The friction within the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of its nation-wide ward congresses today took a twist for the worse as protests have erupted in some states.
Although the disquiet in the party reflects the internal tussle within the states, it however assumed a grimmer dimension after the Supreme Court judgement on Ondo Governorship election during the week, which was interpreted in some quarters as questioning the legitimacy of the Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the party.
Those pushing for the postponement of the congresses are of the opinion that the current leadership of the party is an aberration.
While party chieftains in Osun, Enugu, Delta among others are divided over the conduct of the Congress amid allegations of hijacking of materials, a State High Court in Bayelsa and Imo have stopped the conduct of the ward congress in the states.
But the leadership of the APC has insisted that it will go ahead with its planned ward congresses scheduled for today. It also warned against plans to sabotage the exercise, adding that there will be consequences.
Chairman, Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee and Yobe state governor, Hon. Mai Mala Buni, has enjoined party stakeholders and members to conduct the exercise peacefully.
A statement by his director-general, Press and Media Affairs, Mamman Mohammed, called on officials conducting the congress to be fair and objective to all candidates contesting the election.
“As stakeholders of the party, we have great responsibility to make the ward congress in all the participating states successful. We should endeavour to place the party and members interest above personal interests,” Buni said.
The chairman warned that the party would not hesitate to take decisive measures against anyone who deliberately sabotages the Congress.
“We have come a long way in repositioning the party. We have reconciled many groups and individuals, we must not allow personal interests in this election to divide us and draw us back,” he advised.
He expressed the commitment of the committee to entrench internal democracy and respect for the people’s wishes.
Governor Buni further said adequate arrangements have been made by the party to conduct successful and acceptable congresses across the country.
He solicited the support and cooperation of members to the officials “for APC to be a role model for other parties”.
The caretaker chairman also charged aggrieved members to channel their grievances to the appropriate quarters at the party secretariat.
“We should avoid media wars over issues we can settle at the secretariat. I assure you that we will be fair and just to everyone,” Buni said.
Similarly, chieftain of the party and deputy president of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, said yesterday that there is nothing going to stop the event.
Omo-Agege said, “Of particular importance is the fact that the petition in Ondo State did not challenge the legality or competence of the APC Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Committee, but rather challenged the letter dated 27th July, 2020 forwarding the name of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and his running mate to INEC as the candidates of the APC, on the ground that Mai Buni ought not to have signed the letter, him being the executive governor of Yobe State.
“At the risk of prolix, but for the purpose of emphasis, I shall reproduce some of the portions of the petition as may be relevant to the issue at hand.
Relief 1 of the petition was couched as follows:
“That it may be determined and declared that the INEC Form EC9B containing the names of 3rd and 4th Respondents together with the letter dated 27th July, 2020 with which the 2nd respondent purportedly sponsored or communicated its sponsorship of 3rd and 4th respondents to the 1st Respondent are unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect”.
It added that the petition in summary went further to state that it was wrong for Mai Mala Buni and Senator John J. Akpan Udoedehe Ph.D to have signed as national chairman and national secretary of the party and that it was only the National Executive Committee of the APC that can validly sponsor a candidate for election to the office of the governor of Ondo State.
According to him, “From the clear content of the substratum of Jegede’s petition at the lower court, I find it very difficult to understand how it relates to the competence of the Caretaker/ Extra-Ordinary Convention Committee constituted by NEC of the APC”.
“In other to deliberately mislead gullible minds, one of the proponents for the cancellation of the Ward Congresses alluded to the fact that if the APC proceeds with the Congresses, the opposition would simply wait till the APC Presidential Primaries in 2023 to disqualify our candidate and destroy the party. This reasoning, with all due respect, is not only tenuous in law, but strange”.
He also appealed that “as ministers in the temple of justice and noble men, we should all eschew mischievous behaviours and deliberate attempts at misinterpreting and misrepresenting the law to satisfy an egocentric agenda. Let us all be properly guided”.
On his part, national secretary of the party’s caretaker committee, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, in a statement called the attention of party members to the NEC resolution of 8th December, 2020 and thereby reiterated the position of the party to go ahead with the congresses.
He stated that the resolution subsists and extends to the conduct of party members during the congresses.
