• Says ‘I’m alternative choice bringing fresh air’
As the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) prepares for its national convention next month, after the rancorous ward and local government congresses, former governor of Cross River State, Chief Clement Ebri, has joined the national chairmanship race.
The tenure of APC National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, ends next month, paving the way for a national convention to pick a new chairman and other National Working Committee (NWC) members, after the Ramadan.
Former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhlole, had formally indicated interested in contesting for the post in Abuja, in April.
Ebri confirmed his ambition to Daily Sun, last night, and insisted he is an alternative choice in the race.
Reminded that President Muhammadu Buhari, who had opposed elongation of Oyegun’s tenure, earlier approved by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), had allegedly thrown his weight behind Oshiomhole, the former governor said his joining the race is not to confront the president but to give APC members “the opportunity to make a choice.”
The former governor noted that he is coming with “a breath of fresh air and ideas that will make APC greater than it is today.”
It was gathered that Ebri enjoys the support of some former governors and some top Buhari’s loyalists, who want a level-headed chairman.
A top party chieftain told Daily Sun that Ebri is seen largely as a middle course between the Oyegun and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s tendencies in the APC. The Tinubu camp wants Oyegun out and supports Oshiomhole as replacement.
Sources said those pressing to have Ebri as APC national chairman said the fact that he, as governor, picked young men, who eventually became Cross River State governors, shows that he has foresight. They also pointed to the years he was state chairman of the defunct Action Congress (AC).
“As then state chairman of Action Congress, I went to persuade him to lead opposition parties into a coalition. But, he pleaded with me to spare him the agony of being seen to be contending with his boys – then governors Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke.
“As governor, Duke was his commissioner for Finance, while Imoke, then special adviser to (former president Olusegun 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 added: “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 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.”