Why I want to recontest — Buhari
- President urges APC to be united and capture power in 2019 •Asks party to grant waivers for Oyegun, others to contest at congresses •Why I endured media attacks by my opponents — Oyegun •Afenifere, Junaid Mohammed, Ikokwu, Okorocha, Adeniran, PDP, others react
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, put paid to speculations about his political future with a declaration to the National Executive Committee, (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), that he would seek a second term to enable him consolidate on his achievements.
The resolution of the President’s aspiration, however, came with a fresh uncertainty on the future of the party, following a recommendation by a committee of the party that could open the way for the extension of the tenure of the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee,( NWC). The committee led by Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State had been constituted upon President Buhari’s observations that an extension of tenure of the party executives was illegal.
In its recommendations adopted by NEC, yesterday, it was recommended that the party goes ahead and conducts congresses and a national convention but that where it was impossible to do so, that the party should fall back on the extension of tenure for all party officers across board as originally conceived at the NEC meeting in February.
President Buhari’s declaration was received with rapturous approval at the NEC meeting. However, outside, critics and political rivals expressed dismay upon claims of a mixed performance in his first term.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, in a reaction, charged every other contender to run away.
At the crowded, closed-door NEC meeting, the President said that having made wide consultations and conscious of the need to consolidate on his achievements in office, he had decided to stand for re-election.
His declaration was greeted with a standing ovation. The president, who came under “Any Other Business, (AOB),” said he had been under tremendous pressure to make the declaration, adding that he felt it was courteous to first inform the NEC before going to town with it.
Apart from hordes of presidential aides, others at the meeting which was also attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, were the caucuses of the National Assembly, led by Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Speaker Yakubu Dogara, governors of Zamfara, Imo, Oyo, Ogun, Benue, Plateau, Bauchi, Kebbi and Jigawa states.
Others were those of Kaduna, Kogi, Borno, Sokoto, Adamawa, Lagos, Ondo, Nasarawa, Kano, Osun and the deputy governors of Katsina, Edo, Yobe and Niger states as well as other NEC members. Addressing journalists at a post-NEC briefing, both the Plateau State governor, Simon Bako Lalong, and the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, confirmed the president’s declaration.
Lalong, who also spoke on the report of the technical committee which he headed, said: “Everybody’s interest was considered in the report and it was a unanimous vote and adoption of the recommendations that were made.
“The President felt so happy and excited because of this unity in the party; he will now consider and also accept the appeal by several members of the society, party and everybody that he will contest the 2019 election.
“He has accepted that he is going to contest again the position of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the governor confirmed.
However, the last may not have been heard of the issue of tenure elongation for party executives as the Lalong committee in its recommendations sighted stated that the party might have to fall back on its earlier resolution extending the tenure of the executives.
It premised its decision on the inability of the party to fulfill all legal conditions necessary for a convention and congresses.
“If for reasons of inability to fulfil constitutional and/or legal conditions requisite for the conduct of a valid elective congress or convention, then the party may as a last resort leverage on the NEC resolution of February 27, 2018, which in our view is lawful in the circumstances. Finally, the committee recommended that a NEC meeting be convened to consider the report.”
According to the committee, “although the decision taken by NEC on February 27 is legal and constitutional; and violated neither the party constitution nor that of the federation, it is still in the best interest of the party to conduct congresses and convention. However, in doing so, all reasonable measures should be taken to minimise opportunity for acrimony or rancour while ensuring that all prescribed constitutional and legal conditions are met.”
Earlier at the commencement of the meeting, the president gave a hint of what was to come as he engaged members in a conciliatory manner, urging them to close ranks and deliver the party to Nigerians in 2019.
In a deft political move to placate contending forces in the party regarding the leadership of the party, President Buhari asked the NEC to grant waivers to members of the Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee, NWC, who wish to seek re-election.
The President said: “I want to specifically thank members of the technical committee for a job well done within a limited time frame.
It shows the essence of commitment and the ideals of our party, with a view to consolidating the party to continue to provide good governance in the overall interest of Nigerians.
“The general interest of the party and based on the report submitted by the technical committee, it is important to focus on how to move the party forward by avoiding actions detrimental to the interest of the party.
“Considering that politics is a game of numbers, we must not be a house divided against itself and must try to appreciate and accommodate our differences as far as the law permits.
“Having seen the report, my position is to ensure that the party tows the part of unity, legality, cohesion and not that of division.
“Therefore, I am stressing that we strengthen our internal democracy by organizing party congresses and convention where election of national executive committee members will be held.
“ This will automatically end the cases filed by members seeking orders of court compelling the party to hold its congresses.
“I also believe that the current executives should be free to run for elective positions in the party if they so wish and permitted by our party constitution.
“However, considering the provision of Article 30 Section 1 and Subsection 3 of our party constitution, which requires any serving officer desirous of seeking re-election, to resign from office 30 days before the election, I’m not sure of the practicality of the present serving officers’ ability to meet this condition.
“Accordingly, the party may consider granting waivers to party executives at all levels so that they are not disenfranchised in participating in the elections provided this does not violate our rights or our rules.
“Necessary waivers should also be extended to executives at the ward level whose tenures may have elapsed and indeed to anyone knocking on our doors from other parties.
“Just like our party symbol is the broom, we stand by strength in unity. Let us try to be united in party, victory is sure by the grace of God. And together, we must continue to sanitise Nigeria’s political environment.
“ I welcome you to this meeting with the hope that in our deliberations, we will conduct ourselves without rancour, and promote the highest interest of our party and the nation.
Earlier, Odigie-Oyegun, while opening the meeting had lamented at the extent to which some party members went to discredit him.
“In the past days, I have read news reports and all manner of comments and opinions that have tried to frame the majority decision of NEC as an attempt to primarily secure “tenure elongation” for Oyegun and the NWC. This is quite unfortunate because nothing could be farther from the truth.
“We are looking for ways to minimize rancour in the party ahead of the next general elections, and we are looking for ways to save the party from potential legal booby traps. These are both valid considerations. The challenge that we have faced has been how to reconcile the two in the best interest of the party.
“On a personal note, I have had to endure virulent media attacks, malicious insinuations, and outright character assassination. However, the responsibility imposed on me by my position as the National Chairman of the party, demand that I rise above my personal pains and refuse to yield to the temptation to react in a manner that potentially complicates the situation for our party.
“However, I will like to urge everyone else to remember that regardless of our ambitions and personal interests, the party is greater than all of us”.
It will be recalled that at the NEC meeting of February 27, members requested the NEC to approve a timetable for congresses and the convention ahead of the expiration of the tenure of the current executive.
However, rather than approve the timetable, “members expressed concern that if we embarked on the congresses as planned, the process could precipitate a series of rancour, which might be difficult for the party to manage ahead of the coming general elections.
It was, therefore, resolved by a majority of 104 to 4 votes that the current executives of the party at all levels be allowed to continue in acting capacity for a period not exceeding 12 months starting from June 2018.
The Lalong committee had in its report recommended what it said was “a roadmap to the Congress and the convention respectively.”
The recommendations are; “21 days statutory notice for the holding of elective congresses and convention be given to INEC immediately; the current zoning formula for party offices be retained; requirements of article 31(ii) be waived in line with the provisions of article 13.4(xv) to avoid disruption in the management of party affairs at all levels. All pending suits in respect of this matter be withdrawn.”