He noted that “for purposes of clarity, may I re-state the relevant point in the resolution to wit: All pending litigations instituted by members against the party should be withdrawn forthwith, and going forward, no member should institute matters against the party, without exhausting the Internal mechanism for conflict resolution, as enshrined in the party’s constitution”.
“Consequent upon the above, party members should please note that:
“(i) All activities that may be carried out by persons to put the party and its officers in bad light, before, during and after the congresses should be jettisoned.
“(ii) All activities or processes leading up to the congresses and thereafter which do not have the approval of the CECPC are exercises in futility. This is to say that: any purported parallel congress, parallel party organ and or parallel party office, is to say the least a nullity.
“These divisive activities will not be tolerated.
(iii) For the avoidance of doubt, the party shall deploy the full weight of the law as stiputated in section 21 (D) of our party’s Constitution on any one who perpetrates such unlawful Act (s) and also on their sponsors.
“(iv) All persons who are affected by Article 31 of our Constitution should apply for waivers as stipulated under sub. Section 3 of the said Article 31, this is also clearly spelt out in the “Special provisions” of our guidelines.”
Another member of the party’s Caretaker Committee, Mamam Tahir, who affirmed that the Congress will go ahead as planned, said, “I am here this afternoon to reconfirm that our Congresses are on course to hold tomorrow and this Committee is working closely with the Attorney-General of the Federation and he has offered advice that we are on good ground and we are comfortable with that position.”
Tahir who addressed newsmen at the party secretariat yesterday in Abuja, added, “So our programmes will continue to roll on in the normal course of things. So we want to assure teeming members of the APC across the country to come out and elect officers at the ward level. This party believes so much in grassroot politics, grassroot democracy; that is the strength of the party.
“So, we encourage all members to come out tomorrow and elect leaders of their choice at that level before we move to the next stage of our democratisation process and constitution of the leadership of the party.”
But party chieftains in some states seem unfazed by the warning of the party leadership.
The Osun Progressive (TOP), a group within the Osun All Progressives Congress (APC), has called on the party national officers in the state, who are to conduct the state ward congress, to be fair to all parties involved.
The group, through its chairman, Rev Adelowo Adeniyi, made the call yesterday during a press conference in Osogbo.
Adeniyi alleged that Osun APC Caretaker Committee had refused to carry other stakeholders along in the preparation and arrangements for the state congress tomorrow (Saturday).
He pointed out that only the Ilerioluwa group (which belongs to the governor) is involved in the party arrangements, saying no single form was sold to all other interested parties within the APC.
He also alleged that the national secretariat officers sent to Osogbo for the congress had been hijacked and kept from being accessed by other stakeholders in the party.
“We have it on good authority that the Ward Congress Committee appointed by the National Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning committee arrived in Osogbo this morning.
“They are said to have been in the Government House with Governor Gboyega Oyetola since.
“They are circumventing the popular rule of democratic engagement by not allowing the committees to interact with stakeholders in consequent with how things will go tomorrow,” he said.
He, however, called on the Ward Congress committee members, who are in the state for the congress, to be fair to all stakeholders within the party.
In reaction to the allegations, Osun APC Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy, Kunle Oyatomi, said the allegations by the TOP group was baseless.
Oyatomi assured members that the congress would be conducted peacefully and transparently tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Progressive Youth Groups in Osun under the banner of Progressive Youth Movement (PYM) yesterday evening staged a protest, calling on the National Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning committee to call Governor Adegboyega Oyetola and Caretaker Chairman of the APC, Prince Gboyega Famodun, to order.
The group accused Governor Oyetola and Caretaker Chairman of the APC, Prince Gboyega Famodun of committing electoral fraud ahead of tomorrow’s ward congress of the party.
The youths who staged a protest on the Gbongan-Ibadan road, Ogo-Oluwa, Osogbo, today also alleged Oyetola and Famodun of hijacking the nomination forms brought by some national officials of the APC.
Speaking at the Secretariat, one of the leaders of the group, Mr Rasheed Raji, said: “We are here to protest the electoral fraud being committed by Governor Adegboyega Oyetola and the APC Chairman, Prince Gboyega Famodun. The two leaders of the party are clearly killing APC in the State of Osun.
“Our party at the national level sent committee members led by one Abdullahi down to Osun since last week Saturday to begin sales of form and preparation for the congress. But ever since they arrived, the committee members are nowhere to be found. They are not either at the State Party Secretariat or any other place carrying out their national duty.
