A closed-door meeting by President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and 22 governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to resolve the controversy over tenure extension for the John Odigie-Oyegun-led executive ended in a deadlock yesterday.
The meeting which was held in the council chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja started around 2:14 p.m. and lasted for over two hours. The governors of Yobe and Katsina states were absent.
Prior to the arrival of President Buhari at the venue of the meeting, governors of Kogi, Edo, Benue, Ondo and Adamawa states were engaged in a heated argument. It was not clear what the argument was about.
Governors Yahaya Bello (Kogi) and Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) were seen arguing strongly. Bello, in a loud voice, was heard saying in Hausa language, Ba za mu yarda ba, meaning “we won’t accept.”
While some of the governors in the APC want their National Chairman, Odigie-Oyegun and other executive members to continue in office for another one year, President Buhari categorically declared at the APC National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja that their continued stay in office after the expiration of their first tenure was unconstitutional.
Ahead of their recent NEC meeting, the APC chairman had, while fielding questions from State House correspondents, stated that the crisis over his tenure elongation was already history.
But addressing members of NEC at the APC Secretariat in Abuja, President Buhari said: “It is important for me to speak quickly on the contentious issue of the tenure of our national and state executive officers.
As we all know, a motion was moved in the last National Executive Committee meeting of February 27 to the effect that when the tenure of the current executives expires in June this year, they should be allowed to continue for one year.
“This motion was duly carried by the majority of members present at the last NEC meeting, even though some of our party members have since spoken up vehemently against it, others have even taken the matter to court.
“On my part, I have taken time to review and seek advice on the resolution and what I found is that it contravenes both our party’s constitution and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“While the APC constitution, in Article 17(1) and 13.2 (b), limits the tenure of elected officers to four years, renewable once by another election, the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) in Section 223 also prescribes periodic elections for party executives at regular intervals which must not exceed four years.”
Buhari further argued that Article 31 of the APC constitution provided 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.”
Buhari’s position led to the formation of a ten-member committee by the NEC to look at his proposal. The committee has Governor Lalong of Plateau State as chairman. The president’s position clearly polarised APC governors which led to yesterday’s meeting.
After the meeting yesterday, the APC governors refused to speak with State House correspondents. Both the Chairman of APC Governors’ Forum, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, and the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State declined comments.
Governors Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna and Simon Lalong of Plateau simply said they (governors) had agreed not to speak to the media.
A source, however, said that the governors had a heated debate over the tenure elongation for the party officials.
“I am not sure what happened inside the chamber could be called a real meeting, they were simply fighting,” the source, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said.
It was gathered that at the meeting, President Buhari insisted the party rescind its earlier decision to extend the tenure of Odigie-Oyegun and others, maintaining that it was undemocratic, violated the constitution and might attract needless legal tussles.
Going by the mood of the governors as they filed out of the Villa, it was apparent that no common ground was reached on the contentious matter.