Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has lamented that the recurring stand-off between the Executive and the National Assembly has contributed to slowing down the process of governance in the country.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting at the party headquarters in Abuja, Buhari warned the party faithful to get their act together for the party to stand a chance of winning the 2019 General Elections.
The President said the future of the party depends on the impact made by the reconciliation committee led by national leader Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“Let me first put on record my appreciation to the party leadership in Abuja and the states for their stewardship in the party affairs,” the President said. “In particular, I commend the National Chairman for steering the party from success to success.
“From our resounding election victory in 2015, we have won elections in Edo, Kogi and Ondo as well as the much improved performance in Anambra governorship elections and the party has moved from the party in government to the party of the Nigerian people.
“Much credit is due for our APC state chairmen for stabilizing the country and to our Armed forces and the police and other security agencies for stopping Boko Haram in the country and driving them from their bases. No country, no matter how well secured can isolate acts of terror as we have seen in the United States, Europe, Asia and here in Africa.
“We must support our security agencies to safe guard our country so that the job of development as outlined in our manifesto can proceed without too much interruption. We cannot afford to fail in reminding Nigerians where we came from in 2015. I am happy to report that slowly and steadily, we have managed to stabilize the country and redirect the ship of state.
“We have restored prudence in the managing of resources and confidence in Nigeria has been restored. On February 23, Nigeria floated a 12 year and 20 year Eurobond in the international market which were both over subscribed.
“The 12 year bond was, within days over subscribed by 332 percent, while the 20 year bond was over subscribed by 372 percent. We have stabilize the naira and increase our foreign reserve from 20 billion dollars to 40 billion dollars. Inflation rate is down. With considerably less resources available to the country, we have improved all the indices towards a stronger economy.
“Above all, we must pay tribute to the Nigerian people who massively support the government inspite of distractions from proponents of business as usual. Nevertheless, I am not asking us to relax and take things easy. We all know that elections are looming in the horizon. We must therefore get our acts together.
“Accordingly, I implore all members of the party to give the Asiwaju committee full cooperation to resolve existing differences among our members in the states affected. It is perhaps inevitable that there will be differences of opinion within the party. If we resolve them, then we can build a genuinely democratic party.
“But we must not lose sight of our common purpose as a party to break the mule of Nigerian politics and takes the country to new heights. Therefore, we have asked Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to lead this process of restoring order, manage differences and strengthen the party.
“I must acknowledge that the face of government has not met the expectations of many within our party. But few of us know or appreciated the depth of the wrath when we took office and that we spent the last two years bringing the country out of the mess we met it.
“Furthermore, the stand off between the executive and the National Assembly slowed down the process of government. We are working hard to resolve the differences so that the country can move forward.
“Soon, primaries at the wards, local government, states and the Centre will soon be due. I urge all members to take account of the fact that APC has a history of conducting free and fair primaries whenever consensus about any position is not reached. Regardless of the outcome of the primary processes which is imperative, we should all work together to ensure victory for our party,” he charged.
Similarly, party chairman Chief John Odigie-Oyegun had appealed to members to minimize the degree of disputations and rancour within the party, arguing that the party must do everything possible to win both the Ekiti and Osun state governorship elections.
“Let me welcome you to this first NEC meeting of the year 2018. I don’t think it is late to say that it is a very wonderful year, a year of achievements, year of fulfillment and year of thanksgiving. We had a very successful caucus meeting on Monday and by God’s define mercy we are conducting our first NEC meeting of the year today,” he said.
“Let me say a very massive ‘Thank You’ to our President and Vice President. I must also thank our their governors that have been wonderful, supportive and available at every point. I want to also extend my warm thanks to my colleagues, chairmen/leaders of the party in the state for being too supportive all these many months despite the challenges and difficulties we encountered.
“My colleagues from the NWC, we have a voice raised on our behalf during the caucus meeting and I want to assure you that as quickly as possible we will have a welfare package before the next NEC meeting so that our welfare can be better catered for.
“We obviously have a very tough year ahead of us. It is year of challenges, multiplicity of activities beginning from the month of April when the processes for replacing officers of the party whose tenure will expire by June, the process of conducting challenging elections in Ekiti in July, in Osun in September.
“These elections are precursors of the national elections. It is therefore necessary that we treat them with great seriousness because they are elections we should do everything to win. They are signals and signposts, indicators of what is to come in 2019. Preparations are also well underway for those elections.
“In an atmosphere like that, contests whether at party level or primaries to select candidates for all positions from the House of Assembly members to the exulted position of Mr President always present challenges.
“I want to make a passionate appeal that everything be done to minimize the stresses within the party. We must do everything to minimize the disputations within the party and do everything to ensure that we are in fighting shape come 2019. For that reason, I want to say once more that we are fully behind and in support of the initiative taken by Mr president in setting up a team headed by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to effect such a reconciliation that are necessary within the party.
“We have had challenges, we have had storms and weathered the storms. We have a government that took over at a very difficult circumstances but today, we can proudly say that the basic foundation of a new Nigeria economy is finally in place.
“We are not talking now of a foundation that is based on easy money, not a foundation based on crude which for a long time sent all of us to sleep but an economic foundation built on the sweat and labour, resources- material and otherwise, of the Nigerian people. That is the foundation that lasts. The economic indices tell a clear story,” he said.
In attendance at the meeting were President Buhari, Vice President, Prof Yomi Osinbajo, Governors Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (Sokoto), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Sani Bello (Niger), Kashim Shettima (Borno), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Nasir El Rufai (Kaduna), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Kano), Rotimi Akereduolu (Ondo), Abdul-aziz Yari Abubaka (Zamfara), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Simon Lalong (Plateau), 12 Senators, 18 House of Representatives members, Ministers of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, FCT Mohammed Bello, and Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, Secretary to the Government, Mustapha Boss, among others.
Fielding questions from the media after the meeting that lasted two and half hours, the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, announced that the NEC had extended the tenure of the national officers of the party by 12 months.
“At the end of the NEC meeting today, a major decision was taken in line with the constitution of our party. We are all aware that the tenure of the current NWC and the executive members of this party both elected and appointed comes to an end June this year.
“Considering the time left for the party to conduct all the Congresses and convention and considering that our leader Sen. Tinubu has been charged with responsibility of reconciling all aggrieved members of our party, we cannot afford to approach general elections with more dispute and crisis.
“So, relying on Article 13 of our constitution, which empowers the NEC to carry out the function of the convention, the NEC has decided to extend the tenure of the current NWC and other executive committees at various levels for another twelve months, starting from June 30,” he announced.
On the planned convention and other activities of the party, he said: “Let me tell you that this will not stop the convention of the party but to go into elective Congresses is what we are trying to avoid relying on the constitution of our party.
“As a matter of fact, Mr. President believe in ensuring that there is Congresses and convention across board, however, how would you manage the crisis that will arise thereabout?
“Let me give you instances, in Ekiti and Osun states, there state congresses were postponed similarly in 2014 ahead of the elections, just to avoid crisis let alone the whole country. So, that is why this decision was taken,” he said.
There was a bit of mild drama during the NEC meeting as all microphones developed problems, resulting in a delay of the opening ceremony for more than 20 minutes.
The party chairman’s attempt to speak without microphone almost caused an uproar from the state party chairmen who shouted “we are not hearing you” to the surprise of other dignitaries.