The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Jabi, Abuja, on Wednesday, ordered an interim suspension of Adams Oshiomhole as the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress.
Delivering a ruling on an application for interlocutory injunction, Justice Danlami Senchi said his order would subsist pending the determination of the main suit bordering on his suspension as a member of the party.
The order, which was given at 11pm, triggered a renewed battle for the control of the party by members loyal to Oshiomhole and governors, who were opposed to him.
The governors, with the assistance of anti-Oshiomhole forces in the party’s National Working Committee, it was learnt, might, in the next few days, call the party’s National Executive Council’s meeting where the embattled national chairman’s fate would be finally decided.
Justice Senchi, in his ruling earlier on Wednesday, held that the party wrongfully continued to retain Oshiomhole as its national chairman while he was under suspension as a member of the party.
He, therefore, ordered Oshiomhole to stop parading himself as the national chairman of the party, and directed the party to cease acknowledging him in that regard.
He also ordered the Inspector-General of Police and the Department of State Services to mobilise their operatives to prevent him from accessing his office at the party’s secretariat.
The suit was instituted by six applicants, including the Vice-Chairman of the party, North-East, Mustapha Salihu, and the Chairman of the party in Edo State, Anslem Ojezua.
The rest of the applicants are Alhaji Sani Gomna, Oshawo Steven, Fani Wabulari, and Princewill Ejogharado.
The respondents are Oshiomhole, the APC, the Inspector-General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, and the DSS.
The plaintiffs represent a cross-section of members of the party, who are embroiled in different political battles with Oshiomhole at his home state of Edo and at the national level.
Salihu had on numerous occasions openly called for Oshiomhole’s removal as the national chairman of the party for allegedly mishandling of the party’s affairs.
On November 12, 2019, the raging superiority battle between Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and Oshiomhole, led to the party in the state under the leadership of Ojezua, announcing Oshiomhole’s suspension from the party.
On the same day, a faction loyal to Oshiomhole suspended Obaseki-backed factional chairman, Ojezua, the governor himself and some other loyalists of the governor.
Also, the Director-General of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Salihu Lukman, in a statement on November 13, 2019, said Oshiomhole should either convene the party’s NEC meeting or resign.
He blamed the former Edo State governor for the crises rocking the party in Rivers, Zamfara, Ondo and Bayelsa states.
On January 16, 2020, the plaintiffs filed an application asking for the suspension of Oshiomhole on the basis that he had been suspended as a member of the party.
Arguing the application on their behalf earlier on Monday, their lawyer, Oluwole Afolabi, noted that Oshiomhole did not challenge his suspension by the Edo State chapter of the APC.
He added that Oshiomhole’s rights as a member were under suspension, and could not continue to act as chairman of the party.
Opposing the application, counsel for Oshiomhole and the APC, Damian Dodo (SAN), said the applicants did not place any material before the court that entitled them to the prayers sought.
Granting the plaintiffs’ application on Wednesday, the judge made “an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the first respondent (Oshiomhole) from continuing to parade himself or performing any function as the national chairman of the second respondent or representing the second respondent in any capacity pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”
The judge also granted a similar order restraining the APC from “continuing to recognise” him as its national chairman “including giving effect to any of his decisions or according to him any privilege/benefit accruing to its national chairman pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”
The judge barred him from “representing” the party “at any engagement or allowing him access to the office of the national chairman”.
He also ordered the IGP and the DSS “to deploy their staff, agents and operatives to prevent the first respondent from continuing to occupy the office of the national chairman of the second respondent and from having access to the said office”.
Shortly after it was delivered, the ruling generated reactions with the police beefing up security at the APC national secretariat in Abuja.
Not long after the court announced Oshiomhole’s suspension, 13 pick-up loads of armed policemen arrived at the party secretariat and took up positions at the major entry and exit points.
A few minutes later, two court bailiffs arrived to give a copy of the ruling to the party. The court officials arrived at 4:43pm and left at 4: 57pm after delivering the documents to an official in the office of the National Legal Adviser, Babatunde Ogala.
The party’s acting National Secretary, Victor Giadom, expressed the party’s willingness to respect the court ruling suspending Oshiomhole and any other order which might arise.
In an interview with journalists after the court order, Giadom said, “As a party, we are aware of the injunction. As a law-abiding party, we will respect all lawful court orders. Very soon, the national working committee will meet and you will hear further from the party.
“I am trying to say that the All Progressives Congress will respect all lawful court orders. We will soon do that.”
Speaking specifically about the suspension of the party’s national chairman, he said, “Like I did say, there’s a court injunction and it is binding on us as a party to respect all the court injunctions.”
It was gathered that the embattled national chairman met with five members of the NWC at his private office in Aso Drive, Abuja. Details of the meeting were still sketchy as of the time of sending this report.
It was gathered that some APC governors had intensified moves to shop for Oshiomhole’s replacement as there were indications on Wednesday that they would soon convene a meeting of the party’s NEC, where Oshiomhole’s successor might emerge.
A high-ranking member of the party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “The governors are considering calling for an emergency National Executive Council meeting to consider the way forward.”
“They are likely to pick an acting National Chairman and prepare for a substantive chairman. They are considering asking him to honourably resign. President Muhammadu Buhari refused to say anything on the matter when they ran to him. As things stand, an emergency meeting is on the cards because until the court order is vacated, Oshiomhole cannot convene any official meeting.”
Commenting on the issue, the spokesperson for the suspended national chairman, Simon Ebegbulem, said, “We have filed for a stay of execution and appealed the order. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole remains the national chairman.”
Oshiomhole appealed against the order for his suspension on Wednesday.
He filed four grounds of appeal before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, praying for an order setting aside the interlocutory injunction issued by Justice Danlami Senchi of the FCT High Court.
