The rejection of the one-year tenure extension granted the Chief John Odigie- Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) by President Muhammadu Buhari has polarised governors elected on the platform of the party.
It was learned that the governors after the president’s shocking remark expressing disapproval to the extension at Tuesday’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting were sharply divided among those loyal to Oyegun, the embattled national chairman and others who are on the side of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a national leader of the party, who is heading the party’s reconciliation committee.
President Buhari, who was at the meeting where the tenure extension decision was first taken by the NEC, had described the decision as unconstitutional, noting that the action was a violation of Nigeria and APC’s constitutions.
He said after seeking legal advice from the Ministry of Justice, he came to the conclusion that their action of February 27, 2018, contravened the constitutions of the party and Nigeria.
According to a member of the party’s NWC, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity, the president’s latest position did not go down well with governors loyal to Oyegun, while those who wanted him out at all cost lauded the rejection of the extension.
He added that there was a shouting match between Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State shortly after the president made his remarks and left the floor open for the NEC members to deliberate on the issue.
While Akeredolu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), tried to justify the position of NEC, he was countered by Governor el-Rufai who said the president’s position on the matter is final, asking whoever is not comfortable with it to excuse the gathering.
“Of course, the current position has pitched the APC governors against themselves. Those opposed to the tenure extension saw reason with the president and agreed that there will be legal consequences if the tenure of the current executives is extended but those in support of Oyegun said the NEC decision which granted the extension must stand.
“Governor Akeredolu put up a spirited fight and tried to justify the extension but his position did not go down well with Governor el-Rufai, a staunch loyalist of President Buhari. El-Rufai bluntly said whoever is not comfortable with the president’s position should take his leave.
“Many of the progressives governors who shared Tinubu’s view that Oyegun should leave were happy with the latest development while others such as Governors Akeredolu and Yahaya Bello were unhappy with it”, he said.
Speaking on the issue, Prince Tony Momoh, a former Minister of Information and a national leader of APC, said while the governors may not share the same view on the legality of the extension, they all saw sense in what the president said on the need to abide by the party’s constitution before taking any important decision.
“I didn’t say there can’t be divided among the governors. All I said is that there is nobody who didn’t see sense in what the president said while rejecting the tenure extension.
“In other words, the president said let us look at the constitution of the party and ensure that we are not working against the position of that constitution. Because if we do, it is a genuine ground for a lot of people to complain.
“If people look at it and say we are not working against the constitution, other people may say no, we are working against the constitution by granting an extension to the current exco. Some people have even gone to court for the interpretation of the position of the constitution. Those are areas we must critically look at”, he said.
Akeredolu is currently facing a legal hurdle as the Supreme Court last Friday dismissed an appeal he filed for lacking in merit.
Akeredolu had, by the appeal, challenged a July 2017 judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which upheld an order by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja, granting permission to Olusegun Abraham to serve Akeredolu through substituted means, court documents in relation to the suit he (Abraham) filed.
Abraham’s suit is challenging the outcome of the primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which produced Akeredolu as the party’s candidate for the last governorship election in Ondo State.
On his part, Odigie-Oyegun was accused by some members of the party, including Tinubu of manipulating the process in favour of his preferred candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu, against the position of the majority of the APC NWC members whom, he said, voted for the cancellation of the primary that produced Akeredolu as the party’s governorship candidate in Ondo State.
Joe Igbokwe, spokesperson for the Lagos chapter of the APC had said Oyegun as the National Chairman of the party, demonstrated incompetence as a leader in his handling of the party’s governorship primary in Ondo State.
Igbokwe accused Odigie-Oyegun of placing his personal interest above that of the majority members of the party by allegedly sidetracking the views of the other members of the APC National Working Committee, who reviewed the controversial primary.
On November 2015, the Oyegun-led NWC also incurred the wrath of some stakeholders of the party when it unveiled Yahaya Bello, as the replacement for the late Prince Abubakar Audu who died before the conclusion of the Kogi governorship election.
It would be recalled that Yahaya Bello was runner-up in the APC governorship primaries, which the late Audu won.
Despite the insistence of some APC leaders that James Faleke, running mate of the late Audu should be the beneficiary, Oyegun explained that the decision to nominate Bello was borne out of the need to conform to the electoral laws of the nation and to ensure cohesion and fairness.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) told the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday that President Muhammadu Buhari “is an ordinary member of the APC” in reaction to his advice to the party to reverse the tenure extension granted members of the National Working Committee (NWC) and others.
The APC stated this in a suit challenging the tenure elongation of the NWC of the party led by the National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun.
Some members of the party, led by Ademorin Aliu Kioye, had headed to court to seek redress soon after the party extended the tenure of its national officers, state, and local government chapters by one year.
The plaintiff is basically seeking an order of court nullifying the tenure elongation of the national, state, and local government officers of the APC.
Moreover, the plaintiff wants the court, presided by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, to restrain them from parading themselves as national officials of the party.