There were indications on Wednesday that the national leaders of the All Progressives Congress were divided over the crisis in Edo State.
This indication emerged shortly after the Director General of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Salihu Lukman, called for the resignation of the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
Lukman, in a statement in Abuja, said Oshiomhole should either convene the party’s National Executive Council meeting or resign.
In a swift reaction, the APC National Vice Chairman (South-South), Hilliard Eta, in an interview with The PUNCH, dismissed Lukman’s statement, saying the director general was speaking for himself.
But the Deputy National Chairman (North) of the APC, Senator Lawal Shuaibu, and the embattled National Vice Chairman (North-West), Inuwa Abdulkadir, backed the director general.
Our correspondents gathered that the organs of the party were not united on the issue of Edo State crisis.
A chieftain of the party, who confided in The PUNCH, said, “The problem we have is that while some of our leaders are supporting Oshiomhole, others are against him.”
Lukman, in his statement said the inability of the national chairman to call for superior organs of party to a meeting, was causing increasing organisational challenges in the party.
The APC is currently being rocked by a crisis in Edo State, where two factions of the party have emerged with one led by the national chairman and another headed by the state Governor, Godwin Obaseki.
The crisis worsened on Tuesday when a faction of the APC suspended the state Chairman of the party, Anslem Ojezua, who was loyal to Obaseki.
A fewer hours later, another faction suspended the state Secretary of the party, Lawerence Okah, and Oshiomhole. The crisis is coming ahead of the 2020 governorship election in the state.
Besides Edo, the party is also battling with a crisis in Ondo State, where some chieftains are at war with the state Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu. The APC is also facing challenges in Anambra, and Bayelsa where a court on Tuesday disqualified its deputy governorship candidate for Saturday’s election, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo.
Lukman said nothing short of a NEC or a caucus meeting could address challenges facing the party.
He stated, “In the current circumstances, nothing short of a NEC or national caucus meeting of the party can resolve all our increasing organisational challenges as a party.
“It is either Oshiomhole respect the provisions of the party constitution and convene superior organ meeting to deliberate on all our challenges, or he should just accept his inability to manage the party and resign.”
He asked the national leaders to rise to the challenge facing the party and take all necessary measures to convene superior organ meetings to begin to resolve all challenges as a party, saying “the current public disgrace must end!”
Lukman said the call was heightened by the information coming from Edo State indicating that members of the state executive council of the APC had passed vote of no confidence in Oshiomhole.
“In so many respects, it could be argued, it is a natural outcome of unfolding power play between Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki since June 2019 with the contentious inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly.
Possible retaliatory response from both Oshiomhole and groups such as Edo Peoples Movement who are loyal to Oshiomhole should be expected. In other words, there could be counter- pronouncement suspending Governor Obaseki.
“Side by side with the news of the vote of no confidence was also the discomforting report of the Federal High Court judgment in Abuja disqualifying Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo as our Deputy Governorship candidate for the November 16, 2019 Bayelsa election.
“While expecting that every necessary step will be taken to vacate the judgment, it is very depressing for every committed party member to be subjected to such ignominious reality, which only reminds us of our reckless conduct in states like Zamfara, Rivers, Bauchi and Adamawa, which chiefly gave away electoral victories to the PDP.
“Instead of focusing on working to win elections, we are busy undermining ourselves. All these are ominous signs that we are about to re-enact the Zamfara, Rivers, Bauchi and Adamawa experiences in Bayelsa. It is Bayelsa today, Anambra, Edo and Ondo are being set up for similar experiences. Somehow, unfortunately, the NEC of the party, which is the organ vested with the statutory responsibility of responding to all these challenges appears to be suspended.
“The last time it met was in August 2018. In its place, the National Working Committee, which is an administrative organ with the responsibility of implementing decisions of NEC and other higher organs seems to have usurped the powers of NEC.
“Sadly, even the NWC, as of today, is a shadow of itself, as it has lost many members either on accounts of appointment into government or controversial suspension. For instance, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Deputy National Chairman (South) is today a Minister of the Federal Republic. Senator Lawal Shuaibu, Deputy National Chairman (North) is allegedly suspended. Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir, National Vice Chairman (North-West) is similarly suspended.”
Lukman recalled that the NWC had in June 2019 allegedly suspended Akeredolu as well as former governors Rochas Okorocha (Imo) and Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun) for alleged anti-party activities.
He said, “Whether all these actions are permissible by provisions of the APC’s constitution is highly contestable.Why should all these be allowed to happen? Why is it impossible to convene a NEC or even National Caucus meeting, which is supposed to hold every quarter to resolve all these issues?
“Why should the NWC under Oshiomhole continue to imagine that it can conduct affairs of the party without mandatory meetings of party organs? What legacy is Oshiomhole hoping to achieve as a national chairman by running the party in a way that suggests almost zero commitment to issues of party development?
“It is very painful for many of us who have had the privilege of being mentored by Oshiomhole to see him being devalued to a local factional leader from a very high pedestal of an illustrious national leader. As National Chairman, Oshiomhole hardly appreciates that he now has a national constituency and not just a state constituency, which may have been responsible for his apparent intemperance in the handling of matters affecting Edo State.
