President Muhammadu Buhari has advised members of the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress wishing to retain their positions or aspire for another to resign and re-contest in line with the party’s constitution.
Buhari, who gave the advice in his opening remarks during the 5th National Executive Council meeting of the APC in Abuja on Tuesday, opposed tenure elongation for the NWC members.
He faulted the earlier decision of the party’s NEC to grant one year extension to party executives at all levels, citing a breach of relevant sections of the party’s constitution, as well as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), as a reason for his action.
Buhari asked the party’s NEC to rescind its earlier decision so as not to give the opposition the grounds on which to reap from the crisis which is likely to result from the constitutional breaches.
The President told the gathering of party leaders that his position was informed by the legal advice he received from the Ministry of Justice.
He expressed the hope that the party’s NEC would resolve outstanding issues and reposition the party to face the challenges ahead.
Buhari said, “I think it is important for me to speak on the contentious issues of the tenure of our national and state executive officers.
“As we all know, a motion was moved in the last National Executive Committee meeting of February 27 to the effect that when the tenure of the current executives expires in June this year, they should be allowed to continue for one year.
“This motion was duly carried by the majority of members present at the last NEC meeting, even though some of our party members have since spoken up vehemently against it; others have even taken the matter to court.
“On my own part, I have taken time to review and seek advice on the resolution and what I found is that it contravenes both our party’s constitution and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“While the APC constitution in Article 17(1) and 13.2 (b) limits the tenure of elected officers to four years, renewable once by another election, the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) in Section 223 proscribes periodic elections for party executives at regular intervals which must not exceed four years.
“Furthermore, Article 31 of our great party’s constitution provides that any principal officer wishing to re-contest, or contest for another post, must resign from his current post at least one month before the election.
“In this circumstance, what is expected of us is to conduct fresh elections once the tenure of the current executives approaches its end.
“A caretaker committee cannot remedy this situation and cannot validly act in place of elected officers.
“Furthermore, I think if we deviate from the constitution and provisions, we might be endangering the fortunes of our party.
“If the tenure of our party executive can be legally faulted, then, it means any nomination and primary election that they will conduct can also be faulted.”
He said apart from that, mass defections might follow considering the fact that some members of the party had taken the party to court to challenge the decision based on the understanding of the constitutional provisions.
The President said, “I am therefore of the firm belief that it is better to follow strictly the dictates of our party and the constitutions rather than put the APC and its activities at risk.
“Fortunately, we have approved a timetable for the order of congresses and the elections. I think this should be allowed to go forward and all efforts should be geared towards making the timetable a great success.
“We should not allow our party to be vulnerable and susceptible to the opposition.
“They can delay or divide us further within the party when they quote appropriate portion of the party constitution and that of the country.”
The APC, speaking through its National Publicity Secretary, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, said it had set up a small committee to consider the President’s position.
He said, “However, as of today, the decision taken by NEC during its last meeting in February still stands.”
Earlier in his address of welcome, the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, said the party was proud of President Buhari over his handling of the Dapchi schoolgirls’ issue.
Those who attended the meeting include Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President, Bukola Saraki; state Governors Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe; Aminu Masari of Katsina; Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi; Yahaya Bello of Kogi; Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun; Godwin Obaseki of Edo; Rochas Okorocha of Imo; Sani Bello of Niger; Samuel Ortom of Benue; Tanko AlMakura of Nasarawa; Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano and Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa.
Others are Governors Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi) and Jibrilla Bindo of Adamawa.
The deputy governors of Kwara, Osun, Oyo, Zamfara and Borno states, as well as members of the National Assembly, were also in attendance.
President has shown courage –Tinubu
A national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in a statement he personally signed, hailed Buhari’s address at the NEC meeting.
The former Lagos State governor, in the statement titled, ‘The President has spoken,’ said the address was straightforward, adding that it showed that the APC was committed to the principles of internal democracy and the rule of law.
Tinubu said, “President Buhari’s action saves the party from a serious legal turmoil. If the elongations were deemed illegal, then all subsequent party actions, including the nomination of all of our candidates for elective offices, might also be of questionable legality.
“Such a predicament would constitute an unnecessary and a mortal blow to the party and its role in promoting progressive governance in Nigeria.”
According to Tinubu, the President has affirmed that the APC is a party that adheres to internal democracy.
He said, “The President has spoken. Today is a good day for those who cherish democracy and legality. His action will also strengthen the party by allowing party members, including present incumbents, to seek to contribute to the party by vying for executive offices as they see fit.”
Edo APC backs Buhari
Also, the Edo State Chairman of the APC, Mr. Anselm Ojezua, described President Buhari’s call as justified and democratic.
The APC national chairman hails from Edo State.
Ojezua said while there had been speculation over the plan to extend the tenure of elected national and state officials of the APC, such a decision would be illegal as it was not backed by the party’s constitution.
He said, “What the President said is justified; that is democracy at work.”