The recent face-off between the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, has got stakeholders worried over the party’s response template. ANDREW ESSIEN X-rays the implication of this in the light of party supremacy.
On resumption of duty as national chairman of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole did not mince words that there would be a departure from the old order. A new sheriff had come to town and new rules of engagement would be implemented.
This, however came to some rather suddenly as, analysts aver, the new chairman began asserting his authority on party stalwarts. Party leaders and staffers are coming to terms with the “new reality” as the new chairman puts it.
Outlining what would be part of the guiding principles surrounding his tenure, Oshiomhole had said in his inaugural meeting, “And above all, when we talk of party supremacy, it can only be operative if there are organs of the party meeting to take decisions on variety of policies and when we take decisions like that, for example in the National Executive Council NEC meetings and the President is seated, if the President violates or acts in contravention of a decision taken by NEC, even the President can be accused of anti-party activity because it is a party decision. The same thing goes for the National Assembly.”
With these words, the tone was therefore set for the engagement but what started out as solidarity with the party soon snowballed into an open confrontation between critical stakeholders in the APC project.
Apparently worried by the reward system of the party, the new leadership began plans to finally remove persons who are of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) extraction but still holds sway in government agencies and parastatals.
This, the party insisted will ensure that the change mantra is properly implemented as none party members cannot run with a vision they do not share.
While inaugurating elected National Executives of the 39-member Non-National Working Committee (NWC) at the Party’s National Secretariat, it became clearer as to what the chairman truly had in mind.
He said: “We are aware that even as at today, we still have a lot of PDP people occupying very important positions in federal agencies. We will do everything possible to purge these elements out of the system because we are a party of change. They are the conservative right-wing party. We cannot entrust to conservative forces an agenda for change. Government is not in the Villa. Villa is the head of government.
“Government is in the agencies – what they do, how they do it, the quality of service delivery and the style of that service delivery. That is how the ordinary man interfaces with power and if these agencies are in the hands of those who do not believe in our change agenda, then we cannot expect miracles from them. And for those who are aggrieved as to how certain things are done, those who question that they do not seem to see the difference because substantially, PDP is still managing these agencies.
“So, we have a duty to convince the federal executive that we have no business, this government has no business with any PDP in sensitive federal agencies and using their old tactics in service delivery. That, I believe is a task that all of us must pursue.
“ I believe that we now must work consciously to ensure that in replacing, we replace sinners with believers. Believers are those who are card-carrying members of our party and before we go outside the party family, we must convince ourselves that the persons we are taking, we are taking him because we do not have that particular expertise within the family, but even so, he must first take the card and demonstrate loyalty because if you do not believe in a process, you cannot be entrusted with the management of that process. It is not because we are hungry to let our people have jobs, but because I have no confidence that PDP appointees can drive the changes that APC promised. APC promises must be kept by APC activists at managerial level, at board level and at political level. That, we must all work to achieve.”
But to further drive home the point, Oshiomhole read the riot act for the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige and the Minister of State, Aviation, Sen.Hadi Sirika, charging them to inaugurate all the Boards under their ministries within one week or face the wrath of the party.
While that of the Minister of State Aviations has gone largely unnoticed, that of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige has been the talk of the town and both have, understandably been at each other’s throats, especially as both are critical stakeholders in the party.
This has got observers wondering why the issue had to spill out to the open when it is a “family affair” and could be settled without the war of words that has surprisingly greeted the whole issue.
In a letter addressed to the ministers, dated 11th July 2018, the APC chairman frowned that the ministers have failed to reconstitute the Boards which according to him contravened the position of the National Executive Council and the Presidential directives to all ministers, describing it as a great disrespect to the party.
The letter said: “this is to inform you that the attention of the National Working Committee has been drawn to your refusal to inaugurate members of the re-constituted Boards under the supervision of your Ministry.
“This contravenes the position of the NEC, National Caucus and the Presidential Directives to all Ministers to inaugurate Boards of Parastatals under their Ministries. We find this attitude as disrespect to the President and disservice to our great party.
