There is no end in sight to the fresh leadership crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) as party chieftains remained divided at the weekend over the court case initiated by former national vice-chairman (South-South) of the party, Honorable Hilliard Etagboeta.
Etagboeta has filed a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja to seek the dissolution of the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, led by Yobe State governor, Mallam Mai Mala Buni. The Buni committee is a creation of a statutory organ of the party, the National Executive Committee, which dissolved the APC National Working Committee, led by its immediate past national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, at an emergency meeting held last June at the Presidential Villa.
The claim to the office of national chairman by the duo of Hilliard Etagboeta and Victor Giadom, both from the South-South geopolitical zone following the ouster of Comrade Oshiomhole by a court pronouncement led to the dis- solution of the APC NWC and emergence of Buni caretaker team.
Etagboeta in the suit in which he is the respondent is seeking an order of the Federal High Court, Abuja to set aside and nullify the appointment and constitution of the APC Caretaker Committee by its NEC. Sunday Tribune investigation revealed that the party’s caretaker committee has since been served the court papers, being the first defendant in the suit.
A party source revealed that rattled by the court action of Etagboeta, the party may initiate disciplinary action against him as his step is perceived as a rebuff of the admonition of President Muhammadu Buhari who at the last June NEC meeting asked aggrieved chieftains to refrain from court processes and explore the party internal mechanism to address grievances Investigations also revealed that President Buhari equally mandated the Buni Caretaker Committee to ensure that aggrieved chieftains withdraw pending court cases at state chapters and Abuja ahead of reconciliation and conduct of national convention.
Former national vice chairman of the APC (North East) and convener, Forum of APC state chairmen and non-NWC NEC members, Salihu Mustapha called for Etagboeta’s expulsion.
Speaking to Sunday Tribune in a telephone interview, Mustapha accused the former national vice chairman of disobedience to the order of President Buhari even as he dismissed him as a usurper since his claim to the office of acting national chairman sequel to the ouster of Comrade Oshiomhole was not ratified by the APC NEC.
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“He should know that the APC constitution frowns on the action he has taken: that on no account, must one take the party to court when one hasn’t even explored the party’s internal mechanism for conflict resolution.
“Etagboeta is an attention seeker, there was no time he was acting national chairman. He claimed to be holding the office for late Isiaka Ajimobi. The APC NEC did not meet to ratify it.
“I will move for the expulsion of Etagboeta. If truly he went to court, I will petition NEC that he be expelled. I think he is being used by external forces, I don’t think he is still a member of the party. I will explore the party internal mechanism to get him suspended and expelled,” he said.
The former national vice-chairman (South-South) however, dismissed the threat of his suspension and expulsion. Speaking to Sunday Tribune, he challenged the caretaker committee to take disciplinary action against him. Etagboeta who insisted that he was acting national chairman of APC before the NEC met to sack the fractured NWC said there was no organ available to him to petition and ventilate his grievances since the NWC was dissolved. “Let them go ahead and expel me and let us see! Which organ of the party could I have petitioned as the acting national chairman and member of NEC?” he said.
He dismissed the claim of lack of respect for President Buhari as he submitted that the APC constitution and Nigerian constitution were superior to the office of the president.
“You see, we have respect for Buhari but we have higher respect for the APC Constitution and the Nigerian Constitution,” he said.
A spokesman for the Concerned APC members, Abdullahi Dauda expressed reservations over the court case but maintained that the Buni-led interim leadership should vacate the party’s national secretariat before the end of December. He told Sunday Tribune that the NEC which sacked the Oshiomhole-led NWC gave the Buni team six months to convene a meeting of the national convention where a new set of national officers would be elected. “The creation of a caretaker committee by President Muhammadu Buhari and NEC was an illegality and we have been saying that. It has no provision in the APC Constitution.
“We have refused to go to court out of respect for Mr President, being a man of integrity. But the committee has even been derailing in its assignment. The NEC says it must carry out reconciliation and conduct national convention,” he said.