Published On: Sun, Apr 8th, 2018

Tinubu’s APC; hurdles before the beautiful bride

By OBINNA EZUGWU

On Wednesday last week, governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa to finally agree that there will be no tenure elongation for the party’s chairman, Chief John Oyegun. It is a decision that could very well seal Oyegun’s fate, however the party could be bracing up for critical days ahead as it will now hold congresses whose outcome could yet be another source of rifts.

“There will be (issues) after the congress, and it is politics,” admitted Senator Magnus Abe on Channels TV.

The turn of events for the chairman could be unnerving. Just a few weeks ago things were smooth selling for him. Then the bombshell by the President Buhari throwing spanner in the work by dumping the tenure elongation as unconstitutional effectively truncating his aspirations.

It has been months and years of supremacy battle between the Edo State former chief executive and the acclaimed national leader of the party, Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. And for as long as it lasted, Oyegun held sway basking in the support of majority of the party’s governors, especially those from the South West – with the obvious exception of Osun governor, Rauf Aregbesola – who had become increasingly uncomfortable with Tinubu’s ‘overbearing’ influence in the zone.

Although, the President and Tinubu appear to be on the ascendency now nothing could be taken for granted. Some of the governors, especially from the south west are still determined to fight on. In a recent interview after the meeting, Ondo state governor Rotimi Akeredolu insisted that there was a deliberate attempt to confuse the public as nobody discussed anything about tenure elongation, which is alien to their constitution. According to him what was decided is that the exco’s tenure ends as mandated to they could continue in acting capacity before the convention.

President Buhari with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, APC National Chairman John Odigie Oyegun, Speaker House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and APC Chieftain Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu as he presides over the APC National Caucus Meeting in Statehouse on 26th Feb 2018.

President Muhammadu Buhari had also not been given to the former Lagos governor, and had made it clear from the onset that he didn’t recognize the post of national leader of the party. And the politicking that followed afterwards as suggested deliberate attempts to cut Tinubu to size. There was the rejection of his ministerial nominees and handing of tripple ministerial portfolios to the likes of Babatunde Fashola who had fallen out with him.

This was preceded by the rejection of his preferred candidates for national assembly leadership as well as the clear robbery of the Kogi mandate of his loyalist, Hon. James Faleke. Later events in Ondo State where the current governor, Rotimi Akeredolu emerged in spite of him also belong in the category.

Tinubu had become increasingly isolated, and things came to a head last month when the tenure of the Oyegun led National Working Committee which is to end in June, was extended for another one year with the approval of Buhari who had days earlier appointed Tinubu to reconcile aggrieved members of the party. It was a move widely seen as an affront to him.

But it was also illegal and could not have survived the close examination of the court and could indeed have, if it stood, jeopardize Buhari’s second term ambition given that he could have been nominated by an illegal body.

There is already a theory to the effect that those who pushed for Oyegun’s tenure elongation were enemies of the president who wanted to create hurdles for him ahead of the 2019 polls. However, this theory may not be tenable given that those backing Oyegun are the likes of Akeredolu, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, his Ogun State counterpart, Ibikunle Amosun who are staunch supporters of the president and who are not given to Tinubu.

Indeed, the decision to extend Oyegun’s tenure could only be understood within two premises. First is the fear that holding congresses before the party’s primaries could trigger conflicts that may jeopardise the primaries. And second, is the possible intention of Tinubu’s opponents to give him the back seat.

“This is a party and sometimes when a meeting is summoned, people don’t reason at the same level at the same time. Those that took the decision (to extend Oyegun’s tenure) took it because they had their reasons,” noted Hon. Hycenth Ngwu, Enugu State APC spokesman.

“But later, there was a superior argument and the superior argument had to override the other argument. We are members of one party, and we all have good intentions.

“Those that proposed the tenure elongation wanted it on the basis that having a congress before the primaries could come with its own problems that may not be easily managed. But later on, they discovered, as a party rooted in principles of democracy and rule of law, that having congress and primary will not do it greater harm.”

Senator Abe made the same point.

“The people also believed they were doing the right thing. They had their own arguments, their own reasons which were also backed up by law.”

“Sometimes you can’t just look at things and fix them deliberately in a slot when they don’t belong there.

“It was a question of what the party felt was right looking at the things that were presented to them at that time.

