Shouting match at APC NEC meeting
John Alechenu, John Ameh and Peter Dada
A scheduled meeting between the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress and the party’s caucus at the House of Representatives was unceremoniously called off on Wednesday.
The National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was scheduled to lead the NWC members to the meeting at 2pm.
Investigations by The PUNCH showed that the venue, Conference Room 034, House of Representatives Wing, National Assembly Complex, was set for the meeting and many members had arrived ahead of 2pm.
The Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, had also led some officials to the venue, awaiting the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, to receive Odigie-Oyegun.
It was gathered that Oyegun had written the lawmakers on March 15, requesting a meeting with them on happenings in the polity.
The letter, which The PUNCH obtained exclusively in Abuja, read in part, “I wish to request that you arrange an early meeting between the NWC and the APC House Caucus at the National Assembly to discuss a few recent developments in the polity.”
The PUNCH gathered that while Gbajabiamila and other members of the party were waiting for the meeting to start, words came from Odigie-Oyegun that it had been cancelled.
A source said, “The chairman’s advance party and secretariat members of staff had already arrived in the National Assembly.
“But, Odigie-Oyegun called Gbajabiamila on the telephone to say the meeting would no longer be taking place.”
It was learnt that the turn of events flowed from the outcome of the party’s Tuesday National Executive Committee meeting, where President Muhammadu Buhari opposed tenure elongation for the Oyegun-led NWC.
“A message got to him (Oyegun) that some members celebrated the action of the President.
“His associates claimed that the chairman was not sure of the likely reception to receive from the lawmakers,” a legislative source toldThe PUNCH.
One of our correspondents gathered that many members were also unhappy that Odigie-Oyegun rarely held meetings or visited the caucus at the National Assembly to discuss party matters with them.
When The PUNCH sought the comments of Gbajabiamila, he said, “There is nothing serious. I mean, there are no issues with the party. All the organs and activities are working.
“Members are angry? How? Why will they be angry? There is nothing of that nature.”
Attempts to get a reaction from Odigie-Oyegun were futile. Calls to his mobile telephone numbers indicated that they were switched off. A response to a text message sent to him on the subject was still being awaited as of 10pm.
Rowdy session at APC NEC meeting
Additional details of what transpired behind closed doors at the National Executive Committee meeting of the All Progressives Congress on Tuesday have emerged.
It was gathered on Wednesday that Buhari’s remarks before the meeting went into the closed session generated tension among NEC members.
One of NEC members, who spoke to The PUNCH on condition of anonymity, said, “The session became rowdy at some point when members of NEC shouted down the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Doguwa, for saying there was no need to debate the issue since the President had spoken.
“The noise was so much that security details of the President stepped into the hall as a precautionary measure.
“At this point, the National Chairman (Odigie-Oyegun) stood up and threatened to use his powers to walk out members if they continued to be rowdy.
“He said if anybody had a better argument he should raise his hands and be recognised to speak. He also asked us all to have respect for the President who was at the meeting.”
The source explained that earlier, the party’s National Legal Adviser, Muiz Banire, SAN, had “tried to dismiss the constitutional queries raised by the President on the tenure elongation.
He said, “Our legal adviser said NEC relied on powers conferred on it by Section 13.3 of the party’s constitution. He argued that the President’s position was sub judice, because the matter was already in court.
“After he spoke, the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, aligned himself with the legal position espoused by Banire.”
The source explained that the Ondo State governor added that the decision was subjected to a vote with 104 members voting in favour and four against the decision.
After he spoke, Doguwa, asked members of NEC to stop the debate on the matter since the President had made his position known.
The source said, “It was at this point that the meeting became rowdy with NEC members shouting him down. This prompted security details attached to the President to rush into the meeting room to prevent a security breach.
According to the party source, the President’s decision took everybody by surprise.
He said, “I must say, it was a civilian equivalent of a coup. “We attended the National Caucus meeting at the Presidential Villa on Monday and the President did not give us any hint about his new position because he was part of the last NEC meeting where the decision to extend NWC’s tenure was taken.
“Some of us felt betrayed because this is not how to treat party leaders.”
Another member of NEC who spoke to The PUNCH on the issue explained that the party’s chairman spoke about setting up a committee to review the President’s position “but no committee was named.”
The source who is also a member of the party’s NWC, said, “After tempers cooled down, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, spoke.
“He made reference to an August 2015 Supreme Court judgment in the case of two Kano State House of Assembly seats won by the APC.
“The VP said we lost that case because the litigants based their argument on the process that produced the candidates not the outcome of the elections.”
He said, “Osinbajo essentially spoke in favour of Mr. President. He felt it would be easier to deal with internal crisis arising from party primaries than a crisis emanating from a breach of the constitution.”