•Police seal off party secretariat; Oshiomhole files for stay of execution
•APC pledges to respect order; Obaseki hails court order
•Ajimobi named Deputy Chairman, Bulama upstages Giadom as acting secretary
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Gabriel Enogholase, Omeiza Ajayi & Ozioruva Aliu
Not all seems well with the ruling All Peoples Congress, APC, as an Abuja High Court, yesterday, suspended its National Chairman, Mr Adams Oshiomhole.
Shortly after Oshiomhole’s suspension, the National Working Committee, NWC, approved the nomination of Waziri Bulama as the party’s acting national secretary.
Mr Victor Giadom, a former commissioner in Rivers State, had acted in that capacity and earlier briefed newsmen on developments about the national chairman.
Also, yesterday, a detachment of Policemen in four pick-up patrol vehicles stormed and took over the National Secretariat of the APC, about 6.p.m.
They met a group of protesters, who had besieged the area to protest against the Oshiomhole ouster and had a hard time dispersing them.
The security unit of the party about 6:55 p.m. asked journalists to quit the premises, saying the secretariat will be locked until 10 a.m. today.
However, mixed reactions yesterday trailed the suspension of Oshiomhole by an Abuja High Court.
While the party, through its acting National Secretary, Mr Victor Giadom pledged to obey the court order, Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki hailed the development, describing it as a good thing for the party.
This came as former Minority Whip of the House of Representatives, Samson Osagie described the suspension order as mischievous, while lawyers spoken to by Vanguard were split on the development.
Meanwhile, Oshiomhole has filed for a stay of execution of the court order. A close confidant of the APC National Chairman, who disclosed the development to Vanguard, yesterday, said “Comrade, through his lawyers has filed for a stay of execution of the court order.
FCT court suspends Oshiomhole
Yesterday, a Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting at Jabi, temporarily suspended Comrade Adams Oshiomhole from performing the duties of the National Chairman of the All Progressive Congress, APC.
Trial judge, Justice Danlami Senchi, directed that Oshiomhole should remain out of office pending determination of a substantive suit brought against him by some aggrieved members of the party.
The order followed an application by six plaintiffs, led by one Mustapha Salihu, through their lawyer, Mr Oluwole Afolabi.
They had among other things, prayed the court to oust Oshiomhole from office, alleging that he was previously suspended as a member of the party from his Etsako Ward 10, in Edo State.
Oshiomhole and APC are respondents in the suit.
Oshiomhole files for stay of execution
A close confidant of the APC National Chairman, who disclosed the development to Vanguard, yesterday, said “Comrade, through his lawyers has filed for a stay of execution of the court order.
“Comrade has appealed to party faithful across the country to remain calm as leaders of the party are working round the clock to ensure that this temporary setback is vacated for the party leadership to continue its progressive efforts to sustain the height and laudable achievements the present leadership has brought to the party,” the source added.
This came as the APC disclosed its resolve to respect the court order on Oshiomhole.
Acting National Secretary of the party, Mr Victor Giadom disclosed this to newsmen, yesterday, in Abuja.
We’ll obey court order — APC
While speaking with journalists, Giadom said: “As a party, we are aware of the injunction. As a law-abiding party, we will respect all lawful court orders. Very soon, the National Working Committee, NWC, will meet and you will hear further from the party. I am trying to say that the APC will respect all lawful court orders. We will soon do that.”
Asked to comment on the order, he said: “As I did say, there is a court injunction and it is binding on us as a party to respect the court injunction.”
On whether the party was sourcing for any replacement, he said: “That is not within my powers to say.”
On an alleged meeting going on at Oshiomhole’s private office, he said: “It’s not to my knowledge. We haven’t met. Like I did say, the NWC will very soon convoke a meeting.”
On the heavy security at the secretariat, he said “there is nothing new about that. There has always been security at the National Secretariat of the party.”
In the application before the court, the plaintiffs told the court that Oshiomhole failed to challenge his suspension in his primary ward in Edo State.
