- Says he’s not the party’s leader in S’West
- APC, Senate leadership hold fence-mending meeting
- Oyegun admits mistakes were made
Olawale Olaleye in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Concerned about the aftermath of the November 26 governorship election in Ondo State, Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, one of the closest allies of President Muhammadu Buhari, thursday admitted that the All Progressives Congress (APC) was going through a difficult period, but expressed optimism that the party would pull through it soon.
Amosun was believed to have been one of the kingpins behind the election victory of the party in Ondo State.
His comments came on the heels of a fence-mending meeting between the leadership of the party and Senate President Bukola Saraki and other principal officers of the Senate who are members of the party, at the APC national secretariat in Abuja wednesday.
Amosun, who was particularly concerned about the new status being accorded him within political circles since the Ondo election as the new leader of the APC in the South-west, rejected the title, but reiterated his support and loyalty to Buhari and the APC.
Amosun was apparently reacting to the disenchantment within the party over the Ondo governorship election that is threatening to tear the APC apart.
A National Leader of the APC, Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, for instance, have been identified as critical chieftains of the party that have opened talks with the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to form a new mega party that would wrest control from the APC in 2019.
In a statement he personally signed, Amosun said: “For the avoidance of doubt, I am not, by any stretch of imagination, the leader or new leader of the APC in the South-west. I am a loyal party member, and I shall stand by our party and of course, with President Muhammadu Buhari. I am also obliged to respect all our leaders in the state, South-west and Nigeria.
“This is the minimum that is required of every party member by custom, and by the constitution of the party. I acknowledge that these are rather difficult times in the life of our party and in the nation.
“I am confident that we shall overcome and our party, the APC, and our dear country will come out even stronger, more viable and united.”
Addressing the issue of his assumption as the new APC leader in the South-west, the governor added: “I have noticed with consternation the recurring misnomer and mis-description in political nomenclature particularly as they relate to the politics of the South-west, and by extension, the country as a whole.
“I refer to the emerging tendency of referring to me and some other members of our great party as the ‘Leader(s) of the South West’ or ‘New Leader(s) of the APC in the South West’.
“When that phrase was first brought to my attention, particularly during the weeks preceding the Ondo State gubernatorial election, my immediate reaction was to ignore same as yet another distractive antics of the opposition.
“Somehow, the misnomer stuck and it came to appear rather more frequently in several other fora and publications, including respectable gatherings and the media.
“Lies and misconceptions, when told and asserted repeatedly with gusto, have the tendency to assume the toga of the truth. It is for these reasons that I have considered it of critical importance to set the records straight.
“As the governor of an APC controlled state, Ogun, I am a huge stakeholder in my party. In all that I do, in the open and in private, the bigger interest of our party remains the guiding principle for my actions, decisions and alliances.
“I grew up in the old Western Region, where loyalty to corporate goal and party supremacy was the hallmark of a true party member, and indeed every citizen.”
Amosun maintained that “true leadership” could not be by conjecture or wishful thinking. “From the template that we inherited from our forbearers, it is usually earned. In political parlance, leadership also evolves. If we take this as our guide, even as governor, I have leaders from my state and at the national level.
“By the grace of God, I currently serve my people as the governor of Ogun State. My total preoccupation and commitment is to continue to deliver the dividends of democracy to the good people of Ogun State that the Almighty God used to give me the opportunity to serve them.
“We will not take the support of our people for granted. We shall work even harder to justify their confidence and, by the grace of God, leave the state better than we met it and in a blaze of glory.
“These, rather than some insensitive, phony and imaginary leadership contest, are my aspirations,” he stated.
APC, Senate Leadership Meet
Meanwhile, the leadership of the APC yesterday took the first step to end the cold war between itself and its principal officers in the Senate led by Senator Saraki, in a dialogue at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja.
However, the meeting which was meant to thaw the ice and chart a way forward on some of the contending issues between both sides, failed to resolve all of them. Nonetheless, they resolved to keep working on the relationship in the interest of peace.
