Confusion, protests over APC congresses

•Factions reject consensus, threaten parallel excos •We’ll move against saboteurs —Buni From Taiwo Amodu, Osaretin Osadebamwen| Abuja, Adeolu Adeyemo | Osogbo, Ishola Michael | Bauchi, Muhammad Sabiu | Kaduna, ‘Yomi Ayeleso | Ado-Ekiti, Iniobong Ekponta | Uyo, Biola Azeez | Ilorin, Egbo Grace | Abakaliki and Nnanna Nwogu | Umuahia 

CONFUSION, protests and threats on Friday characterised the build-up to today’s ward congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) across the states of the federation. In some states where factions loyal to governors are working on consensus executives, opposing forces rejected such consensus arrangements, threatening instead to hold parallel congresses. Also, forces in the presidency were on Friday divided over the insistence of the All Progressives Congress Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee led by Yobe State governor, Malam Mai Mala Buni, to proceed with the conduct of today’s ward congresses of the party across the country. 

While the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), aligned with Governor Buni and the majority of the governors who were asking him to proceed with the exercise, others called for caution against the backdrop of a pronouncement of the Supreme Court which faulted his eligibility to combine elective and party positions concurrently. Justices Mary Peter-Odili, Ejembi Eko and Ibrahim Saulawa had, in their minority judgment on Thursday, declared that the election of the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, should have been nullified and the appellants, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, declared winner of the October 20, 2020 governorship election. 

Jegede, in his petition, had argued that Governor Buni, according to Section 183 of the constitution and Article 17(4) of the APC constitution, could not function both as a governor and acting national chairman of the APC concurrently. 

His prayer was hinged on the fact that Buni was the one who forwarded Akeredolu’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the candidate of the APC. 

The PDP candidate submitted that Akeredolu’s nomination breached the law and as such, his election should be nullified. 

A party source told Saturday Tribune that the number of those emboldening Governor Buni to proceed with the conduct of the ward congresses appeared overwhelming in the absence of the leader of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari. 

A meeting of the National Executive Committee of the party had been proposed by the governors after this weekend’s congresses. 

Governors who are goading Buni to go on with the congresses as scheduled met on Thursday where they advised the CECPC to wield the big stick by moving against any tendency within the party to initiate litigations to challenge his leadership of the party or smarting to abort the ward, local government and state congresses. 

Feelers from the national secretariat on Friday said the party would axe chieftains who challenge the authority of the CECPC in court or conduct parallel congresses in state chapters. 

A statement by the party’s national secretary, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, reads in part: “It is important that the attention of all party faithful be called to the NEC resolution of 8th December 2020, which subsists and extends to the conduct of party members during the congresses. 

“For purposes of clarity, may I restate the relevant points in the resolution to wit: 

“All pending litigations instituted by members against the party should be withdrawn forthwith, and going forward, no member should institute matters against the party, without exhausting the internal mechanism for conflict resolution, as enshrined in the party’s constitution. 

“Consequent upon the above, party members should please note that all activities that may be carried out by persons to put the party and its officers in bad light before, during and after the congresses should be jettisoned. 

“All activities or processes leading up to the congresses and thereafter which do not have the approval of the CECPC are exercises in futility. This is to say that any purported parallel congress, parallel party organ or parallel party office is, to say the least, a nullity. 

“These divisive activities will not be tolerated. 

“For the avoidance of doubt, the party shall deploy the full weight of the law as stipulated in Section 21 (D) of our party’s constitution on anyone who perpetrates such unlawful act(s) and also on their sponsors. 

“All persons who are affected by Article 31 of our constitution should apply for waivers as stipulated under Sub-Section 3 of the said Article 31. This is also clearly spelt out in the ‘Special provisions’ of our guidelines. 

“Addressing newsmen on Friday, a member of the caretaker committee, Professor Mamman Tahir, reiterated the position of the leadership that the ward congresses would not be aborted. He said the party’s leadership sought legal advice from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation which indicated that the pronouncements of the Supreme Court did not declare Governor Buni ineligible to hold both elective and party offices. 

Tahir said: “I am here this afternoon to reconfirm that our congresses are on course to hold tomorrow and this committee is working closely with the Attorney-General of the Federation and he has offered advice that we are on good ground and we are comfortable with that position. “So, our programmes will continue to roll on in the normal course of things. We want to assure teeming members of the APC across the country to come out and elect officers at the ward level. 

“This party believes so much in grassroots politics, grassroots democracy; that is the strength of the party. So, we encourage all members to come out tomorrow and elect leaders of their choice at that level before we move to the next stage of our democratisation process and constitution of the leadership of the party. This is, in a nutshell, the message from the party and the secretariat.” 