“But the president came up and pointed out that section 223 of the constitution is very clear on this point, and that even in our own constitution we have this point.”

But certainly, it is a plan that could have gone badly for Buhari, not just because of the legal implications, but also because it could have further alienated Tinubu whose support would be crucial for his reelection bid.

Apparently, it is most likely this realization that caused the president to make the u-turn and decide at the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) fortnight ago that the tenure extension was in violation of the party’s constitution and couldn’t stand.

Tinubu is obviously the big elephant in the room at the moment. Buhari had on Monday at the party’s NEC meeting, officially declared his intention to seek reelection. It is an ambition that the former governor could make or break. He wields enormous political influence that could spell doom for Buhari should he decide to back away from him. It is not therefore surprising that the President has suddenly adopted a more conciliatory approach in his relationship with the former Lagos state governor. The decision to reject Oyegun’s tenure elongation was followed by an official visit to Lagos ostensibly for Tinubu’s 65nd birthday.

Oyegun whose emergence as party chairman, Tinubu had actually influenced, had turned against him and served the purpose of undermining him when it was required, but there is now an election to win in 2019 and the Tinubu bears greater significance in that respect. So, indeed, discarding Oyegun at this point if that would guarantee Tinubu’s support, would appear to be a no brainer given that the chairman is a flyweight in real political terms.

However, it may not be as straightforward as that. There are hardline opponents of Tinubu within the party’s ranks, and the simple fact that the idea of backtracking on the decision to elongate Oyegun’s tenure could imply a victory for him has ruffled feathers.

It had taken series of consultations for the governors, some of whom, as noted earlier are uncomfortable with Tinubu, to finally agree with Buhari on holding a congress before primaries.

A meeting held earlier on Tuesday last week had ended in a deadlock as the governors remained divided on whether to support the president’s decision or not. It was during a follow up meeting on Wednesday that they eventually resolved to back the president.

Governor of Zamfara State who spoke to reporters after the parley with Buhari on Wednesday said:

“We had a meeting with Mr. President yesterday (Tuesday), and we extended the meeting today and we followed up with the consultations with the president now.

“We consulted and all the 24 governors of the APC are on the same page with Mr. President that we are going to respect our party constitution, we are going to respect the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“Therefore, we collectively agreed that we will have congresses at all levels; local, state and national.”

The congress, when held, will mark the end of Oyegun’s chequered tenure. But there is one more hurdle. The party had set up a committee headed by Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong to look at all the issues and come up with a position and Oyegun had given the committee till Friday last week to submit its report.

Therefore, the decision of the governors on Wednesday could be not only preemptive, but also in breach of the party’s constitution which provides that once a committee is set up to look into an issue, no other decision should be taken in regard.

The committee’s report was said to have been released on Friday, but the details could not be ascertained as at the time of filing this report. However, Ngwu says he doesn’t expect the report to be any different from the position of the governors.

“It is a process. Decisions making is a process. The party set up a committee and I believe the committee has turned in their report. Party may be sitting tomorrow (Monday) or thereabout. The NEC will sit and pass a resolution.

“I believe the resolution will be in support of the congress because those championing for it have better argument. It is also based on our party’s constitution and that of the federal republic of Nigeria.

“There is nothing like tenure elongation, it is either you have caretaker committee or go for a congress. And in our constitution, there is no provision for caretaker committee. So it has to boil down to the congress.”

Asked however whether holding a NEC meeting without obeying the nine-day notification period could be legal, he said: “There is provision for emergency meeting in our constitution which could be summoned on 24 hours or 48 hours notice.”

The immediate past governor of Edo State, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole; former governor of Cross River, Clement Ebri and former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva are already in the run for Oyegun’s job, but it is Oshiomhole who appears to have an unassailable upper hand. and indeed Oyegun himself is attempting a second term bid.

Although Science and Technology Minister, Ogbonnaya Onu and former senate president Ken Nnamani are also being fingered, notable members say it is unlikely that it would go to the South East.

Oshiomhole is known to be close to both Buhari and Tinubu. On the occasion of his 65th birthday last week, the president described him as a man of invaluable wisdom who “will be most useful for the growth of the nation.”

But he may face opposition from other South South states given that the current chairman is from Edo.

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