The former National Vice-Chairman (South-South), All Progressives Congress, Hilliard Eta, has rejected his expulsion by the National Executive Committee of the party, which met at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday.
He described the Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee as an illegal contraption, which had no constitutional powers to make pronouncements on issues it had so far delved into concerning the party.
He said he remained the acting chairman of the party.
The NEC had announced the extension of the tenure of the party’s Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee by six months, effective December 25, 2020.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the committee attended by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.); Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, and other party chieftains.
While Buhari, Osinbajo, leaders of the National Assembly and state governors elected on the platform of the party attended the meeting at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, other party chiefs participated virtually.
Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, briefed State House correspondents at the end of the meeting.
He was joined at the briefing by the governors of Ondo and Imo states, Rotimi Akeredolu and Hope Uzodinma.
El-Rufai said NEC also approved the expulsion of Eta for his failure to withdraw the court case instituted against the caretaker committee.
The governor said the NEC also dissolved all state, zonal and national party structures.
He also announced that the party granted waivers to some new members to enable them contest elective offices without waiting for a particular period of time.
El-Rufai stated, “The National Executive Committee of the party approved the extension of the tenure of the Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee led by Mai Mala Buni, which expires on December 25, 2020, for another six-month period, to terminate on June 30, 2021.
“This is to enable the Caretaker and Convention Planning Committee to conclude its assignment as laid before NEC.
“NEC has also donated its powers as enshrined in Articles 13.3 subsection 5 and 13.3 subsection 6 of the APC Constitution to the Caretaker and Convention Planning Committee.
“The second resolution is that NEC has approved the granting of waivers to persons, who have recently joined the party and those desirous of joining the party in the nearest future.
“By this, such new members will enjoy all the benefits and privileges accruable by virtue of their membership of the party. So, they will be able to contest positions in the party; they will be able to contest elections without any requirement of being members for a number of years or a period of time.”
El-Rufai added, “The third resolution is that NEC approved the expulsion of Ntufam Hilliard Eta from the party for flouting the directives of NEC to discontinue all litigation against the party and its members.
“The fourth resolution is that NEC approved the immediate dissolution of the party organs at the polling unit, ward, local government, state and zonal levels as well as the non-National Working Committee component of the National Executive Committee as well as their immediate reconstitution and composition of the dissolved excos to serve in their respective offices in a caretaker committee capacity, but excluding the non-NWC members of NEC.”
The governor said the party also condemned the recent calls for the resignation of the President over security challenges being witnessed across the country.
He stated, “Finally, the NEC condemns in very strong terms the call by the PDP leadership and some of their cheerleaders for the resignation of Mr President.
“NEC observes that security challenges, though regrettable, can only be addressed when all interests, civil and military, government and opposition, security forces and indeed all citizens collaborate irrespective of party affiliation. This is not the time to politicise security.”
El-Rufai expressed the belief that before the expiration of the caretaker committee’s extended tenure, it would have conducted the national convention so that “we have leadership from the top down.”
He added, “This is in compliance with the wish of Mr President that we should rebuild the party from the bottom up. So, this is the process.
“Registration is going to start very soon and revalidation of registration and membership. Since we undertook our last membership registration in 2015, about 25 million have reached the age of 18 and may want to join the party.
“So, we want to capture those and then after we complete the registration, then we will have congresses at the various levels, leading up to the national convention before June 30, 2021 by the grace of God.”
Akeredolu also expressed optimism that there would be no need for a further extension of the committee’s tenure.
“I can assure you that they (committee members) will complete this mandate within this period. Again, we don’t have so many things that will intervene like COVID-19, #EndSARS and so; barring all these, we are sure that they will complete their task in six months,” the governor said.
While reacting to the announcement of his expulsion, Eta said, “You are aware that I’m in court based on the fact that even the NEC of June 25 was an illegal meeting and today’s (Tuesday’s) meeting again is an illegality built on illegality; it is a nullity.
“And you are also aware that there is a Supreme Court judgment that whenever a member of an organisation is in court pertaining to that organisation, the power of discipline is divested from that organisation on the person in court.
“So, the illegal contraption cannot speak for NEC that is not properly constituted. Even if it was properly constituted, the NEC of a party cannot take the place of the courts. I’m in court and I await a judicial pronouncement on the matter.”
In response to a question on whether he still considers himself as a member of the APC following the ratification of his expulsion by NEC, he said, “I’m the acting National Chairman of the APC. And as the acting National Chairman of the party, if you go through our constitution, the only organ that can discipline me is the convention of the party. I am a constitutionalist.”
Also speaking on the issue, aggrieved members of the party under the aegis of the Concerned APC Members said those, who attended the NEC meeting where the decision to expel Eta was taken, should be in a position to ask if proper procedure was followed.
The spokesman for the group, Abdullahi Dauda, told The PUNCH, “It is surprising that the Mai Mala Buni-led committee that is supposed to be reconciling people is expelling members, what do they want to achieve?
“We want our governors to know that we need people to build this party; there were people, who used their sweat, blood and resources to build this party and they cannot be forced out of the house they suffered to build. We want Mr President to look into these issues unless he is not interested in the APC surviving beyond 2023.”
State chairmen, party chieftains commend Buhari, NEC
Reacting to the dissolution of the party’s structures across the federation, the Enugu State Chairman of the APC, who is also the Secretary, Forum of State Chairmen, Dr Ben Nwoye, said, “The decision to dissolve the exco of the party was in the interest of the party. The outcome of the NEC meeting was in the interest of the party to further strengthen the party and further streamline the processes and solidify the party, and by the time the caretaker committee finishes its work, we will have a more formidable party.”
When asked if that was the official position of the forum in view of opposition by some state chairmen, Nwoye stated, “I don’t know where you got that information from; all I know is that this is the official position of the forum.”