Professor Tahir, who incidentally is the chairman of the APC constitution drafting committee, said the leadership was not bothered by threats of litigations. 

“The business of the law is not about speculating what a court will decide in a particular dispute. We deal with what the court has presently decided on. That is the way the law operates. And people can have fear of anything. And whatever decision anybody takes, it will always be subject to litigations. 

“People are free to test the propriety of any decision. You cannot stop anybody, no matter what it is. But we deal with the present at the moment. As I said, we are going on with the decision of the court. That is what we are working with. 

“ He also explained the exclusion of Zamfara and Anambra states from the ward congresses. 

“Another date is being fixed for those states because we have election coming up in Anambra. We don’t want to jeopardise our position there. In Zamfara, they are still doing their validation and continuation of membership registration. So, that is the position.” 

 

Ekiti 

In Ekiti State, it was gathered that parallel executives might emerge as the gladiators go to the trenches to battle for the soul of the party today. 

The party had been divided between major camps of those loyal to the state governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi and those in the other camp, such as Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, Senator Tony Adeniyi and other leaders Ahead of the congress, these leaders had earlier in the week raised the alarm that the loyalists of the governor were hoarding the firms, thereby depriving other members of the party from obtaining the form. 

They rejected the consensus method being pushed by some leaders and called for election where the party members would decide their new executives. 

Investigations by Saturday Tribune revealed that while those in the camps of the governor were offered the form free of charge, other members were said to have obtained the form through special arrangements from the national secretariat of the party. 

A source close to both camps said the likelihood of parallel executives emerging today (Saturday) was on the increase, considering the events leading to the congress. “You know the situation of things. 

The forms were not made available to those not in Fayemi’s camp and these other people went ahead to arrange for the forms for their loyalists. 

“The battle line is drawn already and don’t be surprised if you see on Saturday parallel executives across the wards in the state,” the source said. 

Speaking ahead of the congress, a leader of the party and governorship aspirant, Chief Reuben Famuyibo, expressed regret over the events leading to the congress, advising the state government and leaders to allow democracy to thrive in the party. 

Famuyibo told Saturday Tribune that if the situation is not properly managed, it might spell doom for the APC in Ekiti state, saying, “With what I am looking at, chances that we will have parallel executives are very high.” 

He said: “The process leading to the congress is not a good one, considering the fact that most people are not allowed to obtain the form in the state, including in my Ado-Ekiti ward 12. 

“If you go out, you will see that we have two different forms from different sources. While those of Fayemi’s people were given free of charge which is wrong, the other people move out from the state to get it. We will what happens on Saturday.” 

When contacted, Senator Ojudu said arrangements for the congress were in top gear. On his part, the publicity secretary of the party, Ade Ajayi, denied any forms of irregularities ahead of the congress, adding that all eligible contestants would be given a level playing field. 

 

Osun 

In Osun State, a faction of the party on Friday protested against what they called clandestine moves by some powers to hijack today’s exercise. The spokesperson for the protesters, Raji Ropo, alleged that there were plots to perpetrate fraud in today’s exercise, which he said would be resisted. 

However, the chairman of the party in the state, Prince Gboyega Famoodu, said the party had adopted consensus as a mode of the congress in all the 332 wards of the state. 

The chairman, who made this known at a stakeholders meeting in Osogbo, told the national officers from Abuja who were in the state to conduct the exercise that the decision was approved by all the representatives of the party from all the wards in the state. 

 

Ogun 

The ward congress committee set up by the national headquarters of the party for Ogun State on Friday announced modalities for the conduct of the ward congress in the 236 wards across the state. 

A statement in Abeokuta by the chairman of the committee, Chief Wale Ohu, said the congress would commence with the accreditation of party members at designated points in each of the 236 wards in the state at 9.00 a.m. today. 

 

FCT 

There were indications on Friday that the FCT chapter of the party may not hold the ward congress today except it succeeds on a consensus arrangement it was working on for all the wards. 

Spokesman for the party in the FCT, Alhaji Usman Adagi, said the party would come up with a decision after a meeting on the matter. 

 

Bauchi 

There was palpable tension in Bauchi State on Friday with different splinter groups within the party doing everything to emerge victorious in today’s exercise. 

Although the majority of the party members agreed on consensus as enshrined in the party’s constitution, they argued that the process must be transparent enough to be acceptable to all. 

But Aminu Tukur, a political associate of a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, expressed skepticism about the arrangement for the congress in the state, considering what he described as the uncertainty in the buildup to the exercise. 

 

Kaduna 

In Kaduna State, the party said it was set to elect officials that would run the party in the various wards in line with the directives of the national caretaker committee. 

