…Plays down 2023 bid
…Sacked APC National Chairman: No regrets, I stand by all my actions
…President, ex-Lagos gov not at war—Presidency
…Buhari to govs: We must not lose Edo
By Omeiza Ajayi and Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Efforts to find peace in the All Progressives Congress (APC) continued yesterday after the sack of its National Working Committee (NWC) by the National Executive Committee (NEC) on Thursday.
The Caretaker/Extraordinary National Working Committee, which replaced the NWC and headed by Gov. Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, is scheduled to have its inaugural meeting tomorrow.
The Committee is supposed to produce a new NWC within six months.
But the National Leader of the ruling party at the federal level, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, told the sacked National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to own his mistakes.
Although it has been widely speculated that Oshiomhole and Tinubu, also a former governor of Lagos State, are allies on the latter’s rumoured 2023 presidential project and the former helping him to achieve the bid as party National Chairman, Tinubu dismissed the speculation, saying he had “made no decision regarding 2023”.
Elsewhere, Oshiomhole spoke, saying he stood by all he did as APC National Chairman.
“I have taken my decisions. I am happy”, he said.
Separately, President Muhammadu Buhari told APC governors that the party must not lose the September governorship election in Edo State. Also yesterday, the Presidency dismissed the speculation that Buhari was at war with Tinubu.
The APC crisis, which climaxed with the sack of the party’s NWC on Thursday, had started with the re-election bid of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State which was believed to have been opposed by Oshiomhole, also from the state.
Analysts said elements within the party who wanted Oshiomhole out as APC leader to pave the way for their 2023 presidential ambition latched on to the crisis and this led to the multiple court cases, the attendant chaos and the sack of the NWC last week.
Tinubu, in a statement, yesterday, titled, ‘Becoming the party we were intended to be’, acknowledged that the sacked APC NWC had become ridden by unnecessary conflict.
The APC National Leader said: “Those who disagreed with one another stopped trying to find common ground. Attempts were made to use the power of executive authority to bury each other. I must be blunt here. This is the behaviour of a fight club not the culture of a progressive political party.
“Some members went against their Chairman in a bid to forcefully oust him. In hindsight, his fence-mending attempts were perhaps too little too late. I believed and continue to believe that Comrade Oshiomhole tried his best. Mistakes were made and he must own them. Yet, we must remember also that he was an able and enthusiastic campaigner during the 2019 election. He is a man of considerable ability as are the rest of you who constituted the NWC.
“It had been my hope that the disagreements could be resolved. After all, a political solution should not be beyond the ken of leaders of a major political party. But such resolution has failed to materialise. It was as if some unseen but strong force continued to stoke the embers. Instead of calling a prudent ceasefire, too many people sought more destructive weapons against one another.
“Order, party discipline and mutual respect went out of the window. Members instituted all manner of court cases, most of them destructive, some of them frivolous, none of them necessary. In the process, a dense fog fell upon our party.
“When this matter first came to a boil a few months ago, I issued a statement against this litigious tendency. President Buhari and former interim chairman Akande published strong words against this misuse of the courts as being contrary to the spirit of the party and the letter of its constitution. Each of us knew nothing good would come of such conduct. Instead of listening to this counsel, party members increased their trips to the courts. While busy providing ample livelihood for a gaggle of lawyers, these actions cast the good of the party to the wind.
“After the fusillade of lawsuits and countersuits, two NWC members laid competing claims to the chairmanship. One legitimately elected at our national convention; the latter whose claim was based on the questionable suspension of the former.
“With lawsuits so numerous one needed a spread sheet to keep track, President Buhari has reasonably decided that he has seen enough.
“I do not lament his intervention or its outcome. I lament that the situation degenerated to the point where he felt compelled to intervene.
“President Buhari is much more than a mere beneficiary of the party. He is one of its founding fathers. The APC does not exist in its current form without his singular contributions. That is not opinion; it is undisputed fact.
“Given these antecedents, he cares about the condition of the party as any parent would care for its offspring. President Buhari has done what any parent in his position and with his authority would do. The more troubling consideration is that so many trusted people acted in such a way as to force the president to put aside the issues of statecraft in order to address these problems.
“The President has spoken and his decision has been accepted. It is now beholden on all of us, as members of the APC, to recommit ourselves to the ideals and principles on which our party was founded. While we recognize that people have personal ambitions, those ambitions are secondary, not sacrosanct. Members must subordinate their ambitions to health and well-being of the party. Never should our party be defined by one person’s interests or even the amalgam of all members’ individual interests. A successful party must be greater than the sum of its parts.
