By The Nation
Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s admonition, some All Progressives Congress (APC) governors are still bent on tenure extension for the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), led by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
They say the party does not need to conduct congresses and national convention, but the President has warned the governors against illegal acts capable of making the party to lose the 2019 poll on technical grounds.
The party has inaugurated a Technical Committee on the future of the NWC. But, a big row has broken out over the committee’s membership.
Some members of the committee are said to be the sponsors of the tenure elongation motion at the penultimate National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting.
The President yesterday met with APC governors following a split among them over his advice at last Tuesday’s National Executive Committee meeting that the party should hold congresses and a national convention to elect new executives.
Governors at the meeting include Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Jubrilla Bindow (Adamawa), Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Abdufattah Ahmed (Kwara).
Also at the meeting were Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano) and Tanko Al- Makura (Nasarawa). Kashim Shettima (Borno) and Rochas Okorocha (Imo),
Others include Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna) and Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun).
The governors declined comments on the meeting which started at 2:14 p.m and ended around 3.30 p.m.
One of the governors confirmed that they were directed not to speak with reporters.
The governors met briefly among themselves before the President’s arrival.
A source at the session said: “We were given a sheet of paper which indicated only the hall at the Presidential Villa where the session will hold.
“The sheet was without agenda, indicating that the President did not want tempers to rise before taking his seat.
“In his opening remarks, the President made it clear that the essence of the meeting was for ‘the APC family to come and reconcile our position with regards to the continuation or non-continuation of the Oyegun-led NWC in office.”
He said the meeting was to “see how we will work towards successful conduct of congresses and National Convention”.
The source however said although six leaders, including the President, spoke, there was tension such that they could not agree on a “definite position”.
“We opted to hold another meeting by 9pm to take a final position.”
Another source at the meeting said: “The President convened the meeting in order to discuss the minor differences we have had since the President told NEC meeting that it was better to hold elective congresses and National Convention.
“Many views were expressed for and against the one-year tenure extension for the NWC. There was a lot of rationalisation of ideas by those who wanted Oyegun’s tenure extended.
“At the session, Governors El-Rufai, Akeredolu, Yahaya Bello and Simon Lalong were vehement on why the tenure of the NWC should be extended by one year.
“Each of them stood up to rationalise the tenure extension by claiming that whatever the NEC does is legal and it won’t have consequences on the legality of APC’s electoral victory in 2019.
“They warned that congresses and National Convention could divide the party and lead to a split before the 2019 polls. They said it would be better to keep the party united than leaving it in disarray.
“But other governors queried the affront of pro-tenure elongation governors in revisiting the advisory of the President on the need to follow the 1999 Constitution and the APC Constitution.
“Those who supported Buhari’s position expressed disappointment that Oyegun went ahead to inaugurate a technical committee which they considered to be an ‘affront to the President.”
Another source said: “After many arguments for and against, the President repeatedly warned APC governors to be careful and stick to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and APC Constitution.”
“The President said we must conduct party activities within the laws in order not to lose the 2019 elections.
“Following that note of caution from the President, we opted to hold another meeting by 9pm on Tuesday.”
The source added: “We know why some governors were desperate for tenure elongation. They had issues in their states and they are overwhelmed with fears that their second term bid might be difficult because they might not be able to determine the outcome of the congresses in their states.
“We are watching if they will now ask us to ignore the President’s advice.”
The source added: “While the drama was playing out, the Vice President and some experienced governors just listened, without speaking.”
A governor from the north, who is backing the President’s position, spoke exclusively with our correspondent.
He said: ” Mr. President is the leader of the party and a leader with such substantial support and loyalty from our members. I think his views should be respected. Even if his views are different from our position, as loyalists, we should look deeper into it.
“We need to respect the President’s perspective, more so when such a position is in tandem with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and APC Constitution. As democrats, we should be at peace with such a position.
“In any case, the President’s position on the basis of law has not violated our rules and the 1999 Constitution. The President is always mindful of the rule of law and due process.”
Also, there is anxiety among the NWC members over the constitution of a Technical Committee to review President Buhari’s advice against tenure elongation.
An NWC member said members were not consulted by the national chairman before he picked the committee members. Most of the members are for tenure elongation, he said.
“The chairman only informed us that he has set up the panel. Ordinarily, we should sit down and consider each nominee on merit.
“Look at the list: Governors El-Rufai, Akeredolu, Lalong are tenure elongation proponents and others like Legal Adviser Muiz Banire and the external legal advisers who are even defending the tenure elongation in court are members,” he said, adding:
“It is an open secret that these governors were coordinating the mobilization of support for tenure extension for all of us in the NWC.
“The outcome of the assignment of the Technical Committee is predictable. It will work to the answer. We have some apolitical members on the committee but pro-tenure extension members will sink their voices.
“Once we allow a Caretaker Committee to nominate our candidates, the election will be half won by either PDP or any coalescing party. Such a committee is an aberration to the APC Constitution.
“Before we went for Easter holidays, Oyegun repeatedly said he would constitute an ‘independent technical committee’ and we were wondering if such a panel will be higher than the party or NWC.
“It is unfortunate that some governors are just out to create a crisis in the party. If they want any NWC member back, all they have to do is to canvass for votes at the National Convention or they can meet with other leaders for consensus on candidates.”