Extension can only be achieved by constitutional amendment, says Yari
• Party may reverse self today
• Buhari blames legislative, executive face-off for poor performance
Tuesday’s meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) ended on a confusing note after the party, in contravention of its constitution, declared that it had extended the tenure of the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, other members of its National Working Committee (NWC), and that of the 36 state executive committees, including the FCT, by one year.
The party explained that the tenure extension for the elected and appointed executive officials of the party was done in a bid to avert a pre-election crisis that might arise from the multiple congresses and convention ahead of the 2019 elections.
Citing Article 13 of the APC constitution, which empowers the NEC to carry out the functions of the convention, the party said NEC decided to extend the tenure of the current NWC members and other executive committees at various levels for another 12 months, starting from June 30, 2018.
But by Tuesday night, in realisation that it may have goofed at the NEC meeting by announcing the tenure extension in contravention of the constitution, APC leaders were scrambling to point out the anomaly in the 12 months extension, with one suggesting that the party was likely to issue a statement Wednesday to reverse itself.
To buttress this position, a statement issued Tuesday night by the Chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum and Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari said the decision reached at the NEC meeting was a “mere expression of interest”, adding that it is only at the National Convention of the APC that a constitutional amendment can be carried out to extend the tenures of the executives.
The constitution of the party provides for a four-year tenure for its executives.
The current executives were elected in June 2014 for a four-year mandate, which is expected to lapse on June 30, 2018.
According to Yari, “What has been done is a mere expression of interest. The power of the convention to extend tenure is exercised only by way of a constitution amendment.
“The power of the National Executive Committee of our party cannot go beyond doing so by way of constitution amendment.
“Article 30 of the APC constitution states that the ‘constitution and the schedules hereto can be amended only by the National Convention of the party’.
“The process of amending the constitution is also expressly provided in Article 30 sub section 2.
“What was done today (yesterday) was only an expression of a desire to extend the tenure of the Chief Oyegun-led national executive.”
Also reinforcing Yari’s position, party sources who spoke to THISDAY Tuesday, said the tenure extension granted to Oyegun and others had no legal backing, as a constitutional amendment was still required for the decision to be valid.
“As it stands, the decision can lead to a series of litigations and crises which is what the party is trying to avoid. The tenure extension can only be done with a constitutional amendment. And this amendment can only be done by the National Convention of the party.
“Even if we have to consider Article 13 of the constitution which was cited today (yesterday), it is still debatable if NEC can assume the power of the National Convention or whether it can legally carry out an amendment of the constitution.
“So, as it is, what transpired was an anomaly and has to be rectified to prevent law suits challenging the legality of the tenure extension,” said one party source.
Another official of the party further pointed out that the decision of the NEC even contradicted the position of President Muhammadu Buhari, who at the National Caucus meeting of the party held at the State House, Abuja on Monday, had spoken in support of the conduct of congresses and elections at all levels of the party.
Accordingly, the official wondered how 24 hours later, the NEC of the party departed from the president’s speech at the caucus meeting.
The president had directed the leadership of the ruling party to begin plans for various congresses of the party.
Buhari, who gave the directive against the backdrop of the 2019 election timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), added that it was about time the party prepared for its ward, local government, state and national congresses.
He also advised the APC leaders to uphold what he described as the party’s culture of internal democracy in the conduct of the elections and urged them to ensure that they work together, irrespective of the outcome of the elections.
The tenure extension for Oyegun and others was the outcome of Tuesday’s NEC meeting, which had Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, virtually all the governors of the party, National Assembly members, and other leaders in attendance.
Pro-Buhari forces in the party, sources disclosed, had pushed for the extension, predicating their decision on the fact that the president’s re-election bid would be in jeopardy under a new executive team, especially if cracks were to appear after the conduct of congresses and a convention to elect new executives at the state and national levels.
THISDAY also gathered that a majority of governors were all for the tenure extension except for a few who appeared to be uncomfortable with the Oyegun-led executive.
Deciding on the tenure elongation with 104 votes for, and four votes against, an insider who spoke with THISDAY, said that the extension was a middle of the road compromise from four years to the two-year extension proposed by the Forum of State Chairmen of the party on Monday.
NEC also by a unanimous decision, passed a vote of confidence on Buhari and the party’s NWC led by Oyegun.
Announcing the extension at the end of the NEC meeting, Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello said that the extension was to give the Tinubu-led reconciliation committee time to do its job appropriately.
Bello, who was in the company of other governors and party officials, said it relied on Article 13 of the party’s constitution in arriving at its decision.
Bello also stressed that the tenure had to be extended in order to avoid a formal convention/congresses that could potentially plunge the party into crisis close to 2019 elections.
He cited the examples of Ekiti and Osun States where the congresses were postponed because of fear of internal party divisions that might derail the electoral fortunes of the APC in both states.
He said: “At the end of the National Executive Council meeting today, a major decision was taken in line with the constitution of our party.
“We are all aware that the tenure of the current NWC and the executive members of this party both elected and appointed comes to an end in June this year.
“Considering the time left for the party to conduct all the congresses and convention, and considering that our leader, Senator Tinubu has been charged with the responsibility of reconciling all aggrieved members of our party, we cannot afford to approach the general election 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 and other executive committees at various levels for another twelve months, starting from June 30th.”
On the planned convention and other activities, Bello remarked: “Let me tell you that this will not stop the convention of the party but to go into elective congresses is what we are trying to avoid, relying on the constitution of our party.
“As a matter of fact, Mr. President believes in ensuring that there are congresses and conventions across the board. However, how would you manage the crises that may arise thereafter?
“Let me give you instances, in Ekiti and Osun States, their state congresses were postponed just like in 2014 ahead of the elections, to avoid crises in the states. So, that is why this decision was taken.”
