A crisis of trust is brewing among governors of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over the direction which the composition of the next National Working Committee (NWC) of the party should assume, Sunday Telegraph has learnt.
Last Thursday, the National Executive Council (NEC) of the APC, dissolved the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC and appointed a 13-member Caretaker Committee to run the affairs of the party for the next six months.
The Caretaker Committee, chaired by Governor Mala Buni of Yobe State, was handed the responsibility of organising a National Convention within its stipulated time of appointment that will usher in new leaders of the party including Oshiomhole’s successor. Two sitting governors, Gboyega Oyetola and Sani Bello, Osun and Niger states respectively, were also named as members of the committee.
The NEC meeting, which held inside the Council Chambers at the Presidential Villa, Abuja and presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, also had in attendance, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President, Ahmed Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; many state governors elected on the platform of the party and other key stakeholders.
Whilst some members of the dissolved NWC led by Hillary Eta and Waziri Bulama rejected the NEC decision on Thursday, the sacked chairman of the party, Oshiomhole, however, expressed satisfaction with the decision taken by the party’s NEC, just as he pledged his loyalty and support for President Buhari.
The party had been enmeshed in a leadership crisis following a Court of Appeal order which upheld the earlier ruling of an Abuja High Court which had earlier upheld the suspension of Oshiomhole by his ward in Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State.
The crisis started following the frosty relationship between Oshiomhole and his state governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, who eventually quitted the APC for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
However, there are feelers that the crisis in the party is mainly about who controls the party structure ahead of the 2023 presidential election.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that as against the impression of a united front being presented by the leadership of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, led by Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, it was gathered that opinions among the state chief executives are still divided over where and how the process would go.
Governor Bagudu, on Friday, in the company of four other APC governors, including the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr Kayode Fayemi; the newly inaugurated Chairman of the APC Caretaker and Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee, Mala Buni; Niger State Governor, Bello and the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, visited Buhari in Aso Rock and had a closed-door meeting with him.
Addressing State House correspondents later, Bagudu said the governors came for a “Thank you visit to Mr. President” for the way he resolved the crisis rocking the party, describing it as visionary.
“You may not hear the voice of some governors on the street but they are not in sync with what is being planned. Don’t you wonder why Governor Bagudu and Fayemi are the ones running the show? Three governors were appointed into the caretaker committee, only two, Buni and Bello, went with Bagudu to say thank you to the President. What about Oyetola? But they took Fayemi along and he was the only southern APC governor among those who went for the visit,” a ranking leader of the party, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.
“The Convention will be early next year and the post-Oshiomhole era has started in earnest because it is crucial to 2023 race. I can tell you that the governors are not on the same page regardless of the impression out there. Some of them are only pushing the narrative of governors’ supremacy in party affairs for their personal interest. I doubt if they will reach a compromise on what their colleagues may propose. ”
Speaking in specifics, he said: “Things will happen thick and fast in the coming days but the next line of wrangling in our party might likely be among the governors. Three South-West governors are loyal to the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and they may likely not follow the Fayemi/Bagudu persuasion on who will lead the party because it is all tied to the 2023 race. However, whether they will be able to muster enough courage to push it through is another kettle of fish.”
Another source, however, disclosed that the choice of the next chairman of the party will be a joint task between some governors and some members of Buhari’s cabinet, adding that the position will be retained in the South-South zone.
Some of the names already hitting the front pages as likely picks to lead the ruling party include, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja, former Edo Governor, Dr. Oserheimen Osunbor; former Senate Leader, Ndoma Egba; Dakuku Peterside; former Senator, Domingo Obede and former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani.
Meanwhile, loyalists of Senator Tinubu, who many believe was at the receiving end of the NEC’s dissolution of the Oshiomhole-led NWC, are set to converge and deliberate on the modalities the forthcoming convention might take and probably cash on it.
It was learnt over the weekend that in a series of messages exchanged among Tinubu’s loyalists, they described the dissolution as a temporary setback but opined that the team must be optimistic and strategic with their plans.
In the meantime, some political analysts have faulted parts of last Thursday’s dissolution of the NWC by the APC NEC, stating that some actions of the council may have breached some sections of the ruling party’s constitution.
According to Olufemi Aduwo, a civil rights activist, the appointment of Yobe State Governor, Buni, ran afoul of Article 17(iv) of the APC’s own Constitution, stating that if contested in the court of law, the party might be found breaking its own law.
The section says: “No officer in any organ of the Party shall hold executive position office in government concurrently.”
He also stated that the conveyance of the APC NEC is in total violation of the APC Constitution, which prescribes 14 days’ notice for regular NEC meeting and 7 days’ notice in the case of an emergency meeting under Article 25 (b) (i) and (ii) respectively.
On his part, Maxwell Ediale, noted that the dissolution of the NWC by the NEC should be tested by the law since members of the NWC were elected by a National Convention of the party.
He added: “The NWC members emerged from the National Convention and it should also take a National Convention to remove them. The APC should have quickly conveyed a mini-convention to remove them, not a NEC.”
Meanwhile, the crisis in the APC has dovetailed into a battle of wits in the SouthWest between Tinubu, who is believed to be the real target alongside his minions holding party offices at the national level, and Ekiti State Governor, Fayemi.
The cold war, which has deteriorated the relationship between the duo, was further escalated on the social media as loyalists of both politicians went for each other’s jugulars amid happenings in the ruling party.
It is inferred in one breath that both men have their eyes on the presidency in 2023, while in another, Fayemi is believed to be eyeing the vice-presidency slot from the Southwest.