Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun said monday that he would not be drawn into a war of words with one of the National Leaders of the party, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, over the allegations levelled against him by the latter on the Ondo State governorship primary until after the governorship election in Edo State.
Tinubu on Sunday took a swipe at Oyegun over the outcome of the Ondo State governorship primary of the APC, declaring that the chairman must step down for rejecting the report of the Appeal Panel set up by the party to review the outcome of the primary in the state and instead submitted the name of Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) as the governorship candidate of the party to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Oyegun who spoke in Benin City, the Edo State capital, said: “Asiwaju is a well respected leader of the APC and as such, I cannot be heard speaking evil against him,” adding that he had to consult properly with other leaders of the party before making any definite statement because “you know we have a crucial election here in Edo which is my priority right now”.
According to Oyegun, “I don’t want to lose focus and I know Asiwaju also wants us to win because we all worked hard for this. So may be 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. I have always believed in internal democracy, that the credibility of primary must be taken seriously.”
He added: “I believe that if the primaries of parties are not credible, it may derail any democracy, so I don’t play with these things at all. Everybody knows me and I don’t joke with my credibility and I have tried to maintain it.
“Like I said, Asiwaju is our leader and we all hold him in high esteem, so I will never join issues with him.
“But may be after the Edo elections, after we must have emerged victorious, we may speak on some of the issues raised. So there is no problem at all.
“Edo is the focus for now and as you know this is my state, so it is a very serious election for us. So I want to be allowed to remain focused; then after the election we can speak.”
However, Tinubu’s call for Oyegun’s resignation was backed by the estranged Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Timi Frank, who described it as a vindication of his earlier position that the Oyegun leadership had fallen short of expectations.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja yesterday, Frank said that based on the weighty allegations made by the former Lagos State governor, he was urging the party leadership to immediately convene an emergency meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) to wade into the crisis generated over the conduct of the Ondo State governorship primary, among other nagging issues.
He said Oyegun’s leadership had not been able to resolve a single crisis since its inception.
“Based on this weighty allegations from our national leader and founding father of the party, I want to restate my earlier position that we must call for an emergency NEC meeting.
“If Oyegun knows that he has nothing to hide and that whatever Tinubu has said about him is not true, I am challenging him to immediately call for an emergency NEC meeting to enable us come together face to face and look ourselves in the face and tell ourselves the truth and see how we can resolve this internal crisis. If we cannot resolve this crisis now, we may never be able to resolve it,” he said.
Frank, who had earlier alerted the party members to the brewing crisis in APC, said that things had now reached a stage whereby the president could no longer continue to remain silent on the things going on in the party.
He said the president must step forward to get the party to summon the NEC meeting in order to look into the allegations made by Tinubu as well as other problems heating up the polity.
According to Frank, if nothing was done urgently to arrest the situation in Ondo State, things might get worse and the party might lose the governorship election in the state.
“I am calling for an investigation of the whole process of the primary election in Ondo,” he said.
He threatened to mobilise members of the party to demonstrate against the Oyegun-led leadership if after 14 days the party had not summoned a NEC meeting.
“I want to use this medium to appeal to Mr. President because it has gotten to a situation where he can no longer be silent on the party’s internal issues. The president must speak out and save our party. He is the leader of the party and must not leave the party in the hands of these people that cannot resolve one crisis.
“Every party member is loyal to the president and he should see the need to immediately call for an emergency NEC meeting to enable us come together and look at these allegations.
“They are not just mere allegations, but very critical ones which must be looked into by the party and a position taken.
“If we don’t do something, even APC supporters in Ondo State will sabotage the process for us because they are not happy. We must do everything possible to bring every aggrieved person together. If we don’t take emergency steps to resolve these issues, we will have ourselves to blame.
“I am giving Oyegun 14 days from today to convene a NEC meeting. If he fails to do so, I will mobilise members to demonstrate at the secretariat. I have started mobilising NEC members to ensure that the APC leadership is made to do the right thing and summon a NEC meeting.
“Today, God has practically vindicated me in my struggle to save my party the APC. It is very clear that I was one of the first persons in the party who took the bull by the horn and said there are issues and a brewing crisis in the party. Then, I was alone as nobody saw where I was coming from.
“This crisis started when the issue of the National Assembly came up and I foresaw it then because of the decision the party took at that time against their party members, especially against the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“I foresaw the danger at that time when the party closed its eyes to the injustice against these two persons at that time. I came out to shout and nobody listened to me.
“When my immediate boss, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, left to become the Minister of Information, I was supposed to step into his shoes as acting National Publicity Secretary of the party, but they fought me for their own selfish interests because they knew that I am one person who will not allow them to do certain things.
“They deprived me of performing my duties and assigned my job to themselves, saying only Oyegun and the National Secretary can speak for the party. How is that possible in a political party that wants to allow justice to prevail?” he demanded to know.
Frank lamented that the APC was currently troubled in many states, with a plethora of unresolved issues leading to a crisis of confidence, which he warned have the capacity to cripple the party ahead of the 2019 general election.