President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday stunned the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) when he declared that the one-year tenure extension granted the John Odigie-Oyegun National Working Committee (NWC) and state chairmen of the party was unlawful.
He, therefore, called for the party to hold a convention this year as proceeding with the tenure extension would give opposition parties the opportunity to attack the party.
The president, who made this clarification at the NEC meeting of the party held at the party secretariat in Abuja yesterday, said that after due consultations, he was of the opinion that the tenure extension approved for the NWC and the state executives was against the constitution of the party.
The president, who apparently took the NEC members unawares with the sudden about-turn in his decision, called for a speedy resolution of the outstanding issues so as to make the party a strong fighting force that would be appealing to the populace.
LEADERSHIP had on Monday exclusively reported that top on the agenda for discussion at the NEC would a consideration of the appropriateness or otherwise of the tenure extension.
The party had come under increasing fire since its last NEC meeting on February 27, 2018, during which it approved a one-year extension for the Chief John Odigie Oyegun-led NWC and state executive committees of the party with effect from June 2018.
But President Buhari, quoting the laws of the party as stated in article 17(1) and 13.2 (b), warned that doing anything untoward as regards the extension would be giving the opposition a loophole to attack the party.
He said:”I am delighted to once again welcome you to this National Executive Committee meeting of our great party. As we usually do, I hope we will take the opportunity of this gathering to resolve outstanding issues, and consolidate on our plans towards making APC the strongest defender of the interest of our people.
“In particular, I think it is important for me to speak quickly on the contentious issues of the tenure of our national and state executive officers. As we all know, a motion was moved in the last NEC meeting of February 27 to the effect that when the tenure of the current executives expires in June this year, they should be allowed to continue for one year.
“This motion was duly carried by the majority of members present at the last NEC meeting, even though some of our party members have since spoken up vehemently against it; others have even taken the matter to court.”
While expressing his opinion on the extension, the president said “On my own part, I have taken time to review and seek advice on the resolution and what I found is that it contravenes both our party’s constitution and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“While the APC constitution in article 17(1) and 13.2 (b) limits the tenure of elected officers to four years, renewable once by another election, the 1999 constitution of Nigeria (as amended) in section 223 also prescribed periodic election for party executives at regular intervals which must not exceed four years.
“Furthermore, article 31 of our great party’s constitution provides that any principal officer wishing to recontest, or contest for another post, must resign from his current post at least one month before the election. In this circumstance, what is expected of us is to conduct fresh elections once the tenure of the current executives approaches its end.”
Warning against the implications of a caretaker committee, President Buhari also said: “A caretaker committee cannot remedy this situation and cannot validly act in place of elected officers.
“Furthermore, I think if we deviate from the constitutional provisions, we might be endangering the fortunes of our party. If the tenure of our party executives can be legally faulted, then it means the any nomination and primary election that they will conduct can also be faulted.
“This is not to talk of divisions that will arise, and it is already arising within the party with some of our members feeling that they are being denied their rights to aspire to executive positions, or that internal democracy is not at play within the party.
“I am therefore of the firm belief that it is better to follow strictly the dictates of our party and national constitutions rather than put the APC and its activities at grave risks.
“Fortunately, we have approved a timetable for the order of congresses and the elections. I think this should be allowed to go forward and all efforts should now be geared towards making them a great success.”
The president, however, said the matter was open to deliberations, adding that it was by so doing that his attention was drawn to the constitution of our party and that of Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, which has led to his cuurent change of position.
“Please feel free to discuss and let us quickly, with the help of the legal adviser, whom I think has the constitution of the party in his head, quickly clear issues that are raised and proceed to accept whatever we feel should be done
“But I take time to listen to my legal advisers, constitutionally given to me in terms of the Ministry of Justice. Our decision is contrary to both party and the constitutional provisions.
“Please bring facts and we reflect and discuss them here and now. Let us be prepared to face the opposition either in the court or on the pages of newspapers to make sure that our programmes are not disrupted by court actions,” he said.
According to him, the ruling party should not give the opposition parties a leeway to get at the APC.
“The only thing I feel too strongly about is that we should not allow our party to be vulnerable to and susceptible to the opposition. They can delay or divide us further within the party when they quote appropriate portions of the party constitution and of the country.”
Briefing newsmen shortly after the NEC meeting, APC national publicity secretary,Bolaji Abdullahi, said that the party would set up a technical committee to look into the president’s advice, adding that the decision of the NEC on tenure elongation stands until further notice.
On his part, Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, said the points raised “is a family issue” that would be resolved.
The Senate president, Bukola Saraki, 17 APC state governors and four deputy governors were among other NEC members in attendance at the meeting.