New Telegraph

APC/PDP: Two parties, same leadership problem

As the 2023 elections inch closer, many vested interests are driving the leadership crises in both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), write ONYEKACHI EZE and JOHNCHUKS ONUANYIM

 

For the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the past two months are not the best of times. The party has held a series of meetings to resolve the leadership crisis that dogged it since the beginning of this year. Between Monday, August 23 and Thursday, 25, the party was served with two court orders.

 

The first was from Degema judicial division of Rivers State High Court while the other was from Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State. While the Degema High Court stopped Prince Uche Secondus from parading himself as PDP National Chairman, Kebbi restored him to his former position. Both courts are vacation courts, and courts of coordinate jurisdiction.

 

Justice O. Gbasam of the Degema High Court, on August 23, in a suit No: PHC/2183/CS/2021 filed by Ibeawuchi Ernest Alex & the others, against Secondus and the PDP, issued an interim injunction restraining Prince Secondus from parading himself as PDP National Chairman and as member of the party.

 

Secondus was also restrained from “performing the functions of National Chairman of the 2nd defendant or calling, attending or presiding over any meeting of the 2nd defendant or any committee of the 2nd defendant at the ward, local government or state level, or calling for any ward, local government or state congress of the 2nd defendant or setting up committees for such congresses or participating in any activity of the 2nd defendant whatsoever whilst on suspension as a member of the 2nd defendant pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.”

 

The Birini Kebbi court was presided over by Justice Nusirat. I. Umar, on August 26, in case KB/AC/M. 170/2021, instituted by Yahaya Usman & 2 others, against Secondus and PDP, ordered Secondus to return to his position as the National Chairman. Justice Umar said she was satisfied after reading the affidavit of the respondents that an interim order should be granted on the purported suspension of Prince Secondus pending the determination of the case.

The judge stated: “An order of this honourable court granting leave to the first respondent (Uche Secondus) to continue exercising all the constitutional powers of the office of Chairman of PDP (second defendant ) as enshrined in both 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended and the Peoples Democratic Party’s constitution pending the hearing and final determination of applicant’s motion on notice.”

 

While the decision of the Birini Kebbi court was being circulated, PDP governors rose from an emergency meeting in Abuja, recognising Elder Yemi Akinwonmi as Acting National Chairman.

 

The governors said the party will obey the court order suspending Secondus from office. PDP members of the Board of Trustees (BoT) who had met earlier in the day also promised to work with Akinwonmi as Acting National Chairman.

 

But Secondus was in his office early morning on Friday and received briefings from Akinwonmi. BoT Chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin and other party chieftains also paid him a visit. But he did not however preside over the caucus meeting convened preparatory to the NEC meeting.

 

The meeting was presided over by the National Chairman (South), Elder Yemi Akinwonmi. Akinwonmi presided over the NWC meeting where the decision to hold the NEC meeting on Saturday was reached. He also presided over last Friday’s national caucus meeting even though Secondus was in office.

 

The caucus has however set up an eight-man committee headed by former President of the Senate, David Mark, to interface with PDP “leaders who are involved in these issues of court so that all court matters can be now withdrawn and then for normalcy to continue to return to the party.”

 

On August 10, about two weeks and some days ago, when PDP leaders met, they called on all parties involved in the crisis to sheath their sword in the greater interest of the party while the “constitution, traditions and practices of the party” would be activated to find lasting solutions to the problems. At that meeting also, the PDP national convention was scheduled in October, instead of December this year when the tenure of the current NWC will expire.

The party leadership was mandated to convene the NEC meeting and to constitute a zoning committee for party offices and another committee for national elective offices. Before the October date was fixed for national convention, the party has outstanding congresses in at least, nine states.

These congresses are for election of state executives of the party in the affected states, who will in turn, constitute delegates to the national convention. It was gathered that at an NWC meeting to plan for the NEC meeting, the National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobubdu (retd.), presented a  memo on the timetable for the outstanding congresses.

According to the timetable, the party had scheduled congresses for Adamawa, Borno, Ebonyi, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Osun and Oyo states for October 16 while appeals from the congresses would be entertained on October 20. This unarguably, put the party in a tight corner, given that conducting national convention without conducting congresses in these states could lead to litigations.

This is because potential delegates from the affected states would like to enforce his right to vote by asking the court to nullify the convention. And this will create another crisis for the party.

The NWC therefore resolved to return to the stakeholders and engage them on the likely consequences of holding the convention in October, before convening NEC.

It was in the process of the consultations that the Degema injunction was obtained. The court did not stop Secondus from office but as a member of PDP. The National Chairman was said to have been suspended by his ward in Rivers State and expelled from the party. Technically, he ceases to be a member of PDP.

 

The “suspension” was not ratified by any of the organs of the party, as a national officer. Section 59(3) of the PDP constitution  “notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution relating to discipline, no executive committee at any level, expect the National Executive Committee, shall entertain any question of discipline as may relate or concern a member of the National Executive Committee, President, Vice President, Governors, Deputy Governors,ministers, ambassadors, special advisers or member of any of the legislative houses.”

 

Unless Senator Mark’s committee is able to resolve the mess PDP finds itself in, the party is heading to the 2016/17 crisis that nearly consumed it when some ambitious politicians drafted Senator Ali Modu Sheriff into the party as its national chairman.

