Heat over endorsements, tenure elongation in Lagos APC

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode

Less than a year to the governorship election, there are strong indications the Lagos State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) may face a serious crisis that could set the party ablaze if not carefully handled by the party’s leadership.

Already the arrays of endorsement of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for reelection across the three senatorial districts by some beneficiaries of his administration is causing disaffection among those who felt the party is deviating from its pledge to ensure internal democracy.

It is being assumed that the endorsement, which has also been extended to the Senator representing Lagos Central, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu for a third term, has foreclosed the ambitions of other members of the party who may be interested in contesting for the positions with the incumbents in the primaries.

There is also the sentiment that if Mrs. Tinubu, wife of the National Leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is considered good and worthy for endorsement, what stops others in her category from enjoying similar benefits.

For Ambode, the aggrieved members, who are mainly from the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), which merged with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to form the current APC in Lagos, described the endorsements as unilateral decisions.

The position of the aggrieved members is coming on the heels of a recent meeting of the Lagos Central Senatorial District Leadership Forum held at Victoria Island, where a member of the party’s Governing Advisory Council (GAC), Prince Tajudeen Olusi endorsed Ambode and Tinubu for another term.

It was alleged that the meeting and a similar one organised by the leaders of Lagos East District in Epe a fortnight ago, were part of what triggered the formation of the Broom United Movement (BUM) by Mr. Fouad Oki and his followers who are demanding for genuine reconciliation, condemnation of imposition of candidates and other irregularities within the party.

The Guardian reliable gathered that some furious members of the party are already threatening to disengage themselves from the APC merger if the leadership of the party in the state continued to make unilateral decisions.

They described the endorsement, which is to be formalised during the party’s senatorial conference, as undemocratic and also called for the interpretation of the merger through necessary instruments.

Speaking on behalf of the aggrieved members, a former gubernatorial candidate under the CPC in the 2011 election, Ambassador Abayomi Mumuni, berated Prince Olusi’s announcement and the unilateral endorsement of Ambode and Tinubu.

Mumuni said, “We are still experiencing the actions of the ACN, not the merger we signed before the election. If not, why would the party take a unilateral decision by endorsing ACN candidates alone without considering the interests of other merging parties who also have candidates?

“We may not see a complete APC in Lagos come 2019, as the defunct CPC might consider stepping aside from the merger arrangement except there is an immediate resolution on the interpretation of the merger.”

The two-time ANPP senatorial candidate in Lagos Central District explained that the lopsidedness and maltreatment against his members started after the merger was sealed in 2015.

“Since the merger, I still perceive myself as CPC because the merger is not visible in Lagos. Nothing was offered to us in the ANPP and part of APGA. We were excluded from the Senate, House of Representatives and State Assembly seats. It has been zero patronage for us by the government,” he added.

He also expressed disappointment that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government also abandoned CPC members in the state, saying, “It was baffling that the former presidential flag bearer of the CPC, now President of the country under the merger banner would abandon his base so soon.”

According to him, “Buhari forgot his constituency, which is the CPC and he is now surrounded by those who called him and his party unprintable names. These same people are telling us that Mr. President has mortgaged us but I insisted there is no way I would allow the merger to mortgage our people.”

He vowed never to allow what happened in 2015, when the ACN arm of the merger appropriated everything to itself to reoccur in 2019.

Mumuni said if he had contested the Lagos Central senatorial ticket with Tinubu, “I would have trashed her. My mandate had always been the Lagos Central, which is my constituency. I am a son of the soil.”

Another festering crisis is the rejection of the tenure elongation granted the National and State Working Committees of the party last week, which has shown Lagos as one of the states to bear the brunt of the decision.

Precisely a week after the extension deal was sealed in Abuja with party officials including the state chairman, Chief Henry Ajomale in attendance without raising objection, Prince Olusi, who spoke on behalf of the GAC, rejected the extension.

Rising from a Consultative Forum held at the State House Marina, Lagos and attended by party elders from across the state, the leaders said the extension of the tenure of the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and his executives by one year was against the spirit of the country’s and the APC’s constitutions.

According to Olusi, “the consultative forum have taken reports of the state APC chairman in respect of the NEC meeting and also had the privilege of receiving great reports from our leader from the reconciliation committee.

“We have considered the issue of extension of tenure and we are of the firm belief that the decision is a breach of the constitution of our party and of the country. We are against the elongation of tenure. We shall continue to make our decision known to the party and to the President.”

Olusi also quoted Section 223 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, as amended, to buttress his argument.

According to him, the section specifically states that “the constitution and rules of a political party shall provide for the periodical election on a democratic basis of the principal officers and members of the executive committee or other governing body of the political party; and ensure that the members of the executive committee or other governing body of the political party reflect the federal character of Nigeria.

“For the purposes of this section, the election of the officers or members of the executive committee of a political party shall be deemed to be periodical only if it is made at regular intervals not exceeding four years.”

He noted that in extending the tenure, the APC NEC had relied on Article 13.3 (ii) of its constitution, which states that the NEC can discharge the functions of the convention in a period of emergency “but the provision in Article 13.3 (ii) is not limitless and open-ended. It is a responsibility restricted by the same constitution, which provides exclusively under Article 30 (i) that: “This Constitution and Schedules hereto can be amended only by the National Convention of the party.

“The party’s constitution provides the processes for constitution amendment, which he said had not been met before the extension was granted.”

Meanwhile, Oki said it is likely that the old men who constituted the forum that rejected the tenure extension were not properly briefed or rather do not understand the entire process that led to the decision before coming out to reject it.

Although, Oki confirmed that the Lagos chapter and his BUM were opposed to the extension, he said question must be asked why the Lagos delegates who were part of the NEC meeting that proposed the idea did not raise objection to the decision when it was taken in Abuja.

According to him, “What we are asking for is a level playing ground and free, fair and credible congresses to allow open democracy in the party.”

However, The Guardian also reliably gathered that some members of the Lagos State executive sometimes May last year allegedly lobbied the National Legal Adviser of the party, Dr. Muiz Banire with the intention to persuade him to get their tenure extended, which the NEC eventually did last week.

If Banire, Ajomale, Mrs. Kemi Nelson and other representatives from Lagos were in the NEC meeting, the question that should be asked, whether they raised objection or not. Or is the Lagos chapter planning to join other chapters that have gone to court over the tenure extension.

Still another issue that could erode the support base of the party in Lagos is the allegation that a group, The Igbo Vision, was used and dumped during the 2015 governorship election by the mainstream APC.

The group led by Eze Uche Dimgba said it would only endorse Ambode for reelection not for any other reason but his great achievements even though he expressed regrets over the way his group has been abandoned for close to three years.

But assuring the group that its grievances would be addressed, the State Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Joe Igbokwe said it is important for them to support the incumbent governor in 2019 “because there is no alternative for now.”

Igbokwe also explained the reason why the Igbo needed to support APC in 2019 both in Lagos and especially at the centre “this would enable the zone, which is the only one yet to savour the presidency since 1999 to benefit it in 2023, when President Muhammadu Buhari would be completing his tenure.”

What may also pose challenge to the party is the perceived arrogance, aloofness and the vengeful style of Governor Ambode since he became governor in 2015.

Some members of the party believed that the governor’s hope of relying on performance index alone to retain power in 2019 without necessarily carrying the party members along is like embarking on a political.

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Akniwunmi AmbodeAPCLagos
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