To this end, the state chapter resolved to adopt consensus candidates in all the wards. Findings by Saturday Tribune revealed that stakeholders of the party in the state had been meeting to ensure that today’s congress does not lead to disunity in the party. 

It was gathered that the governor, Nasir El-Rufai, being the leader of the party in the state, summoned a meeting of party elders, officials and elders from all the 23 local government areas of the state to discuss the issue of new leadership at the ward, local government and state levels. 

 

Akwa Ibom 

In Akwa Ibom State, controversy, on Friday, continued to trail the preparations for the conduct  of today’s exercise across the 329 wards in the state. 

There were allegations that the national secretary of the party, Senator John Udoedehe, had hijacked the exercise and was planning to plant his loyalists in the party’s hierarchy and structures at all levels, in line with his governorship ambition ahead of 2023. 

To this end, the faction loyal to the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill Akpabio, on Friday, rose from a meeting in Uyo, denouncing the leadership of the party in the state and subsequently passed a vote of no confidence in the chairman, Dr Ita Udosen, whom they accused of playing Udoedehe’s card to the detriment of the unity of the party. 

The faction noted that such attitude could jeopardise the party’s chances in the 2023 polls. 

A member of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), Group Captain Sam Ewang, and other elders and stakeholders of the party across the 10 federal constituencies of the signed the communique at the end of the resolution, stating their grievances. 

 

Kwara 

As of Friday afternoon, members of the two factions of the party in Kwara State were still operating parallel party secretariats,where their leaders were putting finishing touches to today’s ward congresses. 

The two major power blocks in the party in the state said they were prepared for today’s exercise. 

Political observers said there might a repeat of the 2018 scenario whereby the two major factions of the party held parallel congresses at different venues. 

Speaking with newsmen in Ilorin on Thursday, members of the party loyal to the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, led by the caretaker legal adviser of the party, Ladi Mustapha, said the people were prepared for the congress, “provided every other thing remains constant. 

“We hereby express our preparedness for the ward congresses of our great party, which commences on Saturday, July 31, 2021, provided every other thing remains constant. However, members of the party loyal to Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq on Friday agreed to adopt consensus candidates today across the 16 local government areas of the state. 

This is just as the chairman of the Kwara APC ward congress, Professor Jonathan Ayuba, urged all the stakeholders to ensure that the process is peaceful and orderly. 

He said: “The national secretariat of APC has taken these congresses very seriously because the foundation of the success of the party at the national level depends on the foundation that we laid that the construction will continue. “I was given a list of stakeholders and I personally made contacts with some of your critical stakeholders. With what I have done I feel confident that I can convey the message which I am brought here to do. 

“The congresses are supposed to be done tomorrow and the party says you have to decide either you go for consensus or election. So, mine is not to decide for you but to listen to you and take your decision. So, your decision is what I will work with. 

“I have held meetings with security agencies and I will hold any of the stakeholders in various wards responsible for any misconduct. I will hold any of the stakeholders responsible for any breach of the peace. I will also include in my report to the headquarters of any misbehaviour. Let the interest of the party and not any individual interest supersede our decision in these congresses.” 

At the end of the stakeholders’ meeting called by the APC National Headquarters’ Congress Planning Committee in Ilorin, members of the party unanimously settled for consensus candidates across the 193 wards. The pre-congress stakeholders’ meeting was attended by top party chieftains from the state, including Governor AbdulRazaq; Speaker of the House of Assembly, Yakubu Danladi Salihu; Senators Yahya Oloriegbe (Central), Lola Ashiru (South); House of Representatives members, House of Assembly members, Kw a ra APC caretaker committee chairman, Abdullahi Samari and many others. 

Governor AbdulRazaq described the party congress as a democratic process designed to ensure smooth running of the party. 

He reiterated the commitment of the APC administration to serve the masses. 

“We are here only for Kwarans. They voted for us and we must continue to think about our people. We must not disappoint our people. We know what we are doing tomorrow. Speakers have spoken and I wish everyone safe journey to our respective places. May we have a successful outing tomorrow,” the governor, who was represented by deputy, Kayode Alabi, said. 

Senator Oloriegbe said: “We are a united family as a party in Kwara. APC in Kwara is the party in government and no king will constitute an enemy against himself. What brought (to the people of) Kwara is ‘Otoge’ and change that we promised our people. And what we said Otoge for is bad governance. We promised good governance and that is what the governor and all of us elected under the party have been delivering. 

“There is no household or community without a leader and only God appoints leaders. Anybody God has appointed, we should all cooperate with him. That is the person’s time. We should all cooperate as one family. What we want and what we need is unity of purpose. We shouldn’t be fighting ourselves. We should come together to deliver what we promised the people of Kwara State. 