A chieftain of the party, who is also the Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, said, “One highly commends the profound and excellent decision of the National Executive Committee of our great party aimed at repositioning and reinvigorating our party.
“I concur with the six-month extension as this will enable the Governor Mai Mala Buni’s Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee to not only reconcile the party, but to conduct a valid biometric registration nationwide.
“This is what our national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, embarked upon in 2013, when we were newly registered. It was botched by the Peoples Democratic Party-led Federal Government.
“The biometric registration will enable us to know with a click of the button our membership from all the polling units, wards, LGAs and states nationwide.
“On the dissolution of the executive across the board, it is a welcome development in repositioning and reinvigorating our great party.”
Buni committee has brought new atmosphere of hope, says Buhari
Earlier in his opening remarks at the meeting, Buhari noted that the Buni-led caretaker committee had succeeded in bringing a new atmosphere of hope to the party.
The President expressed delight that through the efforts of the 13-member committee set up on June 25, 2020, many party members, who had earlier defected from the APC, had returned, while others had also declared for the party.
He said what was needed now was for party chieftains to display discipline and sustain the tempo.
The President stated, “I have received periodic briefings from the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee as well as other leaders of the party.
“I am convinced that in the last five months, since the appointment of the caretaker committee, the initiatives taken have brought a remarkably new atmosphere of hope to the party.
“Healthy debates are now taking place and the potential for organs of the party to affirm majority positions as the decision of the party is now possible.
“What is required now is for all of us as leaders of the party to maintain discipline and ensure that this new momentum is protected, sustained and the decisions of party organs are respected by every member.
“Despite the challenge to restore peace in the party and the series of elections at hand, the fact that we have gained more members and that we are not losing members to the opposition under the present interim leadership indicates improvement of the party.
“In fact, we have begun to win back our members, who left us, and other notable political leaders are being attracted to our party.”
Acknowledging the defection of Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, to the party, the President said the development confirmed that “we are indeed making progress as a party of choice for Nigerians, as we move towards the resolution of our leadership challenges.”
Buhari appealed to party members at all levels to make sacrifices that would move the party forward.
We inherited a party full of infighting – Buni
Buni had while listing the committee’s achievements said the panel inherited a party full of infighting.
He said the committee set up a reconciliation panel to resolve the crises.
The Yobe State governor stated, “On assumption of office at the end of June 2020, our party was a theatre of infighting both at national level and in many states.
“Reconciliation of all the warring factions and individuals was, therefore, an important consideration for us to be able to commence the process of reconstituting the party’s leadership.
“To achieve that, we set up reconciliation committees across the country. Issues such as Bauchi, Bayelsa, Cross River, Enugu, Zamfara, Edo, Ondo, Anambra and Oyo were either referred to one of the committees to handle directly or handled directly by the national caretaker committee.
“Tempers within our party have substantially come down although the works of our various reconciliation committees have yet to be concluded. While progress is being recorded by our respective reconciliation committees, the task of reconciliation should be continuous; the NEC may therefore wish to review developments and direct accordingly.”
Ogun APC welcomes tenure extension
The Ogun State chapter of the party welcomed the decision of NEC to grant additional six months to the tenure to the Caretaker and Convention Planning Committee and the tenure of the caretaker committee in the state and executive committees in all other states for the next six months.
In a statement issued on Tuesday in Abeokuta by the Publicity Secretary the caretaker committee in the state, Tunde Oladunjoye, the party said, “Don’t forget that our committee in Ogun State has previously been ratified by the National Executive Council, therefore, the latest decision by NEC now covering the whole 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory revalidates the position that there can be no vacuum.
“We, in Ogun APC, commend NEC for its bold decision on members with cases in courts and advise that those who have yet to comply with the party’s directive asking them to withdraw the cases from courts to do so in order to avoid similar sanctions from NEC.”
“We also welcome the waiver granted new and intending members as this will increase membership and strengthen the party and its popularity nationwide.”
PDP asks INEC to deregister APC
Reacting to the APC NEC meeting, the opposition PDP said Nigerians ought to start celebrating the demise of the party, which it described as the “tormentor” of Nigerians.
In a statement titled: ‘PDP congratulates Nigerians as APC, their tormentor, finally fizzles’, signed by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja on Tuesday, the PDP congratulated Nigerians across the country, adding that their tormentor for five years had finally “dissolves out of our political firmament.”
The statement read in part, “The APC, being overburdened by the weight of failure, humongous corruption as well as the plagues of economic recession, violence, killings and hardship it has brought to our people, forcefully exited itself from the nation’s political firmament by dissolving all its national, zonal and state structures.
“With this exit, December 8, 2020 has gone into the history of our nation as liberation day, especially given the spontaneous jubilation by Nigerians over this step towards political oblivion by a political party that has brought so much pain on them.
“Now that the APC has become defunct, the PDP invites the Independent National Electoral Commission to officially deregister the APC and recall its certificate of registration; given that it no longer has operational structures as required by law.”
It added, “In the same vein, INEC should immediately declare the seat of all lawmakers elected on the platform of the APC at the federal and state levels as vacant and commence the process of bye-elections to fill the seats as required by law.
“Furthermore, government agencies, civil society organisations as well as the international community should immediately gazette the APC as a defunct political organisation in our country.
“Nevertheless, the PDP invites all leaders of the fizzled APC to get ready to answer Nigerians for their misdeeds, and not to think they can get away with their atrocities by forming or joining another political party.”
In response to the PDP’s position, the APC Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, in a statement titled: ‘PDP leadership has gone senile, our democracy in desperate need of opposition – APC’, said, “It is now clear that the PDP’s disillusionment following their rejection by Nigerians in the 2011 and 2019 general elections has degenerated into senility.”