With the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) poised to conduct its national convention soon, the outcome of the exercise may make or mar the party’s chances in the 2019 general election.
According to Tribune, many Senators, members of the House of Representatives, ministers, state legislators and a sizeable number of governors on the party’s platform are yet to back down on their opposition to the chairmanship ambition of a former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, despite entreaty by the leader of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari.
Led by the Imo State governor and chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum, Rochas Okorocha, the governors met with President Buhari where the latter appealed to them to back Oshiomhole.
Findings revealed that some of the governors and lawmakers are unrelenting and have their reservations about the character of the newly adopted candidate of the Presidency which they did not share with Buhari at the Tuesday meeting.
Meanwhile, the APC on Friday announced new dates for the conduct of its ward, local government and State Congresses.
A statement signed by its national publicity secretary, Bolaji Abdullahi gave May 5, 12 and 19, for conduct of ward, local government and State Congresses. The statement was however silent on the date for the national convention.
The initial dates for the congresses and convention were May 2, 5, 9 and 14 respectively.
A party source confided in Tribune that Buhari’s admonition may fall on deaf ears as governors and lawmakers with second term aspirations are comfortable with the sitting National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, whom they find pliable as he allows them to appropriate party structure in their respective states despite disavowal by other party bigwigs who have been sidelined in the running of the state chapters.
The party source cited state chapters like Kaduna, Kogi and Bauchi as dark spots where the governors latch onto the indifference of the outgoing National Working Committee despite petitions written to the national secretariat by aggrieved chieftains in the affected states.
“The table may be turned against them in an Oshiomhole administration as they don’t see him as a willing tool. Unlike an Oyegun who needs an el-Rufai to facilitate audience with President Buhari, Comrade Oshiomhole enjoys a warm relationship with the president and doesn’t need a third party,” the source argued.
The APC Governors’ Forum, a powerful block within the ruling party, may have lost out in the unfolding power game ahead of the convention. Checks revealed that the Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, is leading the pro-Oyegun forces in the North-West with support from the likes of Yahaya Bello from North-Central. But the rug has since been pulled off their feet as a major player in the North-West, the governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, was privy to the London meeting where a former governor of Lagos State and national leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, presented Oshiomhole as his anointed candidate to President Buhari.
Tinubu’s deftness in winning the Kano State governor to his side is a masterstroke as Kano is coming to the convention with the highest number of delegates.
It was gathered that President Buhari’s Tuesday declaration of support for Oshiomhole ostensibly caught the governors napping.
Following Buhari’s intercession for Oshiomhole, Tinubu’s estranged allies in the South-West, the governors of Ogun and Ondo states, Ibikunle Amosun and Rotimi Akeredolu are in a dilemma as regards what to do with the new development.
South-South ministers: Amaechi’s connection
The immediate past Edo State governor’s ambition suffered a setback in his South-South geopolitical zone during the week.
At the meeting held at the Government House, Benin, the South-South caucus led by its zonal chairman, Honourable Hillard Eta, endorsed Oshiomhole as its consensus candidate.
Four of the six state chairmen of the party from the South-South, however, distanced themselves from the purported endorsement.
They are the Rivers State APC chairman, Chief Davies Ikanya; Bayelsa State APC chairman, Deacon Joseph Fafi; his Cross River State counterpart, Mr Etim John and the Akwa Ibom State APC chairman, Dr Amadu Attai. Also in league against Oshiomhole is the APC Deputy National Secretary, Victor Giadom.
The dissenting chairmen dismissed the endorsement as an adoption of Oshiomhole by the Edo State chapter of the party and argued that the party’s National Chairman, Chief Odigie-Oyegun should be given a right of first refusal to seek re-election into the position.
They further submitted that having been granted waiver by the NEC of the party, Chief Oyegun could seek a fresh mandate.
A source revealed that serving ministers from the South-South who are in support of the aspiration of Chief Oyegun may have polarised the South-South caucus against the Presidency’s adopted candidate, Oshiomhole.
Just as the governors seeking second-term tickets enjoy the support of Chief Oyegun ahead of the party’s governorship primaries which are expected to hold in September, ministers are also throwing their weights behind him for entrenched interest, in virtually all states including where the party does not have a sitting governor.
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani, has been engaged in war of attrition for the control of the Cross River State chapter of the party with the national Vice Chairman, Hillard Eta.
Pastor Usani, who is believed to be nursing a governorship ambition, recently installed his lackey, John Etim, as the chairman of the State chapter of the party to secure his ticket ahead of the primary.
Honourable Eta has since insisted that John Ochalla remains the chairman of the party in the state and further alleged that Chief Oyegun connived with Pastor Usani to conduct a congress in the zone without recourse to the zonal executive of the party.
The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, an ally of the Kaduna State governor, El-Rufai, in the Oyegun campaign, also played a major role in frustrating Oshiomhole’s endorsement, last Monday.
The former Rivers State governor has an axe to grind with Oshiomhole. Both enjoy warm relationship with President Buhari. Edo is the only state in the South-South under the control of the APC.
A party source claimed that the emergence of the former Edo State governor as national chairman would reduce Amaechi’s influence in the zone.
“He has positioned himself as party leader not only in Rivers State but the entire South-South and he decides who gets what in terms of federal appointments. Oyegun looks the other way despite protests from well-meaning party leaders in the zone.
