Some aggrieved members of the All Progressives Congress, who fail to withdraw their court cases instituted against the national leadership of the party over the outcome of the party’s primaries, may be expelled.
The National Working Committee of the party may have thus ignored President Muhammadu Buhari’s stand on the festering crisis.
Buhari had, on Monday, submitted that the aggrieved APC members had the right to seek legal redress over the results of the primaries.
The National Vice Chairman of the APC, South-South, Chief Hilliard Eta, gave the hint in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH.
Buhari, in a statement last week, said members of the party, who were not satisfied with the outcome of the party primaries conducted across the country, were right to have approached the court to seek redress over the alleged unfair treatment.
The President faulted the position of the NWC of the party, which asked aggrieved members to withdraw their court cases or be ready to face sanctions.
But Eta said many of the aggrieved members currently in court over the results of the party’s primaries did not exhaust the party’s dispute resolution mechanisms before rushing to court.
He said the party would not change its position on the issue, insisting that it would sanction errant members, which might include expulsion for failing to explore Article 20, subsection 10 of the APC’s constitution.
He said, “We need to juxtapose the President’s utterance with the position of the party. The constitution of the party states that you must exhaust all internal party conflict resolution mechanisms before you seek redress in court.
“The party’s constitution does not stop any member from seeking legal redress if they think that their rights have been infringed upon. What it says is that it is only after you have exhausted all the internal conflict resolution mechanisms that you can go to court. But if you have not exhausted them and you proceed to court, the party reserves the right to expel such person because you have brought the party to odium.”
When reminded that the party’s position contradicted the President’s pronouncement on the issue, Eta said, “The President is a loyal party man and if that provision of the constitution is brought to his notice, I am very sure that he is going to abide by the constitution of the party because the President is the man who will always stand on the side of the rule of law and that is the rule of the law of the APC.
“I can tell you categorically that most of these aggrieved members did not exhaust the internal conflict resolution mechanisms before approaching the court. Take the Cross Rive State’s case for instance, at no time did the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor (Usani) Usani, exhaust the internal party mechanisms before going to court.
“Also, the aggrieved party members in Delta State did not explore the party’s conflict resolution mechanisms before approaching the court. The same thing with those in Imo State; they did not come to us at the NWC.”
Eta added, “In most of the states, aggrieved members abandoned the internal party mechanisms and proceeded straight to the court.
“For us, there must be discipline in the party. Regardless of the rank of an army officer, if he is not disciplined and tutored, that officer is a disaster waiting to happen. So, regardless of the largeness of the party and regardless of the membership that we can boast of at any time, I can tell you that we would enforce discipline in the party.”
Also, the Deputy National Chairman (South), Otunba Niyi Adebayo, argued that Buhari’s statement did not contradict the position of the NWC.
Adebayo, a former governor of Ekiti State, submitted that members of the party must explore all avenues to resolve internal conflicts before heading for the court.
He stated, “I believe the President’s statement is in tandem with that of the National Working Committee. He is absolutely right that nobody should be denied the opportunity of going to court if he feels aggrieved. It is not the intention of the NWC that people should not be allowed to go to court.
“All the NWC is saying is that members should explore all the party’s dispute resolution mechanisms. If thereafter they are not satisfied, they have the option of going to court.”
Vice chairmen differ
In the same vein, the National Vice Chairman, South East, of the party, Emmanuel Enekwu, agreed with Eta that members of the party must subject themselves to the provisions of the APC’s constitution.
Asked if the party’s position, asking members to withdraw their court cases on the primaries or face the sack still subsisted, Enekwu answered in the affirmative.
He stated, “The constitution of the party is supreme and binding on all members. It is derived from the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Every member of the APC is subject to the provisions of the APC. That document provides the guidelines for party activities and actions of members.
“The President asked members of our party to subject themselves to the appeals’ committee set up for reconciliation. The President is a man who respects the law. He wouldn’t ask them not to subject themselves to the dictates of the internal party mechanisms (of conflict resolution) before going to court.”
