Clash of APC Titans

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The fallout of governorship primaries of the All Progressives Congress of Ondo State is tearing the party apart as John Odigie-Oyegun national chairman and Ahmed Tinubu, a national leader of the party, disagree

By Olu Ojewale  |  Oct 3, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THE frosty relationship between Ahmed Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State and national leader the All Progressives Congress, APC, and John Oyegun, national chairman of the party, is tearing the party apart.

The disagreement which emanated over the conduct of the APC primaries in Ondo State has brought both sides on a collision course. Apparently, the conflict has shown how deeply divided the ruling party has become in recent times, especially as some elders are believed to have been sidelined in the scheme of things under the leadership of Odgie-Oyegun. Interestingly, it is those who are supposed to be the leading light of the party that are going for each other’s jugular and leading the divisive campaign in the conflict because of their interest.

One of the latest personalities to join the fray is Atiku Abubakar, a former vice-president. Abubakar on Wednesday, September 28, supported Tinubu in condemning the action of the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, which overruled the appeal panel’s recommendation that there should be a re-run of the party’s governorship primaries won by Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, in Ondo State.  But Odigie-Oyegun had overruled the NWC’s decision to go along with the panel’s report and submitted Akeredolu’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as the APC candidate for the November 26, governorship election.

Atiku, in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday by his media office, while condemning Odigie-Oyegun’s action, urged the party’s NWC to promote the rule of law and due process in the conduct of its affairs. According to him, this is necessary for the unity and stability of the party, adding that the leaders should stop breaking their own rules.

He called on the APC to always be guided by respect for the rules, fairness, equity, neutrality and respect for democratic consensus.

Abubakar similarly appealed to aggrieved members of the APC in the Ondo election to exercise restraint in seeking redress to the crisis, while also calling on the leadership of the party to retrace its steps and restore confidence among the conflicting parties in the state for the overall benefit of the ruling party.

One of the fierce opponents of Odigie-Oyegun, as it has appeared is Timi Frank, acting national publicity secretary of the APC, who is backing Tinubu’s call for the resignation of the party’s national chairman.

He said he had seen the problem, but nobody had believed him. Frank said: “I said there was crisis within the party. At that time, I was alone; nobody saw what I saw coming. The crisis of this party came up when the issue of the National Assembly came up; the position of the party leadership against its own party members, Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara, for the party to close its eyes to the travails of these two men.

“Today, God has vindicated me after the Ondo primary. A national leader of our party, a founding father of the party has agreed with my earlier call that Odigie-Oyegun should resign as national chairman. I knew from day one that the person that we have as national chairman could not give what he does not have.

“It is now clear that (Odigie-) Oyegun cannot take this party to where it is going. Can we now deny that one of the founding fathers of this party has come out clear to say Oyegun should resign?’’

But a member of the APC’s NWC who would not want his name in print believes that Tinubu is asking for too much. He said in an interview: “Let’s be honest, the APC does not belong to any individual. It is a give and take thing. Tinubu asked for and got the VP slot; he has members of his political family in the cabinet and even heads of government agencies. What else does he want?”

Odigie-Oyegun
Odigie-Oyegun

Similarly, Ibrahim Musa, chairman of the APC United Front, a group in the APC, has described as laughable, calls by Tinubu on Odigie-Oyegun, to resign as chairman of the party. Musa, in a statement, said: “The world has seen a more progressive party in APC under Oyegun’s dynamic leadership. Chief Oyegun is not under the influence of a powerful and sinister arm of government. He will never thwart the will of the people.” He lauded the leadership qualities of the party national chairman, describing him as “a man of honour, integrity and dignity.” He praised Odigie-Oyegun for his strategic roles in internal party governance and in the development and promulgation of party policy. He said: “The leaders eulogised Oyegun for giving equal rights and opportunities to members of the APC regardless of status, class and affiliation. Oyegun has the leadership quality which goes with creativity, sensitivity, compassion, innovation, courage, vision, character, competence and a very high dosage of patriotism. He is an embodiment of transparency and accountability.” He argued that Odigie-Oyegun for bringing about a more dynamic way of administering the affairs of the party, sacrificing his comfort to work tirelessly for the party and for allowing the wheel of democracy to run constitutionally, adding that “as a man with impeccable record in governance and party politics, Chief Oyegun will never derail from the path of honour.”

