…As Tinubu, Akande are curiously absent
•Govs, aggrieved camps’ meeting fail to broker peace
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Like a prosecution counsel whose absence stalled the hearing of his case in a law court, the failure of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the former interim National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande’s, to attend the party’s National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting, on Friday, stopped the hearing of “their case” against the leadership of the party and the National Assembly respectively. This is the inside story of how the APC National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, was let off the sack hook.
Apart from President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired military general who is obviously not known with generous, frivoulous, broad smiles, every other person wore smiles on their way out of the meeting.
From the ruling party National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and Speaker Yakubu Dogara, the smiles beamed. The governors were not left out. Trust Governors Adams Oshiomole and Rochas Okorocha who spoke to journalists. Their smiles were expectedly infections. But these were wry, seemingly subdued smiles that flashed just across faces.
Sure, one would think that those smiles were from the heart. But beyond the facade was deep seated pain arising from the stalemate of the core issue that brought them together. In any case, many thought it was a conscious calculation to hoodwink the media and the world knowing what the expectations of the members of the public were of them from the meeting.
Vote of confidence on Oyegun
But Oyegun’s happy mood was real. No doubts. He had hitherto been on tenterhooks. Two reasons were chiefly responsible. One: He was let off the sack hook and unexpectedly given a vote of confidence by the gathering. Two: His perceived critics were not available to frontally press their charges against him.
Indeed, to any keen follower of the ugly developments in the All Progressives Congress, APC, since June 9 when the 8th National Assembly was inaugurated, expectations were high that the National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting of the party, held on Friday at its national secretariat in Abuja, would have resolved the logjam. But that was not to happen.
What is the logjam? The Senate President, Saraki, and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Dogara, were elected into office in defiance of the directive of the party which had, in a straw poll, on June 6, produced Senate Ahmed Lawan and Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila as official candidates for the portfolios. Since then, all things fell apart for the party. That was round one of the problems.
Round two: While every effort was made to placate the powers-that-be in the APC, who obviously godfathered and even midwived the candidatures of Lawan and Gbajabiamila, another tsunami hit the party. What happened? The party’s hierarchy, in what was believed to be a coerced move, sent in a list of candidates to be made Senate Leader, Deputy Senate Leader, Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip, ditto for the House of Representatives. But their list was rejected by the senators who eventually picked their choices for the positions.
Meanwhile, the letter containing the names for the Reps principal offices was not read by the Speaker, a development that culminated in a free- for -all on June 25 on the floor of the House. And then the party boiled further.
The crisis escalated when it sprawled menacingly to the national secretariat of the party, threatening Oyegun as the National Chairman as some quarters accused him of taking gratification.
But the man has since dismissed the allegation saying it is neither here not there.
And determined to broker peace among the APC warring parties, the Chairman summoned a meeting of the NEC for Friday.
Buhari, Saraki, Dogara, senators, Reps, governors elected on the platform of the party and every other person who had the licence to attend graced the event. But the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the former interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, upon whom most things in the party revolved around were conspicuously absent.
One would have thought that the core issue, being the crisis in the party, would be exhaustively discussed and laid to rest, but you can’t bet it was scarcely mentioned in the course of proceedings. What rather transpired in the meeting were words of admonition, warnings, cautions and, in the end, there was a basket full of resounding rhetorics. Yet the crisis raged on. Otherwise, why would a NEC that had the powers to take decisive and definite decisions pass on the responsibility of brokering peace between the aggrieved parties onto the governors to mediate?
Meanwhile, in the preclude to the closed-door session, the President had asked everyone to pocket his selfish ambition and allow the party and, by extension, his government to work.
‘Winning the battle, losing the war’
He said: “The elections have come and gone. The APC has won the battle, but lost the war. This is the paradox of democracy and we shall see how we can manage it going forward.
“I have already addressed you through the Chairman, through the leadership of the party, through your excellencies, the governors, and through our senators and House of Representatives members.
“The APC must not disappoint its constituency, that is the nation-state. We have to convince our various constituencies that we are individually worthy of the sacrifices that they have made.
“Let us as members of the APC no matter our personal differences get together and use the mandate given to us by this country. This is my personal appeal to you in the name of God. Whatever your personal interest or ambition, please keep it close to your heart and in your pocket. Let APC work.
“Let the system work and let us have a government that will earn the respect of our constituencies. My problem is the constituencies. I thank you very much for listening to me, and I thank the leadership across the board, and I appeal to you to please continue to work together.
“Please accept the superiority of the party. I cannot confine myself to the cage or Sambisa forest and refuse to participate in NEC or BoT. So, I respect, the superiority of the party. But God in his infinite mercy has helped by giving us acceptance. Let us not throw this success to the wind”.
APC will overcome challenges – Oyegun
In his welcome speech at the meeting, the National Chairman expressed the hope that the challenges in the party would be resolved before the resumption of National Assembly on July 21.
“We know the issues the challenges the party is passing through. In the process, we will discuss the challenges. I can assure you that they will be dealt with conclusively before the National Assembly reassembles”, Oyegun said.