However, the National Vice Chairman, North-West, Inuwa Abdulkadir, in agreeing with Buhari, stated that if members were not given the chance to seek redress in the face of perceived injustice, the result would be chaos.
Abdukadir said, “The President reiterated the position of the law which is the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
“The party or its agents cannot be a law unto themselves; that is why we have rules. If the party knows that if it does anything wrong, people can challenge such actions in court, those in charge will do the right thing. This will promote accountability and transparency. That is what democracy is all about.
“What the President said is in order; there is no ambiguity in it. If people are not allowed to ventilate their grievances through laid down provisions of the law, there will be chaos. There is no human organisation without conflict.”
‘Eta not better than Buhari in party matter’
But a factional chairman of the APC in Cross River State, Mr Etim John, said Eta did not understand the party’s constitution more than Buhari, wondering why the NWC member had continued in the same line of argument.
Besides, John noted that the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Usani, exhausted the internal party conflict resolution mechanisms before approaching the court.
He said, “Does Hilliard Eta really understand what he is saying? Does he think that he understands the party’s constitution more than the President of Nigeria? Do you think that the President of Nigeria is so foolish that he will wake up from his bed and make serious statements relating to party issues without getting some legal advice from the Attorney General of the Federation or any other top legal practitioner?
“Well, I do not think that reacting to what he said is of any issue. First, let them implement the sanctions; then, we would know whether they are qualified to do that. “Talking about not exhausting the party’s internal conflict resolution mechanism, Hilliard Eta is lying because the party set up an appeal panel after the governorship primary and all aggrieved members appeared before them (committee members).
“Having appeared before an appeal panel, those who were not satisfied went to court. Because they were not satisfied, that was why they went to court and for that reason, the President is very correct.”
I’m ready to withdraw my case from court – Marafa
Meanwhile, the Senator representing Zamfara Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Kabiru Marafa, has expressed his preparedness to withdraw the suit involving him and the APC if the party compels him to do so.
He told SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday that the case he instituted was actually against the party’s congresses held in March and that the court ruling on the matter so far had allayed his fears and those of his supporters.
Marafa said, “I am ready to withdraw the case now if the party insists. As it stands now, it is the governor and the APC that are in court. We only joined ourselves in their cases because we are an interested party.
“I am not technically in court at the moment. I went to court to challenge the APC congresses that produced the party’s executives in the state. The governor unilaterally appointed executives of the party at the wards, local government and the state levels.
“The case is still in court but the development has allayed our fears. We had expressed the fears that Governor Yari’s party executives might be recognised to conduct the primary but the issue had been overtaken by events now.”
We’ll conclude suit, says Delta factional chair
Also, the factional chairman of the APC in Delta State, Chief Cyril Ogodo, said his faction was unperturbed by the fresh threat by the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC to expel aggrieved members who failed to withdraw their suits against the party.
Ogodo, who was inaugurated by the then National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, before Oshiomhole’s NWC ousted him, said his group would go ahead with the case.
He told SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday that he would pursue the case to its “logical conclusion” until the Delta APC was served justice by the national leadership.
The chairman, who enjoyed the backing of the state leader of the party, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, Chief Hyacinth Enuha and several of the governorship aspirants in the state, added that the faction would act in line with the position of Buhari.
He added, “Like I said before, I’ll pursue my case to its logical conclusion. However, I have taken advantage of the purported reconciliatory committee the NWC has set up. If justice is served by that committee, there will be no need pursuing the case further.
“But as long as they (NWC officials) keep denying Delta APC, which I am the authentic chairman, justice, we’ll stay in court until the end. The internal mechanism, which they are talking about were exhausted before approaching the court.”
Repeated calls placed to the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, on Saturday, were not returned.
He had also yet to respond to a message sent to him by SUNDAY PUNCH as of the time of filing this report on Saturday.