Chances of a headway for the Ward Congress Appeals Committee that was set up to resolve acrimonies within the Lagos chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC), following the July 31 2021 ward congresses appear slim.
Chairman of the five-man appeal committee, Mr. Ibrahim Akaje, who was appointed by the Governor Mai Mala-Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), met with the four aggrieved groups on Thursday and Friday last week, The Guardian reliably gathered that some of the groups are already putting facts and documents together to present before a court of competent jurisdiction for final resolutions.
The aggrieved groups are still in doubt if the committee will stand its ground and say the truth.
The committee met with the representatives of the Abdul-Azeez Abiodun Adediran (aka Jandor)-led Lagos4Lagos Movement, Moshood El-Salvador-led Conscience Forum, Fouad Oki led-Democrat Group and AAMCO last week.
But contrary to the impression given to the public after the meeting, one of the groups, which claimed to boycott the stakeholders meeting, faulted the composition of members of the committee as well as the venue, Lagos APC Secretariat Ogba. Another group said it will only accept the committee’s recommendations on condition that justice, fairness and equity is done, just as another said it will definitely approach the court, if the Tunde Balogun Caretaker Committee fails to provide convincing evidences of how the ward congresses were conducted and how it sold nomination forms to aspirants among others.
The warring groups are eager to hear from the committee. In separate telephone interactions with The Guardian yesterday, Oki said the Democrat Group boycotted last week’s stakeholders meeting. He said a petition had been written to the CECPC alleging that a member of the appeals committee (name withheld) is a card- carrying member of Lagos APC.
He alleged the said member is a loyalist of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and man Friday of Chief of Staff to the governor, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, who was deliberately planted in the appeals committee to serve ulterior purposes. “They were planted by the governor to provide logistics like security allowances, accommodation and other necessities with the aim to compromise Akaje and his members.”
He urged the CECPC to dissolve the committee since it is already compromised, saying, “We refused to appear before Akaje but instead sent a petition to the CECPC. There is no way the committee will do a good job.”
Oki also said the appeals committee ought to have used a neutral venue to carry out its duty instead of the party’s headquarters at Acme Ogba.
Salvador said he was represented before the appeals committee but that he is waiting for the report.
According to him, “The committee comprised of respected gentlemen, who meant well for the party. I don’t expect them to come up with any recommendations short of justice, equity and fairness to help APC move ahead.”
Salvador also dismissed insinuations that a fifth columnist is planted in the committee. He stressed: “All those flimsy allegations are nothing of interest to me. The Constitution of the party is supreme and the CECPC that selected the committee members is also supreme. I cannot fault their judgment. Whether the recommendations of Akaje favours me or not, I will accept it on the condition that justice, fairness and equity is done. I am not aspiring to become party chairman or wanting to contest any elective position, all I’m after is justice for those who defected along with me from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to APC.”
The Director of Media and Strategy of Lagos4Lagos, Mr. Seun Soyinka, said though the group appeared before the committee “the committee looks serious on the face value but we are not too sure if it will have the courage to address the issues before it. We all witnessed what happened in 2018, when Clement Ebiri-led Governorship Primary Committee came to Lagos but was compromised to announce the result of a primary that did not take place. We are hoping this committee, which appears serious and determined, will not be compromised in a like manner at the end of the day.”
Soyinka said Lagos4Lagos followed the guidelines for the ward congresses and it did its own congresses in line with the constitution of the party but what the group is insisting is for the Balogun-led caretaker committee to provide evidence of how it conducted the ward congresses, whether it carried other tendencies along in the consensus arrangement as directed by CECPC, and other facts. He said, “If all these cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubts then we will head to the court to make our case.”
MEANWHILE, there are loopholes, which the Balogun-led caretaker committee may capitalise on to have its way and the CECPC itself may be use to either throw the aggrieved groups out of the party or force them to comply.
A senior member of the party in Lagos who refused to disclose his name said there is a sharp division among the warring groups just as their activities are tainted with unbridled pride.
According to him, “Lagos4Lagos is working at cross purposes with the Democrat Group despite having similar aims and objectives, which is to rest the political hegemony of Lagos State. This is a tall dream that will take a long time.
“They are fighting a common cause but with divided interests. It is funny that Salvador, who joined the party in the build up to 2019 election is allegedly looking down on leaders of other aggrieved groups, while those ones considered him a new entrant that has no stake in the party. These factors are weakening the strength and potency of the aggrieved groups. I see the groups heading for winning the battle but losing the war.”
Akaje, has however assured that his committee would be fair and upright in its recommendations, saying, the petitions submitted by the groups are carefully studied.
He said the committee will follow the normal democratic channel and ensure that all petitions received a fair hearing.
The spokesman of Lagos APC, Seye Oladejo dismissed the allegations raised by the aggrieved groups. He said Oki and Adediran are working together and they have the same sponsors. “They should stop pretending as if they are separate groups. We understand their game plans,” he said.
He particularly chided Adediran that; Lagos4Lagos has no locus standi to conduct parallel congresses and that whatever they did on July 31 was tantamount to electing leaders of their association and not for Lagos APC.
“Adediran cannot continue to parade himself like a unionist in the midst of a well organised party. We are dealing with the life and destinies of the estimated 20 million population of Lagos to form a government and initiate policies that will improve the state. It is not about noise making and throwing tantrums.”
For Oki, the party spokesman said, “If Oki claimed he boycotted the meeting, it shows that he is as important as not being noticed at the meeting. Nobody felt his absence.”
Oladejo however appeals to Salvador to respect himself. “The party is still understudying his relevance since he joined in 2018 or thereabout. After all, what are his contributions since he joined?”