“Those benefitting from his meekness want the status quo to continue because they know Oshiomhole will alter the power equation,” the source argued.
Pressure on Oyegun to resign
A source linking two governors at the Wednesday meeting with the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, confirmed the adoption.
Beyond the adoption, Pressure to get the incumbent chairman, another ex-governor of the state, John Oyegun, to drop his perceived plan to fight his way back to the seat at the national convention, tentatively scheduled for June.
Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s open support for Oshiomhole, the nuances of the unfolding drama in the party, show that Oyegun has a fighting chance to return to his job in June, despite the opposition of another leading light of the party, former Lagos state governor, Bola Tinubu.
Though all the governors of the party are publicly deemed to be against Oyegun, Saturday Tribune gathered that some of them who were initially backing the outgoing chairman, had not completely dropped their support, but shifted to Oshiomhole’s side, in order not to be seen as opposing the president’s choice.
Top president men are reportedly unflinching in their support for Oyegun whose style of leadership is said to be in sync with their idea of how the party should be run, and are reportedly working round the clock to shock the anti-extension elements at the convention.
Oshiomhole’s supporters, now including Tinubu and his camp, are said to be aware of this move, maybe not in its totality, and are packaging a counter-move to nip it in the bud.
Top on their plan, is persuading the president to dissuade Oyegun from running at all.
An NWC contact called on Friday said there must a convention date before the issue of who picks nomination form or not, could be discussed.
Except there is a direct presidential persuasion for Oyegun to forgo his re-election bid, his supporters are confident he would not only run, but win.
Even those who are planning to drop out of party politics amongst the current NWC members, still have some governors on their case, asking them to run alongside Oyegun again, so their team could be returned as an indivisible entity.
One of such NWC members told Saturday Tribune on Friday that he was done spending his money to conduct party businesses and would not succumb to the pressure from the pro-Oyegun governors.
A member of the NWC disclosed that he had stopped attending meetings, following the sudden volte-face of the president on the tenure elongation project.
“I don’t care about whatever they are doing there (party) again” he said.
Calls to the mobile phones of Bolaji Abdullahi, the party’s spokesperson rang out.
Early resignation is also being mulled for Oyegun, before his tenure officially ends.
“If he has any sense of shame, he should resign and go away quietly. He has no home support” a senior party member supporting Oshiomhole told Saturday Tribune Friday evening.
He confirmed that the governors of the party had made it clear to Oyegun that they had moved on from their initial support for him and he should consider dropping his ambition for re-election.
It was the news from the said meeting which could have Oshiomhole as the consensus candidate that reportedly sent the Edo government house into a frenzy Thursday night.
If Oyegun held out too long for the comfort of those who want to see his back, the alleged corruption case against him at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is another button on which his traducers have their thumbs, and could be pressed against him, for further damage.
The president is however said to hold the ace on Oyegun’s future in the party.
Despite the discomfort of the perceived renewed chummy relations between Oshiomhole and Tinubu who before now had been slightly estranged, Buhari was said to have been talked out of the Oyegun project, after the arithmetic of 2019 zonal voting was made clear to him.
Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, seen as the leading anti-Oshiomhole leader from the South-South zone, was said to have been comparatively weighed on political scale with Tinubu on vote delivery, with the result reportedly made clear to the president that Tinubu would always deliver more.
“It was made clear to the president that Amaechi can’t even deliver Rivers, let alone South-South. How can anyone compare him with Tinubu? The president was wise to let go on Oyegun. The governors made it clear that they will deliver their states, but can Amaechi promise same?
“Governor….. (name withheld) told me anyone who mentions Buhari in his state and mostly our area (North Central) will be killed. South-West is the only hope of getting the president re-elected. It will be disastrous to fight Tinubu over Oyegun,” an Edo government house source told Saturday Tribune.
The president is Fulani, national patron of the herdsmen association and generally perceived as being too soft in official actions against the killer herdsmen.
If elected, Oshiomhole could spend about a week in the North Central zone for a trouble-shooting expedition.
Oyegun’s supporters are not giving up either, working out the arithmetic that could keep him on his job.
Apart from not counting all governors genuinely for Oshiomhole, those who are not in control of party structures in their states among the governors, are also being added to the not-too-committed governors.
Such states with gladiators higher than the governor like Kwara, are being counted in favour of Oyegun arsenal.
Statutory delegates who do not have the confidence of their governors and are likely to be denied home support in their states, are reportedly also being counted on the incumbent side.
There are also disgruntled party stalwarts who are said to have concluded on dumping the party, but would stay behind for the convention, before jumping ship.
A source listed two Northern governors and a couple of National Assembly leaders in this category.
“They will add to the drama before checking out” the senior party man told Saturday Tribune.
A conspiracy theory is also being thrown in the mix, with speculations that the open demonstration of presidential support for Oshiomhole, could be a ruse to put the Tinubu camp on false balance, before pulling the rug at the convention and get Oyegun re-elected on the excuse that the party rebels spurned the president.
A strong Tinubu ally said; “My brother, they wont try it. Yes, it is a possible scenario but the president is too politically-wise to do that. We have Plan B and we will activate it. In fact, more loyalists will be sacrificed in days ahead. Two plus two in politics isn’t always four.”.
Credits: Tribune (Lanre Adewole, Taiwo Amodu)