 

 

Former Bayelsa State governor, Henry Seriake Dickson, warned that PDP is fast receding as a result of the self-inflicted crises, less than a year to nomination of candidates for the 2023 general election. Dickson wondered why the party could be pushing for resignation of its national chairman, “or to force the appointment of a caretaker committee on a party with officers who have a constitutionally guaranteed tenure.”

 

The PDP self-inflicted troubles couldn’t have come at this time, with barely a year and half to the 2023 general election. Also, the party’s elective national convention is another conflict generating event. Former Niger State governor, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, believed that those who want the National Chairman’s sack have other reasons.

 

Aliyu said in an interview that with the PDP national convention just a few months away, there was no need to overheat the political atmosphere. “If you want somebody to leave a position, there are ways to do it. You don’t go to market places, calling somebody bad names just because you want him to leave.

 

“We have a way that we make people resign, we have a way that we query people if they have done wrong and we are elders enough that if things are that bad, we will find a way to advise people on what to do,” he said.

 

Buni and his many battles If one should go by the saying that only trees with ripe fruits attract attention of people and birds, one might conclude that the Yobe State governor and Chairman of the Caretaker/ Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Mai Mala Buni is doing well in the party, the reason for the attention he has gotten since his ascension to the office of the chairman. Unfortunately, there is an Igbo adage that says the sound of bitter Kola in the mouth has never represented the test.

 

Buni came to the office of the Chairman of the APC Caretaker Committee on June 25 2020 after the former governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was removed as the National Chairman of the party. Oshiomhole led the APC National Working Committee (NWC) for exactly two years as he took over from his predecessor, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun on June 24, 2018. His reign was full of crises seemingly because he conducted the 2019 General Election primaries for APC and allegedly wanted to institute party supremacy.

 

He was influenced by some party chieftains to adopt different methods of primaries for different states.

 

Yes, the National Executive Committee before the primaries resolved that different primaries could be adopted for different states but with the proviso that the stakeholders in the state must agree on the method. This was not adhered to by Oshiomhole-led NWC as they chose for the stakeholders and allocated mode of primaries and this became a problem.

 

The ascension of Buni as Chairman of the Caretaker Committee was one of mixed feelings. Some believed that it was the best thing that had happened to the party, while some said it was a violation of the constitution of Nigeria and that of the party.

 

 

 

To first drag the Caretaker Committee and Buni to court was an APC Youth Leader in Abia State, Kalu Kalu. Kalu had challenged the powers of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the party to sack the national leaders barely two years out of their constitutionally guaranteed four-year term of office.

 

In the suit, he asked for an order of the court, setting aside the dissolution of the NWC by APC’s NEC and also asked the court for an order restraining the National Caretaker Committee members led by Buni from parading themselves as national officers of the APC and from usurping the functions of the party’s NWC, among other prayers.

 

Recently, about 100 other youth members of APC have dragged the Buni-led Caretaker Committee to court in the same vein.

 

The plaintiffs, through their lawyer, Mr. Sam¬uel E. Irabor are praying the court for an order invalidating all actions taken by the committee led by Governor Buni of Yobe State.

 

According to them, the 13-member Care¬taker Committee falls short of the constitutionally required 24 members spread across not less than two-third of the 36 states and the FCT for any governing body of a political party, wheth¬er substantive or acting, as stip¬ulated under section 223(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution(as altered).

 

Buni-led Caretaker committee has been majorly dragged out by the judgement of the Supreme Court in the Ondo State governorship election. In that case the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu SAN defeated his opponent, Eyitayo Jegede SAN and his party, opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the grounds of technicality.

 

According to some lawyers in the party, APC and its governor would have lost the case had the Apex court ruled on the provisions of the constitutions that no one should hold two executive offices at the same time and on the payment of two employment.

 

To lead this argument was the Minister of State for Labour and Productivity, Festus Keyamo SAN, who argued that the continuing stay of Buni as Chairman of the Caretaker Committee would be inimical to the actions and decisions of the party. He argued that it was time for Buni to leave as APC Caretaker Committee chairman.

However, this has not meant to be as the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN, APC counsel in the Ondo State governorship election suit, Niyi Akintola SAN and a member of the Caretaker Committee, Prof. Mamman Tahir SAN had argued differently.

 

Their argument had centered on the fact that Buni had not violated any known provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended) and the constitution of APC. The argument is left in abeyance.

 

The issue of tenure of the Caretaker Committee and the unresolved crises in some state chapters of the party are the concerns of some other party chieftains. For those intending to come on board as members of the National Working Committee, the Caretaker Committee has overstayed their welcome.

 

The Buni-led Committee was given six months to conduct a National Convention and resolve crises in the party. After the expiration of that time frame they couldn’t do any of those major assignments and their tenure was extended for another six months. Today, they are in the second extension of their tenure and yet to conclude the two major assignments.

 

Also, as one of those plotting to chair the APC working Committee, a former governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari has condemned the long stay of the Caretaker Committee. Yari said the Caretaker Committee should have borrowed a leaf from the former APC Interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande.

 

According to him, Akande popularly called ‘Baba awon Omo ke Keke,’ resisted the lucre of office and demanded that the National Convention of the party should be held as agreed.

 

He has berated the Buni-led Caretaker for over staying in office, as he said this has attracted opproborium to them. However, former Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), National Secretary, Engr. Buba Galadima has described APC as a party infected with HIV virus, which is bound to die as it cannot be cured.

 

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