Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari asked the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to reverse its decision to extend the tenure of the National Working Committee headed by John Odigie Oyegun by a year. Their tenure is expected to lapse June 30. That decision was taken at a February 27 meeting of the NEC.
Many party partisans protested vehemently; some even challenged that decision in court. But the party not only dismissed their cry but expelled those who went to court. It was clear that the ruling party was fast derailing, going the PDP way. As the election year approaches, the storm of political turmoil was slowly but surely gathering over APC.
The extension of the tenure of the NWC and state executives was a coup against internal party democracy because it breached the constitution of the party and Nigeria’s federal constitution. As President Buhari argued, “the APC constitution’s article 17 (1 ) and (13 ) limits the tenure of elected officers to four years, renewable once by another election; and the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended, in section 223, also prescribes 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 re-contest, or contest for another election, must resign from his current post at least one month before the expiration of the current tenure.”
If NEC does the right thing and reversed its earlier decision, the party will avoid a serious legal turmoil that could jeopardize its cohesion before the 2019 general elections. For, if the legality of the elongation can be challenged, then all subsequent party actions, including the nomination of all of its candidates for elective offices, might also be legally challenged. Such a predicament would constitute not only a mortal blow to the party and its role in promoting progressive governance in Nigeria but plunge the nation into political and legal crisis.Taking action on Buhari’s advice will also serve to strengthen the party by allowing all members, including present incumbents, to seek to contribute to the party by vying for executive offices as they see fit.
In the past two years, a number of people from other parties have been joining APC in the hope that they will be fully integrated in the party to aspire and hold offices. By implementing the tenure elongation, the party would have shut those ones out, at least for another one year and perhaps another four years. We believe that heeding the President’s advice will go far in faciilitating internal reconciliation in the party that is now underway. Democracy should not be about just wining elections but also how to build strong and enduring structures, not strong personalities.