President Muhammadu Buhari has set a record as the first Nigerian leader to host the meeting of an organ of a political party in the Council Chambers of the State House, Abuja.
Mr Buhari conducted the meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) on Thursday in the chamber, a facility reserved for top government meetings and functions.
Built by the Ibrahim Babangida military administration in the early 90’s as part of the Presidential Villa, otherwise called Aso Rock, the expansive chamber hosts the meetings of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), National Council of State, National Economic Council and National Security Council, all of which are purely governmental affairs.
Presidents also host their visitors in the chamber.
Although there is no law that bars holding such party meetings in the council chamber, the Thursday meeting was the first time such meeting of a political party held in the chamber in its three decades of existence.
PREMIUM TIMES can report that it would be the first time a meeting of an organ of the ruling party would be held inside the chamber in the current democratic dispensation which began in May 1999.
APC NEC, which comprises members of the National Working Committee (NWC), state governors who are members of the party, leaders of the National Assembly who are members of the party, and others, is the second-highest decision-making organ of the party after the national convention.
Top of its functions, according to Article 13.3 of the APC Constitution, are to summon and convene the national convention and prepare its agenda; exercise and take disciplinary actions on all organs, officers and members of the party and determine appeals brought before it by any member or organ of the party; and create, elect and appoint any committee it may deem necessary, desirable or expedient, and assign to them such powers, and functions as it may deem fit and prosper.
Its meetings are usually conducted at the party headquarters in the Wuse 2 District of Abuja.
Last Thursday’s meeting of the APC NEC meeting was hosted by Mr Buhari. The meeting, conducted virtually, in adherence to the COVID-19 protocols, was attended by his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo,
Some state governors, leadership of the National Assembly, and other members of the body, were present at the meeting physically even as others attended virtually.
A major highlight of the resolutions taken at the meeting is the dissolution of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC led by Adams Oshiomhole, and the appointment of a 13-member National Caretaker Committee (NCC) to administer the party for the next six months.
The meeting also ratified the party’s governorship primary in Edo State, which produced Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the winner and also directed members who instituted cases in court to withdraw them.
The chairman of the caretaker committee and governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, was immediately sworn-in by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in the council chamber, venue of the parley.
Mr Buhari’s predecessors, Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, all of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), whose administrations spanned 16 years, never hosted any meeting of the NEC of their party in the chamber while in office.
They attended the meetings of their party’s NEC at its Wadata Plaza headquarters located in Zone 5 Wuse District of Abuja.
However, on several occasions, the three leaders hosted the meetings of the National Caucus of the PDP, to which they belonged, in the Banquet Hall of the State House.
Only once in 2008 did Mr Yar’Adua host a meeting of the PDP National Caucus at the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre in the Central Business District of Abuja.
Meetings of the national caucus comprising senior members of the party were held ahead of those of NEC and National Conventions.
Mr Buhari, on his part, had hosted meetings of APC leaders on a few occasions in the Banquet Hall, just as he had attended both NEC and National Caucus meetings at the party’s headquarters in the Wuse II District of the federal capital.
It is not clear how the president arrived at the decision to host a partisan meeting in the chamber.
However, what is certain is that shortly before the meeting, the police had sealed off the APC secretariat apparently to stop the aggrieved members of the dissolved NWC from gaining entry.
It was the second time in one week that the police would do so.
Angered by the development, the PDP said the president violated his oath of office by using government facilities and resources to conduct party affairs.
The main opposition party accused the president of desecrating the sanctity of the nation’s seat of power.
“Our party describes this action of Mr President in using public facilities and resources for APC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, as the height of corruption as well as desecration of the sanctity of the seat of power and our national values,” PDP spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, said.
“Never in the history of our nation has governance been so devalued to the extent of using the hallowed chamber of the highest executive body in the country, where high-level executive decisions are taken, for an illegal, wrongly constituted and Nicodemus meeting of a political party.”
The PDP also criticised Mr Malami for desecrating the 1999 Constitution (as amended) “by functioning as a notary public to a political party, in total disregard for his oath of office, the code of conduct prohibitions under the 5th Schedule and extant public service rules.”
Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, media aides to the president, could not be reached to comment on this story.
Both did not respond to telephone calls from this newspaper on Saturday.