Saturday, October 15, 2016 1:53 pm
John Odigie Oyegun, the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress and the National Leader of the party, former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu may not jus destablise the ruling party with other potential dangerous fallouts.
By Ayorinde Oluokun/Abuja
It was a book launch, and if you like, an occasion to celebrate President Muhammadu Buhari whose biography is the cause for the gathering of heavyweights in Nigeria’s socio-economic and political milieu at International Conference Centre, Abuja recently.
But the guests, principally made up of government officials, politicians and governors across party lines among others were also on a look out for a cue that will indicate the state of what seem a brewing storm in the ruling party. However, those who expected the two protagonists in the “storm” APC’s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and John Oyegun to at worst, rain abuses on each other or at best, shun each other were disappointed. The two men warmly greeted and even hugged each other to the delight of many anxious party supporters as the cameras clicked away.
However, the simmering crisis resurfaced less than 24 hours later at two places, Aso Rock presidential villa, Abuja and Abuja national secretariat of APC also in the capital city. A group of youths besieged the national secretariat of APC in protest at what they described as the “Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu ’s overbearing influence on party affairs.”
The youths who described themselves as All Progressives Congress Democratic Youth Frontiers were armed with banners with inscriptions some of which read: “We are united in APC, Tinubu can’t separate us,” “Tinubu is not God,” “Greed is not democracy,” “No room for an emperor.” They were led by one Lookman Salaudeen who told journalists that there is need to curtail the influence of Tinubu within the party. He also accused the national leader of the party of sponsoring attacks against ministers and other appointees of the Presidents.
“We call on Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu to either leave the APC, (or) curtail his greed (and) toe the line and exhibit the kind of loyalty needed for party cohesion whether from ordinary members or national leaders. Nigeria is bigger than Lagos State, where you control affairs like a god; whose words are sacred and must be obeyed at all times,” Salaudeen told journalists.
Few hours after the protest, the Senior Special Adviser to the President on media and public affairs, Femi Adesina sent literarily sent the internet ablaze when he tweeted a picture of President Buhari laughing full heartedly at a meeting with the embattled chairman of APC.
The picture in which Oyegun was seen holding a file revives discussion of the feud within the ruling party on the social media, with various insinuations of who of the two feuding leaders of APC the President is supporting. But Oyegun not only disowned the protesters at the APC Secretariat, he also tried to downplay the disagreement with the party’s national leader in a chat with journalists after his meeting with the President. “There is no rift with Asiwaju. We have difference of opinions, difference of perception and I think that is normal. Yes, I agree that the nature of the (Tinubu’s) statement was a bit harsh,” he said.
However, when he was asked if he will resign as demanded by Tinubu in a letter published in many newspapers, the former Edo State Governor said, “The methods of getting rid of a national chairman, if that is what I will call it, are spelt out in the constitution. They don’t take place on the pages of newspapers.”
The simmering feud between the APC National Leader and his long term associate, Oyegun boil to the fore when Tinubu about two weeks ago, in a letter asked the national leader of the ruling party to resign over his handling of gubernatorial primary of Ondo gubernatorial election. Ironically, it was famous lawyer and another long term associate of Tinubu, Barrister Tunji Abayomi who set off controversies over the primary when in an open letter, he accused the APC National leader of favouring one of the aspirants for the APC gubernatorial ticket, Dr Segun Abrahams.
Abayomi who is also an aspirant in the primary had in the letter alleged that Tinubu summoned Ondo APC leaders to his Lagos home where he “told them who the candidate of the party would be and directed them to work for him assuring them of your (Tinubu’s) financial support. The lawyer who accused the former Lagos governor of involvement in series of undemocratic practices and dictatorial tendencies added that the summoning of party officials to a meeting and the instruction to them to support one aspirant, in his view “violated the right to fairness and “amounted to undue influence to unjustly favour an aspirant.”
Abayomi further alleged that Tinubu imposed a candidate, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu, on the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria in the 2012 governorship election in the state and failed, he should not repeat the mistake in the 2016 governorship primary of the APC. Abayomi described Tinubu as a “man who frustrates the democratic aspirations of Nigerians through his dictatorial tendencies,” in the letter which was first published on a popular website went viral within hours of its coming into public domain, eliciting different reactions within and outside the APC fold. But the former Lagos Governor fired back with his own letter, asserting that he reserves the right to back whoever he likes to emerge as candidate of APC in the Ondo governorship election. He did not deny his preference for Abraham among the hordes of aspirants for the gubernatorial ticket.
Tinubu who described Abayomi’s letter as “an impetuous display unbecoming a man of your status and a man seeking the highest leadership position in his state,” added that the lawyer would not have complained if he was the one he endorsed. The allegations and counter allegations degenerated into crisis in the Ondo State chapter of APC with the 24 aspirants for gubernatorial ticket taking sides. The state Chairman of the party, Isaac Kekemeke who was accused of doctoring the list of delegates for the governorship primary to favour the emergence of Abraham was impeached by some party members who announced his replacement with Saka Ogunleye.
Oyegun Moves in
To clam frayed nerves, the Oyegun led National Working Committee, NWC of APC invited the aspirants and other stakeholders in the governorship election to Abuja for a meeting few days to the primary. At the ‘peace meeting’ Oyegun assured the aspirants and their supporters that the leadership of APC has not favoured candidate for the gubernatorial primary. But he asserted that any member of the party has the right to endorse any aspirant and it will up to delegates to vote for who they want as their flag bearer in the election. To further assure the aspirants that there will be no “imposition,” the APC Chairman said a clean copy of the delegate list which will be used to conduct the gubernatorial primary will be made available to all the aspirants days before the election. This, he said, will ensure that the election is free and fair. True to that promise, the list of authentic delegates was released to the aspirants some days to the 3 September gubernatorial election.