• Ex-govs seek Tinubu’s ouster from NEC
•Oyegun slams his accusers
• Party may face legal hurdles if it moves to remove senate leadership
The crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) may simply worsen during and after its much anticipated National Executive Council (NEC) meeting today, as all indications point to likely tough exchanges between various interest groups within the party, in what has been described as political fireworks, which could lead to a stalemate.
This is fuelled by the belief that some former governors, who are members of the party, and a group of Northern stakeholders in the party have resolved to defend the elections of both Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.
Today’s NEC meeting is expected to be attended by President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Senate Leader, APC state governors, NWC members and APC state chairmen, among others.
Other prominent leaders of the party expected at the meeting are former governor of Lagos State Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande, Chief Ogbonaya Onu and other leaders.
THISDAY learnt that the former governors of the party met during the week and agreed not only to back the emergence of Saraki and Dogara as the Senate President and Speaker of the House but also to strongly advocate the restructuring of the party along the line of legacy parties.
This decision, THISDAY learnt, was spurred by the perception of the ex-governors as well as some Northern leaders that the protracted crisis in the National Assembly is being orchestrated from only the South-west chapter of the party.
There is the belief that the opposition to the leadership structure in the National Assembly is being championed by Bola Tinubu whose preferred candidates lost out in the struggle for the leadership of the national legislature.
Many suspect that the NEC meeting of today may seek to remove the elected leadership in the senate, a development which could pose some legal problems to the party given the fact that the senate leadership which has fully crystalised had gone through the normal legislative processes.
Any form of alteration to the emerged leadership structure can therefore be through impeachment which has to be done by two-thirds members of the senate.
It was further learnt that the former governors, who are vehement in their resolve, have decided to force their way into the venue of the meeting today on the grounds that if a National Leader of the APC, Senator Tinubu, who is also a former governor, is allowed in, there is no reason they should be denied entry into the meeting.
The former governors are also insisting that there is no provision in the constitution of APC which accords recognition to the position of a National Leader with the argument that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.
Hence, they said if Tinubu, who is their colleague is allowed in, they also possess the qualification to be part and parcel of the meeting.
However, one of the former APC governors, Dr. Kayode Fayemi who spoke to THISDAY last night denied knowledge of any plot to storm the NEC meeting or move against Tinubu.
“We are not members of NEC and I am not aware of any plan to attend the NEC meeting by former governors in the party. You know there are former governors and there are former governors.”
Fayemi noted that it is possible perhaps to allow former governors into the meeting, but only as observers as they have no voting right, asking “so what is the essence?”
He further reasoned that none of the about 15 former governors is likely to do what has been suggested.
In order to achieve their objective, they said they had planned to assemble at the party’s national secretariat with a view to joining the meeting once Tinubu is granted access into the meeting venue.
THISDAY also gathered yesterday evening that the party leaders had resolved to uphold the sanctity of the party’s constitution by denying anyone who is not a legal member of the party’s NEC access to the meeting.
On their part, northern stakeholders of the party were said to have been aggrieved over insinuations that the South-west chapter of APC was heating up the party with a warning that the National Assembly crisis “was gradually becoming a distraction to the party and could stall its manifesto of change.”
The northern stakeholders flayed Chief Bisi Akande over his comment on Monday that the elections of Saraki and Dogara were sponsored by oil barons and that the northern elite were conspiring with Saraki to frustrate the South-west.
They described the allegation “as a failed attempt to pit the North against the South-west and it should be stopped before it does more havoc to APC”.
However, governors elected on the platform of APC were scheduled to meet yesterday at the Imo Governor’s Lodge in Abuja so as to arrive at an initiative to resolve the current logjam in the National Assembly.
Another source of tension was the allegation of under-hand action levelled against the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun which has been condemned by many of the stakeholders as false and selfish witch-haunt.
Although many of the party leaders have issued statements stating the contrary, fears and apprehension have indeed gripped many party members over what may likely be the outcome of the NEC meeting.
The party’s national chairman, Chief Oyegun, who has been at the centre of the crisis that bedevilled the party in the National Assembly, described the bribery allegation against him as rubbish and an attempt by persons without conscience to smear his long-standing image.
Addressing a group of South-east and South-south Professionals who paid him a solidarity visit yesterday, Oyegun urged all the interest groups to accept compromise in the interest of the party and Nigeria generally.