“In this vein, I appeal to all former members of the National Working Committee and all members of our party to sheathe their swords and look to the larger picture”.
Speaking on his rumoured presidential bid, Tinubu said: “To those who have been actively bleating how the President’s actions and the NEC meeting have ended my purported 2023 ambitions, I seek your pity. I am but a mere mortal who does not enjoy the length of foresight or political wisdom you profess to have. Already, you have assigned colourful epitaphs to the 2023 death of an alleged political ambition that is not yet even born.
“At this extenuating moment with COVID-19 and its economic fallout hounding us, I cannot see as far into the distance as you. I have made no decision regarding 2023 for the concerns of this hour are momentous enough.
“During this period, I have not busied myself with politicking regarding 2023. I find that a bit distasteful and somewhat uncaring particularly when so many of our people have been unbalanced by the twin public health and economic crises we face. I have devoted these last few months to thinking of policies that may help the nation in the here and now. What I may or may not do 3 years hence seems too remote given present exigencies.
“Those who seek to cast themselves as political Nostradamus’ are free to so engage their energies. I trust the discerning public will give the views of such eager seers the scant weight such divinations warrant.
“Personally, I find greater merit trying to help in the present by offering policy ideas, both privately and publicly, where I think they might help. I will continue in this same mode for the immediate future. 2023 will answer its own questions in due time.
“I have toiled for this party as much as any other person and perhaps more than most. Despite this investment or perhaps due to it, I have no problem with making personal sacrifices (and none of us should have such a problem) as long as the party remains true to its progressive, democratic creed. Politics is but a vehicle to arrive at governance. Good politics promotes good governance. Yet, politics is also an uncertain venture. No one gets all they want all the time. In even a tightly-woven family, differences and competing interests must be balanced and accommodated”.
I stand by all my actions — Oshiomhole
Oshiomhole, speaking in Abuja, yesterday, said he had accepted the decision of the NEC to dissolve the NWC.
The sacked APC chairman said he had no regret over the various decisions he took while at the helm of affairs.
The former chairman said Buhari had two years ago invited him to come and reposition the APC and that since the President had also agreed to the dissolution of the NWC, he was bound to obey him as the leader of the party.
Asked by journalists if there was anything he would have done differently looking back at his years in office, he said: “No, the process of leadership requires that you make decisions. I am a man of very strong convictions. I am driven by what I believe in and I recognize that for every decision you take particularly when you embark on radical reforms, you are going to step on some toes. That was clear to me. I am not assuming leadership for the first time. I have taken my decisions. I am happy.
“At the end of the day how do you judge the performance of a party? You judge it by its electoral outcome. I believe it is convenient for people to point at few areas where we had challenges, few states that we lost, but also there were states that we won. For example, it does not matter what anybody wants to say, I remain proud that we were able to recover Kwara State. That was extremely important to us for reasons I need not enumerate. I am happy that we recovered Gombe state. Those are very strategic states. There are a couple of other things that I could speak to but today is not the right day to talk.
“As for regrets, no regrets at all. There is no regret at all. You cannot l and a party as large as the APC bin a country as diverse as Nigeria and expect that everybody is going to be happy for you. In life, for every one thing that some people are clapping, there must be those who are not happy. Just look at a football match. When you score a goal, you will see some players almost crying and yet you see some other people jubilant as if that is the end of the world. That is the way life is. You cannot have it both ways. I assure you I do not regret anything”.
‘Buhari made me Chairman’
He also spoke of how President Muhammadu Buhari had in 2018 invited him to view for the chairmanship of the party in order to run its fortunes around.
“At the end of the NEC meeting as you all now know, the NWC was dissolved and accordingly, I ceased to be the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress APC.
“Mr President graciously invited me to run for the office of the chairmanship of the party in 2018, precisely about two years ago. The president told me then that if we did not reform the All Progressives Congress, we can as well forget about 2019. Those were his exact words. But I know that reforms can be challenging and it will entail taking difficult decisions.
Mine has been a life of struggles. I accepted this and I believe I did my best. I am happy that at the end of the day, the 2019 elections have come and gone and thanks to Nigerian people, our president had more votes in 2019 than we had in 2015 and we have more members in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.