They argued that since his suspension remained extant, his rights as a member of the party is currently abated, insisting that he could, therefore, not continue to head the APC as its chairman.
The plaintiffs, through their lawyer, also contended that it would be legally wrong for Oshiomhole to continue to enjoy benefits from the APC in view of his suspension as a member of the party.
Meanwhile, Justice Senchi in his ruling, held that the APC wrongfully retained Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the party in view of the affidavit evidence before the court.
Consequently, he ordered that Oshiomhole should stop parading himself as the National Chairman of the APC. Justice Senchi directed the party to stop acknowledging Oshiomhole as the chairman of the APC, saying he should not be granted access to the party’s secretariat.
Justice Senchi stressed that political parties must be bound by their constitution.
He held that since Oshiomhole had evidently been suspended in his ward and the suspension not challenged, he had no business any longer parading himself as National Chairman of the party.
Meanwhile, Oshiomhole had through his lawyer, Mr Damian Dodo, SAN, challenged the competence of the suit which he said constituted an abuse of the court process.
Oshiomhole had also challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter, arguing that the plaintiffs lacked the locus standi to seek such reliefs against him.
The court adjourned the hearing of the substantive suit till April 7.
Obaseki hails court order
Meanwhile, it was jubilation in the camp of the APC, loyal to Governor Obaseki over the court ruling barring Oshiomhole from parading himself as chairman of APC.
Obaseki who has been at daggers drawn with Oshiomhole yesterday, in Benin City, hailed the ruling of the court and said it was a right decision for the party.
The governor while addressing party members during the Edo South Senatorial rally of the APC in Benin City, said: “When we planned this meeting last week to meet with all our executives, we did not know that God has a plan for us today.
“No man is God. God is God. No man can play God. With what God has done today, what we should do now is to just thank Him.
“The meaning of what happened today is that peace has now finally come to our party. The purpose of God for Nigeria in our party will now be fulfilled.
“My problem with Oshiomhole is that when people started saying that they were Edo Peoples Movement, EPM, I called him and urged him to denounce them.
“I told him (Oshiomhole) to come out and say something. I told him, denounce them, you are the National Chairman, disassociate yourself from these people who are destroying our party. Up till today, he did not denounce them.
“But the court has taken the right decision today. It does not make me a happy person because it would not have come to this. So, my message today is when a child put his hands in faeces, you do not cut off that hand, you take that hand and wash it.
“And for our members who have been misled, we cannot practice our democracy the way it was in 1983.
“Our goal is that before the end of June this year, we must have not less than 500,000 card-carrying members of APC.
“It will be a shame for any leader of our party if we cannot boast of 100 members per unit. And if you do win members for us, you will see what we will do as a party.”
Ruling mischievous — Osagie
Former Whip of the House of Representatives, Osagie reacting to the ruling, said the judge succumbed to political pressure from Governor Obaseki and his friend from Kebbi State, all in his bid for a second term as governor of the state.
“The so-called suspension is laced with mischief and lacks basic judicial expectations, it is an injunction that ought to have been given if the subject matter of the suit is in grave danger such that if it is not granted, there is a possibility that the subject matter will be destroyed, damaged or become extinct. In this particular case, the judge over-reached himself by succumbing to political pressure from Godwin Obaseki and his friend in Kebbi State to grant an order, in order to be seen to be protecting the second term ambition of Obaseki. It cannot stand, it will not stand, and I am very sure that the principles of law are not in favour of the grounds of this order.
“Oshiomhole will continue to remain as the chairman of the party, and I don’t expect anything less than an appeal against this obnoxious and irregular order of a judge who has over-reached himself.
“In politics, you cross so many hurdles, maybe this is just a hurdle and I believe that it is our responsibility to assure and reassure our supporters that there is no cause to worry, the judicial process is such that it gives room for appeal and it gives room for correction of what has been done, more so when this order was granted by a lower court. It is not yet uhuru for them, it is not a final judgment anyway, it is just an interim order pending the determination of the substantive suit and it is subject to an interlocutory appeal.
