Jostling for APC Chairmanship Begins, Oyegun, Oshiomhole, Ebri Emerge Contenders

  • Governors, Oyegun, Tinubu in battle of wits over convention list

Olawale Olaleye in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

Barely 24 hours after governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the National Working Committee (NWC) seemingly resolved the quagmire that had arisen over President Muhammadu Buhari’s rejection of the 12 months tenure extension granted to elected and appointed executives of the party at all levels, APC stakeholders have turned their sights on national chairmanship seat.
THISDAY reliably gathered Thursday that names of possible contenders for the post were already being bandied around among different interested groups in the party.

Prominent among the contenders are the incumbent national chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who is eligible to seek another four years in office, the former governor of Edo State Adams Oshiomhole, and a former governor of Cross River State in the Third Republic, Clement Ebri.

A senior party official, who preferred to remain unnamed, informed THISDAY that the party was already looking beyond the tenure elongation issue which has distracted the APC for about six weeks, and was focused on the National Convention and who would succeed Oyegun.

“Right now, three persons are being considered – former Governors Oshiomhole, Clement Ebri and Oyegun,” the source disclosed.

Providing some insight on what the thinking is within the party on each of the possible contenders for the chairmanship post, he said some of the governors and Buhari loyalists are not very comfortable with Oshiomhole because of his strong personality and independence.

“Oshiomhole will make a good chairman because he is strong and independent minded, he cannot be pushed around. That is why the presidency is pushing for him.

“But these same attributes are considered a drawback among several of the governors and Buhari’s loyalists who believe they will not be able to control him,” the party official said.

He noted that those opposing the choice of the former Edo governor have gone as far as unearthing what Oshiomhole did during his campaign for his second term bid in 2012 when he refused to allow Buhari to come and join his campaign in Benin, the Edo capital.

“They said that the former Edo governor cannot be trusted with power to lead the party at the national level,” the party source said.

He further revealed that those opposing Oshiomhole’s candidacy are rooting for the re-election of Oyegun, whom the governors, especially, believe is humble and accommodating of varied interests.

“Alternatively, there are others who are canvassing for former Cross River governor Ebri who will add fresh blood and ideas to the party,” he added.
In addition to turning their focus of who will lead the party after its convention, the party’s chieftains, THISDAY learnt, are in a battle of wits over who should draw up the membership of the convention list.

It was gathered that in anticipation that Buhari would have his way on the conduct of congresses and the convention before the 2019 elections, the National Leader of the APC, Chief Bola Tinubu, had recently rushed a list of convention committee members to the president.

Some of the party members on the list he presented to Buhari, said sources conversant with the development, included Alhaji Bidi Lawal and Malam Kashim Imam to represent the North-east; the national vice-chairman of the party in the South-west zone, Chief Pius Akinyelure, Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi, House Leader Femi Gbajabiamila, and a former party chairman in Ogun State, Alhaji Tajudeen Bello, to represent the South-West zone.

According to sources, the list drawn up by Tinubu came to light during the meeting Buhari had with the APC governors on the tenure elongation issue on Tuesday.

At the meeting, the president was said to have mentioned the existence of a convention list, which no one knew about but himself.

“Upon sighting the list, nearly everyone knew who had drawn it up and immediately protested because it was considered deliberately tilted against certain interests in the party.
“It was for this reason the meeting between the president and the governors ended in a stalemate on Tuesday,” said one source.

He also revealed that for the North-east, two names – Lawal and Imam –were said to have angered the Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima, who immediately said he would not standby and allow names to be submitted from his state without anyone consulting him.

The same development was said to have triggered a similar reaction to the South-west list.
Sources hinted that the Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun was particularly livid at the fact that someone had drawn up such a critical list without consultations and was said to have consequently protested to the president about the development.

Amosun was quoted to have told the president that the list negated the spirit of collegiate leadership, which the South-west APC once propounded at an earlier meeting.

It was against this backdrop that the president was said to have consented to some of the proposed changes on the list, leading to two of the substitution of two of the names for the South-west, in order to balance the varied interest groups in the zone.

Although THISDAY was not informed about the names of the replacements on the revised convention list with Buhari, sources said one of those brought in to balance the contending interests in the South-west zone was the former governor of Ekiti State, Chief Niyi Adebayo.
Amosun was also said to have replaced Bello’s name with someone else’s name.

But on learning that the list he had submitted to Buhari had been tinkered with, Tinubu was said to have been very angry and threatened fire and brimstone if he did not get his way.

Other than the amended list already in Buhari’s possession, the governors of the party are also pushing to select the chairman of the convention committee.

It was gathered that before they met with Oyegun privately on Wednesday, preparatory to the larger meeting with the larger NWC of the APC, the governors had picked Jigawa State Governor Abubakar Badaru as the convention committee chairman.

However, during their private meeting with Oyegun where they tried to convince him to shelve the tenure elongation for him and other executives, the APC chairman had made it very clear that it was the responsibility of the NWC to pick members of the convention committee, in accordance with the party’s constitution.

On this issue, said a source, Oyegun was very adamant and could prove to be another flash point that the APC would have to skillfully navigate in the days ahead.

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