Disciplinary Actions by the ‘Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC’: Why APC must be Rule-Based.

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Salihu Moh. Lukman

Progressive Governors Forum

Asokoro, Abuja

With the emergency National Executive Council (NEC) of APC scheduled to hold Tuesday, March 17, 2019, apart from the issue of appointing an acting National Chairman, the resolution of cases of so-called suspension of members of the National Working Committee (NWC) would have to be addressed. This is very important, given that part of what the emergency NEC meeting would be required to achieve is to lay a solid foundation for the resolution of all the major leadership problems facing the party. That will mean that the ‘NEC’ will have to review all cases affecting all leaders of the party, especially members of the ‘NWC’ and as much as possible, ensure they are settled. This is also necessary because after the meeting, the ‘NWC’ will be saddled with the responsibility of providing leadership to resolve all other leadership problems. Therefore, charity must begin at home, or as they say in law, he who comes to equity must come with clean hands.

Specifically, the question then would be “what are these cases of so-called suspension of members of the NWC?”

There are three – Comrade Adams Oshiomhole (National Chairman), Sen. Lawal Shuaibu (Deputy National Chairman {North}) and Alh. Inuwa Abdulkadir (National Vice Chairman {North West}). I will take the case of Comrade Oshiomhole last. However, the cases of Sen. Shuaibu and Alh. Abdulkadir have different dimensions. Alh. Abdulkadir was alleged to have been suspended by his Magajin Gari. “A” Ward, Sokoto North Local Government of Sokoto. Alh. Abdulkadir was alleged to have carried out some anti-party activities during the 2019 Governorship election in Sokoto State. His Ward Executive raised the charges against Alh. Abdulkadir and decided on his suspension, which the NWC endorsed.

In the case of Sen. Shuaibu, it will be recalled that in May 2019, he (Sen. Shuaibu) wrote a letter to Comrade Oshiomhole asking him to resign due to alleged incompetence. The NWC was then reported to have set a five-man Disciplinary Committee led by Otunba Niyi Adebayo, the then Deputy National Chairman (South) to investigate allegations against Sen. Shuaibu. The NWC was said to have suspended Sen. Shuaibu on the purported recommendation of Otunba Adebayo Disciplinary Committee.

Does the NWC have the power under the APC constitution to suspend any of its serving officers such as Sen. Shuaibu who is the Deputy National Chairman (North)? Without going into the details of the allegations against either Sen. Shuaibu or Alh. Abdulkadir, what is the procedure for discipline as provided in the APC constitution? Following reports of the decision of the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC to suspend His Excellency Rotimi Akeredolu SAN, Governor of Ondo State, on April 21, 2019, I sent a memo to Comrade Oshiomhole, partly with the objective of raising concerns about the need to urgently take necessary steps to ensure compliance with provisions of APC Constitution on matters of disciplinary actions against all erring party leaders, including Governors and all other elected representatives.

In that April 21, 2019 memo, I drew Comrade Oshiomhole’s attention to the fact that before the 2019 elections, two serving Governors of our party (APC) – H.E, Rochas Okorocha and H.E, Ibikunle Amosun – were reportedly suspended by National Working Committee (NWC) for fielding candidates in other parties against the candidates of the APC. The so-called suspension of HE, Rotimi Akeredolu SAN makes it the third case of a serving Governor suspended by the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC for some alleged anti-party activities.

While recognising that there may have been reasons to consider necessary disciplinary actions arising from all the problems around the 2019 elections, Article 21 of the constitution of our party, which makes provision for Discipline of Party Members gives the power to the “respective Executive Committee of the Party at all levels.” Nowhere in the constitution, was the NWC given such power.

Secondly, Article 21(B)(i) specifically stipulated that “A complaint by any Member of the party against a public office holder, elected or appointed, or another member or against a Party organ or officer of the party shall be submitted to the Executive Committee of that Party at all levels concerned which shall NO LATER THAN 7 days of the receipt of the complaint, appoint a fact-finding or Disciplinary Committee to examine the matter.”

Article 21(B)(ii) went further to provide that “The Executive Committee concerned shall not debate or discuss the complaint or allegation before sending it to the Disciplinary Committee or fact-finding Committee which shall hear, determine and cause its decision to be transmitted to the relevant Executive Committees of the Party concerned.”

The implication of these provisions is that any complaint against both Sen. Shuaibu, Alh. Abdulkadir and our three Governors allegedly suspended by the party should have been submitted to the National Executive Committee (NEC) based on which the NEC would have been required to set up a fact-finding or Disciplinary Committee to handle the matter. Even the case of Alh. Abdulkadir, although the initiating organ, his ward, was right to have initiated it, but once the report was sent to the NWC, the power of the NWC is limited to getting the NEC to set up the fact-finding Committee, which will hear, determine and decide on the matter.

