Some leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, including a former governor of Lagos State, Ahmed Tinubu, and the party’s former interim chairman, Bisi Akande, boycotted the party’s meeting Friday, raising concerns the party may be nowhere near resolving a leadership crisis that has nearly derailed its new government.
Messrs Tinubu and Akande, amongst the party’s most influential leaders, stayed away from the party’s National Executive Committee meeting, attended by President Muhammadu Buhari, governors and federal lawmakers.
Top on the agenda of the meeting was the crisis rocking the party since the election of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara were elected to the two offices respectively, against the wish of the party.
The two leaders also discarded the party’s nominees for the remaining principal offices.
The crisis has polarised the APC, with a faction supporting Messrs Saraki and Dogara, and another backing the party’s leadership and Messrs. Tinubu.
Pressed on the absence of Messrs Tinubu and Akande, the spokesperson of the party, Lai Mohammed said invitation to the meeting was at the discretion of the national working committee of the APC, or its executive committee.
He said the leaders were not members of the party’s exco, as such, it was the discretion of the APC working committee to decide who to invite.
Mr. Mohammed did not provide clear answers when reminded by a reporter that identification tags for Mr. Tinubu had been seen at the venue of the meeting.
Before the closed-door session of Friday’s meeting, Mr. Buhari appealed to APC members to respect the supremacy of the party and allow the “system to work”.
After the meeting, Mr. Mohammed said the NEC provided an enabling environment to look into ways of resolving the National Assembly “logjam”.
He said all sides had agreed that the party was supreme, and must be respected.
“Also, it is important to let you know that everybody in the party is united on two issues which are party supremacy and the need to ensure that this government deliver its campaign promises,” Mr. Mohammed said.
Asked if recognising the supremacy of the party implied that the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives would adopt the nominees of the party as principal officers, Mr. Mohammed said talks were continuing.
“The president said he believes in party supremacy, we have a problem on our hands and we must find the best means to resolve it. One thing I can assure you is that, this house (the APC) shall not fall,” he said.
Asked to comment on when to draw a line between party supremacy and the sanctity of the Nigerian Constitution in the selection of principal officers at the National Assembly, Mr. Mohammed said “the less said about this logjam the better it’ll be not for only this party but the whole nation”.
“It is for the interest of everyone who voted for change. I would not want to go into the nitty-gritty of what the resolution will be because as I speak for now I don’t know. When you talk about party’s supremacy, it is derived from the constitution,” he said.
The governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, who is also the chairman of the APC governors’ forum, said he was confident the crisis facing the party was almost over.
“Many people think that there will be problems between APC members at this meeting. But I am assuring Nigerians that we have met and discussed what affects all of us and we have understood ourselves,” he said. “We have also reiterated our support and loyalty to our leadership.”