Reacting to the crisis in the APC, Tanko Yakasai, an elder statesman and former aide to ex-President Shehu Shagari, called on Tinubu to condemn what he described as the current injustice in the party before it degenerated.

Yakasai said he had seen the crisis coming and therefore, urged the former governor of Lagos to tackle President Muhammadu Buhari, alleging that Tinubu’s political travails were well-thought-out and plotted in the Presidency.

He charged: “From all indications, every right thinking person will figure out a sinister plot to bundle out Tinubu from the hierarchy of the APC; and I want to believe this is coming from the Presidency. The situation at the moment is that apart from the CPC (Congress for Progressive Change) members, everybody in the government is a mere onlooker.’’

Holding a similar view is Femi Fani-Kayode, former minister of aviation and a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who described the way the APC national chairman has been treating Tinubu as reprehensible. Fani-Kayode alleged that the problems facing Tinubu goes deeper than the Ondo State primaries, saying it was a well plan by a cabal in the Buhari-led CPC.

“They simply used Tinubu’s old ACN as a compliant and ready piggy-back to catapult their way back to power and once they achieved that they never looked back. Some of us warned Tinubu at the time about the dangers of riding the tiger and allowing himself to be used by these very dark and sinister forces but he would not listen.

“No true student of history could have made such a cataclysmic and monumental error given the terrible experiences of others from the south-west, and indeed, the entire south, who collaborated with such ultra-conservative, sectarian and arcane forces with a clear and distinct ethnic and religious agenda in the past. Such forces can never be comfortable with a well-connected, highly sophisticated, independent-minded, strong, unpredictable, uncontrollable and experienced Yoruba leader and southern gladiator with a June 12th pedigree, a NADECO background, a massive war-chest and a widespread and formidable political base. They may use him to achieve their objective but they can never trust him or allow him to have control of the party machinery or to wield any real power when it comes to running the affairs of the nation,” the former minister said in his recent article on the matter.

To people outside the APC, Tinubu may have been used and dumped and even abandoned by those he helped to get into power, but it appears that the party does not want to project such an image.

Odigie-Oyegun, who spoke on Monday, September 26, in Benin, said Tinubu remained a highly respected leader of the party. He said: “Asiwaju is a well respected leader of our party; so, I cannot be seen speaking evil against him. I have to consult properly with other leaders of the party before we make any definite statement. Again, you know we have a crucial election here in Edo, which is my priority right now.

“We do not want to lose focus and I know Asiwaju also wants us to win because we all have worked hard for this. So, maybe, after the election, if there is need, I will speak. If (there is) no need, I will relax. But all I can say now is that most of the things said in the papers about me are not true.”

On the controversial Ondo State primaries, Odigie-Oyegun said: “I believe that if primaries of parties are not credible, it may derail any democracy.  So, I do not play with these things at all. Everybody knows me and I do not joke with my credibility and I have tried to maintain it.’’

The APC national chairman was said to have denied Segun Abraham, Tinubu’s favoured candidate for the APC ticket, the opportunity of clinching the party ticket when he overruled the NWC decision to follow the recommendation of the appeal panel, which ordered a re-run of the primaries.

Apparently irked by the audacity, Tinubu on Sunday, September 25, accused Odigie-Oyegun of allegedly working against the ideals of the APC in the handling of the governorship primaries in Ondo State.

However, there were reports on Wednesday that the party had mandated the APC Governors’ Forum to intervene in the crisis. Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the House of Representatives were said to have been mandated to meet Tinubu.

It was reported on Wednesday September 28, that the crisis was one of the issues discussed at a meeting Tambuwal and Dogara had with President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, September 27.

Besides, a senior member of the party also said that the APC might summon an emergency National Executive Committee meeting after the Edo State governorship election to iron out some of the contending issues. That will, no doubt, give the party the opportunity to put its house in order. But watchers of the party have pointed out that until the deep-seated animosity which started from the time Bukola Saraki, Senate president, and Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the House of Representatives, went against the party directives, there might not a genuine peace in the party ahead of 2019 general election.

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