“I wish he paid similar attention to handling of issues affecting Rivers and Zamfara states during the 2019 elections,” he added.
DG speaking for himself – S’South National Vice-Chairman
But the APC National Vice-Chairman (South-South), Etta, in the interview with The PUNCH, said the statement should be disregarded as it was entirely the personal opinion of the DG and not the governors.
He said Lukman was not known to be a member of any organ of the party so was not in a position to direct its affairs.
He said, “Which organ of the party does he belong to? He is not a governor but a Chief Administrator of the secretariat, so his views cannot be taken for those of the governors.
“The progressives’ governors have their chairman who is the governor of Kebbi State, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu. If they have anything to tell the NWC they know the proper channel and won’t be through the DG.”
NWC begins reconciliation
The APC National Working Committee met on Wednesday and endorsed Ojezua’s suspension.
The party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, said it arrived at the decision after receiving a notification of the suspension of Ojezua by 11 of the 16 members of the Edo State Working Committee.
“We have reviewed the process they followed and conclude that they have fulfilled the required conditions.
“We therefore uphold the suspension of the Edo State APC Chairman, Anslem Ojezua while we await the outcome of the fact-finding and reconciliation committee.
“Please note that the NWC’s objective and cause of action is strictly to address the root causes of the disputations and reconcile all parties to make our great party even stronger,” the statement said.
But the Deputy National Chairman (North) of the APC, Senator Lawal Shuaibu, and the embattled National Vice-Chairman (North West), Inuwa Abdulkadir, said they foresaw the current upheaval facing Oshiomhole.
Both men spoke to The PUNCH in separate interviews in Abuja, on Wednesday.
Oshiomhole working hard to destroy APC – Shuaibu
Shuaibu said, “What I predicted when I wrote him my letter is coming to pass. What is left is for leaders of our party to come together and salvage the party which the current national chairman is working very hard to destroy.”
National chair lacks decorum – Party leader
Speaking in a similar vein, Abdulkadir said, “Even for his active support of a faction of the party other than the recognized party structure in his home state of Edo, the national chairman is liable for committing gross misconduct.
“What has become clearer for everyone to see is his arbitrariness. He lacks decorum; his actions have proved that the party under his leadership is floating. The party has lost direction.
“It is time for those who meant well for our great party to step in and salvage the situation because he has once again proved incapable of providing leadership for a national party like the APC.”
Efforts to get the response of Oshiomhole’s Chief Press Secretary, Simon Ebegbulem, did not succeed. He did not pick his calls. He had also yet to reply a text message sent to him as of 9:36pm.
Edo APC suspends Obaseki, Shaibu, others
But on Wednesday, the Edo Peoples Movement, a faction of the APC in Edo State, announced the suspension of Obaseki; his deputy, Philip Shaibu and the Secretary to the state Government, Ogie Osarodion.
A member of the state House of Assembly, Patrick Ikahriale, announced the suspension during a press conference at the residence of Gen Charles Airhiavbere in Benin.
He stated, “Governor Obaseki, his deputy, Phillip Shuaibu; Chairman, Anslem Ojezua, and Osarodion Ogie (SSG) from available information from top leaders of the PDP have concluded plans to defect from the APC and seek re-election on that platform.
“Consequently, we hereby suspend Governor Godwin Obaseki, Phillip Shuaibu and Osarodion Ogie from the party for anti-party activities and urge the National Working Committee to set the machinery in motion for further disciplinary action against them.”
Nobody made me gov, says Obaseki
Also, on Wednesday, Obaseki said he was not ungrateful as being described in some quarters. The governor, who stated this at the executive meeting of the APC, stated that he was not happy with the recent developments in the state.
The governor said when he first met Oshiomhole 12 years ago, they shared a common interest in salvaging the state but all that had changed in recent times.
He stated, “I am not an ungrateful person. No one made me governor. I became governor by God’s grace, with the support of many other people. If God had said I would not be governor, no way would I have been governor. It is wrong for someone to say he made me governor.
I raised money for Oshiomhole’s gov election – Obaseki
“No one gave me money. The fund Oshiomhole initially raised for his governorship ambition was raised by me in Lagos. If I can raise money for him for his election, why would I not be able to raise money for my own election.”
The governor said the national chairman was not truthful about comments on his administration, adding, “If you came into power on some basic principles, do not expect to change those principles because you have certain ambition. If you came to power believing no man is God, then the day you start to play God, you will get the consequences.”
At the meeting, the leaders said the suspension of Oshiomhole became necessary because the national chairman had been deploying divisive tactics to cause disharmony in the party.
While addressing the APC leaders from the 18 local government areas of the state, the state Chairman of the APC, Anslem Ojezua, traced the genesis of the crisis to the primary elections in 2018.
He stated, “All these started since the party primaries in 2018 when we conducted the primaries to nominate candidates for the general election held in 2019. It appeared that after that elections, the Edo APC didn’t know peace again.
“The issues were later aggravated in April and May 2019 which culminated in the formation of the Edo Peoples Movement, an infamous group, we proscribed in our last meeting.”
Ojezua said the news of his removal was shocking as the state working committee which purportedly removed him didn’t have powers to do so, adding, “Our constitution has a provision to remove officers at the state level. It is only the State Executive Committee that has the powers to remove any officer.”