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Thursday, 2 July 2015

Troubled APC-NEC in search of peace

Oyegun, Saraki and Dogara
The stage is set for tomorrow’s meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the All Progressives Party (APC), where leaders are expected to chart a new way forward for the ruling party, following the festering crises triggered by the controversial election of National Assembly’s principal officers, writes TONY AKOWE.
ATTENTION will tomorrow shift to the National Secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The ruling party is scheduled to host its first National Executive Council (NEC) meeting since the general elections of March 28 and April 11.
It is expected that the NEC will take far-reaching decisions on the constitution of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) and the festering leadership crisis in the Red and Green Chambers of the National Assembly.
Many had expected the party to have held the meeting to constitute the BoT before the May 29 inauguration of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. The two bodies would have ironed out critical issues like zoning of offices, especially the leadership positions that plunged the National Assembly into crisis.
According to the APC constitution, the NEC is composed of members of the national executive of the party, zonal leaders, and state chairmen.
Other members of the NEC are: the President, Vice President, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, who are party members, Speaker, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who are members of the party, states’ governors, who are members of the party, Majority or Minority Leader, Chief Whips and Deputies in the Senate and House of Representatives, who are members of the party.
They also include two serving senators – elected on the party’s platform – from each of the six geo-political zones. They are to be nominated by the Senators from their zones. Three House of Representatives members – elected on the party’s platform – from each of the six geo-political zones and to be nominated by members from such zone, six ex-Officio members – one each to be elected by the national convention from each of the six geo-political zones, as well as serving chairman, deputy chairman and secretary of the BoT.
Bulk-passing has been the order of the day between the APC leadership and beneficiaries of the controversial elections in both chambers of the National Assembly, on who should be blamed for the crisis.
The leadership is bitter that some APC members in the Senate and House of Representatives, who should be seen to be upholding party supremacy which they preached during electioneering campaigns, relegated the position of the party to the background.
On their own part, the lawmakers felt the National Assembly should be allowed to choose its leaders.
Senate President Bukola Saraki, who is being accused of refusing to read a letter written by National Chairman John Odigie-Oyegun on APC’s preferences for principal offices, on the floor of the Senate, has explained that he got the memo after the zonal caucuses had filled the positions.
But he was contradicted by Bala Ibn-Na’Allah, Deputy Leader of the Senate, who said only a letter written by the President could have been read on the floor of the National Assembly and not a memo from a party chairman.
Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who has not named the principal officers, blamed the delay on pending court cases.
However, critics have been blaming the party leadership for the avoidable crisis. They argue that the initial insistence by the party not to zone the offices and President Buhari’s stance not to interfere in the selection process, were responsible for the crisis.
The national caucus of the party was said to have jettisoned the initial zoning arrangement designed by a committee put in place by the National Working Committee (NWC).   The committee had zoned the Senate Presidency to the Northcentral.
But some party leaders, including senators from the Northcentral zone, held tenaciously to the arrangement.
Those holding the leadership responsible for the crisis have called for the stepping down of the National Chairman, who they alleged, mismanaged the situation.
To some others, Chief Oyegun and his team could not have done anything better than what they did, trying to uphold party supremacy?
It is expected that the handling of the situation will feature prominently at tomorrow’s NEC meeting.
 In an attempt to address the problem created by the emergence of Saraki and Dogara as Senate President and Speaker and also placate its loyal members, the party had forwarded the letters to the National Assembly leadership, nominating principal officers for both houses.
The party may have been pressured by some of its governors to take such a decision with a view to bringing the crisis to an end.
There have been allegations that some governors, elected on the APC platform, decided to wade into the cisis, because of their concern and desire for intra-party peace.
Governors Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa), Mallam Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna),  Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi) and Abubuakar Badaru (Jigawa),  were said to have moved to placate some powers-that-be in the party, who felt slighted by the emergence of Saraki and Dogara.
They were said to have relocated after their meeting with President Buhari to the party’s national secretariat to inform the leadership of their resolve to intervene.
But their intervention achieved little or nothing as the Senate President again defiled the party and went ahead to name his preferred candidates for the principal offices against the suggestion of the party
