[FILE PHOTO] Adams Oshiomhole, APC leader• Utomi, Okechukwu, others hail position
• ‘Chairman no longer enjoys presidency’s protection’
President Muhammadu Buhari has cautioned the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) against trampling on the rights of aggrieved party members seeking legal redress.
“We can’t deliberately deny people their rights. We agreed that party primaries should be conducted either through direct, indirect or consensus methods, and if anyone feels unjustly treated in the process, such a person could go to court. The court should always be the last resort for the dissatisfied. For the party to outlaw the court process is not acceptable to me,” Buhari said.
The president made the disclosure yesterday in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina. He was reacting to the recent position of the APC, which forbade members from taking the party to court.
The National Working Committee (NWC) in a statement last week had said: “The party intends to activate constitutional provisions to penalise such members as their action is capable of undermining the party and hurt the party’s interest.
“We hereby strongly advise such members to withdraw all court cases, while approaching the appropriate party organs with a view to resolving any outstanding disputes. In addition to this, aggrieved members are urged to take full advantage of the reconciliation committees the party has put in place. APC members should understand that as a progressive party that operates on the principle of change, it is not a matter of choice to keep to the rules.”
Buhari also advised members to work with the party’s reconciliation committees set up for the six geo-political zones rather than any purported presidential organ. He insisted that the party is the only body authorised to constitute such committees.
The Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON) Mr. Osita Okechukwu meanwhile has thrown his weight behind Buhari’s position. Okechukwu, who is pained at the controversial manner he lost out in his quest to pick a senatorial ticket in Enugu State, said the stance proves the president’s transparency on issues.
He expressed surprise at the party’s restriction on legal redress, saying the move was antithetical to the APC’s constitution, the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution as amended. He accused Oshiomhole of compromising the ideals of the party on internal democracy, claiming that aggrieved members went to court because they lost faith in the Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor-led appeal panel.
Also, an APC governorship aspirant in Delta State, Prof. Pat Utomi, welcomed the development, noting that in a democracy, the court remains the final arbiter in civil disputes.
Utomi, who is currently challenging the outcome of the primary election, told The Guardian via telephone that he was not disposed to withdrawing his suit. He applauded Buhari’s decision, wondering why Oshiomhole should have adopted the “undemocratic” position in the first instance. He recalled that Oshiomhole himself emerged as governor of Edo State following a court judgment.
An aggrieved gubernatorial aspirant from one of the northern states said: “I would not have listened to him (Oshiomhole) even if he had put his demand in writing.”
He added: “The president is convinced that those expected to win were sidelined. Security reports to that effect must have indicated this much to him and he knows that the best way to come out of the quagmire is to allow the courts have the last say.
“The issue of bribery, here and there, has also punctured the integrity quotient of the party leadership. I can say that the national chairman no longer has the protection of the presidency, because he has been taking undemocratic decisions to the detriment of the party’s good image.
“What is the benefit of collecting money from aspirants and asking them to suffer in silence? The court should be allowed to look into these allegations and come out with impartial arbitration. To hinder the court from its constitutional responsibility gives the impression that there is something to hide.”