Chief John Adigie Oyegun, national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, should be having a rethink over his jeers and sneers at those he tagged prophets of doom shortly after the decision of the national caucus of the party to extend the tenure of the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, which he heads.
Oyegun had derided those behind the speculations of his imminent removal as the chairman of the party, particularly the media, which he accused of manufacturing and exaggerating issues within the party.
According to him, the national caucus meeting did not discuss any of the issues speculated in the media in the weeks preceding the meeting where the decision on tenure elongation was made, contrary to what trended in the social and traditional media outfits.
“In fact, I want to ask the media where they dug them (the speculations) out because we just had a pleasant meeting and all what I have been reading in the media, none of it (happened). All the prophecies of doom, none of it even came near for mention,” he claimed.
The party had premised the tenure extension on the need to ‘give the party the room to face the serious task ahead, especially the 2019 general elections.’
Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, who announced the development, said that the decision was taken in line with the party´s Constitution.
He explained that it was to ensure that peace prevailed within the party’s hierarchy ahead of the 2019 general elections.
“Considering the time left for the party to conduct all the congresses, we cannot afford to approach general elections with more disputes and crises.
“So, relying on Article 13 of our Constitution, which empowers the NEC to carry out the function of the convention, the NEC has decided to extend the tenure of the current NWC,” Governor Bello said.
He explained that the tenure extension included the party´s other executive committees at various levels, but stated that the action would not stop its non-elective National Convention slated for July.
A political scientist, Professor Abiodun Oni, HOD, Department of Political Science, Babcock University, Ogun State, said the ruling party was right to have given the decision a thought. He noted that any attempt by the party to go for a national convention, considering the prevailing discontent within party, would result in a disaster for the party.
“The extension is in line with the party’s constitution. If APC should go for any convention now, it will be so obvious that the party is in crisis. They chose to postpone the convention in order to avoid a major fall-out from the simmering crisis within the party. You will remember that the party was formed by different political interest groups and each of these groups is trying to assert its authority.
“You have those in control of the senate; Tinubu is not in control of the party anywhere other than in the South West; the president is in control of the party in the North and he is in control of the CPC elements. So with the fragile state of the party now, any attempt to call for convention now will surely cause more problems for the party. There is mutual distrust among various interest groups within the party. No group wants other group to hijack the party; that is why they had to postpone the convention until after the party would have presented candidates for the coming elections.
But the party’s decision to extend the four-year tenure of its officers by one year has failed to douse the tension in the party as a rash of litigations seeking the reversal of the decision kicked off last week.
A chieftain of the party in Lagos, Dr.Wale Hammed, had last Wednesday prayed a Federal High Court in Lagos to declare the purported tenure extension of the party’s national officers unconstitutional.
Dr. Hammed listed Oyegun, national chairman of the party, Segun Oni, deputy national chairman (South ) and Senator Lawal Shuaibu, deputy national chairman (North) as first, second and third defendants respectively.
Others are Ibrahim Gubi, national secretary (fourth defendant), Pius Akinyelure, vice-chairman, South-west (fifth defendant). APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission are the sixth and seventh defendants in the matter respectively.
The applicant had on March 9 filed an originating summons, seeking the determination of the court whether the extension of the NEC and NWC elected or appointed members, was constitutional.
He prayed the court to determine if the defendants had the constitutional right under Section 223 of the 1999 Constitution and Articles 13 and 17 of the APC Constitution to extend the tenure of its NEC and NWC members.
The applicant, through his counsel, Babatunde Fashanu (SAN), had filed a motion ex-parte before the court, urging it to grant four orders pending the hearing of the substantive suit.
He prayed the court for an order granting leave to the plaintiff to sue the first to fifth defendants on behalf of all officers of the NEC and the NWC of the APC.
He also sought an order granting leave to serve the first to fourth and the sixth defendants the originating summons by leaving it with the front desk officer of the sixth defendant.
Other prayers include an order of interim injunction restraining the first to sixth defendants from implementing the purported tenure elongation of the presently elected organs of the APC and an order of interim injunction restraining the seventh defendant from recognizing the decision of the first to sixth defendants to extend its tenure beyond four years.
The presiding judge, Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, in her ruling granted the first two prayers but requested the applicant to put the other defendants on notice for the last two orders.