Unlike in 2015 when we were unable to manage our victory in the two chambers such that we ended up with an APC Senate President who later decamped and a PDP Deputy Senate President, this time, working hard with my colleagues in the NWC and in consultation with leaders of the party across board, we were able to have the kind of unity which is expected of a governing party in the two chambers of the National Assembly. I am happy that the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly are working harmoniously with Mr President on the Executive side and we are able to have what you can truly call a functioning relationship.
“I think everything considered, I believe that the APC NWC under my chairmanship has done its best and the results are there.
“Of course, we have now been dissolved and I have accepted that dissolution in good faith. I am not going into the issue of the legality or illegality, the bottomline is the President who invited me to lead the party and who gave me all the support and who mobilized all the support across the country for my emergence as chairman also presided over the meeting where the NWC has now been dissolved. And because I have always assured the president of my loyalty -and you know it is easy for people to speak of loyalty when the going is good, but loyalty is brought to the test when the going gets real tough – as a demonstration of that loyalty to Mr President, loyalty to our party and loyalty to the Nigerian nation, I have decided to accept the decision in good faith and to maintain my loyalty, my respect and my admiration for President Muhammadu Buhari”, he said.
Oshiomhole added that he had asked his lawyers to withdraw the case he instituted in court against his suspension.
“Accordingly, I have instructed my lawyers to withdraw my case that is currently pending at the Supreme Court which has to do with the issue of my suspension. To sustain the legal action will tantamount to going against one of the decisions that the president had reached, namely that all cases be withdrawn from courts. I still believe that even as a member of the APC, I have a duty to lead by example.
“So, I am now taking a bow and I accept the decision of the NEC in good faith and I want to reassure Mr President that my confidence in his leadership remains unshaken, my commitment to our party as a member remains unshaken and I also want to use this opportunity to appreciate all the governors of the APC, call the leaders of APC across the country, all the non-NWC members who had stood by me over this period and ofcourse my colleagues in the NWC including those who went to court and who took steps that on a good day one can describe as a bit unbecoming. On this occasion, all those belong to the past”.
Sacked NWC sheaths sword
Members of the dissolved NWC of the APC, also yesterday, said they had agreed to work with theCaretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee, saying they would not challenge their dissolution in court.
They said the decision was the outcome of wide consultations with leaders and stakeholders within the party.
In a statement by the former acting National Chairman, Hilliard Eta, and acting National Secretary, Arc. Waziri Bulama, the group berated the opposition PDP for dabbling into its affairs, urging it to first remove the speck in its eyes.
The PDP had reportedly faulted the composition of the caretaker committee which it said is illegal in the face of constitutional provisions which requires only democratically elected leadership for political parties.
We must not lose Edo to opposition – Buhari
Speaking on the APC crisis, yesterday, Buhari asked the party’s governors to ensure it reclaims Edo in the September governorship election.
The President gave the marching order when the governors, on the platform of the Progressive Governors Forum, PGF, led by its Chairman, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, paid a ‘thank you’ visit to him on the inauguration of the Caretaker Committee at the State House, Abuja.
It was reliably gathered that the President told the governors to mobilize themselves to do all that is necessary to make sure that Edo does not remain in the opposition PDP.
He also said that Ondo state must be retained by the governing party in the forthcoming election.
Buhari was said to have been disappointed that a serving APC governor could be driven to the point of leaving the party and aligning with the opposition.
‘Buhari, Tinubu not at war’
Dismissing the insinuation that Buhari and Tinubu were having a frosty relationship, yesterday,
Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman, said the relationship had been cordial.
In a statement, Shehu accused the opposition of stoking the rumour of a rift between the President and Tinubu. “The very essence of the requests put to the Emergency National Executive Committee meeting of the APC by President Muhammadu Buhari, which were unanimously approved, aim to pull back the party, faced with an existential crisis from the brink of collapse, follow the constitution and take everyone along,” he said.
“While this action has been widely accepted with great relief by lovers of democracy and the rank and file of the membership, we are concerned that political vulturism masquerading as “smart analysis” is selling the commentary that this is a Buhari-Tinubu “showdown.” Nothing can be farther from the truth.
“To put the records straight: In the formation of this great party and giving it leadership, President Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who are reckoned as the founding fathers of the APC, were both inspired by democratic norms, national interest and not at all by partisan motivations. These are the qualities that have made them move past cynical distractions”.