“Thousands of our members have paid for the nomination forms to participate in the ward congress but were not given form. Only members of Governor Oyetola’s group, IleriOluwa were given form. This is a plan to manipulate the congress. The National Secretariat of our party should know this.”
“We wanted to take our protest to the State Secretariat of our party but the Governor has stationed political thugs there. They planned to attack us and we do not want bloodshed. But our voice will be heard. We don’t want consensus in Osun and the congress committee should be allowed to do its job.
Among the protesters was Mrs Opeyemi Adetipe who condemned what she described as brazen balkanization of the party by Governor Oyetola and Famodun, accusing them of intimidating and harassing members of the party who do not belong to their camp.
Adetipe said the alleged hijacking of the nomination forms by the duo is an evidence of the politics of division and self destruction being played by both the Governor and the party chairman.
She called on the national leaders of the party to rescue the soul of Osun APC and its members from Governor Oyetola and Famodun.
“We are supposed to go to the party Secretariat but they have stationed thugs there. The governor is intimidating every member of the party who does not belong to his group, IleriOluwa.
Court Stops Congress in Imo
Meanwhile, a High Court in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has told the APC not to go ahead with the congresses in Imo State pending the hearing of a suit brought before the Court by the applicant, Okey Anyikwa.
Justice Valentine Oriji threatened to invalidate the outcome of congresses if the party disregards the position of the Court.
Oriji had, after Friday’s proceeding, ordered that all actions regarding the APC congresses in the state should be stayed pending the hearing of the application slated for August 10.
There was tension in the Enugu state chapter of the APC over allegations that materials for the ward congress of the party might have been hijacked by some stakeholders of the party.
It was gathered that stakeholders of the party drawn from the 17 local government areas of the state and 260 political wards who were invited for a briefing waited in vain at the party secretariat, GRA, Enugu on Thursday as no member of the committee showed up.
The tension heightened when information filtered in that the secretary of the committee, Ben Kure from Kaduna state, who was sworn in on Wednesday at the National Secretariat of APC in Abuja, had been suddenly replaced.
Our Correspondent equally gathered that though the party at the state paid for delegate forms, none of the forms had been received as of Thursday evening at the secretariat in Enugu, paving way for suspicion that the actual delegates may not participate in the exercise.
A chieftain of the party in the state who craved anonymity on the development said,” All the sensitive materials have been given to a member of the committee, whom we learnt is taking orders from one of the leaders of the party in the southeast zone.
“The worry is that the little success we have made in bringing members together might kiss the dust if the congress is not well managed. Nobody is ready to accept the kind of thing they did in Anambra state during the governorship primary.
“The committee members must come to Enugu and conduct this congress in line with the stipulated guidelines”, a chieftain of the party, Chief Onyeike Ugwu said.
Ugwu, who further alleged that the chairman of the committee may be moved into Enugu state in a “chartered flight and quartered in one of the best hotels in the state”, wondered who was picking the bills.
According to him, “I know that it is not the party that is hiring a chartered flight for the chairman of the Committee.To do so will cost millions of naira. So where is the money coming from?”, he queried, warning that caution should be applied “so as not to return this party to warpath”.
Efforts to speak with the State Caretaker Committee chairman of the party, Dr. Ben Nwoye, failed as none of his mobile phones was available as at the time of filing this report.
But the Enugu State Ward Congress Committee chairman, Dr Ijeoma Arodiogbu, said the anxiety being expressed by the members were not necessary, saying that his committee members would be in Enugu today (Friday).
“They should have called the national secretariat of the party. Talking about hijacking is part of their job. Nobody has hijacked the process and I am not working for any individual” he denied.
However, a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani has challenged APC members in Enugu to use the ward Congresses to lay the political foundation for victory in future elections.
He gave the advice yesterday during the stakeholders meeting with the seven member committee for ward congress election for Enugu State.
Earlier, the chairman of the caretaker committee of APC in Enugu State, Dr Ben Nwoye had commended the stakeholders for attending the event.
He said that most of the wards have already agreed on consensus arrangements but added that those who are indisposed to the arrangement will have their congress.
In Bayelsa State, there is confusion over the restraining order slammed against the party by a State High Court to stop the conduct of the ward Congress into the 105 wards of the state.