The court also asked the applicant to serve all the processes and hearing notices on the defendants, while the case was adjourned until March 27 for hearing of the motion.
In a similar development, four party members who claimed to have interest in vying for leadership positions of the party have also filed a suit challenging the extension before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The plaintiffs are Ademorin Kuye from Lagos State ; Sani Mayanchi, publicity secretary of the party in Zamfara State , Are Mutiu also from Lagos State , and Machu Tokwat from Kaduna State.
One of the plaintiffs, Adeniran Kuye claimed to be aspiring to run for the office of the National Legal Adviser of the party, while the rest of the plaintiffs claimed they were aspiring to run for the offices of the chairman of the party in their respective states.
Respondents to the suit which was filed on March 8, are the Independent National Electoral Commission, the APC; Odigie -Oyegun (sued for himself and on behalf of the national, state , local government area , and ward officials of the APC elected between April and June 2014 ); and the National Organising Secretary of the party, Osita Isunaso .
Accompanying the plaintiffs’ suit marked FHC/ABJ /CS/ 237 / 2018, were a motion for interlocutory injunctions, and an ex parte motion seeking, among others, prayers for orders temporarily halting the implementation of the tenure extension, pending the hearing of the motion for interlocutory injunction.
Giving a ruling, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba granted four of the prayers sought in it but rejected three others bordering on interim restraining orders.
In refusing the prayers for the restraining orders, Justice Dimgba held that it would be “improper to grant them without hearing the respondents”.
Granting an accelerated hearing of the suit, the judge said rather than granting the interim orders, the court would determine the substantive suit before June 30, when the tenure of the officials would be deemed expired.
The judge therefore ordered that the four respondents – INEC, APC, Oyegun and Isunaso – be put on notice to enable them to react to the application for interim injunction and granted an accelerated hearing of the suit.
Although the Lagos State chapter of the ruling party has openly expressed its opposition to the decision to extend the tenure of the party’s national officers, it is unclear if the two legal actions instituted against the decision were counter moves by the state chapter of the party to press for its reversal. Three of the five plaintiffs who instituted the two cases against the extension are from Lagos.
When our correspondent sought for the reaction of the Lagos State Chairman of the party, Henry Ajomale, his P.A who picked some of the several calls put through to his line said his principal was at a meeting. A text message sent to his mobile line was not equally responded to.
The Publicity Secretary of the party in the state, Joe Igbokwe, in his own reaction, described the decision by aggrieved members to seek redress in court over the matter as democracy at play. “We are in democracy and everybody is free to do whatever he likes. People are at liberty to go to court. I hope you are aware that Lagos APC has taken a position on that. So I am not surprised that somebody is going to court. That is democracy and the court is there to redress whatever injustice anybody feels has been meted out to him,” Igbokwe posited.
When Sunday Sun sought to know if the ruling party has a plan to reverse its decision or plans to appease aggrieved members over the matter, the spokesperson of the party, Bolaji Abdullahi in a terse SMS said: “the decision (to extend the tenure of the officers of the party) was that of the NEC of the party. And as such, only the same organ of the party can reverse itself or the national convention.
Speaking on what the court cases portend for the party, Prof Oni who noted that such litigations were not strange in the nation’s political landscape maintained that the decision was in order. “This is not the first time that tenure extension will be granted to party executive at any level. If it is illegal, it wouldn’t have been done and if it is done, you should be sure that it will be challenged in court of law. As it is now, anything can happen in Nigeria, the plaintiffs could be expelled before they finish the litigations and the party will say they do not have locus standing.
“And again, court proceedings and court processes in Nigeria can take up to one or two years, that is why it’s not always advisable to go to court. The decision by APC to grant tenure extension to its officers is a smart decision,” he opined.
On what the controversy portends for the ruling party ahead of next year’s elections, Oni said the ruling APC and the opposition PDP already have a major threat starring at them with the coming of SDP. He posited that the infightings within the two major political parties might be to the advantage of the fledgling political party. “With SDP coming in now, I see a big threat to both the ruling All Progressives Congress and the leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party. If the SDP can absorb from here and there, it will pose a major threat to both parties. So the emergence of SDP portends a serious danger for the two parties not only the APC,” the don maintained.