APC 2023 battle lines drawn:Buhari replaces Tinubu-Oshiomhole NWC with Caretaker Committee

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After wavering and dithering, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday read the riot act to the warring factions of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), warning of an imminent disintegration of the party and delivering a political master stroke by sacking the National Working Committee (NWC) led by the suspended embattled national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and his mentor - APC national leader, Bola Tinubu - who lost out in the emerging power struggle ahead of the 2023 presidential elections. Buhari then replaced the NWC with a caretaker committee led by Yobe Governor, Mai Mala Buni as caretaker national chairman and Sen. John Udoedeghe as caretaker national secretary.

 

To remove any tinge of illegality about his decision to dissolve the Oshiomhole-led NWC, Buhari ensured that Buni was sworn into his functions by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami. Other members of the newly appointed caretaker committee and extra-ordinary convention planning committee are: Isiaka Oyebola (South West); Ken Nnamani (South East); Stella Okorete (Women Representative); Dr. James Lalu (Physically Challenged Rep.); Senator Abubakar Yusuf (Senate Rep.); Hon. Akinyemi Olaide (Reps); David leon (South-South); Abba Ari (North West); Prof. Tahir Mamman (North East); and Ismail Ahmed (Youth).

 

Buhari condemned the recent leadership crisis within the APC and underscored the need for peaceful conflict resolution in line with the party’s constitution. He then called for the immediate suspension of all pending litigations involving the party and its members, and in a veiled threat to preempt any further litigation by members of the sacked NWC, the president read the riot act saying: “The directive had been issued before, unfortunately, some members failed to heed the directive. Thus, at this time, it must be made a resolution of the party, which must be effectively enforced with dire consequences for members who choose to ignore the directive.”

 

Political observers were quick to interpret the decision by NEC to dissolve the Oshiomhole-led NWC as a well-orchestrated political ambush and a grand design to cut down to size, the powerful APC national leader, Bola Tinubu, whose body language betrays 2023 presidential ambition. Some political watchers believe the emergence of Governor Buni as caretaker chairman, signaled the beginning of the end for Tinubu who is perceived to have lost the power struggle against members of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) who, to all intents and purposes have now effectively wrestled control of the APC national leadership and party structure from Oshiomhole and Tinubu; who has no control over the 13-member caretaker committee.

 

APC sources who elected anonymity told Huhuonline.com that contrary to widespread perception that Buhari was indifferent to the leadership crisis rocking the APC, the president was working behind the scenes, building a strong base of support across the party stakeholders and rallying anti-Oshiomhole forces to form a united front before dealing the knock-out blow to Tinubu. Former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, said Tinubu should have seen the handwriting on the wall when the President came out to recognize Chief Victor Giadom as the acting APC chairman. By this action, Fani-Kayode said, Buhari threw Tinubu under the bus; and he suggests Tinubu should withdraw his support for Buhari and retire from politics honorably.

 

The former minister said the decision of the Court of Appeal to uphold the suspension of the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, showed that it was all over for Tinubu. He wrote on his Facebook wall, “First, Oshiomhole was kicked out by the Court of Appeal. Then his preferred replacement, Abiola Ajimobi, falls into a coma. Then his archrival, Giadom is recognized by Buhari as acting national chairman. “Conclusion: It is over for Tinubu. He has been thrown under the bus and retired from politics.”

 

Aso Rock sources confided to Huhuonline.com that despite strong reservations about Oshiomhole’s position to deny Obaseki a second term on the platform of the APC, Buhari decided to look the other way while Oshiomhole tele-guided the APC screening committee to disqualify Obaseki. The sources said, Oshiomhole misread Buhari’s body language as a tacit endorsement of his personal vendetta against Obaseki, whereas the president had already made up his mind that the crisis in Edo APC was threatening the long term stability of the party and both men had to be shown the door. The leadership ruckus in the APC that followed the June 16 judgment of the Court of Appeal that affirmed Oshiomhole’s suspension was part of the grand design to kick Oshiomhole out of the APC leadership. Giadom was merely the arrowhead of the sinister plot hatched by APC governors who wanted Oshiomhole out and Buhari’s decision to back Giadom caught Tinubu and Oshiomhole off-guard.

 

The die was cast when Buhari said he would attend the NEC meeting convened by Giadom, even as the meeting itself violated statutory provisions of the APC constitution, mandating a 7-14 day prior notice for NEC meetings. Buhari’s endorsement of Giadom, a sworn opponent of Oshiomhole, literally implied a loss of confidence in the Oshiomhole-led NWC of the party. Sources also told Huhuonline.com that Buhari personally directed Giadom to convene the NEC meeting less than 48 hours after Kebbi Governor and chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) Sen. Abubakar Atiku Bagudu led some APC governors to visit the president.

 

The governors included Ekiti Governor and Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr. Kayode Fayemi; Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, who doubles as chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) and their Jigawa counterpart, Alhaji Badaru Abubakar; as well as the iconoclastic Kaduna Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, who used their positions of power and influence to convince Buhari that now was the time to clip the wings of Oshiomhole and Tinubu. These governors, some with their own 2023 ambitions worked behind the scenes to undermine any effort by Tinubu to rally support behind the embattled Oshiomhole. With Buni in charge of APC affairs for the next six months, these governors seemed to have swung the political pendulum in their favor ahead of the 2023 general elections.

 

Little surprise that after taking over as acting caretaker national chairman, Buni arrived the APC national secretariat in Abuja accompanied by some of the 15 APC Governors, who attended the NEC meeting including Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Sani Bello (Niger), Umar Ganduje (Kano), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna) and AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq (Kwara); as well as the immediate past factional acting national chairman, Victor Giadom. APC sources said Buhari wanted to send a strong message that he is in control and personally phoned the party top brass and some governors who are known loyalists of Oshiomhole to ask them to attend the NEC meeting.  

 

The president was said to be miffed at reports that some governors and NWC members had announced they would be boycotting the NEC meeting, that was also attended amongst others by vice president Yemi Osinbajo, Senate president Ahmad Lawan and House speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila; as well as APC governors from Nasarawa, Jigawa, Yobe, Imo, Gombe, Osun, Ogun and Lagos state. Tinubu and some executive members including APC acting national secretary, Waziri Bulama, and APC spokesperson, Lanre Issa-Onilu said to be hardcore Oshiomhole loyalists boycotted the NEC meeting.

 

Huhuonline.com understands that when Buhari endorsed the NEC meeting convened by Giadom, the NWC drew a line in the sand, writing and informing Buhari that they will boycott what they described as an illegal and unconstitutional meeting, saying Giadom lacked the locus standi to convene a NEC meeting. Nine APC governors: Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq (Kwara) and Hope Uzodinma (Imo) had planned to hold a meeting in Abuja after which they will formally announce their boycott. Two other governors; Aminu Masari, from Buhari’s home state of Katsina and his Kogi counterpart, Yahaya Bello, were said to be undecided. But when push came to shove, all but two of the governors toed the line, excluding Obaseki who had resigned his membership of the APC and joined the PDP.

 

Obviously the last is yet to be heard in the ongoing power struggle because supporters of Tinubu say the APC national leader will not go down without a fight. But for the next six months, Tinubu has to fight his way out of political irrelevance if he still wants to actualize his 2023 presidential ambitions. Until then, President Buhari and the APC governors are having the first laugh and hoping it will be the last laugh.