, said, “The President has done a lot for the party but in our individual capacities we need to encourage him to do more. He needs to do more. For a party that is not well funded, any issue would affect it greatly.”
Another party stalwart, Nelson Alapa, dismissed Tuesday’s planned emergency NEC as illegal.
He said; “ We must stand on the path of the law. If Oshiomhole leaves and another person comes in, would that solve the problems of the APC?
“Oshiomhole does not want to be the President. We cannot allow this party to scatter just because of the interest of one person. What is the issue? The issue started from Edo State.”
Earlier, the convener of the meeting, Agbomhere said, “The reason why we are here is to join other patriots of this great party, the APC, to intervene in the issues in the party. We are here to interact and provide solutions. We want to make our contributions to the unity and progress of our party because we are concerned about the issues in the party.”
We will support Oshiomhole to the end –Lagos APC chairman
The Lagos State Chairman of the APC, Balogun, in an interview with The PUNCH, said only few self-centred people wanted to remove Oshiomhole.
Balogun, who confirmed that the APC state chairmen would meet on Sunday night to decide whether to attend the NEC meeting on Tuesday, said, “I do not know why a disgruntled few are creating an unnecessary problem for the party. These disgruntled elements are simply selfish. This man was elected for four years for God’s sake by over 7,000 delegates during our national convention. But few self-centred people want to remove him because of their ambition for 2023.
“They do not care if the party splits because their interests are also to scatter the party. For those of us who are committed members of the APC, like my colleagues, we want to ensure that our party will remain stable. We will support Oshiomhole to the end.”
A former Deputy Governor of Edo state, Dr Pius Odubu on Sunday said the crisis rocking the APC would soon be over and Oshiomhole would come out stronger.
Odubu, who was a deputy to Oshiomhole for eight years, said the threat to the APC national chairman office was the handiwork of traducers.
He said his commitment to Oshiomhole’s leadership was “unwavering and unshakable in the face of the very egregious conspiracy of a few party members against him spearheaded by the Edo State Governor.”
The Plateau State Chairman of the party, Mr Letep Dabang, told The PUNCH that he would attend Tuesday’s NEC meeting.