APC governors to meet Saraki, Dogara
Briefing journalists after the meeting, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said that NEC resolved that Pregressives Governors Forum, a body of APC governors, would meet with Saraki and Dograra later as part of the moves to settle the conflict.
He stated that both the NEC and the governors unanimously expressed satisfaction with the Oyegun-led party executive by passing a vote of confidence on him.
He said: “The National Legal Adviser came to seek the approval of NEC as to the certain candidates of NEC who should be members of BoT and a motion was moved and carried after which NEC and the governors passed a vote of confidence in the leadership of the party.
“NEC has provided an enabling environment to look into ways of resolving the national assembly lock jams. Later in the day, the governors will be meeting with the Speaker and the Senate President in a further attempt to find a lasting solution to the lingering logjam at the National Assembly.
“Also, it is important to let you know that everybody in the party is united on two issues which are party supremacy and the need to ensure that this government deliver its campaign promises.”
APC will not break up—Okorocha
Also with journalists at the end of the meeting, Okorocha, who is the Chairman of the governors group, stated that the problems in the party would be resolved amicably.
He said: “Many people think that there will be problems between APC members at this meeting. But I am assuring Nigerians that we have met and discussed what affects all of us and we have understood ourselves. We have also reiterated our support and loyalty to our leadership. We are also going to meet on the issue of the National Assembly crisis and it will be resolved amicably. So, I can confidently say that the crisis facing the party is almost over now.”
APC will come out of problem stronger—Oshiomhole
Similarly, the Edo governor, Oshiomhole said that APC would come out of its present challenges stronger and better.
“In human societies, you are bound to get divergent views. We can’t be perfect because we are human. The only thing is to recognize our limit and work together. The fact that the president left his office to attend the NEC meeting shows that he believes in the supremacy of the party because all of us, the president inclusive went for the election on the platform of the party,”he stated.
“I expect that the party will work as unified entity especially as we promised the nation change. We had a very interesting discussion during the meeting and we affirmed the superiority of the party. We also have confidence in the way the president is giving leadership to the country. And so we all pledged to be Layla and dedicated to the party and the administration.
“I think we are leaving this place much, much stronger than we entered. But the good thing about democracy is that it allows even the fool to be foolish and the intelligent also to be intelligent. In the process of discussion, we intended to appeal to people to buy into our beliefs and our actions for us to be strong. And I am happy that those that are expecting chairs will be thrown, people coming out wearing long faces. But the party came out to say after we are APC”.
Tinubu, Akande absent at NEC meeting
Curiously absent at the meeting were Tinubu and Akande. Both had been dissatisfied with the turn of events in the National Assembly and the APC. While Tinubu was said to have been using the party leaders against Saraki and Dagara as National Assembly leaders, Akande exploded in a letter, warning against a North’s conspiracy against the Youraba of the South-West. But at the APC NEC meeting where the issue could have been discussed both men stayed away. Consequently, the NEC decided to step down their case, a development many felt had given Saraki, Dogara and Oyegun an edge in the crisis.
Lai Mohammed defended their absence. “If you look at our Constitution, neither of them is a member of the EXCO of the party. I think it is at the discretion of the NWC or NEC whom to invite or not and I also saw that quota as act of respect for his position. I don’t want to fathom more reasons why they are not here, but like I said neither of them is a member of the EXCO of the party”, he said.
Having received the blessing of the NEC to mediate between Saraki/ Lawan’s groups and Dogara/Gbajabimaila’s groups, APC governors took the peace meeting to Imo State Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro where they met with the aggrieved groups. But like the NEC meeting, the Asokoro meeting ended in deadlock. Again, beaming with broad smiles, Okorocha and Oshiomhole, who have apparently become the mouthpiece of the Progressives Governors Forum, briefed journalists.
“You will not see any more disagreements as against the past. Peace has come to our party. Both the Senate President and the Speaker; Senator Ahmed Lawan and Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila will work together for the unity and progress of our party. By next week, we will give you people the details of the outcome of this peace meeting, but so far so good all things being equal,”Okorocha said.
Oshiomhole echoed similar sentiment “When you have some little disagreement among friends, the only way to solve them is to talk and we have started the process. The fact that the two sides are present, the foundation for peace is there.
“If people refuse to see eye to eye or refuse to sit together, then you can’t even discuss and the fact that they all turned up and we listened to all the sides and we have a couple of suggestions, we have agreed to continue with the conversation and we are meeting again tomorrow (Saturday) night here again. So, I believe we are making some progress. Not that everything is signed, sealed and delivered that is why Okorocha said we are continuing the process.”
In the reckoning of many ordinary Nigerians, the brouhaha in the APC does not concern them. What they earnestly yearn for is change. Clogging the wheel of developmental progress in the overall good of the country might spell doom for the government of Buhari. Just as Oyegun and the governors have promised, Nigerians expect the crisis in the National Assembly to be resolved before its resumption date of July 21.