• As Oki, party trade words over withdrawal of court case
The ghost, which the 2018 controversial congresses conducted under the supervision of former National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole and the disbanded National Working Committee (NWC) threw up, is still haunting the structure of Lagos APC two years after.
Almost all the state chapters of the party were roiled in crises just as the national body knew no peace after the congresses. Although, Lagos chapter pretends to be immune to such crisis, what obtains is uneasy calm, with Fouad Oki emerging as factional chairman in a parallel congress.
Oki has challenged the legality of the Chief Tunde Balogun-led executive on grounds that the congress that produced him was conducted contrary to the provisions of the 1999 constitution and the directives of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In Oki’s suit before a Lagos court, the former Vice Chairman of Eti-Osa zone of Lagos APC claimed that Balogun’s executive that has the backing of the national leader of APC, Bola Tinubu conducted its congress based on 57 local governments contrary to the constitutionally recognised 20 councils in the state and that it was also against the directives of INEC. The matter is still in court.
President Muhammadu Buhari had taken several steps to address the controversy by setting up various reconciliation committees, including the one headed by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and former governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande. But all efforts so far to cool frayed nerves in the party have been abortive.
However, since the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) on June 25, 2020 dissolved the NWC, sent Oshiomhole packing and replaced it with Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State as Chairman, Caretaker/Extra-ordinary Convention Committee, Oki’s faction in Lagos has renewed its struggle to oust Balogun’s executive.
Oki’s has renewed the onslaught against the Lagos executive against the order by President Buhari that all aggrieved members should withdraw court cases against the party to allow Buni’s committee to reposition the party ahead of the next congresses.
However, Oki is adamant, insisting that the Buni committee should state in precise terms how it wants to address its matter. But the Lagos chapter of the party said it would amount to subjudice on its part to respond on issues being presented to the media by anybody (Oki) who is parading himself as a factional chairman of the party.
Reacting on whether the meeting held by the Lagos APC executive committee last Thursday had to do with how to reconcile the factions and also resolve Oki’s matter, the State’s Publicity Secretary, Mr. Seye Oladejo said no.
According to him, “It was true Lagos executive held a meeting on Thursday, but the agenda had nothing to do with Oki’s issue, because the matter is already in court. The acclaimed factional chairman took the party to court after the 2018 congresses in Lagos on claims that the exercise was conducted on the basis of 57 instead of 20 local governments as recognised by INEC and the constitution. The matter is also before the Chief Bisi Akande Reconciliation Committee.”
He also said Buni’s committee is yet to meet or indicate interest to meet with the state’s executive, adding, “it has only met with the leaders of the party in the Southwest – Tinubu and Chief Akande.”
Oladejo’s response that the meeting has nothing to do with Oki’s matter further exposed the nature of the crisis. In a memo on the letterhead of the party and duly signed on June 30, 2020 by Balogun titled: ‘Reports trending in news and social media platforms’, it appears the crisis won’t abate soon.
The memo reads: “Some persons claiming they are another executive faction in Lagos; we are legitimate and our congresses met all necessary pre-requisites (national APC, INEC and other security apparatus) were with us; we wish to debunk all frivolous claims by the other purported faction, our people should entertain no fear whatsoever.”
The memo also assured party members not to entertain fear and to shun any meeting called by any other group. The document further enjoined party members to dismiss any fear of dissolution of the executive, noting, “there is no dissolution of our structure in Lagos APC.”
The memo, however, re-emphasised that all groupings within Lagos APC have been disbanded. Although, when Oladejo was presented with the document via WhatsApp, he replied, “please, ignore it.”
Oladejo then said if Oki truly seeks reconciliation he should withdraw the matter from court first and then approach the authorities concerned “otherwise nobody, even the Buni committee, can deliberate on a matter that is before the court.”
But Oki said it was imperative for Buni and his new team to spell out in precise terms how they want to address the issue otherwise “the party might risk scratching the matter on the surface without reaching a conclusive and peaceful end.”
Recall that Oki held a parallel congress in 2018 where he emerged factional chairman on the grounds that the one headed by Chief Tunde Balogun and backed by Tinubu lacked legal basis as it was conducted based on wards in 57 council areas instead of 20 approved by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
However, Oshiomhole later recognised the Balogun led executive committee, which the Oki faction later dragged to court. The Oki-led group’s complain is among the over 170 petitions received by the defunct Chief Bisi Akande’s Reconciliation Committee set up by the president to address the grievances that arose from the 2018 congresses.
In November 2018, following the acrimony that characterized the congresses, Buhari had stressed that if anyone was displeased with the way and manner anything had been done, and feels deprived of his/her rights, then such a person was at liberty to approach the courts for redress. Buhari’s position then and now contradicted the party’s decision, which forbade members from dragging the party to court.
According to Oki, “We are ready to comply and work in cooperation with the Buni-led caretaker committee to the benefit of the party but we must be able to explain to the court why we want to withdraw our case. This is why we are calling on Buni to take the issues of those petitions that came up as a result of the 2018 controversial congresses and primaries seriously with the hope to resolving them.
The same president who encouraged aggrieved members to approach the court in 2018 and further took a step to set up the Bisi Akande Reconciliation Committee that failed, has again admonished that all aggrieved members should withdraw court cases against the party.”
When contacted yesterday whether Oki’s faction or the Buni-led committee had reached out to it on modalities to withdrawing the court case, Oladejo said there was nothing of such.
According to Oladejo, “There is no mention of such. The matter is still very much in the court and they (Buni, Oki) have not reached out to us. That is the reason we refused to react on every utterances in that regard.”
One of the leaders of the party, however, expressed fears in the capacity of the Buni-led caretaker committee to resolve the crisis in the party, saying, “What is tearing APC apart is the inordinate ambition of some powerful stakeholders ahead of the 2023 presidential elections and the feelings of betrayal by those who think that they staked all within their powers to bring the Buhari government on board in 2015.”
Whatever the case, the coming Lagos East senatorial bye-election to replace late Bayo Oshinowo will speak a lot about the sincerity and commitment of the Buni committee to address aggrieved members in Lagos APC, depending on how it handles the party’s primary to accommodate the interest of the warring factions.