By Lawrence Olaoye
National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has threatened to expel the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, from the party if he refused to immediately inaugurate the boards of the parastatals under his ministry.
Since his emergence as National Chairman of the ruling party, Oshiomhole had, on several occasions, reiterated party supremacy and the need for discipline among party members. “We have respect for ministers, but only to the extent that they recognize that they are a product of a political party; and we are not negotiating that,” he said.
If any party member feels he or she is too big to abide by the party manifesto and agenda in the past, he warned, “Under our leadership we will not tolerate it. They either comply or we will expel them from the party. When we expel them, we will find out how a government can keep a rebel in the cabinet. There is no question about that.”
Oshiomhole, who spoke to State House Correspondents after meeting with Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, said his leadership would not condone indiscipline of any sort.
Recall that the APC had last week written to both Ngige and the Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, ordering them to immediately inaugurate the boards of their respective agencies.
Ngige had responded in a letter alleging that the only board under his ministry that is yet to be inaugurated was that of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
According to him, the NSITF is currently under Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) investigation for fraud.
Asked to respond to Ngige’s letter, Oshiomhole said, “If the minister refuses, we will suspend him from the party. You know we must return to internal discipline. For me, it is the height of mischief for any minister. You cannot purport to be honourable minister and you act dishonorably. Nobody is greater than the party. And if the President condones disrespect for his office, I will not condone disrespect for the party. And when we expel the minister we will prevail on the president that he can’t keep him in his cabinet. We cannot tolerate people who have neither respect for his own decisions nor have respect for the party, without which they would not have been ministers.
“There is no independent candidate in our system. Nobody, I emphasize, no minister is above the party; and they have taken undue advantage of the president’s fatherly disposition.
“Now, it is the same green pen that made them ministers that appointed these boards that they are refusing to swear in. And it is absolutely illegal for a minister in a democracy to prey the powers of the board; because the laws establishing those institutions are clear: that the boards have procedures to follow. So, when a minister sits in his office to appropriate the powers of the board in a democracy, not in a dictatorship, award contract that didn’t go through boards; those are clearly abuse of office for which they are liable.
“I am convinced that what they are doing is not with the endorsement of Mr. President. Over the period, they have tried to drop the president’s name; but I tell them it is the same authority that appoints these people.
“So, we are informing them that it is either they comply with the president’s instructions or they comply with the party’s position or they go and administer outside the government.
“We have respect for ministers, but only to the extent that they recognize that they are a product of a political party; and we are not negotiating that. If they did that in the past, under our leadership we will not tolerate it. They either comply or we will expel them from the party. When we expel them, we will find out how a government can keep a rebel in the cabinet. There is no question about that.”
Responding to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleging that Oshiomhole was losing sleep over its alliance with other party to oust the President by 2019, he said, “No, I am not losing sleep. I am sleeping very well. I still maintain that I don’t see any man of honour who, with his eyes open, left PDP on the account of their gross mismanagement, abuse of the treasury and all of the crime that the PDP committed; I don’t see them whatever their irritations, that cannot be a justifications to return to a house that all we need to do is to play back their own tape about what PDP represents and why they left.
“I still hold the view that you can’t vomit in the morning and convert it to lunch in the afternoon, if you have honour. And that position still remains the same.
“Number two is that, yes, I have made this point clear that we can distinguish the mercenaries from those who genuinely have complains. Our business as party leaders is to try and manage, listen and find solutions to those who have verifiable complains. But those who are permanent mercenaries and are in this business for personal issues, there is not much we can do about that; and we are not going to change the core values of the party in order to retain them.
So, let me reinstate, we remain committed and I have said so from the word go in my acceptance speech when I was elected, that we acknowledge the fact that there are people with genuine complaints. For such people, we are ready to listen; we are ready to act on the basis of justice, fairness, no arrogance and inclusion. I remain committed to those.
“However, on principle, I do not deal with political mercenaries. That remains my position. I will not miss my sleep because a lot of these guys cannot, on a good day, deliver their unit. And we have the records that tells us who won elections and where. And I am a tested fighter. I fought them from Edo from zero-zero and I overcame their most powerful godfathers. So, I know what I am talking about. I speak from experience; and I will talk, negotiate and persuade, but there are core principles that are not negotiable.”