■ Oyegun, Tinubu feud threatens party’s fortunes in 2019
■ As 2 gladiators go back to trenches
Omoniyi Salaudeen, Onyedika Agbedo (Lagos) and Romanus Ugwu (Abuja)
The decision by President Muhammadu Buhari to compel the All Progressives Congress (APC) to jettison the controversial tenure extension for the National Working Committee (NWC) has ostensibly widened the crack in the ruling party.
During the NEC meeting of the party held last Tuesday, President Buhari had kicked against the February 27, 2018 resolution which proposed one year tenure extension for the current executives at all levels, declaring it as illegal and unconstitutional.
This was with a view to avoiding needless litigations that could arise from the party’s primaries conducted by the ‘illegal’ officers.
Consequently, the party is now torn between the forces of change and that of the status quo.
Sunday Sun reliably gathered that the former group, consisting largely of the governors who are favourably disposed to Oyegun’s leadership is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that their wish eventually prevails. These include Governors Yahaya Bello (Kogi State); Malam Nasir El Rufai (Kaduna State); Umar Ganduje (Kano State); Aminu Masari (Katsina State); Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo State); and Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi State), as well as Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and some of his counterparts.
This is as some major stakeholders in the party loyal to the national leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, are also warming up for the imminent change of power ahead of the June expiration of the tenure of the current office holders.
According to sources within the National Assembly, a sizeable number of lawmakers, including key principal officers, have resolved to pitch their tents with the national leader.
They were motivated by the renewed confidence and close affinity between President Buhari and Tinubu. Similarly, some South-west governors (excluding Akeredolu) in conjunction with their counterparts in Edo and Imo states are also said to be mobilising their colleagues for smooth change of leadership in the coming convention.
Preparatory to that, Sunday Sun learnt that campaigns have been stepped up for a former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiohmole, who is being touted as a possible replacement for Oyegun.
In September 2016, Tinubu had openly called for Oyegun’s sack. And since then, his camp has continually perfected its strategy to scheme Oyegun out of the exalted position. Part of that strategy is the choice of his kinsman as the next national chairman.
As the scheming continues to gather momentum, there have been discordant tunes in the party. Some members of the NWC, who spoke with Sunday Sun, argued that conducting fresh congresses from the grassroots to the national level would spell doom for the party.
A member of the committee who did not want his name on print declared that the President had worsened the crisis situation in the party with his pronouncement on tenure elongation.
His words: “Sincerely speaking, Mr President misfired. Apart from the opportunity the caucus meeting provided in the eve of the NEC meeting, Mr President would have hinted the national chairman of such weighty decision ahead to see how it can be managed. To really worsen the matter, he said it before the media, denying us every opportunity of managing the information differently. He must be in a dreamland if he thinks that Tinubu alone can guarantee him ticket for re-election in the 2019. NWC members have nothing to lose. Mr President should watch his back.”
Another NWC member, who equally spoke in confidence, said: “For me, conducting fresh congresses will take the party backward. If we conduct primaries in Ekiti and Osun and the 36 states, as well as the national level, it will certainly scatter the party. Don’t forget that the 2019 general election is already around the corner. We cannot afford to carry litigations into the elections.
“Many of us have scores to settle with one another; many of us have justifiable reasons to be angry with one person or the other. But what shall we gain if we destroy the party in the process of pursuing our vengeances? The party members will be the greatest losers if the party is destroyed. Our concern should go beyond our personal anger against one another. Several interests will equally come to play in setting up the committee to resolve the tenure elongation logjam. I am afraid that the party may suffer defeat during the 2019 general elections.”
APC Chairman, Ebonyi State chapter, Pastor Eze Nwachukwu Eze, while warning against the disastrous effects of changing the national and state leadership of the party, said that there were possibilities that most states and local governments would parade parallel executives.
He said: “Let me appeal to our aggrieved sisters and brothers that there may not be APC after 2019 if we conduct congresses to elect national and state officers. We will play into the hands of the PDP and Obasanjo’s Third Force. Some governors under PDP states will have opportunity to manipulate the congress since the APC leadership in some states has no financial muscle to conduct state congresses.
“The best thing to happen for the APC to make appreciable impact in the 2019 general elections would be to allow the current national and state leadership to continue. Mark my word, APC will struggle to win any election in 2019 if we go into the election as a divided party.
“We should not forget in a hurry that the problem which made it impossible for the PDP to recover till today was going into the 2015 general elections as a divided party. We must avoid occurrence of such mistake of going into the 2019 elections with litigations and divisions.” However, Senator Rufai Hanga, in a quick response to the claims, dismissed the fear that organising a fresh election would lead to further crisis in the party.
