APC SET FOR STORMY NEC MEETING TODAY

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Efforts to resolve the leadership tussle in the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives, failed on Wednesday as a late-hour meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Rock Villa did not come out with a clear position on the issue.
The PUNCH learnt that though the President had an audience with a group led by a former House MinorityLeader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, the meeting only resolved to push the issue to the National Executive Committee of the All Progressives Congress for resolution.
The APC NEC is scheduled to meet on Friday (today). Analysts said on Thursday that the outcome of the meeting of today would either launch the ruling party on the path of recovery or mar it.
The party’s NEC is made up of President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo; the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; the party’s national leader, Ahmed Tinubu; the party’s 22 state governors and other leaders of the party.
Apparently sensing a turbulent NEC session, some leaders of the party on Thursday enjoined members to embrace peace and join hands in searching for solutions to the crisis eating up the APC.
The leaders, including the party’s National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun; and a former Vice-President of the country, Atiku Abubakar, pleaded with party members to give peace a chance.
The leaders’ plea came just as a combined team of security operatives, drawn from the Department of State Services and the police, were deployed in APC national headquarters, located at Blantyre Street, Wuse II, Abuja.
The security agents were said to have been sent from the Presidential Villa to carry out surveillance at the party secretariat.
The team, led by a Deputy Superintendent of Police, arrived at the APC headquarters at about 1.45pm and left about one hour later after visiting the party chairman’s office and inspecting the conference hall where the NEC meeting is expected to hold.
A National Assembly official told The PUNCH on Thursday that Buhari met with the lawmakers loyal to Gbajabiamila but that the President at the end referred further action to the party’s NEC.
The official said, “Mr. President met with Gbajabiamila and his supporters, who said they are the core APC members in the House. They raised several issues on why the party’s position on the dispute must prevail.
“At the end, the decision was that the NEC should resolve it tomorrow (today) by coming out with a clear position.”
However, a separate source in the Gbajabiamila’s camp claimed that the President aligned with the position already taken by the APC that Gbajabiamila should be the Majority Leader of the 8th Assembly.
“The principal offices will stand as earlier directed by the party. The President said he wanted to be properly briefed, and he was briefed.
“He responded that he aligned with the party and that the briefing at the meeting would also guide the NEC in making its final decision on Friday”, the source said.
Contrary to speculations, Dogara was not invited to the Wednesday’s meeting and he was not expected to be there.
The meeting was said to have been called strictly to meet with the Gbajabiamila group. Buhari had met with the Dogara camp four days earlier.
An official from the Gbajabiamila camp, who did not want to be named, confirmed that the meeting did not include Dogara.
“There is a misconception that the speaker was supposed to be there. The meeting was not meant for him. The speaker already held his own meeting with Mr. President four days ago”, the official added.
The speaker’s office also clarified on Thursday that Dogara was not invited to attend any meeting with Buhari on Wednesday.
His Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Hassan Turaki, in a statement, said, “We wish to make it abundantly clear that there was never a time the Speaker was invited for a meeting with the President on Wednesday, July 1, 2015.”
Meanwhile, the Gbajabiamila group, on Thursday, released a summarised version of the discussions it held with Buhari.
The group said it had told the President that the Federal Character principle on which Dogara hinged his argument for defying the APC was not applicable to elective positions.
The group also informed Buhari that 174 APC members were loyal to the party, while 39 others sided with the Peoples Democratic Party to work against the interest of the ruling party.
It alleged in its submissions to Buhari that the 39 ‘disloyal’ members were likely to defect to the PDP as part of plans to further undermine the APC.
“The Party has chosen not to punish the 39 APC members, including the elected Speaker and Deputy Speaker, but chose to direct, as it is customary and conventional, on how the other four principal officers should be distributed.
“Alas! The opposition and the 39 members continue to hold the ruling party in contempt by disobeying the party,” the document read in part.
On federal character, the group told Buhari that the only way it would be applicable was to advise either the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, or Dogara to step down since both of them are from the North.
