The crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) deepened on Wednesday.
National Vice-Chairman, Southsouth, Prince Hilliard Eta, directed leaders from the zone not to attend today’s consultative meeting purportedly called by Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki.
But in Abuja, the faction led by acting National Secretary Victor Giadom, obtained an order to hold the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting slated for March 17.
The APC leader said the meeting was illegal because the governor lacked the power to initiate it.
A Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Jabi on March 4 ordered Oshiomhole’s suspension pending the determination of a substantive suit. Oshiomhole appealed the verdict.
But a Federal High Court in Kano issued an interim order halting Oshiomhole’s suspension.
APC Deputy National Secretary, Chief Victor Giadom, insisted that Oshiomhole remain suspended.
He said the NEC would go ahead as planned despite a contrary notice by the party’s National Legal Adviser, Babatunde Ogala and National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu.
Eta, in a telephone interview with our reporter, said Obaseki invited leaders to a meeting at the Edo State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja.
He said he gathered that the meeting was to discuss issues concerning APC National Chairman Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Eta said: “I saw the invitation the governor is sending out to people inviting them for a meeting. I am calling on all our party leaders to shun the meeting because he has no right to convene it.
“I am the Southsouth Vice Chairman of the party and any APC leadership meeting is convened by me.
“I have also communicated to our political leader in the zone, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and he is not aware of any such meeting.
“So, we are calling on all our leaders not to attend any such meeting because it is ill-conceived and ill-motivated.
“Governor Obaseki is not an officer of the party. He cannot call such a zonal meeting without my office. Consultative forum meeting is alien to our party’s constitution.
“Maybe the governor is only calling his friends to come together, but not an APC meeting. For me, no party leader from the zone will attend the meeting.”
Eta said every patriotic member of the party should be concerned about how to support the national leadership.
“At this point, we are focusing on how to strengthen our great party under the leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and not to destabilise the party.
“We urge all stakeholders, including governor Obaseki, to follow the constitution of the party which is supreme because any meeting called by him without the proper procedure is null and void,” Eta said.
Also on Wednesday, Obaseki and some party leaders disagreed over Oshiomhole’s continued stay in office.
While the APC leaders, who met in Benin, maintained that they had implicit confidence in Oshiomhole, Obaseki insisted that the “self-acclaimed” party faithful of the party had been led astray by the “suspended” national chairman.
He asked them to retrace their steps.
The APC leaders backed the denunciation of Oshiomhole’s suspension.
At a briefing in Benin, Chris Azebamwan, who spoke for the leaders, described Oshiomhole’s suspension as the outcome of Obaseki’s machinations.
He also accused Obaseki of making concerted efforts to remove Oshiomhole.
“Comrade Oshiomhole is the chief benefactor of Governor Obaseki, who is now hell-bent on disgracing the National Chairman.
“Against all permutations and persuasions, Comrade Oshiomhole pleaded with all the political class in Edo State to accept Godwin Obaseki as his successor.
“At each campaign rally, it was Comrade Oshiomhole that held the microphone.
“Given the tremendous respect we all had and still have for Comrade Oshiomhole and his enormous goodwill with the people of Edo State, we all keyed in.
“Immediately after Obaseki was inaugurated as governor, he ran away with government. The immediate past Edo Chairman of APC, Anselm Ojezua, was little more than a special assistant to the incumbent governor of Edo State.
“On November 12, 2019, two-third majority of members of the State Working Committee (SWC) of Edo APC signed a resolution of a vote of no confidence in Ojezua and removed him from office, which was ratified by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
“By the same resolution, Obaseki, his deputy, Philip Shaibu; and Osarodion Ogie were suspended from the party.”
The leaders said Obaseki continued to insist that Ojezua would remain as the state chairman rather than submitttng to party supremacy and discipline.
But, Obaseki, through his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, urged members of the “dissident” Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), which he claimed was proscribed by the Edo chapter of APC, to accept the olive branch extended to them by the party.
The Edo governor stressed that APC was willing to re-admit the remorseful members while noting that the window of opportunity was still open for them.
According to him, Azebamwan had no right to speak for the Edo chapter of the APC, claiming that he had been suspended and not a member of the SEC.
Osagie said: “We have just learnt that a suspended member of the party, Chris Azebamwan, made statements against the Governor of Edo State at a press briefing.
“We want to inform members of the public that Azebamwan has been suspended from the party and therefore has no locus standi to speak on behalf of the party in the state.
“We urge Azebamwan and his co-dissidents to grab the opportunity presented to them by the party to retrace their footsteps, so they can duly be readmitted.
“The window of opportunity is still open but will close soon. So, they should do the needful before it is too late.”
Obaseki also denied being behind the travails of the “suspended” Oshiomhole.
Edo governor’s media aide said: “Comrade Oshiomhole is only reaping the consequences of his actions and inactions, while he served as the National Chairman of APC, some which include the efforts to destabilise the party in the state.
“Others are his tactless handling of the crisis in the state chapters across the country, including the conflicts in Zamfara, Adamawa, Taraba, Rivers, Bayelsa and other states where his draconic stance cost the party dearly.”
On Sunday, APC National Legal Adviser Babatunde Ogala issued a notice, asking the NEC members to ignore Giadom’s invitation to the meeting.
Ruling on a motion ex parte brought by Afamefuna Ekekwe, counsel to the applicant, Salihu Mustapha, the national vice chairman, Northeast, Justice S.U Bature of FCT High Court, Maitama Abuja restrained Ogala, Lanre Isa Onilu and Waziri Bulama, first, second and third defendants, from interfering in the scheduled meeting. I joined as fourth defendant is the APC.
Justice Bature granted “an order restraining the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants, either by themselves, their agents or privies or any member of the 4th defendant from interfering with, disturbing or taking any steps howsoever described towards disrupting the meeting of the NEC convened by the 4th defendant NWC members scheduled for 17th March, 2020 pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice already filed. ”
It equally granted “an order compelling the 4th defendant to give effect to the resolution of the NWC convening the NEC meeting of the 4th defendant scheduled for 17th March, 2020 or any subsequent date pending the hearing of the motion on Notice already filed and adjourned to 20 March, 2020.”