• Ahead of APC Caucus, NEC meetings, protesters demand Oyegun’s ouster
Omololu Ogunmade and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Ahead of the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Caucus meeting Monday night in the State House, Abuja, and the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party slated for Tuesday also in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari Monday met with Senate President Bukola Saraki, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, National Leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu and the National Chairman of APC, Chief John Oyegun.
While the president was meeting with Saraki, Dogara and Oyegun, Tinubu was in the waiting room in the president’s office. He was ushered into the meeting immediately the trio left.
The meetings with the chieftains of the APC ahead of two critical meetings of the party may not be unconnected to the horse-trading and permutations ahead of the 2019 elections.
Whereas Saraki and Dogara had declined to entertain questions from State House correspondents, Tinubu, after his one-hour meeting with the president, described the perception of a rift between him and Buhari as “fake news”.
Tinubu in recent times has made very few trips to Abuja to meet with the president and has been conspicuously absent at several key functions of the party, including the APC South-west leadership meeting in Ibadan recently, fueling speculations that all was not well with him and Buhari and the leadership of the party.
Tinubu was one of those instrumental to Buhari securing the ticket of the APC in December 2014 at the party’s convention and has been given most of the credit for delivering the South-west to the party in the 2015 elections.
However, Tinubu said Monday that he has confidence in the president and his meeting with him was fruitful and productive, further pointing out that the claim of the existence of a cabal in the presidency was mere gossip.
To buttress his claim of a smooth relationship with Buhari, Tinubu who said he had never shied away from expressing his mind and even rebelling when necessary, said the APC was on course.
“I just met with the president. Our discussion was fruitful, productive and it was about the country and leadership as a whole. And that got him excited and happy,” he said.
On the speculations that he was not on good terms with the president and dissatisfied with the way things were being handled by the presidency, including being sidelined by the so-called “cabal”, the former Lagos State governor said: “Fake news. I have confidence in this president. There is no doubt about that. We worked hard to bring about this government.
“There are certain things that are unpredictable and those are things that can lean themselves to gossip, insinuations and all of that. But once you create leadership and it is functioning, you don’t have to baby sit that leadership unless there is a loss of confidence and I don’t have that.
“You know me, I’m not known to shy away from speaking my mind and rebelling if it is necessary and taking charge of things that I believe are necessary.
“What is the myth in this leadership thing? What is this cabal? It’s a myth. We are the party of the people, for the people and by the people and this is a democratic environment.
“Each of us has our roles to play and that is why we are playing it. I don’t believe in the myth. I believe in confidence building, the trust that we have in the president.
“In the journey of democracy, you are going to have twists and turns. You are going to have conflicts. The conflict resolution mechanism is inbuilt in how you handle your party and the governance.
“Can you go back to 16 years of the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party)? The APC government is on course and will remain on course and we will remain focused on those necessary things pertaining to development, welfare and progress of our people.
“It is not easy to face the challenges and the well that was dug – the sinkhole that we inherited – we are sorting that one out gradually. So with a few steps, we will find happiness and development in the future of our country.”
When asked about the clamour by some groups that he should support Buhari’s reelection, Tinubu said: “Do not discuss that with me.”
Earlier, Buhari had met with the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Alhassan Ouatara. Ouatara who told journalists after the meeting that he had come to visit the president after his recovery from illness, added that Buhari had agreed to pay a return visit to Cote d’Ivoire for the African Union-European Union meeting slated in Abidjan next month.
However, as the president and APC chieftains were schmoozing away at the State House, some youths, operating under the aegis of Save APC and Democracy Youth Vanguard, stormed the national secretariat of the APC in Abuja, demanding Oyegun’s ouster.
The protesting youths numbering about 50 partially blocked the entrance to the APC secretariat chanting solidarity songs and displaying placards with clear inscriptions demanding the resignation of Oyegun over alleged incompetence.
Other demands listed on the various placards by the youths included the demand for an audit of APC’s accounts, opposition to a non-elective convention, and the insistence that the party must support the anti-corruption campaign, among others.
The youths were still protesting when Oyegun arrived for work at 11 a.m. in his motorcade but drove into the premises without uttering a word.
Speaking with newsmen during the protest, the leader of the group who identified himself as Peter Oyewole, said since APC’s victory in the 2015 elections, the party’s finances had not been audited and made public as stipulated by law.
“Since 2015, the budget of APC has not been made public. Since 2015, the ruling party has not held a single meeting. These are enough to remove the national chairman. We demand the removal of Oyegun now.
“We are also saying enough is enough to the imposition of candidates at all levels by the Oyegun-led NWC (National Working Committee), because in any party where there is imposition there cannot be fairness, any party where there is imposition, there can be no equity, the imposition in APC today is just rubbishing the anti-corruption war of President Buhari.
“The current national chairman we have in APC cannot work in support of the APC agenda and President Buhari. If Oyegun is not removed, he will continue to rubbish the efforts of the president, especially in fighting corruption because you cannot give what you don’t have. The high level of corruption and imposition going on under Oyegun is alarming.
“If Odigie-Oyegun is not removed within the next one month, APC youths will picket this national secretariat and make it a no-go area to everybody – the staff, officials and even the security personnel will be chased out of the secretariat and none of them will be allowed to come in here,” he said.
When asked to justify the allegations he made against the national chairman, he said: “The man (Oyegun) cannot manage success. Since 2015 when the APC won the presidential election, tell me a single NEC meeting that has been held? This man cannot galvanise support for the president.
“What we are saying is that if Oyegun continues like this we are going to have imposition at all levels in APC come 2019.”
When asked whether the group was known to the party, the spokesman said: “This is a democracy where many wings can grow to push for the interest of many.”
Meanwhile, preparations for the NEC meeting of the party entered high gear Monday, with the secretariat of the APC wearing a new look.
Also, Oyegun was reported to have met with the state chairmen of the party Sunday night to articulate a common position ahead of the National Caucus and NEC meetings.
A top party source who accompanied Oyegun to the meeting with the chairmen, said that they discussed several issues, including the crises in some state chapters of the APC and actions taken so far to resolve them.
It was also learnt that Oyegun used the opportunity of Sunday’s meeting to seek the understanding of his colleagues at the state level, especially those that are members of the NEC not to support attempts to undermine him at Tuesday’s meeting.
At Monday night’s National Caucus meeting, the new Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Gida Mustapha, was the toast of the meeting, as several party chieftains and governors rushed to take photographs with him.
The meeting, which started at 8.30 p.m. in the Banquet Hall of the State House, had the president and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in attendance.
Others seen at the meeting included Saraki, Dogara, Tinubu, Oyegun, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Yusuff Lasun, the past National Chairman of the APC Bisi Akande, former Senate President Ken Nnamani, Governors Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa), Bindow Jibrilla (Adamawa), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Aminu Masari (Katsina), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Sani Bello (Niger) and Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi), among other party chieftains and ministers.
However, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar was conspicuously absent at the meeting.
At the end of the meeting of the National Caucus, the party members resolved to work together in unity and to support the president, so that the party can be stronger.
Also, the party’s National Assembly promised to support the president in his policies.
Speaking, Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim said those who had expected a crisis, leading to the removal of Oyegun, were disappointed, adding that instead the party members resolved to remain united.
Oyegun also described the meeting as “fantastic”, saying it was the beginning of new things to come, noting that by the time NEC meeting is concluded, they would speak more.