JOHN ALECHENU writes on the recent tenure elongation granted the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led APC National Working Committee and what it portends for the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu-led Presidential reconciliation committee
American political scientist, Harold Lasswell, in his definition of politics said, “Politics is who gets what, when, how. When staking a position is the ‘how’.”
It is against this backdrop that the recent decision of the National Executive Committee of the All Progressives Congress to grant an unprecedented tenure elongation to the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee of the party appears to have thrown up a fresh set of challenges in the ruling party.
Perhaps, the biggest of these challenges is what it portends for the Asiwaju Bola Tinubu-led Presidential panel saddled with the responsibility of restoring stability to the fractured ruling party.
Political pundits are of the view that the APC has, to a large extent, exhibited a lack of capacity to manage its success.
The Zamfara State governor, Abdulazeez Yari, for instance, rejected the 12-month tenure extension for the NWC the moment it was announced. Yari, along with other APC members, who shared his view, described the decision as an abuse of due process.
A member of the party’s NWC, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told SUNDAY PUNCH, “I am one of the beneficiaries of this ‘illegality’ foisted on us by the majority.” Already, an interested APC member from Imo State has taken it further by going to court to challenge the legality of the decision.
Although the Imo State chapter of the party has disowned him, the case is still alive in court. In what appears to be a new twist to the drama, the Lagos State Chapter of the APC has also rejected the NEC’s decision. The pronouncement by the Lagos State APC appears to be the biggest indication yet that those sympathetic to Tinubu’s cause are “not willing to fold their hands and watch him fall into a booby trap” Isaac Edache, an Abuja-based public affairs analyst, told SUNDAY PUNCH.
Second Republic member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said the APC had simply “shot itself in the foot” by seeking to change the rules in the middle of the game. He expressed doubts about the sincerity of President Muhammadu Buhari and his handlers towards the success of the task given to the former Lagos State governor.
Mohammed stated, “My thinking is this. Since Tinubu’s sympathisers within the party have become vocal in their opposition to the shabby treatment meted out to him, the cabal around the President decided it would serve some purpose to send Tinubu on a wild goose chase in order to keep him busy.
“You don’t send a man to solve a problem you created and while he is at it, you create an additional problem that could frustrate his assignment.”
According to him, the essence of rules and regulations within a political system, as they apply to sports, is to guide the conduct of members including those who superintend over their affairs.
The former federal lawmaker added, “What has happened shows that some persons within the APC are afraid of a fair contest.
“They should have held a congress and addressed the issue of tenure before now. Nobody compelled them to include a four-year renewable tenure in their constitution; since they put it there, it ought to be respected.
“What they have done amounts to changing the rules in the middle of the game. Somebody just had an epiphany or something and decided to do this thing.”
Speaking in a similar vein, the Principal Partner, Castle of Law Chambers, Kayode Ajulo, contended that it behoved on all Nigerians to speak out against the illegality.
While describing the tenure elongation as a legal matter, Ajulo argued that the extension granted the APC NWC and party leaders at all levels, was illegal and was bound to complicate efforts aimed at reconciling aggrieved party members.
He said, “It (extension) is illegal; it is against the constitution of the APC. Let us be sincere, the APC has made a habit of flouting its own rules. As a lawyer, I know that internal democracy is the strength of any political party.”
Ajulo argued that political parties, which are the embodiments of the structure upon which constitutional democracies are built, had a responsibility to lead by example especially in the area of adherence to rules and regulations.
“All these years, the APC has consistently failed to hold its national convention as enshrined in its own constitution.
“The NEC meeting provided an opportunity for the party to correct this anomaly but some persons woke up one day to extend the tenure of their officers; they will still need the convention to ratify such an action,” the former Labour Party secretary stated.
As to whether his comments do not amount to dabbling in a matter in which he is not a party, the legal practitioner said, “The APC is the ruling party. What affects the party will ultimately rob off on the people of Nigeria including myself. That is why I am concerned.
“On this extension and the flagrant disobedience of its own rules, we will continue to take issue with the APC because it could be a dress rehearsal for flouting our constitution.”
However, a stalwart of the APC in Enugu State, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, dismissed fears that the tenure extension would impact negatively on the assignment given to Tinubu.
Okechukwu, who is currently the Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, argued that opponents of the party often got jittery anytime the APC took steps to put its house in order and forge ahead.
He said, “The most important thing is that, in liberal democracies, the art of compromise is always advised. The art of compromise is the best solution in any crisis situation.
“Anybody, who is trying to condemn this decision taken by the NEC, is either pouring fuel on an existing fire or trying to start a fresh one.
“What we adopted is within the ambit of Article 13 of our constitution. It is an act of compromise; like we said, we took this decision to help us as a party to focus on the more serious issue of the general elections.
“We appreciate that the issue of the forthcoming general elections is a referendum on our performance. We are no more in the opposition. So, the coming election is a referendum on us and we want to focus and avoid any form of distraction.”
Okechukwu added that the decision would reduce the workload of the Tinubu-led Presidential panel rather than create additional trouble spots for him to address.
Also, an APC stalwart in Jigawa State, Senator Danladi Sankara, urged members of the opposition not “to cry more than the bereaved” because it was not possible for those in the opposition to love the APC more than its members.
He argued that it was within the APC’s rights to take the action it took with regards to the tenure of office of its elected and appointed party officials.
Sankara said the National Executive Committee of the APC was the second highest decision-making body after the national convention. He explained that decisions taken at that level were well thought out and taken through rigorous checks before a pronouncement could be made.
The former federal lawmaker added, “We have to tell ourselves the truth; this decision was taken first at the National Caucus before it was brought to NEC.
“All those who are talking in the background today were part of the decision first during the caucus before it was brought to NEC. Why didn’t they speak up then?
“President Muhammadu Buhari is a member of both organs of the party and I know he is not a man that will give in to any act of illegality.
“We have senior lawyers within our party: the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu and our National Legal Adviser, Muiz Banire, are both Senior Advocates of Nigeria.”
Speaking about the possible impact of the decision on the outcome of the assignment given to the Tinubu’s panel, he said, “Our National Leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, is carrying out his assignment; he has not complained. The little I know about him is that he is a patriot who loves the APC and Nigeria above self.
“Whatever personal issues he had with our national chairman, he himself said he has outgrown them and is focused on the task at hand.”
Some analysts are of the opinion that it would be a miracle if the Tinubu-led panel succeeds in dousing the smouldering conflicts threatening the fragile peace in the APC before the 2019 elections.