By Eric Elezuo
The ripple effect the crisis that visited the Edo chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) shortly after the 2019 general elections is far from from reaching its climax, the big stick wielded by the president, Muhammadu Buhari, notwithstanding.
On Thursday, within the confines and safety of the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Buhari had put his foot down, dissolving the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, in a bid to bring to end a crisis that has attempted to puncture the rolling tyres of the ruling party. It must be noted that the president’s stick notwithstanding, mutterings, rancours and loud whispers can still be heard within the rank and files of opposing party members.
Stakeholders, analysts and commentators have traced the APC quagmire to the war of attrition between now suspended party chairman and former governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and his supposed mentee, who is the current Governor of the state, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, which came to the fore as states began inaugurating Assembly members. Out of the 24 members elected into the House (all APC members), 19 unceremoniously lost interest in the governor, pegging their stakes with the party chairman. Only five stood with the governor. In frantic politicking, Obaseki convinced additional five, bringing the number of his loyalists to 10. He therefore invoked protocol and inaugurated. The other 14 members failed to show up. As it is today, the other 14 are yet to be inaugurated since their election, over one year down the line.
Many others have said that the baton of the crisis was just held in lieu for the heavyweights by the corner in the person of Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi and National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu.
However, with the widening of the division among members loyal to Obaseki and Oshiomhole, accusations and counter accusations began to flow from both camps, and in most cases fisticuffs followed among loyal foot soldiers. It got to a stage where Oshiomhole became wary of coming into the state, and was eventually suspended from the party by his Etsako Ward 10 constituency under the chairmanship of Stephen Oshawo.
Oshiomhole’s suspension gave the crisis a more national outlook as political foes capitalised on the laguna to cease the chairmanship. He was however saved by whiskers as a high court voided the suspension. He was shaken, but not stirred. He bounced back to what looks like fragile peace. But he bidded his time. Revenge was in his mind and in his heart. Oshiomhole wanted to hit back at Obaseki for many reasons. he snubbed his loyal lawmakers, who till today are yet to be inaugurated. Not only that, he accused the governor of sacking government loyal to him. The fast approaching governorship primaries was his bargaining chip; his trump card. He used it to the fullest and Obaseki was disqualified based on discrepancies found in his certificates. Much as Obaseki refused to contest the disqualification, the appeal committee upheld the verdict. From every indication, Oshiomhole was winning.
Then enter the Federal Appeal Court sitting in Abuja!
Oshiomhole’s suspension was upheld, on the day Obaseki lost hope and decamped to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
And the then the mother of the all crises ensued!
In total disobedience to the announcement that Senator Abiola Ajimobi (now late) becomes the Acting Chairman of the party, three other parties sprang out, claiming the position. They were Mr. Victor Giadom and Hilliad Etta. They all clearly represented different factions of the party.
In the midst of the ensuing melee, an FCT High Court extended an order earlier permitting Victor Giadom to act as the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress to 14 days, deepening the already catastrophic crisis even as two important governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states lurk around the corner.
On March 16, Justice Samira Bature had granted the interim order in a motion ex-parte, marked FCT/HC/M/6447/2020, filed by APC National Vice Chairman (North-East), Mustapha Salihu, with Babatunde Ogala, Lanre Issa-Onilu, Waziri Bulama and the party, APC as defendants.
Mr Salihu had approached the court, through the exparte motion, seeking for an interim order allowing Mr Giadom to pilot the affairs of the party as acting chairman.
Also to preside at all meetings of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) pending the decision of the party’s NEC fixed for March 17.
The applicant also sought an interim order restraining the APC and its officers or anyone purporting to act as an officer of the 4th defendant (APC) from preventing or in any way disturbing Mr Giadom from functioning as the acting chairman. Needless to say that the judge granted all the prayer, and went ahead to grant additional two weeks of the court’s March 16 interim order in line with Rule 3 of the COVID-19 Practice Direction of the FCT High Court
Mr Giadom announced he had taken over the leadership of the party in spite of the party’s announcement of the former Abiola Ajimobi, as acting chairman. In his self acclaimed capacity, he annulled the Edo screening exercise, and ordered a fresh one. He followed up his powers by convening a National Executive Committee meeting, the first in a long time.
While the Eta Hilliad’s camp rejected Giadom and the NEC meeting, dismissing both as illegal, President Buhari, through his aide, Garba Shehu, announced that he would be attending the meeting. He claimed that he had considered all the claimants to the chairmanship stool and found Giadom to be on the side of the law.
The high point of the NEC meeting was the dissolution of the NWC by the President replacing it with a 13-member Caretaker Committee, headed by the Governor of Yobe State, Mala Buni, to run the party for a period of six months when another national executive committee members will elected at a national convention. The meeting also ratify the candidature of Pastor Ize-Iyamu to fly the party’s flag at the September 19 Edo election.
But it is not yet uhuru as many had thought. The Hilliard Eta group has dismissed the dissolution as illegal, threatening to go to court. They said, in a statement signed by party’s acting national secretary, Waziri Bulama that the National Executive Committee meeting where the decision was taken to dissolve the NWC violated the APC constitution.
“Article 25(B) of the Constitution of the APC is explicit that only the National Chairman or the National Working Committee (NWC) is given the prerogative of summoning meetings of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Party either for statutory quarterly meetings or for emergency meetings,” the statement said.
“The same provision of the constitution makes it compulsory for a notice of a minimum of 14 days in respect statutory quarterly meetings and 7 days in respect of an emergency meeting.”
While Hilliard and Bulama are “studying the unfolding drama” and “consulting with stakeholders and a team of lawyers on the next line of action,” President Buhari, according to sources, is making underground moves to clip the wings of the aggrieved members, or at worst break their ranks. The President understands that if the NWC members head to court over the issue, they could have the dissolution upturned, embarrass him and further plunge the ruling party into crisis.
To avert the obvious, Buhari is said to have reached out to governors of the states the aggrieved members are from, requesting that they be stopped from going to court or take further action on the issue. It is believed that since it is their governors that nominates them to the NWC, they should have an element of control over them.
As envisaged, Premium Times reported that two of the sacked NWC members, one from the North, the other from the South, confirmed receiving calls from their state governors, advising them to withdraw from “the group”.
Beyond the tussle for supremacy, a party stalwart, who do not wish to be named, told The Boss that the crisis as it is, is about who controls the party structure for the 2023 elections.
“It is believed that since Buhari will not be contesting, it will become an all comers affairs, and will surely end with battle for the survival of the fittest. So everyone is playing the game of no return. At a stage, the respect being accorded will erode.
Some have said that the power-war is between a faction of the party loyal to the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and a faction loyal to the former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu.
If the tussle is decided by rounds, it is obvious that round one has been won, and of course lost. However, there are many more rounds to go before a winner finally emerges in the crises that have engulfed the ruling house.