As members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) heave sigh of relief over the resolution of the recent tenure elongation crisis that nearly tore the apart, many party faithful would be shocked to learn that it is not yet uhuru for the ruling party. This is because the crisis in the APC has shifted from the issue of tenure elongation to succession battle, investigations by Saturday Telegraph has revealed. Just a few days ago, the governors elected on the platform of the APC closed ranks and backed President Muhammadu Buhari’s option of an election to retain the party’s executives or usher in new ones at all levels.
The party’s National Executive Council (NEC) had extended the tenure of the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and other National Working Committee (NWC) members for one year, an option that the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu kicked against. Now, having settled for an elective convention to be held at all levels, another battle, a double-edged sword, which is set to cause more uproar within the party, reared its ugly head.
Presidency, govs want Oyegun to run again
While a group of governors allegedly backed by the presidency is reportedly rooting for Oyegun to retain his seat, another group, said to be loyal to Tinubu, is not just fighting to replace the chairman, but also wants to ensure that their camp produces the new APC helmsman during the June convention. A source privy to happenings within the top echelon of the party told Saturday Telegraph that with the support Oyegun had been receiving from some power blocs within the presidency and some of the state governors, he would have no choice than to vie for a second term in office.
The APC top shot insisted that some of those close to Buhari are not favourably disposed towards the names being peddled. He noted that the power bloc within the Presidency is more comfortable with Oyegun, who they believe is absolutely loyal to Buhari, an opinion Saturday Telegraph tried to confirm from the Presidency. All efforts to get the media aides to the President, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, proved abortive as the duo were said to be away, on a visit to the President’s country home in Daura.
Though Shehu picked his call, the line was croaky and he promised to call but did not as at the time this newspaper went to bed, while Adesina did not pick his call. The Presidency source had told Saturday Telegraph: “We can’t take chances. This is about 2019 election and we cannot gamble with those we cannot trust. The National Chairman is too loyal to the president and with him still on board; Buhari’s re-election is a done deal.
“Do you know how many governors are behind the chairman? They are not just too many; they also have the backing of people from the Presidency. “Those who want the chairman to go will be disgraced. They would be shocked because those working for the chairman in the Presidency are too big to be ignored”, the source said. “Even in the other camp, they don’t know what they want. They just want Tinubu to see them as doing his bidding but they are not tactical.
“They don’t want Oyegun, at the same time they want to produce the chairman. That’s not possible, you can’t eat your cake and have it. “If you don’t want Oyegun, negotiate with us to change him, and still pick somebody from our camp. But you want us to remove him and put your own person. Do you think we are fools? “We have agreed with them, we shall go for election during the next convention. They have won the battle but let us see how they will win the war”, he said .
Tinubu’s camp cautiously optimistic
However, an ally of the National Leader has denied that Tinubu is involved in the power play as he claims that the former Lagos governor has no candidate. “Tinubu has no candidate, he doesn’t care who emerges during the convention. He just believes in the rule of law and that is why he is insisting on an elective convention”.
But when probed further, he agreed that Tinubu, though might not be too keen on choosing a replacement for Oyegun, he is fighting that the APC National Chairman should not return. “He doesn’t want Oyegun to return, that is the truth. And he will play all his politics to ensure that Oyegun does not return. But he knows he may not be able to produce the new chairman. “The governors are in control of the party and even Buhari knows that the governors don’t want the National Leader to produce the new chairman. So, I assure you that Tinubu has no candidate”, he said.
Technical committee submits report
This is coming as the technical committee set up by the NEC of the party yesterday submitted its report, in which it partially toed the new line of the governors, recommending that an election be held. An ally of one of the committee members told Saturday Telegraph that the committee had no choice than to toe the President’s line.
Submitting the report, the chairman of the technical committee, Governor Simeon Lalong of Plateau State, said if the document is adhered to, it would douse the tension in the party. Lalong, while submitting five copies of the report to Oyegun at the party’s National Secretariat, said: “This report was accepted by all our committee members including those that have travelled back to their destinations. We did our best within short time to ensure that we get the report ready within the accepted time, so that this party can move forward.
“The task appeared not easy when it was given to us but with God on our side and the very wide consultations we made, this report has solved most of the problems that we were thinking was within the APC.
So, that is to tell you that there is democracy in the APC. “We looked at the meeting of February 27; we looked at also the passion and the commitment of Mr. President towards keeping the party as one and also cohesive. And so, at the end of the day, we made far-reaching recommendations. “We noticed that there were different interests, which is quiet usual when you have a party like this that is progressive and those interest were genuine but at the end of the day, we were able to marry those interests so that the party can move forward.
So, in this report, you will see a lot of it. “The report also contains recommendations of certain issues that we think the party should do immediately. And one of them, you have already started; that if these recommendations are going to be useful within the shortest time, the party must summon a NEC meeting. “Already we have received notices of NEC meeting for Monday, which is also in line with our recommendations and we want to assure you that at the end of the day, APC is coming back to life.” In his reaction, Oyegun thanked the committee for expeditiously concluding the assignment, saying that: “The report will lay to rest, the ghost that had been hovering over the party.” The report would be presented to members of National Executive Committee (NEC) at the meeting slated for Monday.
Fears over NEC meeting, faithful poised for war
However, there are fears that the report may not be discussed at the NEC meeting on Monday as some people have started canvassing that the NEC meeting was fixed by some APC governors and not NWC members. They also argue that the notice of the meeting did not meet the requirement of the party’s constitution. The APC constitution provides that for an emergency NEC meeting to be held, seven days notice must be given to members.
Those against the holding of the meeting argued that the notice for the NEC meeting was issued on Wednesday, indicating six days notice, which some have argued, does not meet the constitutional requirement. To this end, some party faithful are already poised for a showdown over the report, arguing that whatever the committee recommends would be dead on arrival.
They have vowed to ensure that Monday’s NEC meeting will not discuss the matter, therefore Buhari’s option that the party should go for an elective position must be upheld. Other sources close to the leadership of the party informed our correspondents that the debate might be heated on Monday because those who do not want the NEC meeting to hold are set to use the constitutional provisions to stampede the Oyegun executive.
“The meeting may not hold, we are not sure of anything for now. The truth is that, they don’t want the meeting to hold. And unfortunately, we have played into their hands because the NEC meeting did not meet the requirements of the law. “It is the same law that the president was talking about on the tenure elongation. We keep step-siding the law and that is what took us to this point. “We need to have seven days to hold the meeting but what we have is just six days. How will that work?” He queried.
The ally of a committee member, who earlier claimed to have an insight into the report said the National Chairman had beforehand warned that the wishes of the Buhari as the leader of the party, must be respected by all, therefore the committee’s report could not have favoured an extension for Oyegun’s NWC, else it would not be taken serious. According to the source, the governors who are loyal to Oyegun are bent on having him remain in office or be allowed to bring his successor, if the National Chairman chooses not to run.
“If the governors cannot get Oyegun to seek re-election, they will put another candidate to lead the party, they already have someone they are tipping”, the source said. Further speaking, he said that the governors have resolved not to allow an individual nominate the National Chairman of the party as it was the case in 2014.
“The former Lagos governor single handedly nominated Oyegun in 2014, such wont happen again. It must come from the group. The governors have said Oyegun’s successor must come from them, independent of any one person. “But Oyegun himself has decided to allow the wishes of the President to prevail. He said that he is more interested in the stability of the party than continuing in office as National Chairman. “He has said clearly that whichever way the report of the technical committee goes, we must respect Buhari’s decision because the Mr. President is the leader of the party”, the source said.