But the factions of the party loyal to both the minister of state for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva and Former Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri have declared their readiness to go ahead despite the court order.
The Bayelsa State High Court sitting in Yenagoa later yesterday in a motion Ex-Parte filed by some aggrieved members of the APC in the state, Ompadec Victor, Esuenifen Obi and Seimiegha Ebibofe Agbozu sought the court Interim injunction stopping the conduct of the ward Congress in the state.
In the suit numbered YHC/07/2021, with the All Progressive Congress (APC) as the only respondent, the claimants asked the court to restrain the Party’s caretaker/extra ordinary Convention Committee from assigning or conducting Congress to elect state, local government and ward party leaders in the state scheduled for Saturday 31st, July, 2021 until the determination of the motion on Notice already before the court.
The Court adjourned the hearing on the motion ex-parte August 9,, 2021.
LEADERSHIP Weekend’s attempts to speak with officials of both factions of the party in the state proved abortive but some senior members from both sides confirmed that they are prepared to conduct parallel congresses tomorrow, Saturday to elect party executive into the 105 wards in the state.
The two factions led by the minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva and that of the Former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri are busy at their two parallel secretariat preparing for the ward Congresses in the 105 wards of the state.
LEADERSHIP Weekend had earlier visited the APC secretariat at Bay Bridge, and it was revealed that the participation forms had been distributed to each ward, filled by candidates and submitted to the secretariat.
The acting secretary of the party, Alabo Martins said the party is ready for the conduct of the ward Congress as required by the party.
He said the party at the State had met and agreed to adopt a consensus option of affirmation to elect the required 105 ward executives in the state.
“it is a peaceful and well organised process in our party,” he said.
Also commenting, the acting State Organising Secretary of the Party, Tari Emberru, dismissed the claim of purported confusion in the party ahead of tomorrow’s Congress.
“Our Congress from ward, state and national is a family affair and it would be peaceful,” he said
Emberru also dismissed the claim of a faction in the Bayelsa APC, “there is no faction in APC in the state. The APC is united and indivisible with Jothan Amos as Acting Chairman, Alabo Martins as Acting Secretary and our leader and father is the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva.”
However at the parallel secretariat located at the Dimrose junction area of the State capital and presided over by a faction of the All Progressive Congress (APC) led by Hon. Ebierien Fala Itubor, the same processes of registration of 105 ward executives are confirmed to be done ahead of today’s Congress.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the Hon. Ebierien Fala Itubor led faction of the APC also had the backing of the National Committee sent to preside over the ward Congress. But the Hon. Ebierien Fala Itubor led executives have resolved to conduct elections into the ward executive offices.
In Kwara State party leaders have agreed to adopt consensus candidates for ward congresses across the 16 local government areas of the state.
This is just as the chairman of the Kwara APC ward congress, Prof Jonathan Ayuba urged all the stakeholders to ensure that the process is peaceful and orderly.
At the end of the stakeholders’ meeting called by the APC National Headquarters’ Congress Planning Committee in Ilorin, members of the party unanimously settled for consensus candidates across the 193 wards.
The pre-congress stakeholders’ meeting was attended by top party chieftains from the state, including Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq; Speaker of the House of Assembly Yakubu Danladi Salihu; Senators Yahya Oloriegbe (Central); Lola Ashiru (South); House of Representatives members; House of Assembly members; Kwara APC Caretaker committee chairman, Alh Abdullahi Samari; and many others.
Governor AbdulRazaq said the party congress is a democratic process designed to ensure smooth running of the party. He reiterated the commitment of the APC administration to serve the masses.
However members of the APC faction in Kwara State loyal to Information and Culture minister, Alh Lai Mohammed have expressed their preparedness to participate in the ward congress slated for Saturday.
This is just as they blamed Governor Mai Mala Buni – led national leadership of the party for the crisis rocking APC in the state.
The APC Factional legal adviser, Barr. Ladi Mustapha disclosed this at a news conference in Ilorin, the state capital.
LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that the secretary of the ward congress committee from the APC national secretariat, Abuja, Yusuf AbdulRahman, had at a news conference in Ilorin on Tuesday advised all interested contestants to purchase forms from the recognised party secretariat in the state .
