• As ruling party holds make or break NEC meeting
As the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) today holds what has been dubbed a make or break National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting by some of its chieftains, the party has been split into three, along top runners in the race for the post of national chairman.
It was gathered that members and chieftains of the APC are looking beyond tenure elongation for the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and other members of the National Working Committee (NWC), towards who would take over the leadership of the party, ahead of the presidential primaries.
Sources close to party revealed that the fate of Oyegun to continue in office beyond June had already been sealed, going by the recommendations of the Governor Simon Lalong committee, which the NWC had set up to advise it on the way forward, in reaction to the sudden U-turn of President Muhammadu Buhari on tenure elongation for the party’s national exco.
Although details of the report have not been made public, Daily Sun gathered that the committee dashed the hope of the Oyegun-led NWC, as it kicked against tenure elongation for any of the party’s executives.
A member of the party’s NEC said there was no way the Lalong committee could have gone against President Buhari, who said no to tenure elongation for the APC leaders. He said the APC could have gone ahead to plan for a national convention after Buhari spoke against tenure elongation instead of setting up a committee to “now suggest a way forward.
“Although I have not seen the report of the Lalong committee, I can however, confirm to you that it cannot go against what the president wants. We are running against time, if only our members know. We need to hold the convention on time, so that whatever crisis that comes out of it can be resolved before we move into primaries in August or thereabout,” the party chieftain said.
Another party chieftain, who is about the third in hierarchy to Oyegun, also confirmed to Daily Sun yesterday that there was no way the Lalong committee would go against the president.
According to him, once the report is received and recommendations endorsed, the next thing would be to discuss about the congresses and set up committees that would come up with dates for the convention and congresses from wards to the states level.
With tenure elongation out of the picture, three tendencies, which are for a South-South national chairman, have emerged in APC, sources revealed.
One of the groups is pushing for Oyegun to seek reelection. Another group wants former Edo State governor, Adam Oshiomhole, while a third tendency wants ex-Cross River State governor, Clement Ebri.
Daily Sun gathered that some governors are putting pressure on Oyegun to consider seeking a second term, since the party’s constitution and Election Guidelines 2014, do not preclude him from running.
Sources close to the party’s national chairman, however, said he was undecided as at press time yesterday.
It was gathered that Oyegun is undecided yet over the provisions of the APC constitution, which stipulates that any party officials seeking reelection or any public servant seeking party office must quit 30 days to the national convention. By that provision, Oyegun would have to leave office before the expiration of his tenure in June.
The dilemma of the national chairman’s camp, it was gathered, is whether those pushing him to re-contest would stand by him by the time he resigns.
Apart from those rooting for Oyegun to seek a second term, there are others angling for Oshiomhole and Ebri.
Daily Sun gathered that Oshiomhole enjoys the support of former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and some serving and ex-governors, including some loyalists of Buhari.
Like Oshiomhole, Ebri is said to be enjoying the support of some ex-governors and some top Buhari’s loyalists, who wants a level-headed chairman.
A top party chieftain told Daily Sun that Ebri is seen largely as “game changer” and as a middle course between the Oyegun and Tinubu’s tendencies in the party.
Sources said those pressing to have Ebri as national chairman of APC said the fact that he, as governor, picked young men, who eventually became Cross River State governors, shows that he has foresight. They also point to the years he was state chairman of the Action Congress (AC).
“As then state chairman of Action Congress I had gone to persuade him to lead the opposition parties into a coalition. But he pleaded with me to spare him the agony of having to be seen to be contending with his boys- then Governor Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke. As governor, Duke was his commissioner of Finance, while Imoke, then SA to Obasanjo, was sponsored to the Senate – all of them in 1992,” a source said.
Explaining why APC needs to look the way of Ebri, the party chieftain further said: “Strategically, it is politically expedient that the office of national chairman be zoned to not just the South-South but to Cross River. This will ensure that the low hanging fruit is plucked with ease to re-enforce Edo State. It will be politically suicidal to bring a stiff-necked chairman or continue with an Edo chairmanship, where we are already having a government to hold the ground for APC.”
Sources revealed, however, that some elements in APC are looking outside the South-South for a national chairman.
It was gathered that there is a consideration for the South East, as the last resort.