“When they say I’m taking money from a senator, to do what? I am not a senator, I cannot vote, I cannot by being chairman pronounce him as Senate President or Senate Leader so what is he giving me money for? How many people know me personally? It is annoying, it is dirty, it is crude, it is unbecoming and it can only be from people who are totally devoid of conscience at any level of humanity that can do things of that nature.
“There is nothing they have not said about me. But when you ask what has the man done, one of their reports said the present executive cannot win us elections in 2019, Good lord! You’ve not even finished with 2015, you are talking about 2019.
“The one that annoys me is the attempt to rubbish 75 solid years of a character that I’ve put together. They said I take gratification, gratification to what purpose? The only people who can say that are the people who don’t know my background or history. I was just over 30 when I started joining teams that were buying aircraft from Holland and Soato in United States. That could not corrupt me. I was on the board of the Railways, NPA and the rest of them, if all these did not make me corrupt, how can I at 76 take money, money from who to do what?
“At 75 years and having occupied various important positions both in government and out of it, I do not have a land in Abuja. If people are devoid of conscience, it should not make me lose sleep,” he said.
In a related development, the senator representing Niger east senatorial district, Senator David Umaru, said yesterday that the emergence of Saraki as Senate President and Dogara as Speaker of the House of Representatives was a fait accompli, recalling that members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were the majority senators on the floor of the Senate when the election was held on June 9.
“They could have snatched the Senate Presidency from us,” he observed.
He also debunked the belief that Senators of Like Minds, the group that is loyal to the Senate President, negotiated away the office of Deputy Senate President to the PDP, adding that the bulk of the senators present in the chamber during the election was from the PDP.
He insisted that the positions of the Senate President and the Speaker were “no longer negotiable even at the NEC meeting. What our party should know is that the outcome of the election could have been devastating”.
He said: “Whether you like it or not, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) represents President Buhari, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is represented by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) has the National Chairman, John Oyegun. It therefore follows that Saraki and Dogara represent the New PDP component in the party.
“The New PDP, with five governors, a former vice-president of the country cannot be ignored. At least, equity demands fairness and the elections of Saraki and Dogara represent that fairness.”
In the same vein, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC, Timi Frank, who spoke on African Independent Television (AIT), has urged the party to accept the outcome of the National Assembly elections and move on.
He reasoned that the PDP could have nominated themselves to be Senate President and Deputy Senate President, “and you cannot take that from them”.
“We should thank PDP for what they did, for being democratic. They know they are not the ruling party, so they respected themselves by making sure an APC Senate President emerged. They unanimously gave their support to Saraki as we only had about seven or eight APC senators in the Senate as at that time.
“I see no reason anybody should blame Saraki for what has happened. We should be happy that he was there to at least save the situation at that time. If he wasn’t there, the situation could have been different,” he said.
Querrying the flop of the APC by swarming to the International Conference Centre (ICC) on the day of the election, Frank said: “The question we should be asking is: Who asked 51 senators to go to the International Conference Centre? What did they go there to do? I don’t know who called for that meeting, as a party man. We should not blame Saraki for becoming Senate President. We should put the blame on the party and whosoever that called that meeting. Has the president come out to tell Nigerians that he called for a meeting and Senator Saraki wasn’t there? Even the president wasn’t at the International Conference Centre. Why did you expect Saraki to be there?
“Everybody is saying the president called (for a meeting). Who gave the directive for the meeting? So, this is the big question, a very critical question we should be asking.”
He also denied that there was a trade off between Saraki and the PDP.
“To the best of my knowledge, this is a contest between two political leaders in the same party. Both of them were banking on the support of PDP senators because APC senators alone could not have made them Senate President. What happened was a victory for democracy, a victory for the people. You can’t take it away. The Senate or House (of Representatives) is an independent House. These people decide on what they want. They go for what they are comfortable with,” he said.
He therefore urged his party to move beyond the crisis and forge a common front, adding that: “One of the APC senators that was present contested alongside Ekweremadu and lost. Not that they just asked Ekweremadu to be the Deputy Senate President. No! It was live on TV. PDP was more in number, so, they voted for their own. At the end of the day, Ekweremadu emerged as the Deputy President of the Senate”.