“I want to assure the chairman (congress committee) that we are known for peace because Kwara is not known for thuggery. The congress will go peacefully tomorrow. It is through dialogue and consensus that we will arrive at conclusion.” 

The chairman APC caretaker committee in the state, Abdullahi Samari, said: “The purpose of this meeting is to take briefings on the ward congresses that will take place tomorrow. The national secretariat of our great party has sent a team to conduct the ward congresses and that team is led by Prof Jonathan Ayuba. I want all members here (as representatives of various communities) to take back the correct position of how the exercise is going to be conducted. “With the collation of ideas we have this evening it is agreed that we are going home for consensus candidates.” 

The Speaker, who was represented by the Deputy Speaker, Raphael Adetiba, said members of the House had agreed to the consensus arrangement. 

“What we are saying is that we have only one leader per term. God has given us Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq at this time and if anybody has a dissenting voice, maybe he is not a citizen of this state. 

“As far as we all know from the leadership of the party in the state, we are prepared for discussion and dialogue. That is consensus. Our assurance to the national headquarters of APC is that it is consensus for Kwara,” he added. 

 

Ebonyi 

Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State on Friday threatened to send anyone conducting parallel congress in the state today to prison. 

Umahi made the threat during an emergency meeting of the party’s stakeholders in Abakaliki. 

He charged security agencies to arrest anyone conducting parallel congress in any part of the state. 

He said: “Nobody should conduct parallel congress in Ebonyi State. Security agencies should arrest anybody that is conducting parallel congress and Ebubeagu should do the same. 

“I have done everything as the leader of the party to ensure that everybody is carried along, unfortunately, we still have over two-thirds of the forms that are still waiting for people to purchase them. 

“So, people do not believe in my leadership and have gone to Abuja to purchase their forms. No problem, But they must present themselves to the seven-man committee. If they do anything outside that, there will be consequences for that. 

“If you want to do parallel congress, you can move to Enugu or Awka Ibom or any other place to do it. Don’t say I did not warn you. The screening has to continue till late in the night. We have to be sure that everybody who wants to be screened is screened, but let everybody that wants to buy form do it today. Whether there will be consensus or not, it is better to buy the forms because after now, it will not be acceptable and if the consensus works out, the elders will know how to resolve it.” 

However, it was gathered some stakeholders of the APC, including the Minister of Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, were absent from the meeting. 

 

Abia 

The APC National Ward Congress Committee for Abia State said on Friday that the ward congress of the party would hold today as scheduled. The chairman of the committee, Israel Sunny Goli, who spoke in Umuahia on Friday night, said: “Tomorrow, we are going on with our congress, which is holding nationwide.” 

Goli said his committee came with all the materials to conduct the congress, adding: “Our duty is to ensure that the congress is free, fair, credible and transparent”. 

He said: “We are set for the Congress tomorrow. Go to your wards and vote. We will collate and announce the result before leaving for Abuja. Be peaceful and let the winners accommodate those who did not win.” 

 

Oyo 

On Friday, everything looked set for today’s ward congress of the APC in Oyo State with the ward congress committee reaching an understanding with gladiators and stakeholders on modalities for the congress. 

Addressing journalists after a meeting, the chairman of the Oyo Ward Congress Committee, Mr Gambo Lawan, said although the party encouraged consensus across the 351 wards, it would supervise the conduct of primaries where consensus could not be achieved. 

Lawan noted that there was no dissenting voice from the party gladiators and stakeholders on the imperativeness of a consensus arrangement for the congress. 

He, however, said the committee was still gathering information on specific wards that would agree to consensus and those where delegates will go to congress. 

Describing the ward congress as a family matter, he noted that a free and fair congress was dependent on the conduct of the party members in the state. Gambo explained that the party’s office would serve as a coordinating point for the congress or implementation of the consensus arrangement. 

Party stakeholders present included Chief Akin Oke; Senator Teslim Folarin; Senator Fatai Buhari; Honourable Akeem Adeyemi; Honourable Olusegun Odebunmi; Senator Olufemi Lanlehin; Alhaji Olalekan Alli; Barrister Lowo Obisesan; Dr Olusola Ayandele; Mr Bimbo Adekanmbi; Professor Adeolu Akande; Senator Ayo Adeseun; Joseph Tegbe; Chief Adebayo Adelabu; Alhaji Fatai Ibikunle; Prince Ayodeji Abass-Aleshinloye; Honourable Olatunbosun Oladele; Honourable Modepoola Eegunjobi; Chief Adegboyega Adegoke; Alhaji Kayode Adanla; Honourable Murphy Adigun. 

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