The Gbajabiamila’s group said, “Whereas, the beneficiaries of the disobedience are citing federal character principle as the main reason for their disobedience, His Excellency should note that during the 6th Assembly (2007-2011), the following officers were elected from the North-West – The President and Commander in Chief; Ismaila Kawu and Hon Mutawalle. The two occupied two out of the four principal officers’ positions of the minority party.
“Hon. Aminu Tambuwal was elected Deputy Chief Whip.
“Also, during the 7th Assembly, the following officers in government were elected from the North-West – The Vice President; the Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal; Hon. Ismaila Kawu, deputy minority leader; and Hon. Garba Datti, deputy minority whip.
“There was never an issue of federal character in these instances.
“It should be noted that the federal character principle as embedded in chapter two of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is not justifiable and of no legal consequence.
“Its provision in Section 14 of the Constitution is only applicable to appointments in federal ministries and agencies. The House of Representatives is not an agency of the Federal Government and the principal officers positions are elective and not by appointment.
“If the federal character is applicable to the National Assembly, then both the Senate President and the Speaker cannot come from the North; one of them should be advised to step down.”
The group had also called on Buhari to take a categorical stance on the dispute as the only way to stop the ruling party from further ridicule.
The PUNCH learnt that at the earlier meeting between the President and Dogara, the former was said to have been diplomatic by refraining from telling the Speaker in clear terms that his group committed any offence by insisting that federal character must apply in the distribution of the offices.
Dogara was said to have explained to the President that it would not be fair to leave out some zones in the sharing of the principal offices.
One senior National Assembly official, who was privy to the discussions, said, “The Speaker already met with the President earlier in the week to explain the situation to him.
“The issue really is not that he has anything personal against Gbajabiamila. The problem is how to correct the imbalance in the allocation of the positions.
“The aggrieved zones are insisting that the South-West cannot produce the Deputy Speaker and the Majority Leader at the same time.
“It is also not fair to give the North-East any position again, having produced the Speaker. The imbalance has been the issue. As of Wednesday, it remained the issue.
“So long as some persons are not prepared to address this problem of zonal imbalance, there may not be an early resolution of the dispute.”
Odigie-Oyegun, while speaking with reporters at the party’s national headquarters, on Thursday, explained that today’s meeting would afford the party the opportunity to address some of its challenges.
He noted that the party was duty bound to overcome its challenges and forge ahead in the overall interest of the nation.
The APC chairman said, “As painful as the crisis engineered by what transpired in the National Assembly is, party members may have to lose face a little in order to restore peace.
“For me, I think that there is no other way to resolve the conflict other than for all of us to accept compromise. Each one of us will lose face and that is the only way forward.”
Atiku, in a statement by his media office in Abuja, called for the concentration of positive energies on building unity, cohesion and harmony among party leaders and other stakeholders.
“We can resolve our differences when our leaders individually and collectively shift ground from extreme positions and move to the centre in the interest of our party and our country,” the ex-Vice-President said.
Atiku said he was deeply concerned that soon after capturing power, “the APC is torn apart at a time more energies are needed to attend to the objectives of the change agenda for which it was voted into power.”
The statement further explained that the current blame game targeted at individuals was an unnecessary diversion of energies at the expense of the urgency of the mission of the party to make life better for Nigerians.
He was also quoted as saying, the vilification of individual party leaders and members in the face of challenges facing the country was painful to him, adding that the party should learn the lessons and move ahead.
The statement partly read, “While restating his commitment to the party and its change agenda, the former Vice-President advise the party leaders not to allow people of bad faith to fuel division and acrimony among the party, adding that all positive energies should be directed towards sustaining the morale of the voters who look forward to the APC to make their lives better.
“He reminded party leaders that any division could be exploited at the expense of the party. He extended his goodwill to the party for successful deliberations and assured the party of continued support and loyalty at all times.”
The APC has been enmeshed in a crisis of confidence since the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as the Senate President and Yakubu Dogara as Speaker, House of Representatives.
Today’s NEC meeting will be the first one since the party won the presidential election of March 28, 2015.
-Punch

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