“the party will henceforth no longer tolerate any appointee of government at all level who continue to willfully disregard lawful instructions from either the government or the party.
“In the light of the forging, you are hereby directed to inaugurate all the boards under your Ministry within one week, failure of which the party will take appropriate disciplinary measures against you” it stated.
On his part, Ngige also fired back even as he insisted that the National Chairman was not at home with the issues and as such, was talking out of ignorance when he threatened him to inaugurate the boards of federal agencies and parastatals under his ministry or be suspended from the party.
Ngige also thundered that he was not afraid of suspension, going ahead to posit that he was part of those who founded the party.
The minister, in trying to explain the rationale behind his actions maintained that the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund was yet to be inaugurated because of reports of diversion of funds to the tune of N48bn.
In a written response however, Ngige had explained why the Board of NSITF was yet to be inaugurated, saying, “Our National Chairman, I am in receipt of a letter referenced APC/NHDQ/ GEN-S/28/018/003 dated July 11, 2018, which was sent from your office and received by me on July 12, 2018.
“Ordinarily, I would not believe the letter was from you except for the barrage of media statements that came before I saw the letter. I read the contents of this letter with both amazement and utter disbelief.”
The minister added that contrary to the notion of not reconstituting boards under his ministry, he had reconstituted three boards out of the four agencies and parastatals under his supervision, but had not been able to constitute the board of NSITF because of cases of financial malfeasance, which had put the agency under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
On the issue of when he was going to comply and if he was not afraid of suspension from the party, Ngige said, “How? In a party that we formed and brought them in?
“The man (Oshiomhole) is talking out of ignorance. I am not afraid of suspension.”
The rift between the duo expectedly drew reaction from both politicians and other stakeholders on both sides of the isle, at private and public sectors with Chief Fani-Kayode in a tweet mocking the APC for its intra-party issues , thanked God, that “they have turned the sword against each other and scatter their own ranks. The Lord honoured His word!”
At another level, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), praised the party chairman on his threat to expel the two ministers over their reluctance to constitute the boards of parastatals under their ministries.
In a statement signed by the Coordinator, Media and Publications, Otunuga Adegboyega, quoting the Executive Chairman, Debo Adeniran as saying: “It is high time we encouraged internal party discipline in order to consolidate our democratic culture and promote greater accountability and openness in governance”.
“Is it not ridiculous that a minister would refuse to inaugurate the board of a federal parastatal for several months under the flimsy excuse that the former board’s leadership was corrupt and had a case to answer? Don’t we have anti-graft agencies of government that should be invited to look into such cases, while the new board is constituted for smooth and efficient running of government?
“As Oshiomhole rightly noted, ‘There are clear procedures to follow in a democracy. It is absolutely illegal for a minister in a democracy to hijack the powers of the board because no minister should award contracts that did not go through the boards. Such acts constitute abuse of office for which those responsible should be held liable’.
“This dictatorial tendency is what has alienated the masses from the efforts of the government at different levels. There are competent Nigerians that have paid their dues, both to the party and the nation, that should be in those parastatals and make things work better for the nation”.
However, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed assured that the face-off between National Chairman of APC and Minister of Labour and Employment will be resolved amicably.
Observers are split in their view as to the appropriateness of the party Chairman’s outburst vis-a-vis the need to reintroduce and reinforce party discipline among party members irrespective of how highly placed. Others are of the opinion that since this issue is within the same party, it could have been resolved “in-house” without the hullabaloo that followed the whole issue.
Party faithful are also of the opinion that the party, in the months leading up to the convention that brought in the present leadership of the party as currently constituted, has had so many intra-party squabblings between its major players, hence, do not need any further in the light of current political happenings especially at the eve of a general election.
It is therefore pertinent that the leadership finds a middle ground to chastise without necessarily inflaming the situation as it tries to instill party discipline and supremacy.
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