President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday shocked members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), when he told them that the decision of the body to extend the tenure of the National and state leadership of the party was an act in illegality and was capable to drawing the party back.
The President said the decision which would see members of the National Working Committee and State Working Committee remaining in office for one year after the expiration of their tenure contravenes the party constitution and the 1999 constitution as amended.
But rising from the NEC meeting, the party said the decision of the last session of its NEC held on February 27, 2018 remains until the outcome of a technical committee set up to advice the party on the next line of action.
The President who arrived the APC national Secretariat at exactly 11.17 said he has sought legal advice from his legal team and came to the conclusion that the decision of the party was capable of steering up divisions and endanger the fortunes of the party, thereby giving the opposition and the media instruments to work against it.
President Buhari said allowing caretaker committee to run the party outside the constitutional provision is likely to have adverse effect on the party, pointing out that if the tenure of the leaders of the party can be legally faulted, any primary conducted by them may not be able to stand the test of time.
He said: “As we all know, a motion was moved at the last National Executive Committee meeting of February 27, 2018 to the effect that when the tenure of the present executive expires in June this year, they should be allowed to continue for another one year. This motion was duly carried by majority of members present at the last NEC meeting, even though some of our party members have spoken vehemently against it, while others have taken the matter to court.
“On my own, I have taken time to review and seek advice on the resolution and what I found is that it contravenes both the APC constitution and the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. While the APC constitution in article 17 (1) and 13 (b) limits the tenure of elected officers to four years renewable by another election, the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended, in section 223 also proscribed periodic election for party executives at regular intervals which must not exceed four years.
“Furthermore, article 31 of our party constitution provides that any principal officer wishing to recontest or contest foe another post must resign from his current post at least one month before the election.
“In this circumstance, what is expected of us is to conduct fresh election once the tenure of the current executive approaches its end. A caretaker committee cannot remedy the situation and act in place of elected officials. Furthermore, I think that if we deviate from the constitutional provisions, we might be endangering the fortunes of our party.
“If the tenure of our party executive can be legally faulted, it means that any nomination and primary election they may conduct can also be faulted. This is not to talk of divisions that may arise or is already arising within the party when some of our party members feel that they are being denied the right to aspire to executive positions or that internal democracy is not at play within the party.
“I am therefore of the firm believed that it is better to follow strictly the dictate of our party constitution rather than put APC and its activities at grave risk. Fortunately, we have already approved a timetable for the holding of congresses and primary election. I think this should be allowed to go forward and efforts should now be geared towards making them great success.”
The President explained that while he was merely expressing his own opinion that does not preclude them from discussing the issue, saying “I want to tell you members of NEC that this does not preclude us from discussing this matter. We have so many SANS in the house.
“If people think the constitution, both for the party and the country has facilitated the decision we have taken, all well and good. I don’t feel too strongly about that. The only thing I feel strongly about is that we should not allow our party to be vulnerable and susceptible to to the opposition by delaying us and going to court and quoting appropriate constitutional provision from either the party or national constitution to delay us or devise us further.
“Please take note of this my statement. There are knowledgeable people among you. So, please feel free to discuss and let us quickly, with the help of the legal adviser clear the issues that are raised.
“But I have taken time to listen to the legal advisers constitutionally given to me in the Ministry of Justice and conclude that our decision contravened the party constitution and the constitution of the country.
“So, please feel free to bring facts and we will discuss and reflect on them and proceed to accept whatever we feel should be done and be prepared to face the face the opposition either in court or the pages of newspapers. Let us make sure that our programmes are not disrupted by court actions.”
However, addressing newsmen after the meeting which lasted for about two hours, National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi said members commended the President for allowing them to express their opinion on the issue after taking a position and constituted a technical committee to work within two days and advice the party on the next line of action”
He said the meeting did not take any decision on the tenure elongation issue, saying the “position of the last NEC still stand pending the outcome of the technical committee report. That position may change tomorrow. But after the technical committee report, NEC will still have to meet to either reverse itself or affirm its earlier decision”.
Collaborating Abdullahi’s position, Kogi state governor, Yahaya Bello said the decision taken at the last NEC meeting of the party was not to elongate the tenure of the party executives, but to ensure that crisis that may arise from party primaries does not affect the fortunes of the party during the fourth coming general election in view of the time frame available to them.
However, The Nation gathered that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also warned against allowing the tenure elongation issue sail through, pointing out that it is bound to have adverse constitutional effect on the programmers of the party and give the opposition a weapon with which to fight the party.
Addressing the meeting earlier, National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie Oyegun said the party was proud of the president’s handling of the issue of the Dapchi school girls, describing it as a miracle done by the President.
Oyegun said the meeting was a continuation of the last meeting of the party NEC to discuss the review of the party constitution and also review the report of the True Federalism committee as it affect the future of the nation
Among those who attended the meeting include Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Governors Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe, Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi, Yahaya Bello of Kogi, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun, Godwin Obaseki of Edo, Rochas Okorocha of Imo, Sani Bello of Niger, Tanko AlMakura of Nasarawa, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano, Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa, Samuel Ortom of Benue, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto, Simon Lalong of Plateau, Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna, Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi and Jibrilla Bindo of Adamawa state attended the meeting.
The deputy governors of Kwara, Osun, Oyo, Zamfara and Borno states as well as members of the National Assembly also attended the meeting.