“So our followers and our people should remain calm, this order cannot stand the test of time and we believe that at some point, the superior court would apply the law more judiciously and more reasonably than what this court has done today.”
Also, a former aide to both Oshiomhole and Governor Obaseki, Mr John Mayaki, while reacting said: “The court order purportedly ordering the suspension of Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of APC, has expectedly generated panic and tension in the country, especially Edo State.
“I, however, appeal to everyone to remain calm as the matter is firmly under control and our beloved National Chairman, Oshiomhole, remains the official leader of the party despite the best efforts of those who are opposed to positive reforms and institutional progress.
“The court order in circulation will be treated legally shortly. There is no cause for alarm. Everyone is urged to go about their normal businesses and remain assured that the working Oshiomhole remains in charge.”
Lawyers split over order
In his reaction, Gbenga Ojo, a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law, LASU, said: “Order of the court must be obeyed. He stands suspended. This is an intra-party dispute. The parties lack internal democracy. This is a consequence of the imposition of candidates and wanting to dictate to the candidate. Obaseki is saying no to a remote control. He is accountable and not Oshiomhole. Importantly the battle should be shifted to the court. That is the essence of the rule of law.”
Evan Ufeli, Executive Director, Cadrell Advocacy Centre, on his part, said: “The Abuja High Court decision temporarily suspending Oshomole is an order of the court that must be obeyed. The injunction is an equitable remedy that is meant to stabilize the rancour raging between the disputing parties, pending determination of the substantive suit.
“This order is necessary to keep the disputing parties in check to avoid a breakdown of law and order. The court is mindful of the consequences of not granting such prayer in the face of a fragile society like ours that is susceptible to insecurity and prone to politically-orchestrated insurrection.
“The APC National Chairman is duty-bound to step aside temporarily to enable the court to do due diligence in the case. He should not fall for the temptation of disobeying court orders like President Buhari because the law will be used against him.”
Another legal mind, Kabir Akingbolu, member of the Ekiti State Judicial Service Commission, in his reaction, said: “I think the order has overlooked the fact that a political party has every right to choose and elect its leaders. Also, a political party has its constitution which guides and regulates its affairs. The order was purportedly based on the wishful suspension of Oshiomhole by his ward in Edo state.
“I want to think that Oshiomhole, is a national executive member, a fortiori, the National Chairman of the party. Thus, it is not only absurd but highly preposterous to commonsensical reasoning that a local wing or ward of a political party will purportedly remove the national chairman in such a casual manner and the court will sanction it when by the political party’s constitution, it is the national working committee. I think this is a serious aberration that needs to be looked into by serious legal and critical minds.”
APC names new officers
However, the outlines of a power play within the leadership of the party emerged yesterday evening as the National Working Committee, NWC, approved the nomination of Waziri Bulama as the party’s acting national secretary. Mr Victor Giadom, a former commissioner in Rivers State, had acted in that capacity and earlier briefed newsmen on developments about the national chairman.
The NWC in a statement by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu also approved the appointment of Senator Abiola Ajimobi as Deputy National Chairman (South) and Mr Paul Chukwuma as National Auditor.
“The decision was reached on January 14, 2020, during the meeting of the NWC at the party’s national secretariat.
“Following the resignation of Mai Mala Buni as the party’s National Secretary in May 2019 prior to his election as the Governor of Yobe State, the party subsequently gave notice for a replacement from the zone.
“The NWC has also approved the nominations of Senator Abiola Ajimobi as the Deputy National Chairman (South) and Mr Paul Chukwuma as the National Auditor following nominations from the respective zones,” the statement added.
Chief Victor Giadom who had been the acting National Secretary of the party had earlier told journalists that the party would abide by the court order suspending the National Chairman.
Some power brokers in the party had also expressed subtle support for Giadom to superintend the affairs of the party in the interim, but the NWC’s late Wednesday decision seemed to have upset permutations in the camp of those rooting for Giadom.