On when the Tinubu panel would wrap up its work, the Kogi governor said: “I don’t have the terms of reference that were given to our leader and I want to believe that there is no committee that is set up without a timeline.
“So, I’m not in a position to tell you the timeline given to that committee. Also, every member of this committee, whether a one-man committee or multiple-man committee, I want to assure you that every member of APC is co-operating 100 per cent with our leader, Sen. Bola Tinubu.”
In the same vein, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, in a statement issued immediately after the NEC meeting, confirmed the tenure elongation of the party officials.
Abdullahi also said that the party passed a vote of confidence on Buhari, Oyegun and the NWC members.
“At the end of the 5th meeting of the APC NEC, it was generally agreed by members to extend the tenure of all elected and appointed officers of the party in the 36 states, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and at the national level,” Abdullahi said in the statement.
He noted that the current tenure will end on June 30, adding that by this decision, all affected officers will continue in their acting capacity for another period of 12 months after the expiration of their current term.
“NEC also by a unanimous decision, passed a vote of confidence on President Muhammadu Buhari and the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), led by the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Buhari who also spoke at the NEC meeting, blamed the face-off between the executive arm of government under his leadership and the legislative arm for the slow progress in governance, but assured his audience that any differences will be resolved.
He also acknowledged that his administration had not met the expectations of many party members.
“I must acknowledge that the government has not met the expectations of many within our party. But few of us know or appreciated the depth of the rot when we took office and that we spent the last two years bringing the country out of the mess we met it.
“Furthermore, the stand-off between the executive and the National Assembly slowed down the process of government. We are working hard to resolve the differences so that the country can move forward,” he said.
According to the president, the current leadership of the country had successfully stabilised the nation, noting: “I am happy to report that slowly and steadily, we have managed to stabilise the country and redirected the ship of state.
“We have restored prudence to the management of resources and confidence in Nigeria has been restored. On February 23, Nigeria floated 12-year and 20-year Eurobonds in the international market, which were both oversubscribed. The 12-year bond was, within days oversubscribed by 332 per cent, while the 20-year bond was oversubscribed by 372 per cent.
“We have stabilised the naira and increased our foreign reserves from $20 billion to $40 billion. The inflation rate is down. With considerably fewer resources available to the country, we have improved all the indices towards a stronger economy.
“Above all, we must pay tribute to the Nigerian people who massively support the government in spite of distractions from proponents of business as usual.
“Nevertheless, I am not asking us to relax and take things easy. We all know that the elections are looming on the horizon. We must, therefore, get our acts together.
“Accordingly, I implore all members of the party to give the Asiwaju committee full co-operation to resolve existing differences among our members in the states affected.
“It is perhaps inevitable that there will be differences of opinion within the party. If we resolve them, then we can build a genuinely democratic party.
“But we must not lose sight of our common purpose as a party to break the mule of Nigerian politics and take the country to new heights.”
While commenting on the Tinubu reconciliation panel, Buhari said he had asked the national leader of the APC to “lead this process of restoring order, manage the differences and strengthen of the party”.
“Soon, primaries at the wards, local government, states and the centre will be due. I urge all members to take account of the fact that APC has a history of conducting free and fair primaries whenever consensus on any position is not reached.
“Regardless of the outcome of the primary processes which is imperative, we should all work together to ensure victory for our party,” he added.
Earlier, Oyegun had in his welcome address, informed the NEC that a voice was raised in favour of the NWC members at the caucus meeting held on Monday night at the State House.
“My colleagues from the NWC, we had a voice raised on our behalf during the caucus meeting and I want to assure you that as quickly as possible we will have a welfare package before the next NEC meeting so that our welfare can be better catered to.”
Tuesday’s meeting was also attended by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu; Senators Magnus Abe, Francis Alimikhena, Abdullahi Adamu, Andy Uba, Sani Yarima; Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal; Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom; Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha; Bauchi State Governor Muhammed Abubakar; Jigawa State Governor Badaru Abubakar; Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun; Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari; Kastina State Governor Aminu Bello Masari; Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai; Niger State Governor Sani Bello, Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; and Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, among others.
The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, were absent at the meeting.
Saraki could not attend the meeting, as he had to appear at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) Tuesday in continuation of his trial for false assets declaration.
After Mock Session, Senate Adjourns
Meanwhile, the Senate Tuesday adjourned its plenary for members of the APC in its fold to attend the NEC meeting of the party convened to resolve its “internal issues”.
Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, at Tuesday’s opening of the session, urged the Senate to adjourn plenary for APC members to attend the NEC meeting.
“I want to plead with all our colleagues here across party lines to show understanding, just as we have shown understanding when the minority party, PDP (Peoples Democratic Party), had to go for congresses or whatever.
“Based on this, Mr. President, very distinguished colleagues, I move that we stand down all the items on the order paper to another legislative day, to enable our colleagues to attend the NEC of the ruling party,” he said.
Laughter, however, erupted in the chamber when some lawmakers mocked the APC and described it as the “All Progressives Crises”.
The laughter continued when the Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, wished the APC lawmakers “safe landing”.
“Before I second the motion, I want to join my colleagues from the other side and wish them safe landing. That the number of policemen we have is short because of the crisis, I don’t know how many we’ll dispatch there to supervise the meeting.
“So, Mr. President, having advised as such, I pray that there will be a safe landing,” he said, eliciting more laughter from the lawmakers.
Presiding, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu joined in the jokes by implying that there was a fire in APC’s house.
“Very distinguished colleagues, I want to thank the minority leader and the minority members for their understanding. You know when your neighbour’s house is on fire, you must allow him to go and quench it,” he said.