He said: “Holding fresh convention won’t tear the party apart; it will rather strengthen democracy. Before the president made the call for fresh convention, people were already prepared to leave the party because they believed the party belonged to some people. Now that the majority of supporters who are not happy have the opportunity to aspire to position in the party, it is better for the party. It is in line with the position of the majority of our party members. In Kano, Kaduna, and several other places, that is the position of the majority.”
According to him, holding a fresh convention will give people the opportunity to aspire to different positions in the party.
“In most of the states, there was no election; the majority of aspirants were sidelined. They just wrote names of people they wanted into different offices. But now, a lot of people will have the opportunity to aspire into positions. I hope the party will stand its feet and make sure election holds. As we speak, some states are preparing to do the same thing they did the other time either by writing names or confirming the existing ones, which will not be good for the party,” he noted.
Also speaking in the same vein, Senator Joseph Waku stressed that the party would remain united if the people are allowed to elect leaders of their choice.
Commending the president for his resolution, he added: “The president is learning the rope of politicking. Having seen the reactions of the people, he has decided to act in line with the wish of the majority. That is the aspiration of our political leaders. We cannot run away from Obasanjo’s tenure elongation and watch another person coming again with it in another crafty manner; otherwise, we will be killing the system. I commend the president for respecting the constitution of our party, as well as the country’s constitution. It has saved the party from an imminent collapse; it has put an end to impunity and arrogance in leadership. Now that the president has given the party to the people, it is now left for us to decide who to vote for.”
While admitting that the convention ought to have come earlier, he maintained that creating a level playing ground for all aspirants would make the party stronger and more united.
“It should have been done before now. The party will remain united when the people are allowed to elect the leaders of their choice. When the tenure of the present NWC expires in June, a caretaker committee will be put in place to organise election into various offices. If the party zones the position of national chairman to the same zone and aspirants from the zone come out to contest, people will decide who they want. But if the process is going to be maneuvered by the godfathers, the people will oppose and resist it. We are no longer interested in anointing any particular individual for whatever guise. The process of electing political leaders must be through participation of the rank and file of the party supporters. It should not be a garrison where you give a marching order. Even if Oyegun himself wants to re-contest, he is free to do so. Nigerians are there to judge him whether or not he is a good leader. This is the way to reposition the party,” he posited.
Also speaking, renowned public affairs analyst, Mr Jide Ojo, said that the APC has nothing to fear if they intend to organise free and fair congresses and convention.
He said: “In a way, the APC wanted to use the extension of Oyegun’s tenure to mitigate the fallout of possible rancorous congresses and national convention in June this year, knowing full well that the nomination for the parties is coming up in the last quarter of 2018. Within the last one month, the president possibly held consultations and he is still pitching his tent with Tinubu by not only overruling the NEC on the extension, but also going to Lagos to honour Tinubu at the10th colloquium that was held few days ago. This obviously shows any political watcher that the president must have weighed his options and felt that he needs Tinubu more than Odigie-Oyegun. More so with his coming out to say that the NEC should reconsider the earlier position and make sure that they hold congresses and convention in accordance with constitution of the party and the country.
“On whether the fallout will not impact negatively on the chances of the party in 2019, there is no way it will not impact. But the choice is that of being between the devil and the deep blue sea, that is, whether to allow a one-year extension for Odigie-Oyegun and others or to go according to the dictates of the party’s constitution. Recall that some people are already in court challenging the extension. What it shows is that toeing the path of constitutionalism is a better choice than to say you want to wave constitutionality for political expediency. So, I think the president did the right thing by making sure that the APC does not work against its own constitution and that of the country. It is an imperfect option to hope to hold congresses and convention in June and then party primaries three months after or thereabout. But it’s better to err on the side of caution; the party shouldn’t have anything to fear if they are going to hold their congresses and convention according to the dictates of their constitution. If they have very transparent congresses and national convention that follows due process, irrespective of whoever may be disenchanted afterwards, the fallout will not be as much as if they abuse the processes and impose candidates. So, if they decide to do the right thing, even if some people are aggrieved in the end and want to decamp, it will be very minimal. Unless the party is telling Nigerians that in not wanting to hold congresses and conventions in June, they are not planning for a free and fair contest. If they are planning for a free and fair contest, I don’t think they have any reason to fear. Politics is all about conflict management; there will be conflicts, but how the party manages it is what makes it a better or bad party.”