Running a ruling political party in this country is not a joke. Every issue that requires no serious attention is politicized and taken to a point of boiling crisis.
Unarguably, erstwhile ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), now consigned to the opposition, was destroyed by avoidable internal rancour and muscle flexing among its leaders, especially those larger than life governors on its platform.
The PDP was a party that refused to obey its own laws and carry on with impunity especially on the issue of imposition of candidates which resulted into irresponsible governance almost at all levels. The consequences of such act are too obvious for all to see and the PDP is now licking its wounds.
It is in the light of this premise that one would appreciate the position taken by President Muhammadu Buhari on the resolution of the vexed leadership crisis in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Buhari’s position that the party leadership should be guided by its ground norm and the constitution of the country has shown that he would not be part of those who, for whatever reason, would want to import the politics of exclusiveness and impunity which ruined the PDP into the APC.
Though proponents of tenure extension for the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and members of his National Working Committee (NWC) garbed their arguments on the need to the Presidential ticket of the party easily available for Buhari in order to pave the way for his re-election in 2019, pundits believe that most of the governors supporting the idea are doing so for selfish gains.
Political watchers believe that the governors are essentially playing the politics of survival and preservation with the President’s rerun project. While those on the first term are hoping to reap votes from Buhari’s popularity, some others who have completed their second term in office are positioning themselves to profit from his return in 2019.
Those in favour of APC NWC’s tenure extension have also argued that such would help avoid the fallout of acrimonies expected as the fallout of the party’s congresses at all levels. They also posited that since the party may have resolved not to rupture its existing zoning arrangement, retaining the Oyegun’s leadership would not be out of place.
But they should be reminded that there are needs to balance this position with the imperative of internal democracy and inclusiveness in the party. Those new converts at wards, states and national levels desirous of contesting for leadership position must not be excluded,
more so when the tenure of the executive councils will soon expire.
Chairman of the APC Governors Forum and Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha, however allayed the fears of those clamouring for tenure extension for the party’s NWC members when he said “But let me correct one impression. The issue of congress and convention does not mean that the previous people who have served the party have done badly.
And it does not mean that they cannot come back or that they cannot re-contest, that is not it. We are simply saying that their tenure has ended and those who wish to re-contest can re-contest and can be elected into our party structure. So we are all one as family and we are set to go for 2019 elections in victory.”
Beyond these political reason adduced against retention of the Oyegun-led NWC is the weighty and technical one raised by nobody but the President himself. Even when those arguing for tenure elongation are pretending to work for his second term, the President saw beyond their veneer and weighed the legal implications of taking such action.
The President had pointed out that extension of tenure would not only offend the party’s constitution which prescribes election of its tenured leadership through a national convention every four years, it would also run contrary to the provisions of Article 223 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution which stipulates: “The Constitution and rules of political party shall provide for the periodical election on a democratic basis of the principal officers an members of executive committee or other governing body of the political party.”
Based on the provision of the party’s constitution, extending the tenure of the APC executive would therefore require the amendment of the party’s constitution which will therefore activate the provisions of Article 30 of the party which states “The constitution and the schedules hereto can be amended only by the National Convention of the party.”
Article 30 sub section 2 states: “Notice of any proposed amendment by any member or organ of the party shall be given to the National Secretary at least 14 days before the date of the National Convention. The Notice shall be in writing, shall contain a clear statement of the proposed amendment and reasons for it.”
Commenting on the need to toe the path of legality, Buhari had cautioned”On my own part, I have taken some time to review and seek advise on the resolution. And what I found is that it contravenes both our party Constitution and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“While APC Constitution, Article 17(1) & 13.2(B), limits tenure of elected officers to 4 years, renewable once by election, the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), S223, also prescribes periodic elections for party Excos at regular intervals, which must not exceed 4 years.
“Furthermore, Article 31 of our Party Constitution provides that any principal officer wishing to re-contest or contest for 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 elections, once the tenure of the current executives approaches its end. A Caretaker Committee cannot remedy this situation, and cannot validly act in place of elected officers.
“Furthermore, I think if we deviate from the constitutional provisions,we might be endangering the fortunes of our party. If the tenure of our party executives can be legally faulted, then it means that any nominations & primary elections that they may conduct,can also be faulted.
“This is not to talk of divisions that would arise, and is already arising within the party, when some of our 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 view that it is better to follow strictly the dictates of our party and national constitutions, rather than put APC and its activities at grave risk.
“Fortunately, we have already approved a timetable for the holding of congresses and elections. I think these should be allowed to go forward and all efforts should now be geared towards making them a great success.”
With these few words, the President returned the party to the path of honour and sanity. Even though few members of the party and some governors are still kicking, the great reminder given by the President has shown that the ruling party may have parted ways with the usual practice of imposition and impunity.
Only by heeding this advise can the party avoid the path of Armageddon that the opposition PDP has been trying hard to retrieve and reinvent itself.