For a party that rode onto office on the promise of change, we find the decision by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress to extend the tenure of the John Odigie-Oyegun-led national executive body beyond the terminal date of June as both disconcerting and unfortunate. Aside undermining the principles that the party claims to stand for, it lays the party to a fair charge by critics of hypocrisy, impunity and complete disdain for rules as one would expect of a disciplined organisation.
Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, had at the end of the party’s NEC meeting announced that the body, in accordance with its constitutional powers, decided to extend the tenure of its Chief Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC) as well as the party’s state executives by one year, purportedly on the strength of Article 13.3 (ii) of the party’s constitution, which empowers the NEC to “Discharge all functions of the National Convention as constituted in between elections”.
Said Bello: “Considering the time left for the party to conduct all the congresses and conventions and considering that our leader, Senator Tinubu has been charged with the responsibility of reconciling all aggrieved members of our party, we cannot afford to approach the general elections with more dispute and crises. Let me tell you that this will not stop the convention of the party, but to go into elective congresses is what we are trying to avoid, relying on the constitution of our party.”
That a political party would seem to act in flagrant disdain for process must be seen as something beyond the pale. Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, certainly did well to put things in correct perspective: “What was done today is only an expression of a desire to extend the tenure of Chief Oyegun-led national executives. The power of the convention to extend tenure is exercised only by way of a constitutional amendment. The power of the National Executive Committee of our party cannot go beyond doing so by way of constitution amendment”.
We couldn’t agree more with him. The decision, to be legal and constitutional, can only be done by the National Convention of the party by way of a constitutional amendment. To be sure, only the tardiness of the current leadership and their failure to provide disciplined leadership can resort to arbitrariness. Article 17 (i) of the APC constitution would seem clear enough: “Except as otherwise provided in this constitution, all officers of the party elected or appointed into the party’s organs shall serve in such organs for a period of four (4) years and shall be eligible for re-election or re-appointment for another period of four years only…”
This is further reinforced by Section 223(2a) of the 1999 constitution (as amended): “the election of the officers or members of the executive committee of a political party shall be deemed to be periodical only if it is made at regular intervals not exceeding four years…”
The suggestion that the power delegated to NEC vitiates these fundamental provisions can only be borne out of mischief and this can create a dangerous precedent that can only spell doom for the party.
We expect that the four-year tenure of the current team will be allowed to run out in June. In the circumstance, any contrary decision can only be taken legally by the National Convention. As to the fear of another cycle of democratic contestation imperiling the party, such fears are not only ludicrous but utterly self-serving.