Onyebuchi Ezigbo looks at the clamour for leadership change in the ruling party
The moves to tinker with the current national leadership of the All Progressives Congress may restart immediately after the governorship poll in Ondo State. But analysts have predicted that the restructuring could lead to the deepening of the internal crisis in the ruling party. With the plethora of agitation and general displeasure within the party in recent times, including the scathing criticism and call by the former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on the national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, to resign from office, it is only a matter of time before the issues blow into the open.
But there are already signs that clamour for restructuring of the APC leadership may spark fresh crisis that might further undermine unity and cohesion in the party as far as calculations for the 2019 electoral interests are concerned. It was learnt that the various tendencies within the APC, which are already positioning for available opportunities ahead of the 2019 general election, saw the move to remove the national chairman as having political undertone and part of the scheming by some powerful elements to take control of the party structure.
Apart from calls for leadership change from Tinubu, who is the national leader of the APC, there is a similar position pushed by an aggrieved national officer, the deputy national publicity secretary, Mr. Timi Frank, before he was suspended.
But it was rather the call for restructuring of the party organs canvassed by the Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, who is the also chairman of the APC Governors Forum, that is giving credence to the idea of leadership change in the party.
Okorocha, who spoke on the need to restructure the party during a meet with the National .Working Committee, however maintained that the Odigie-Oyegun NWC would not be bullied out of office. The governor said, “The restructuring we envisage in the party is not in terms of who comes in or goes out, but in every human organisation, there comes a time when there is need for restructuring. It could be to add more people; it could be strengthen the party at all levels. Of course, you know that these people are duly elected people whose tenure will expire in 2018.
“But where there is need for restructuring, we will do so because I have come to reassure them, because sometimes if you have the fear or worry that you are not stable, you will begin to react in a negative form. But if you know that you are comfortable you put in your best.”
President Muhammadu Buhari further raised fears about a possible reordering in the leadership of the party, when he told then out-going governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomole, that he would be expected to take up a special assignment at the national level soon. This promise by Buhari has seemed to reinforce the speculation that the former governor was being prepared to take over from his kinsman, Odigie-Oyegun.
But reacting to the anxiety and concern the calls for change in the leadership of APC have generated, a top member of the party told THISDAY at the weekend that the move was not on the cards for now. The party chieftain, who did not want his name mentioned because of the sensitive nature of the issues, said that as far as the leadership of the party was concerned, the issue of restructuring was not popular.
He said regarding the calls for leadership change, “I don’t think it is a popular thing. If you call on somebody to resign, you are not asking anybody to remove that person but you are urging the office holder to resign honourably. I do not think that Tinubu is asking that Oyegun be forced out of office, but he may be only advising him to quit having failed in certain critical areas of the management of the affairs of the party. This is probably what obtains in the advanced democracies where if somebody fails as a leader he is expected to just bow out honourably. But in this case I don’t think Tinubu is calling for his removal.
“This cry about restructuring the party came from the governors’ forum. Do you think the governors have the power to restructure the party? I think that was merely a way the Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, tried to attract attention to himself. How can he restructure the party, he is not in the NEC and even at that the governors do not constitute a majority in the NEC. So how can they push through the restructuring plan?”
On the call for the chairman to resign, the party chieftain said that it was only Tinubu and Frank that had so far made such calls, adding that neither of them constitutes the organ of the party to implement such an action. He also stated that the leadership of the party had always intended to hold the meeting of the National Executive Committee but such plan had clashed with Buhari’s itinerary, leading to its frequent cancellation.
According to him, “There has always been plan for a NEC meeting for the party, but because the party wants to fix it at a time the president will be available, as he is member of NEC, we have to keep shifting the dates. When it comes to the issue of defaulting, the party has defaulted jut as the government has been defaulting in some of its responsibilities. But I think in the case of the party, it has not been deliberate. I think it has to do with capacity on the party of the chairman. The chairman is the architect of his plight under the circumstances and he has not helped matters with the manner he carried on.”
However, there are signs that the call for Odigie-Oyegun’s resignation may not be a popular one after all, especially among loyalists of Buhari who see him as useful so far in maintaining stability and securing the party structure for the president ahead of the 2019 general election.
So far, only one name has been canvassed as a possible replacement for Odigie-Oyegun and, incidentally, the proposed choice is from the same state as the national chairman. Though no one can doubt his ability to perform in that capacity, the political calculations do not seem to favour his emergence as Odigie-Oyegun’s successor. Just as there were fears at the time the party was to choose between Odigie-Oyegun and his kinsman, Chief Tom Ikimi, the immediate past governor of Edo State is a man with a very strong character.
Oshiomhole is also seen as too independent-minded to fit into the political calculations of the Buhari men. The preponderance of opinion among these recent power-brokers in the APC is that rather than rush to replace Odigie-Oyegun with someone whose next moves they are not sure of, it will be better to continue to accommodate his shortcomings, which have little or no serious consequences for the political interests of the president.
But those who are hell-bent on effecting changes in the leadership of the party are not daunted. To them, the present leadership has outlived its usefulness and needs to be changed to bring in some new people with fresh zeal and ideas.