In the notice of appeal filed in his name and that of the APC, the appellants contended that the judge “arrived at a wrong conclusion” in his ruling and it “occasioned a miscarriage of justice”.
The appellants also argued through his lawyer, Mr Damian Dodo (SAN), that the judge in his ruling prejudged the substantive case by erroneously delving into the issue of his performance of the duty of his office as the national chairman of the party at the preliminary stage.
They added, “The trial court determined the motion for interlocutory injunction without recourse to triable issues which ought to have been discerned from pleadings.”
Oshiomhole also said the court relied on “extraneous construction and speculation to overrule the appellants’ contention that the disruption capable of being occasioned by the grant of the interlocutory injunction outweighed the inconvenience to be suffered by the first to the sixth respondents.”
Also, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, issued a statement on Wednesday evening after the court ruling.
He said the party’s NWC, had at its meeting held on January, 14th 2020, approved new national officers.
The statement read, “The National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress has approved the nomination of Waziri Bulama as the Party’s acting National Secretary.
“The decision was reached on January 14, 2020 during the meeting of the NWC at the party’s national secretariat.
“Following the resignation of His Excellency Mai Mala Buni as the Party’s National Secretary in May 2019 prior to his election as the Governor of Yobe State, the party subsequently gave notice for a replacement from the zone.
“The NWC has also approved the nominations of Senator Abiola Ajimobi as the Deputy National Chairman (South) and Mr Paul Chukwuma as the National Auditor following nominations from the respective zones.”
Earlier, the National Vice Chairman (North-East), Salihu Mustapha, expressed support for the court decision. He told reporters that following the court injunction, Oshiomhole was in no position to issue any instruction as doing so will be “illegal, null and void.”
He explained that his intervention was based on information that Oshiomhole allegedly instructed the APC National Publicity Secretary to issue a statement announcing Waziri Bulama, as acting national secretary.
Mustapha said, “Immediately the court injunction was given, the national chairman called the party’s chief press secretary (national publicity secretary) to issue a statement to the press that Waziri Bulama is the (acting) National Secretary to the party.
“I believe you guys are aware of the meeting held about a month ago on that matter, which ended without a decision. Since then there has not been a decision as to the replacement of the secretary.
“The chairman is about to create more chaos within the party as he gave the order.
“The public should know that any decision that Oshiomhole makes henceforth is an illegal decision and will not hold.
“We will keep our fingers crossed until the court decides. I am saying this so that there can be no two acting national secretaries and there can be no affirmation from a national chairman that has been suspended.”
Later in the day policemen asked party officials and journalists to vacate the secretariat as ex-Edo governor’s supporters clashed with anti-Oshiomhole protesters outside the secretariat.
Attempts to get a response from the party’s National Legal Adviser, Babatunde Ogala, and the National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, were futile.
Reacting to the ruling, Obaseki and the APC chapters in Edo and Zamfara states said the embattled chairman should step down.
The Deputy Chairman of the APC in Ekiti State, Sola Elesin, in an interview with The PUNCH said Oshiomhole should obey the decision of the court which ordered him to step aside.
Elesin said, “The way forward is that he (Oshiomhole) should obey the law court. There is what we call ‘obey before complain’. The first thing is for him to abide by the instruction of the court. I support the court order because in a democratic setting, the court is the last hope.
“Some people have been agitating, even our state, that he should stop using autocratic powers. We abhor the type of attitude that he put to party administration and that was among the reasons some people went to court to ask him to step aside,” the APC deputy chairman said.
Obaseki, on his part, said the court ruling in Abuja affirming the suspension of Oshiomhole had shown that no man is God.
The governor said the problem he had with the APC national chairman was that he (Oshiomhole) failed to heed his advice to denounce the Edo Peoples Movement, a group supporting the former Edo State governor.
But addressing a crowd in Benin shortly after the ruling, Obaseki said he was not afraid of contesting against anybody, “but they have to do it according to the rules of the game.
“We have learnt a lesson and today is a new era in Edo State. I am saying this with all sense of responsibility considering where the party has come from,” he said.
The Obaseki- backed chairman, Anselm Ojezua, said it was a great day for the people of the state and the party that the Abuja High Court had finally suspended Oshiomhole.
But the Chairman of the Oshiomhole faction, Colonel David Imuse (retd.), dismissed the suspension of Oshiomhole, saying an appeal had already been filed against it.
Imuse, in a telephone interview with The PUNCH, said Oshiomhole remained the APC national chairman. “Oshiomhole remains our chairman and you know the ruling of that court is not final. We have already filed an appeal against it,” he said.
The Zamfara State chapter of the APC said it supported the suspension of Oshiomhole.
The state APC Vice Chairman, Alhaji Sani Mayanci, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “We are in full support of the court’s verdict against the national chairman of our great party APC, Adams Oshiomhole. We are strongly backing his suspension.”
He said the suspension of the National chairman was a right step in the right direction, considering the crises within the party which were believed to be the handiwork of Oshiomhole.
“He was responsible for all the crises within the party, as such his suspension is a good development,” said Mayanci.
The party’s National Vice Chairman (North-West), Inuwa Abdulkadir, who is also a life member of the Nigerian Body of Benchers, said, “The court order though not final is testimony of the fact that at the end of everything, the rule of law must prevail for democracy to thrive.
“We cannot continue to have arbitrariness as the norm in a decent society; for now as the law stands, Oshiomhole stands suspended from office and from my reading of the situation, the person who should step in as acting National Chairman, is the Deputy National Chairman (North), for the simple reason that the Deputy National Chairman (South) in the person of Otunba Niyi Adebayo, who was appointed minister hasn’t been replaced.”
Also speaking on the issue, the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, said, “The court acted within its jurisdiction and I want to believe it will help to bring sanity into our party.”