Last week posed a major challenge for the ruling All Progressives Congress and it was all about 2019 elections, writes Olawale Olaleye
If anyone ever doubted that the intrigues that would eventually determine the fate of the 2019 elections had begun, then, such an individual might have to pause for a few minutes and ponder some of the trends that characterised last week in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The battle was solely for the soul of the party and stakeholders reckoned the need to start sculpting their chances and future before dawn.
First was the alarm raised by the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who was recently handed an assignment to reconcile some aggrieved members of the APC by President Muhammadu Buhari, as the party surges towards the 2019 elections. Tinubu was believed to have been making progress in his efforts as the script about â€œreconciliationâ€ was said to be his idea in the first place.
Thus, in the last few days, he had met with some of the critical stakeholders in the party, traversing areas considered critical to the future of the party and was seen to be doing well or put more succinctly, making progress.
While it is trite to say that a majority of party members believed Tinubu himself is a factor if not the most significant factor in the crisis plaguing the party and had expressed concern that he might not do a good job at the end of the day, some still felt his appointment was timely and opted to give him a benefit of the doubt.
But the fears raised in those cynical quarters were soon given fillip to when Tinubu, days back alleged that his efforts were being sabotaged by the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, raising damning allegations against him in a letter to President Buhari, who appointed him the peace-maker.
Quickly, the chairman too sought audience with Buhari, where he was believed to have made his own case, and later, Oyegun reportedly declared support for the Tinubu one-man peace team. But this wasnâ€™t going to tarry for too long before the intrigues started to play out, such that threatened the already sensitive fabric of the partyâ€™s architecture.
First, the story was that a certain high-ranking security operative in the presidency had called Oyegun and â€œorderedâ€ him to go and resign because the president was not comfortable with him anymore. A panicky Oyegun had immediately reached out to some of the drivers of the Buhari 2019 project, who told him to ignore the directive, because it was suspect.
Two theories however emerged from that development. The first was that it was probably that the said security operative was not up to date about developments and therefore could not establish the current state of affairs between Oyegun and the president and had therefore acted on his old assumptions.
The other leg to it is that since some active actors in the presidency were believed to have their own idea of who should be the national chair of the party, the move was evidently in sync with their old plans to see the back of Oyegun and ensure the crowning of their choice candidate, believed to be a former governor of a South-south state.
Interestingly, that same evening when the security operative allegedly asked Oyegun to tender his resignation, another call was said to have come from same presidency, asking Oyegun to ignore the order because he remained the chairman of the party with a constitutionally tenured reign.
While this lasted, there was said to be another pressure being mounted on Oyegun by some other party members, who were uncomfortable with him and who probably believed the alarm raised by Tinubu about sabotage and therefore offered to allegedly â€œpay him offâ€ if he would gladly resign. This, of course, exacerbated the panic mode in the party and all combined, gave rise to the caucus meeting held last Monday night.
Unfortunately, not much was achieved that night except that the purported resignation card was thrown off the table and the fact that Oyegun presided over that meeting also proved that his position was by no means threatened. Yet, the issue of the tenure was not settled and remained germane, moving forward.
While all the state chairmen of the party had endorsed Oyegun and supported the idea of tenure extension at a separate meeting shortly before the caucus meeting started, another meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party had to be convened the following day, last Tuesday, to look into some of the proposals because it was purely a constitutional matter.
Even then, nearly everyone at the NEC supported the idea of tenure elongation, because of the need to carefully manage the party at this time of the eve of the election year. One problem they all had was the disposition of the president, which was unequivocally averse to undermining internal democracy and wanted that respected. But the presidentâ€™s political foot-soldiers thought such a stand was not politically productive.
But the argument by some of the partyâ€™s strategists was that if the party starts the process of electing new officers from the ward up to national level, the backlash would be too much for the APC to manage and the party would have clearly scored an own goal to a waiting opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)!
Eventually, reason cum strategy prevailed at the NEC and the Oyegun executive of the party secured tenure extension for a year, meaning it would help drive the re-election process of the president, who though has yet to declare his interest in another term. Even if he chooses not to run, the structure would have been secured for whoever he anoints. It is a no-brainer that the journey to 2019 has begun and what happened last week might have further reduced the influence of Tinubu in the current equation and ultimately, his chances in pushing through any agenda as 2019 knocks.
Also, Tinubuâ€™s reconciliation effort might have suffered a huge setback as the endorsement of tenure extension for all levels of party officers may have jeopardised chances of resolving disputes in some chapters through sharing of party slots among factions before congresses are held. Now a blanket tenure extension has been given to executives at all levels. As it is, the 2019 stage is set and what will be witnessed in the days to come will only further illuminate the power play that would ultimately situate the actors and their scripts in the elections.