The frosty relationship between the party leadership and its caucus in the Senate arose from the insistence by the leadership of the APC that its preferred candidates – Senators Ahmed Lawal and George Akume – should be made Senate President and Deputy Senate President, respectively.
However, Senator Saraki defied the dictates of the party and with the support of senators of the PDP and several others on the platform of the APC, emerged the President of the Senate while Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP became his deputy.
Saraki’s election pitted him against the party, which saw his action and that of his supporters in the APC as a revolt. The situation was made worse when other principal offices in the Senate where handed down to senators other than those penciled down by the party.
Emerging from yesterday’s meeting, the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, said although there were still some glitches, both sides had accepted to make progress in the interest of peace.
The meeting, which was initially scheduled to hold last Monday, had to be rescheduled for yesterday due to a mix up in communication.
Oyegun said that the lingering cold war among members of the APC Senate caucus, on the one hand, and between the National Assembly leadership and the presidency, on the other hand, was seriously affecting the smooth administration of the country.
He said that thursday’s meeting with Saraki and his team was an exploratory one aimed at seeking ways to resolve all the outstanding issues so that harmony could be restored in the relationship with the legislators.
“As far as the party is concerned, we commended the Senate and the entire National Assembly for the way they have worked so far with the executive.
“We are determined and we concluded that we must work closely together to address some of the glitches that still exist in the relationship between the National Assembly and the executive.
“We want to assure the general public that they will see results that will lift their spirit in the next few weeks and months to follow. It means that the end is in sight.
“We have started the process, but there are issues to be resolved and there is no question at all that we are a family and when things have gone wrong, we accept that things have gone wrong and we are determined to right those wrongs,” he said.
In his remarks, Saraki said that the parties accepted to move forward and to work together to ensure that things were done in the right way.
“First of all, formally, we both bared our minds. We told ourselves hard truths but at the end of the day we accepted that certain things were not done properly, but we accepted to move forward, work closely with the party for the interest of building the party because of Nigerians that believe in our party.
“We need to work closely together and we are hopeful that a new chapter is being opened today, and we are committed to the hopes and aspirations we gave Nigerians who came out to vote a year and a half ago,” he said.
On the Senate President’s delegation were the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume; Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn-Na’Allah; and Chief Whip, Olusola Adeyeye, while Oyegun led a team of NWC members.
While speaking at the brief opening ceremony, Oyegun lamented that the frosty relationship between the presidency, the party and the National Assembly leadership, which had gone on since the inception of the APC-led administration, had affected the smooth running of government.
He said that the time had come to end the divide and to seek a harmonious working relationship between the party, the executive and APC members in the legislative arm of government to enable the party to deliver good governance to Nigerians.
“As we say, it is better late than never. What is important is that as of today, the party is at that critical juncture and we have the opportunity to take a strong look at the party; the opportunity to take a look at our control of the leadership of the Senate; the opportunity to draw up a new basis for co-operation between the party, its members in the Senate and of course the executive.
“We belong to one party. Unfortunately, it is public knowledge that our very first steps, when we came into office, created problems and the very nature itself of the amalgamating parties created its own issue, all of which have tended up till now to affect the co-operation between the various arms of government and the party.
“So, we have a unique God-given opportunity to take a look at ourselves, to take a look at the National Assembly, take a look at the party and take a look at the way we all interact between ourselves, and it is my hope that we will at the end of it all be able to present to the Nigerian public a government, a party and a National Assembly that are working in the same direction,” he said.
Oyegun said that the economy was facing tough times and as a result people were going through hard times, adding that the situation was not acceptable.
“The public looking up to us would like to see that we are all concentrating, determined and focused on programmes and issues that will ameliorate not just the economy, but the conditions of living of the ordinary Nigerian.
“So, I hope we will deepen this interaction and that the public will start seeing a new relationship, a new party, a new National Assembly and indeed focused and committed governance,” he added.