An attempt by the Speaker to follow Saraki’s footpath was violently thwarted by members of the House of Representatives, who turned the hallowed chamber to a boxing/wrestling ring.  Saraki insisted that the officers he announced were the choices of caucuses from the various zones. Speaker Dogara argued that the House must respect the principles of federal character as contained in the constitution.
The letter from the party may be in conflict with the constitution. In line with the Federal Character principles as enshrined in the constitution, the Northcentral ought not to produce any other principal officer in the Senate, having produced the president. But the party ceded the position of a Deputy Senate Leader to the zone by nominating Senator George Akume for the position, while leaving out the Southsouth in the sharing of positions in the senate.
The party also gave the Chief Whip slot to Mohammed Mongunu, from the Northeast, which had produced the Speaker.
The Northcentral was completely missing in the power sharing arrangement in the House.
The letters preferred Senator Ahmed Lawal from Northeast as the Majority Leader, Senator Sola Adeyeye (Southwest) as the Chief Whip, Senator George Akume from Northcentral as the Deputy Majority and Senator Abu Ibrahim as the Deputy Deputy Chief Whip.
Similarly, in the House of Representatives, the party demanded the announcement of Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos State in the Southwest Zone as House Leader; Alhassan Ado Doguwa from Northwest State as Deputy Leader; Mohammed Monguno from the Northeast as Chief Whip and Pally Iriase from Edo State in the Southsouth as Deputy Chief Whip.
Since the crisis began, Chief Odigie Oyegun has consistently told the world that it was another phase in the development process of the party, adding that they will come of it stronger and more united.
He believes that despite what has happened, the party will not allow the predictions of those who see nothing good in the ruling to come to pass and therefore would do everything possible to prevent the escalation of the crisis.
Odigie-Oyegun was quoted as saying that the crisis is “an unfortunate thing and I think it has arisen because of major interest groups within the party and that has given rise to gross disloyalty and an unacceptable level of indiscipline and disrespect to the party.
“But that notwithstanding, we are doing everything we can to stop this civil war and bring the party back again so that we can focus on our essential agenda of delivering service to the people. What is happening now is very unacceptable and painting us in a bad light.
“But thank God we have this period of recess in the National Assembly to bring things back together again. We are doing everything we can to ensure that by the time the national assembly reconvenes, all of these things would have been squarely behind us.”
He has also been accused of being financially induced by some party leaders to conduct the mock elections that threw up Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila.
Reacting to that, Oyegun said:  “Gratification to do what and for whom? And what have I done to justify that gratification except to stand as neutral as possible in the circumstance and emphasise adherence to the supremacy of the party.
“So, that is it. Gratification for what? Let anybody who says he brought come out and say that. It is a public thing. It is my integrity they are trying to smear. That comes only through blackmail from some forces that feel that I am standing in the way for whatever their intentions are.
But that is neither here nor there. What’s important is that we must put our party back together again and focus on the promises we have made to the Nigerian people.”
The national chairmen said he was unaware the calls for his resignation.
His words: “People are trying to push me in one direction or the other but one thing I have to my credit is my neutrality. I don’t belong to any of the contending power blocs in the party. And of course, that has its price.
“And that is why you have heard a lot of it directed personally to smear me. I have built a reputation that has lasted for over 70 years. I don’t have to go and be taking peanuts from some political gladiators. So, whatever they try to do, they cannot smear my character. If anybody has given me gratification to do anything, let him come out and say so, state where, when and how much.”
Some political watchers have traced the crisis the battle for the sole of the party ahead of the next general elections in 2019. This school of thought sees a clear fight for the control of the party among notable leaders of the party.
Besides, they see Saraki as taking advantage of his position as the Senate President to create his own power bloc within the party and oil his presidential ambition in 2019.
He reportedly defended the ‘coup’ that produced him as the Senate President when he described his backing out of the presidential race ahead of the party’s primary as a great sacrifice.
Saraki, who, was edged out of the presidential race in 2011 by the decision of Northern elders to field one candidate from the region against former President Goodluck Jonathan, has since dismissed the 2019 ambition as a mere speculation.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who contested with Jonathan for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket at the primary, has also denied trying to hijack the APC.
Today’s NEC meeting is expected to be stormy and its outcome will no doubt dictate the shape of things to come for the party and by extension, the nation at large in the coming months.

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