John Ameh and Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
Members of the Senate and House of Representatives on Sunday endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari’s withdrawal of support for the extension of the tenure of the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress.
The lawmakers said Buhari simply did what most party faithful had expected him and other national leaders of the APC to have done long before.
According to them, the APC has not been in order since the National Executive Committee meeting, which extended the tenure of the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and other members of the NWC, was held.
By making an open pronouncement backing out of tenure elongation, the lawmakers argued that the President had helped to salvage the party from an “impending doom.”
The members, who spoke both on and off the record, insisted that as a political party in government under a constitutional democracy, it must lead by example in applying the tenets of democracy while conducting its affairs.
The Majority Leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, stated that the APC must consider Buhari’s position on the party’s NWC to prevent the dire consequences that would follow its dismissal.
Lawan said, “The President, no doubt, is the supreme leader of the APC and there is no doubt that he always has the utmost interest of the party at heart. Therefore, if the President presented such a thing to the APC, it is very important for the stakeholders to look at it because there is no room for frivolities when it comes to this kind of a very dire situation, which has its consequences.
“If we don’t heed the advice of the President and then go ahead to elongate the tenure, it could lead to very undesirable consequences. The President is right for taking that position.
“The President is not used to talking all the time. So, when he talks we must listen.”
Also, the Majority Whip of the Senate, Senator Sola Adeyeye, said the constitutional issues raised by Buhari against the tenure elongation were valid.
“I agree with him. I am not a lawyer but my lawyers have told me that the action taken by the NEC (to elongate the NWC’s tenure) contravened the law; it contravened the spirit of the law of the party and the stipulations of the constitution concerning registered political parties.
“So, if anything borders on illegality, I do not want my party to commit it as it will have serious, adverse consequences later on,” Adeyeye stated.
At the House of Representatives, the Chief Whip, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, said the tenure extension idea was a big mistake in the first place.
He added, “My view on this was unequivocally clear right from the day we held the NEC meeting, which I am a member. Mr. President, as the supreme leader of the party, has always propagated the exercise of transparent internal party democracy.
“He has consistently been a proponent of respect of the rule of law, through compliance with the relevant provisions of the constitution of the party and that of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“In my opinion, Mr. President’s recommendations on the matter must be allowed to hold. After all, his pronouncement as the leader of the party should be taken as an irreversible order.
“The APC as a party will head for doom if it dares to undermine the true position of the law in this respect.”
Ado-Doguwa, who is from Kano State and the leader of the majority North-West Caucus, clarified that jettisoning tenure elongation did not mean that Oyegun and the other NWC members could not contest their seats again.
“We can of course, if the people so desire, bring back whoever may want to re-contest his or her position at all levels.
“But, we will have no alternative whatsoever to holding a democratically-organised congresses at the moment.
“Already, the party had designed a schedule for these congresses. I wonder why the NWC at a point derailed from doing the right thing,” he added.
A former Kogi State governorship running-mate on the platform of the APC, Mr. James Faleke, held the same views.
Faleke, who is the Chairman, House Committee on Customs and Excise, noted that there would be credibility questions for the APC if it could not comply with its own constitution.
He said, “The President’s decision was apt and right. He based his reasons on the constitution of the party and the supreme constitution of the land; the Nigerian constitution.
“Anyone who wishes to re-contest should follow the rules.”
Faleke, who represents the Ikeja Federal Constituency of Lagos State, added that this was the right time to address any wrongs in the APC.
Another member of the party from Edo State, expressed the same opinion.
Speaking in confidence with The PUNCH, the lawmaker stated, “This extension was a mistake from the beginning.
“It has been discussed by the party faithful in hushed tones for a while now. It is good that we are all coming to terms with the reality.”
A similar position was taken by another member, who did not want to be named as well.
The member said, “We told them before that this thing (tenure extension) will come to haunt us.
“Finally, we are here. It is good we take the appropriate steps and have enough time to begin full preparations for the 2019 polls.”
On Thursday last week, Oyegun had abruptly called off a scheduled meeting with the APC caucus of the House.
The members, led by the Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, were already seated when words came from Oyegun, putting off the meeting.
There were no immediate explanations for his action, but sources hinted that the national chairman was not sure of the reception he would get from the members.
The meeting came up less than two days after Buhari had earlier on Tuesday, written the NEC to withdraw his support for tenure elongation.
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