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APC feud deepens as Party vice chair dares Nat’l Secretary over alleged defamation

Salihu Mohammed Lukman, the National Vice Chairman, North West, of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has described threats by the National Secretary of the Party, Sen. Iyiola Omisore, to sue him over alleged defamation as diversionary.

He said at issue was the demand for accountability for funds deployed for the prosecution of the last governorship election in Osun State, which he is entitled to.

A letter by Lukman’s lawyers, Lex-Hill City Attorneys, signed by Martins Joseph Esq and addressed to Omisore’s lawyers, Lords Temple, said the vice chairman had no apologies to offer the party scribe because Omisore does not deserve it.

“We write as solicitors to Mr. Salihu Mohammed Lukman (‘our Client’) and on whose instructions we write to acknowledge receipt and to reply to your letter dated 15th March 2023 on behalf of Senator Iyiola Omisore,” the letter read.

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“In the said letter, you referred to a statement made by our Client in the course of an interview with African Independent Television (‘AIT’) when he featured as a guest in one of their programmes, Jigsaw, hosted by Mr Gbenga Aruleba, which you alleged to have maligned the character of Senator Iyiola Omisore in his personal and political stature in Osun state and in Nigeria.

“It is the opinion of our Client that the statement he issued as a member and national officer of the All Progressives Congress (‘the APC’) is not false, not malicious or made to assassinate the character of your client as you suggested in your letter. The statement was purely a demand by a member of the APC for accountability from its National Secretary.

“Therefore, our Client believes that your client does not deserve any apology for the statement as it is within his constitutional rights as a member to demand accountability from a national officer of the APC, which was built on the premise of accountability”.

Needless distraction

Lukman on his part, has described as a needless distraction from the main issues of accountability and inclusive governance, threats by Senator Omisore to slam a defamation suit against him.

Lukman in an interview on the AlT alleged that Omisore might have mismanaged funds deployed for the last Osun State Governorship election.

“For instance, Osun State, which is part of the reason I said the National Secretary has failed, in terms of stabilizing Osun and uniting people. Part of the issue with that is that I am aware the party has given some campaign funds to Osun which was handled by the National Secretary and to some extent, he has either mismanaged it but more importantly, he is not accounting to anybody and you have to activate the process of accountability”, Lukman had allegedly said on the television programme.

Irked by Lukman’s comments, Omisore had through his lawyers, threatened to institute libel proceedings against him, and specifically demanded a retraction of the said libelous statement and an apology to be published in two major newspapers and several online news outlets as well as “the payment of the sum of N500 million as damages for malicious statement against our client” within 48 hours.

However, unremorseful Lukman accused Omisore of insulting him and sidestepping the issue. He did not only only insist on accountability in the party but added that it is not not properly run.

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“Sen. Omisore has sent abusive messages and requested his lawyer, Mr. Gboyega Oyewole, SAN, FCArb to ask me to retract my statement, make public apology and pay him the sum of N500 million in compensation for some alleged damages to ‘his character in the eyes of right-thinking Nigerians.’ I am in receipt of the letter from Lords & Temple, signed by Mr. Oyewole, dated 15th March, 2023 (the letter was actually wrongly dated 15th March 2022), Lukman said.

“Since Sen. Omisore’s response to the request for accountability is to threaten legal action, I have also instructed my lawyers to respond appropriately to his legal threat.

“However, as a committed party member I insist that the challenges facing us as a party and as a nation are broadly political and limiting our actions to the courts may only distract us from initiating the right responses to resolve the challenge of facilitating negotiations for inclusive government under the leadership of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“I want to restate that being leaders of the party, we are obligated to facilitate negotiations through our structures, namely National Executive Committee NEC and National Caucus. Unfortunately, as things are, these structures have been frozen by our inactions as members of the National Working Committee NWC led by Sen. Adamu and Sen. Omisore.

“No meetings of these structures have taken place for almost a year. Inability to make these structures functional will weaken the capacity to regulate the conduct of party leaders and we risk creating a situation whereby challenges of inclusivity will be further compounded in the country. Already, individual Senators-elect and House of Representative members-elect have begun to aspire to positions of Senate President and Speaker House of Representatives in a very insensitive and reckless manner.

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“May I once again remind all of us, both as leaders and APC members, that APC is a product of sacrifices and more than ever before the challenges we face today calls for sacrifices. Both our National Chairman, Sen. Adamu and National Secretary, Sen. Omisore must demonstrate willingness to make sacrifices to earn the respect and followership of Senators-elect and House of Representative members-elect.

“I make this appeal respectfully and without any ill-feeling to anyone, including Sen. Omisore. I stand by my position that Sen. Omisore is unable to unite party leaders and members in Osun State, which is responsible for why we lost the election.

“He is opposed to any demand for accountability and is resorting to acts of intimidation to perhaps manipulate processes of appointment into the Asiwaju-led Federal Government.

“What makes democracy attractive is the requirement for accountability and Sen. Omisore must be held accountable. We need to have accountable leaders to the process of negotiations to be facilitated by the party.”