It would appear that the NWC received the complaint or was the complainant against Alh. Abdulkadir and the three Governors, and proceeded to either act as the fact-finding or disciplinary committee or appointed one, which should have been the responsibility of NEC. In the case of Sen. Shuaibu, the NWC is the direct complainant and usurped all the powers of every other organ of the party that has jurisdiction on disciplinary decision affecting Sen. Shuaibu. This means that the NWC was the complainant as well as the judge, without recourse to NEC as provided in the constitution of the party.

The third issue is that Article 13.4(i-xvii) provides for the powers of the NWC. Nowhere in those provisions, was disciplinary responsibility given to the NWC. The reality is that all decisions about suspending Sen. Shuaibu and the three Governors were taken by the NWC. In the case of Alh. Abdulkadir, it was taken by his ward and transmitted to the NWC. Upon receipt of that decision, the NWC was expected to invite the NEC to set up the fact-finding committee.

It is very difficult not to conclude that by its actions, the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC arbitrarily handled issues of discipline such that even where there could be valid cases of activating disciplinary proceedings against Sen. Shuaibu and the three Governors, it was compromised to the extent of such comprises therefore rendered the so-called suspension, acts of nullity. The case of Alh. Abdulkadir is different largely because it was the decision of the ward executive, which the NWC instead of transmitting it to NEC decided to appropriate the powers of NEC. This may require that NEC recall the decision of the ward and proceed to appoint the fact-finding committee as provided in Article 21(B)(ii) of the APC constitution.

Somehow, all these so-called cases of suspension and the speed with which the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC acted on them further demonstrate the intolerant disposition of the APC NWC under Comrade Oshiomhole. Unfortunately, it also exhibited a disturbing reality about the inability of members of the NWC to cross-check provisions of the APC constitution before arriving at their decision. Such conducts are only the credentials of tyrants and despots and not political party leaders under a constitutional democracy.

The reality is that to discipline a party leader of the status of a Deputy National Chairman, National Vice Chairman, Governors, etc. is not an easy task. It requires good planning and the necessary courage to be combative. But more importantly, it is a question of skillful application of the capacity of our leaders to mobilise our members to enforce provisions of the APC constitution on matters affecting the conduct of party leaders. It is not as simple as just sitting in Abuja to make pronouncements. I fear that combativeness was applied at the expense of membership mobilisation. All this period, at no time did the NWC convene any meeting to attempt to explain or seek for support on any of its disciplinary decisions to any member or organ. Everything was reduced to media outburst, which is unfortunate.

This brings us to the suspension of Comrade Oshiomhole by his ward. In every respect, Comrade Oshiomhole’s case is similar to that of Alh. Abdulkadir. Since November 2, 2019, the ward executive of Ward 10, Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State announced the suspension of Comrade Oshiomhole, interestingly for alleged anti-party activities similar to the charges against Alh. Abdulkadir. The decision was transmitted to the NWC and instead of applying the provision of Article 21(B)(ii) of the APC constitution to set up a fact-finding committee, or even endorse the suspension, given the precedence they have set in the case of Alh. Abdulkadir, the NWC rejected the decision of the ward executive to suspend Comrade Oshiomhole.

What makes the case of Comrade Oshiomhole different? To worsen the matter, Comrade Oshiomhole himself kept making the argument that he is not an officer of his ward. Is Alh. Abdulkadir an officer of his ward? Comrade Oshiomhole argued that he was elected by over 7,000 delegates at a National Convention as such only the National Convention can remove him. Who elected Alh. Abdulkadir? Was it his ward?

Under no circumstance should we allow double standards in the application of disciplinary proceedings. Therefore, just like in the case of Alh. Abdulkadir, the NEC need to also recall the decision of Ward 10, Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State regarding the suspension of Comrade Oshiomhole and proceed to appoint a fact-finding committee in line with provisions of Article 21(B)(ii) of the APC constitution.

There are many other cases of suspension by either the NWC or other state organs of the party. The NEC would need to recall all these so-called suspensions and decisively treat them in line with the provisions of relevant sections of the APC constitution. It is important that the NEC take steps to ensure that we are able to shift our politics to a rule-based conduct and not an impulsive and opinionated one, driven by the ego of our NWC leaders. Anything short of this will just amount to a waste of time.

The recommendation therefore is that all disciplinary decisions initiated and executed by the NWC as was the case with Sen. Shuaibu and the three Governors, should be declared a nullity. Although, the NWC has announced the withdrawal of the suspension against the three Governors, it is important that the NEC is able to affirm the provisions of the APC constitution with respect to the powers of NWC on matters of disciplinary hearings.

Finally, on all cases rightly initiated by relevant executive committees as provided by the APC constitution, the NEC should proceed to activate Article 21 with the appointment of respective fact-finding committees for each case. Perhaps, it needs to be emphasised that NWC is not an executive committee and therefore does not qualify to exercise the powers of taking most of the decisions it has taken with respect to disciplinary conduct of leaders.

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