President Buhari was at the meeting where the tenure extension decision was first taken.
But on Tuesday he described the decision to extend the tenure of the officials as unconstitutional, noting that the action was a violation of Nigeria’s and APC’s constitutions.
DAILY INDEPENDENT had on Monday, March 26, reported that the controversial tenure extension would be the dominant issue at the NEC meeting even though Bolaji Abdullahi, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, insisted that it was sub judice and would not be discussed.
Majority of APC members had, on February 27, 2018, voted to extend the life of the present national executive committee of the party by one year when its current term elapses in June.
In a reasonable manner, the president told the leaders at the meeting that the party could not afford to jettison its constitution and expect peace to reign.
He called for a strict adherence to party and constitutional provisions in the interest of the party.
He said after seeking legal advice from the Ministry of Justice, he came to the conclusion that their action of February 27, 2018, contravened the constitutions of the party and Nigeria.
He further noted that though he was part of the resolution to extend the tenure, he had, however, realised that their action may ruin the chances of the party in the 2019 general elections.
Under the circumstances, he advised the national officers to resign at the expiration of their tenure to pave way for a fresh round of elections into party leadership positions.
The president said: “I am delighted to once again welcome you to this National Executive Committee meeting of our great party.
“As we usually do, I hope we will take the opportunity of this gathering to resolve outstanding issues and consolidate our plans towards making APC the strongest defender of the interests of our people.
“In particular, I think it is important for me to speak quickly on the contentious issue of the tenure of our national and state executive officers.
“As we all know, a motion was moved at the last National Executive Committee meeting of February 27, 2018, 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 a majority of members present at the last NEC meeting, even though some of our party members have since spoken up very vehemently against it. Others have even taken the matter to court.
“On my own part, I have taken some 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, also prescribes periodic elections for party executives at regular intervals, which must not exceed four years.
“Furthermore, Article 31 of our party 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 constitutional provisions, we might be endangering the fortunes of our party.
“If the tenure of our party executives can be legally faulted, then it means that any nominations and primary elections that they may conduct, can also be faulted.
“This is not to talk of divisions that would arise, and is already arising within the party, when some of our members feel that they are being denied the right to aspire to executive positions, or that internal democracy is not at play within the party.
“I am, therefore, of the firm view that it is better to follow strictly the dictates of our party and national constitutions, rather than put APC and its activities at grave risk.
“Fortunately, we have already approved a timetable for the holding of congresses and elections.
“I think these should be allowed to go forward and all efforts should now be geared towards making them a great success.
“Once again, I welcome you all to this meeting with the hope that we will promote, always, the highest interest of the party and of our people.”
The president’s position reportedly sent a shockwave through party circles.
A party source told DAILY INDEPENDENT that governors loyal to Oyegun, such as Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State looked dejected throughout the meeting, following the president’s speech.
“We were all shocked. Nobody believed the president could come up with that position because one, it was not part of the agenda of the meeting and, two, the matter is in court. We never expected he will speak against tenure extension.
“I noticed the shock on the face of Governors Rotimi Akeredolu and Yahaya Bello and others loyal to the national chairman.
“They couldn’t challenge the president but, from the look of things, they won’t be comfortable if an election is to be held, because their favoured state chairmen may not return and they may not be in the good books of the new national chairman.
“Definitely, this is going to be a game changer,” he said.
In a chat with DAILY INDEPENDENT, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, said the president’s rejection notwithstanding, the party’s position on the tenure extension still stands.
Abdullahi, who also briefed journalists on the outcome of the meeting, said the members had agreed that a small technical committee be set up to look into the matter and advise the party on the way forward.
According to him, “Members of NEC thanked the president for his graciousness for saying look, this is not okay; we had a situation because we recall that after the last NEC and this decision was taken, some members felt aggrieved and went to court.
“You know that any issue that goes to court is sub judice. Then that also presented its own complications, so the NEC decided to set up a small team that will advise the party on the way forward.
“At the moment, there is no decision taken, so the position of NEC still stands from the last meeting. There is a technical committee at the moment that is looking at it. That position may change tomorrow but as it is today that is the position of NEC.
“The president’s position has not changed the position of NEC. NEC has not reversed itself on the tenure extension.
“The decision of the NEC on the one-year tenure extension still stands.
“The president is not NEC. The NEC will have to reverse itself, but right now, it has not done that. So, the tenure extension still stands,” Abdullahi said.
Concerning the report of the True Federalism Committee of the party, the spokesman explained that the NEC agreed that a technical committee between the National Assembly, the executive, and the party be set up to look at the proposals point by point as quickly as possible, to enable the president to transmit to the National Assembly for action.
On constitution amendments, he noted that observations that were made would be incorporated into the draft constitution, adding that there was no motion taken to adopt the amended constitution.
“We believe that those amendments and proposals should first of all be updated in the amended constitution before a motion is taken for its adoption,” Abdullahi stated.