•Buhari, APC govs’ talks end in deadlock
•APC sets up 10-man committee to resolve logjam
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA—The differences between All Progressives Congress, APC, governors and President Muhammadu Buhari over the structure and future of the party widened, yesterday, after a reconciliatory meeting on the issues ended in a deadlock.
Several governors, who attended the meeting with the President, came out wearing angry faces reflecting their bitterness over the President’s last-minute withdrawal of support for the extension of the tenure of executives of the party across board.
President Buhari, it was also learned, will formally declare his interest or otherwise in a second term after the resolution of the increasingly protracted dispute.
The stalemate in the Villa came as the embattled National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, yesterday, inaugurated a technical committee to recommend a way out of the imbroglio over the extension or not of the tenure of the executive structures.
21 governors, including Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, who came on crutches after he had a foot injury last weekend, were present at the meeting.
The closed-door meeting in the council chamber of the Presidential Villa earlier scheduled to start at 2.00 p.m. did not start until 2.15 p.m. a situation that further stretched the governors.
The President, nevertheless, apologised for his lateness to the meeting, saying “I apologise for coming a bit late.”
The meeting came against the background of the uncertainty thrown into the future of the party’s structures upon assertions by President Buhari at last week’s meeting of the National Executive Committee, NEC, where he turned against the earlier decision to extend the tenure of the Odigie-Oyegun-led NEC and similar executive committees at the zonal, state and lower levels.
Majority of the governors and state chairmen, according to Vanguard findings, were supportive of the decision as it would allow the governors most of who have control of their state structures to supervise the conduct of the primaries for the 2019 elections.
All attempts by correspondents to gather information on the proceedings at the meeting were futile as one of the governors said there was an agreement not to divulge information to journalists.
Vanguard, however, gathered that the extension of the tenure of the party’s executive committees took centre stage.
Also part of the informal agenda of the meeting was a proposal for the governors to adopt a structure for the President’s re-election campaign.
It was gathered that the meeting was very stormy with the governors expressing their opposition to the President’s assertion on the illegality of an extension of the executive structures.
One source said that at a point, the President excused the meeting for the governors to come up with another date for further deliberations.
Governor Abdulazeez Yari, Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum, was said to have proposed April 9 and 10 but was countered by a strong supporter of the President among the governors on why he picked those dates.
The challenge may have been because the pro-Buhari governor may have been earlier informed of the President’s trip to the United Kingdom.
Many of the governors wore long faces as they emerged from the meeting, reflective of the deadlock. Some of them put their fingers to their lips, indicating they were not going to comment.
One of the governors leaving the venue of the meeting was heard telling his colleagues, “some people who think they are tall, think they can control us, it will not work.”
Earlier, before President Buhari entered the Council Chambers for the meeting, the governors had formed a circle around Governor Rochas Okorocha, Chairman of the APC Governors Forum, as they engaged one another in a heated debate.
Some were overheard saying “what they are bringing to the table today, we will not allow it to stand. This is a coup, and we will not allow it to stand.”
One was overheard saying angrily in Hausa language, “ba zamu yeda ba,” meaning, “we will not agree.”
Another governor was overheard saying that they would not allow themselves to be controlled by anybody.
At least, 21 governors were present at the meeting which also had in attendance Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Ade Ipaye.
Sources at the meeting also disclosed that the dispute may have put forward the schedule of Buhari’s public declaration of his second term bid.
“Baba will come out to speak about whether he will run or not after the resolution of the tenure elongation issue,” a source said last night.
Oyegun inaugurates 10-man technical committee
Meanwhile, the embattled National Chairman of the party, Chief Odigie-Oyegun, yesterday, inaugurated a 10-man technical committee to fine tune a way out of the political logjam.
Odigie-Oyegun gave the committee, headed by Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State up till this Friday to come up with a report.
The committee, which was established upon a recommendation of the NEC, is to also “assess all the information available and recommend a course of action consistent with the provisions of the party’s Constitution, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and all relevant laws,” Odigie-Oyegun said in a letter of appointment to the committee members.
“As this issue is of utmost importance and is extremely time sensitive, I look forward to your report by Friday the 6th of April 2018”, Chief Odigie-Oyegun signed off in the letter obtained by Vanguard.
The technical committee also has as members, Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Abiola Ajimobi, Governor of Oyo State; Nasir EI-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State; Rotimi Akeredolu, Governor of Ondo State; Senator Ben Uwajimogu; Kabiru Ajanah; Elisha Kuroh; Prof. Dakas C. J. Dakas; and Dr. Muiz Banire, the party’s legal adviser who will serve as secretary.
Inaugurating the committee yesterday, Odigie-Oyegun said the issue in contention was a constitutional matter but with a lot of political implications.
“Therefore, your job is to bring these two together and advise us on the way we can implement our activities in the next few weeks and months in a way that is politically advantageous to our party, the APC.
“We must observe the law and at the same time emphasize that we try to do things that will be advantageous to the party. We will furnish you with all the documents like the resolutions of NEC, the party constitution and the Nigerian constitution to help you do a good job.
“You are also at liberty to request for additional materials like the statement of Mr. President during the last NEC meeting and every other thing to guide you achieve the task you are about to undertake. I am praying, hoping that this is the kind of thing you can accomplish in about three to four days.
“Getting answers from you is crucial (and) time sensitive and depending on which way you advise, we may have to put in motion very serious activities in the party virtually within a week of getting the report and taken decisions. I thank you for accepting this onerous assignment and wish you the very best of luck.”
Not about Tinubu— Lalong
Governor Lalong in his speech, was quick to dismiss insinuations that the work of the committee centered around the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is opposed to tenure elongation.
“The discussion there was not anything against Tinubu. Tinubu’s name was not mentioned in that discussion. The discussion was a NEC decision on the way forward on the position of the President who is also a member of the NEC, and that was subjected to discussion.
“So, the issue of whether it satisfies somebody is not there. Our decision is not going to be final. We will only advise the NEC on the issue,” he said.
We didn’t extend Oyegun’s Tenure
On his part, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State said the controversy was needless since NEC never extended the tenure of the Odigie-Oyegun led NWC and party officials across the country.
“Let me let everybody know that the issue has nothing to do with tenure elongation. You journalists are the ones to advise or lead in the discussions. By law, nobody can extend their tenure. The usage of that word is wrong. There was no time at our NEC that we took the decision to get their tenure elongated.”
He, however, added “but we can have them work in an acting capacity or work as a caretaker for some time, not over 12 months. That, on its own, is not tenure elongation. It is not the intention of APC to elongate anybody’s tenure.”
Governors who attended the meeting yesterday included Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Jubrilla Bindow (Adamawa), Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Abdufattah Ahmed (Kwara).
Others were Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Tanko Al- Makura (Nasarawa), Kashim Shettima (Borno), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), 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).