Odigie-Oyegun’s tenure extension can’t stand, says President Buhari

• APC raises panel to consider reversal
• Okorocha, Tinubu, others hail decision
• It reflects chaos in party, govt, says PDP
• Saraki, Dogara absent from NEC meeting

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday declared as unconstitutional the recent decision by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to extend the tenure of the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC).

The president’s position took the NWC and the 36 state chairmen of the party, who were beneficiaries of the controversial decision, by surprise at the start of the NEC meeting yesterday at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja.

Also in attendance were the 24 state governors of the party and select national assembly members. But the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara were conspicuously absent from the meeting which started around 10:40 a.m.

Chieftains of the party who felt shortchanged due to the tenure elongation had taken the Odigie-Oyegun-led NWC to court, seeking the quashing of the decision.

President Buhari said notwithstanding the fact that the decision to extend the tenure got the endorsement of the NEC at its meeting held on the 27th of February this year, it could not stand since it was against the provisions of Article 17 (1) (2) of the APC constitution as well as section 223 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

He argued that allowing such an illegality to stand would not only deepen the crises plaguing the party, it could provide an enabling environment for members of the opposition to wrestle power from APC in the 2019 general elections.

Buhari, who reiterated the need to ensure internal democracy in the APC, enjoined the NEC to duly elect executive members of the party at national and state levels in accordance with the timetable of the party.

The president disclosed that his position was based on wise counsel of persons knowledgeable in law among the ranks of the party, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) and the Abubakar Malami-led Federal Ministry of Justice.

He said: “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 prescribes 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 re-contest, 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.

“A caretaker committee cannot remedy this situation and cannot validly act in place of elected officers. I think if we deviate from the constitution and provisions, we might be endangering the fortunes of our party.”

According to Buhari, “If the tenure of our party executive can be legally faulted, then, it means any nomination and primary election that they will conduct can also be faulted.

“This is not to talk of differences that will arise and they are already arising within the party when some of our members are feeling that they are being denied the rights to aspire to executive positions or 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. This should be allowed to go forward and all efforts should now be geared towards making them a great success.”

The Spokesman of the party, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, who briefed reporters on the outcome of the meeting disclosed that a technical committee comprising experts would be constituted to reconsider the legal implications of the decision to extend the tenure of the party executive officers.

He said if the committee which was mandated to turn in its report today, endorsed Buhari ‘s position, it would take another round of NEC meeting to ratify the reversal of the tenure elongation.

He said it was resolved at the NEC that two separate committees be constituted to harmonise the inputs of members on the amendment of the party constitution and the Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai committee’s position on the restructuring of the country.

Odigie-Oyegun, in his welcome address, applauded the president for the release of the Dapchi girls abducted by the Boko Haram terrorists in Yobe State.

The APC national chairman, who obviously least expected the shocking new position of President Buhari, said the meeting was convened purely to review the party’s constitution and the report of the El-Rufai-led committee on restructuring which was submitted earlier in the year.

In a reaction, Imo State governor and Chairman of Progressive Governors’ Forum, Rochas Okorocha, said the president had simply scored another beautiful goal for the nation’s democracy.

‘What the president said about the need to protect and respect the provisions of the nation’s constitution and that of the party could not be seen as a victory or defeat for any member of the party, but another bold step towards deepening democratic ethos in our dear nation.”

The National Leader of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in a statement, said Buhari’s position affirmed that the party remained faithful to the principles of internal democracy and the rule of law.

“President Buhari’s action saves the party from serious legal turmoil. If the elongations were deemed illegal, then all subsequent party actions, including the nomination of all of our candidates for elective offices, might also be of questionable legality. Such a predicament would constitute an unnecessary and mortal blow to the party and its role in promoting progressive governance to Nigeria.

“While it would have been easy to allow the ill-conceived motion of 27 February to stand, President Buhari showed principle and courage by steering the party back to its original and correct path. The president has spoken. Today is a good day for those who cherish democracy and legality.”

The Convener of Broom United Movement (BUM) in the party, Mr. Fouad Oki, who has been a vocal voice against the tenure elongation, said the president’s position was a step in the right direction.

Read More: APC to expel members in court over leadership extension

Oki who was the campaign manager of Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola and the incumbent Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State said: “What the president did would help the party to grow and also boost the confidence of Nigerians in the APC, otherwise we would be seen as a body that does not regard the rule of law.”

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the confusion in the APC was a clear reflection of the chaos and disorderliness in its government.

According to the opposition party, the executive flip-flops by President Buhari and his interferences in the internal running of the APC have further exposed the raging impunity, primitive impositions and other undemocratic tendencies in the ruling party.

PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement yesterday said: “The confusion in the APC also directly explains why our country has been in a shambles in the last three years. There is no way a party which cannot conduct its affairs in a democratic norm will be able to function in government.

“We are therefore not surprised that Buhari went back to his party’s NEC and ordered members to reverse earlier decisions, which they had claimed conformed with the provisions of their constitution.”

The party continued: “It is amazing that a party, which boasts of belonging to the progressive bent, does not even understand its own rules or the applications thereof. In one breath, the party sought the elongation of tenure for its officials and then in another breath it reversed itself.

“Nigerians are no longer at loss as to the reasons for the failure of governance, policy summersaults and gross incompetence that have brought our nation to its knees in the last three years.”

“Our takeaway in all these is that the APC is a complete disaster and we urge all democrats still trapped in this sinking ship to immediately exit and join other good-spirited Nigerians in the rebranded and repositioned PDP to make life better for our people,” it added.

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