AbdulRahman who held a joint press conference with Kwara APC chairman, Alh Abdullahi Samari, said : “We are well prepared for the assignment; as you know, we have been on it since last three months. We only urge our party’s members in the state to come out and participate fully, as we are here for everybody”.
But, Mustapha said yesterday : ” Gentlemen of the press, I am delighted to inform you that we have secured nomination forms for all prospective contestants into positions at the wards and local governments in compliance with the set guidelines for the exercise.
“We hereby express our preparedness for the ward congresses of our great party, which commences on Saturday, July 31, 2021, provided every other thing remains constant.”
S/Court Ruling: APC Now Invalid, Carries Burden of “Let Buyer Beware” – PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has lampooned the APC over the friction caused by the Supreme Court verdict on Ondo State saying it has technically invalidated the party. The national publicity secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said APC now lacks the statutory structure to operate as a political party in our country.
Ologbondiyan at a press conference in Abuja said “This is given the pronouncement of the Supreme Court which clearly pointed to the nullity of APC’s subsistence and activities as a political party, for having a sitting governor, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe state, as its Chairman, in total violation of section 183 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as well as the provisions of Article 17(4) of the APC constitution.
“A further interpretation of the pronouncement of the Supreme Court showed that all activities of the APC under Mai Mala Buni, including nomination of candidates for elections, agreements, official decision reached, establishment of committees for statutory activities as well as its planned ward, local government and states congresses now hang loosely on the threat of invalidity.
“The fate of the APC as a defunct party is already sealed and the party cannot come out of this self-inflicted quagmire even if it engages in the drama of appointing a new National Chairman in place of Mai Mala Buni.
“This is because the APC has become statutorily vacuous, without a valid National Working Committee, without a valid National Executive Committee (NEC) and without a valid Board of Trustees (BoT) to legally initiate or carry out any official function including convoking any platform for the administration of the party. It is end of the road for the APC.”
APC Chieftain Asks Court to Halt Party’s Congresses
Meanwhile, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Kalu Agu, has approached a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the party from conducting its planned Ward congress, fixed for Saturday July 31 as well as subsequent Local Government, State, Zonal Congresses as well as the party’s National Convention.
The plaintiff in the suit marked CV/1812/2021, dated July 29 and filed July 30, 2021, is also asking the court to declare as null and void any of the APC’s Congresses and convention held under the current acting National Chairman of the APC’s Caretaker Committee.
The suit filed by his lawyer, Ukpai Ukairo, has the APC and Mai Mala Buni as first and second defendants respectively.
In the suit, the plaintiff is claiming that the second defendant was never elected at any congress to run the affairs of the APC, adding that the party’s Constitution does not allow any person who holds an executive position to occupy any position in any of its organs.
In a 38-paragraph affidavit deposed to in support of the suit, the plaintiff stated that Buni “Is being sued solely in his capacity as henchman of the usurpers of the functions of the organs and elected officers of the first defendant and as representing the other usurpers of the functions of the organs and elected officers of the first defendant”.
Agu, who disclosed that he intends to contest for the position of National Legal Adviser of the APC during the party’s next convention said his interest would “be affected by a coñduct of a congress superintended by the second defendant who is a sitting Governor of Yobe State and also discharging the functions of the elected National Chairman and the National Working Committee of the first defendant”.
While claiming that APC does not have an elected ward congress and that Buni is not also elected, the deponent added that” some persons not known to the ware are determined to come together and appoint themselves as ward executive committee thereby excluding him from the process of contesting for the said position.
Among the issues he wants the court to determine are; whether the APC can conduct a ward congress when there is no elected ward executive committee of the APC.
He further wants the court to determine whether the APC can lawfully conduct a ward congress, local government congress, state congress, zonal congress, national convention for the election of officers into the various levels of the structure of the APC established by the constitution of the APC for its administration when it has usurpers of the functions of the organs and elected officers of the APC who are not elected in accordance with the 1999 Constitution, the Electoral Act and the APC’s Constitution.
He argued that if the answers to the questions are in the negative whether the defendants can be restrained by the court from proceeding with the process of electing any officer of the APC or whether the court can set aside any decision, action, steps or notification taken by the APC for the actualization of the ward, Local Government, State and Zonal Congresses and National Convention for the election of officers of the APC.