Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) seems to be in a fix over the membership status of the immediate past governors of Ogun and Imo states, Ibikunle Amosun and Owelle Rochas Okorocha respectively and two others, seven months after their suspension by the National Working Committee (NWC).
The national leadership of the party, had on March 1, few days after President Muhammadu Buhari was declared winner of the 2019 presidential election, clamped an indefinite suspension on the elected and appointed officers of the party, levelling allegations of anti-party activities against them.
The NWC had while announcing the suspension order, disclosed further that two appointees of President Buhari, the Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu and the now immediate past Niger Delta Minister, Usani Usani were equally involved.
The national leadership had in its report sent to APC National Executive Committee (NEC), the party’s highest decision-making organ, for ratification, also recommended outright expulsion of the governors and the presidential appointees from the ruling party.
It did not stop there as it also claimed to have queried the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, over the same allegation of anti-party activities.
For Okorocha and Amosun, the party leadership stressed that their failure to support the party’s governorship candidates because of their anointed candidates, confirmed them guilty as charged, just as they claimed that the others worked against the party’s candidates in the presidential and National Assembly elections.
However, more than seven months after the disciplinary measure melted on the quartet, they were yet to get any official correspondence to notify them of the party’s decision against them. Besides the quartet, the party had equally suspended some members of the NWC including Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Shauibu Lawan, which is equally awaiting the ratification of the NEC.
Yes, the party leaders seem to have knowledge of their suspension judging by the media war that ensued after the announcement, the hands of the national leadership of the party seem to be tied as the constitution of the party stipulates stringent rigorous procedures to implement the disciplinary action, which among other things requires rectification by the NEC.
In Article 21 of the party’s constitution which deals on disciplinary procedure against erring members, Subsection 1X of Section D, specifying the punishment, stipulates that: “In appropriate circumstances, the party shall cause the prosecution of the member or erstwhile member of the party concerned.
“Where it is proposed to expel a member of the Executive Committee, political officeholder or a member of a Legislative House from membership of the party, such a proposal shall be submitted to the NEC, which after deliberations on the matter may confirm or reject the proposal.
“A decision to expel a member of the party taken or confirmed by the NEC shall be submitted to the Board of Trustees for ratification. The NEC shall on receipt of the report of the fact-finding committee make a decision on the matter within fourteen (14) days.”
Even as the national leadership of the party has recently posited that it does not want to be dragged into the controversy again, because it is a family affair, it seems to be in a fix for obvious reasons.
For instance, the statutory stipulation that the Board of Trustees has the final rectification power constitutes a cog to the implementation especially as the party has operated without such body having been dissolved since coming to power in 2015.
Again, there is also another issue of the failure of the NEC to meet for the past one year to deliberate on such sanction, when the constitution stipulates 14 days. From all indications, the national leadership is not only running afoul of the statutory requirements of the stipulated days for confirmation by the NEC but also facing constitutional breach of NEC not holding a normal meeting every quarter or an emergency meeting at any time decided by the National Chairman. The position of Senator Okorocha seems to have confirmed the state of anomie facing their suspension.
Speaking recently, he had lamented that though he was treated very unfairly by the party he gave everything and got hostility as a reward, he, however, does not know his fate in the party.
“My party has not treated me well. APC has not treated me well. I got an evil reward for my commitment to the course of APC. I brought APC to the South East as a governor. If you recall I was called all sorts of names like Okoro Hausa and accused of building mosques and all that was associated with it, but I kept deaf ears because I felt that I was on the right course with my people.
“I was instrumental to bringing Adams Oshiomhole as national chairman of the APC and that fact he cannot deny. I took the troubles of APC in the South East. I went through this and never betrayed Buhari and the APC but unfortunately at the end of it all, the same APC never stood by me. It worked against me first by destroying my local party and imposing candidates, brought people who fought me when I joined APC in 2015 and made them champions in the party that I formed.
“That is really an unfortunate situation and it has weakened my spirit and my faith to the party, APC because I thought we are family working to advance the course of this nation. The way it is going, it does not look like there will be a solution. And there seems to be silence everywhere. I don’t even know my stand about my suspension because for some time, I don’t even know what is happening in APC.
“But for the silence all over, it just made it as if it is normal. So, I am just waiting and thinking of what next to do, but I am still a member of APC and I love the party and will support it,” he noted.
Speaking further, Okorocha said: “I really don’t know what to expect. Like I said, I have not left the party, I am still a member of APC but there are certain things that go on within the party that don’t go down well with me.
“They are against some of my principles in life. I hate injustice and that is why any time I see injustice rears its ugly head, people tend to fight naturally; not even when it concerns me, even when it concerns any other Nigerian. I hate injustice and this is one of my challenges.
“Like I said before, time will tell as to what the party will look for. For instance, if the party says it has suspended me, I don’t know what I have done to merit being suspended from a party I funded and worked for. So, if I am suspended by the party what should I do? Will I force myself back on the party if they say I am suspended?
“I am just folding my hands and watching the developments of what is going on in my party. There is nothing else the party can do to me, the worse the party can do has been done.”
For the Director-General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, the purported suspension was just a farce and exhibition of the narcissist attitude of the national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
“Which suspension,” he rhetorically asked Saturday Sun correspondent, adding: “If you suspend a member won’t you issue him letter to that effect? I have not yet gotten a letter of suspension from my great party.
“I have searched through our party records and there was nowhere such suspension was reflected. It is just a confirmation of the narcissistic attitude of our chairman. If there is such, it has not stopped me from participating in any party activities,” he quipped. Just like Okechukwu who still keeps his job as VON DG and attends party’s functions unhindered, Amosun and Okorocha have equally kept their seats in the senate as APC senators. In his case, Amosun has been the one nominating persons for virtually all political appointments that have so far gone to his Ogun State since the inauguration of President Buhari on May 29 for a second term.
However, prompted to react to the suspension, the ruling party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, told our correspondent that though election activities and litigations at the tribunal could not permit the national leadership to convene NEC meeting, the issue is now a family affair and not for media attention.
“Yes, the NEC that will ratify the suspension has not met for an obvious reason concerning electoral activities and the legal tussle at the Tribunal, but now that judgment has been delivered, we will start planning for NEC meeting,” he said.
Asked if NEC will deliberate on the suspension, the ruling party’s spokesperson quipped: “All I can tell you is that this issue is a family affair and will be treated and handled as such.”