Todays meeting of the NEC of the APC is pregnant with meaning as Buhari met with the Hon Femi Gbajabiamila group in the absence of Speaker Yakubu Dogara , forcing him to make no promises, reports Amos Esele
Against his earlier stand not to interfere in the affairs of the National Assembly but with a desire to set the stage for the smooth resolution of the NASS induced crisis ripping his party apart, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday bent over backwards to receive a faction of the House of Representative members loyal to Hon Femi Gbajabiamila and by extension Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who had earlier tried without success to rig him into office as Speaker.
At the Conference Hall of the First Lady’s Office inside the Presidential Villa, Buhari, accompanied by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo met with the group and listened with meditative silence at their complaint. In the end, it emerged that the aggrieved group had gone to try and solicit the President’s support to ensure their group, which was routed by those loyal to Speaker Yakubu Dogara, is not completely humiliated in the affairs of the House. They want to get a foothold of relevance through the sharing of offices of principal officers, which was botched by fisticuffs penultimate week, forcing the House to go on a month recess.
To make their appeal stick, they made a series of allegations and accusations among which is that the All Progressives Congress’ members on the side of Dogara are conniving with the Peoples Democratic Party to cause disaffection in the All Progressives Congress with a view to weakening it and make it ineffective in delivering democracy dividend based on the party manifesto. They also accused the Dogara group of planning to later defect to the opposition PDP after the did has been done.
In the presentation they made to the President, distributed to journalists after the meeting, the 30 lawmakers who attended the meeting on behalf of their colleagues pleader with Buhari to intervene in the lingering crisis that is dangerously mutating along geo-political lines since the perceived ‘anti-north” letter to the party, by the Interim National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, They ask that he prevails on Speaker Dogara to respect the party’s position in the appointment of the principal officers in the House and more crucially, that Dogara and his group abandon their alleged romance with the PDP and return to the APC, which gave them the mandate to come to the House. Mr. Dogara, had the previous week set aside a letter from the party notifying him of its nominees for the four principal offices in the House.
Mr. Dogara refuse to read the letter, citing violation of the Federal Character principle, thereby setting off the fracas that led to the forced recess, obviously to allow for respite. According to the Gbajabiamila’s group: “It is noteworthy that Mr. President and the governors had strongly put their weight behind the party and had severally admonished the House to abide by the party’s position. “The 39 APC members in the House continue to collude with the PDP to flagrantly disobey Mr. President, the governors and the party with a view to bringing the party and government to ridicule before Nigerians. “The conduct of the 39 APC members colluding with the PDP is tantamount to affront, ultimately targeted at polarising our party so as to give room for many of them to decamp to the PDP. “It is therefore imperative for Mr. President to take a stand and save the integrity of the party by cautioning the 39 members, which include the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, to respect, honour and obey our party Leaders and their directives.
“In conclusion, Mr. President, we as loyal party members shall continue to abide by the party constitution, respect and honour our party leaders and their directives. “We strongly appeal to you to direct the Speaker to return to our fold and be truly elected Speaker on APC platform. He should be directed to announce the other four party principal officers positions as directed by the party as it has always been the convention. “We sincerely appreciate Mr. President for the audience trusting in his ability to successfully mediate so as to save our great party, the APC, from further embarrassment.” They unabashedly canvassed reward for the those whom they considered loyalist to the party, numbering in their estimation, 174, stating that even after they had shown camaraderie by congratulating Dogara after his emergence, the Speaker and his group have continued to sideline the 39 APC legislators. Gbajabiamila, while speaking with journalists after the meeting faulted what he called Speaker Dogara’s doublespeak, meaning that the latter’s claim that they would use Federal Character principle in allocating offices, was unknown to the National Aseembly. He said: “It should be noted that the Federal Character principle as embedded in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is not justiciable and of no legal consequence. “Its provision in S.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,” On the outcome of the meeting with the President and the position taken he took on the matter the aggrieved group took to him, Gbajabiamila told State House correspondents that the meeting with the President was very successful one, saying the APC caucus and the party would come out bigger, stronger and better for it. He said Buhari is a party man who believes in party supremacy and the party’s ideologies and would want the same for all party members, particularly elected and appointed officials.
He claimed that Speaker Dogara ‘s absence could be because he had other engagements even though the meeting was said to have been for APC caucus. He said, “The Speaker probably has other engagements. There are a few members of the caucus that are not here. We could not get everybody here. “This is a representation of the caucus. When we are talking about the caucus, we are talking about 210 members. You did not find all the members here. “This is a representation of the 210 members. It is not about me and we need to get that clear. Yes, they voted for me but the idea is that they supported the party. “That is who we are and there is nothing more to be said about that. It is not about any individual.” The meeting, according to investigation would probably have a bearing on today’s bigger meeting of the National Executive Committee, NEC, in Abuja, which would be attended by Speaker Dogara and Senate President Bukola Saraki, who by virtue of their positions are members of the organ of the party.
The make or mar meeting would draw the line on the current party crisis and find ways to reach a common ground on issues affecting the various factions fueling the crisis. But what is perhaps clear from now is that nothing about reversing or attempting an impeachment of the two principal officers of the party at the NASS would be contemplated let alone discussed. According to party sources, the President has since made up his mind not to interfere in the outcome, even though he was not particularly happy at the outcome, whereby the PDP snatched the Deputy Senate President seat. According to a presidency source, Buhari was just being civil by receiving the Gbajabiamila group. As leader of the party, he should listen to all members with any grievance, but he would not take sides.