The last is yet to be heard of the intrigues trailing the impending national convention of the All Progressives Congress, writes Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The All Progressives Congress (APC) seems to be racing against time to hold its first national convention since it assumed power. With less than two months to the expiration of the John Odigie-Oyegun leadership, the build-up to the convention has been rather turbulent with various interest groups seeking to hijack the process to enable them control the structure of the party.
First, there was a move to secure tenure extension for the serving party officers, which stoked tension and was later shot down by President Muhammadu Buhari. It would take several meetings of the National Executive Committee (NEC) before it could be resolved that an elective national convention had to be convened.
In the end, the party was able to grant relief to both sides, the pro-tenure elongation and anti-elongation groups, by approving an elective convention and granting serving officers waiver to remain in office while offering themselves for re-election, if they so desire. And so, it would appear as if the party had resolved its differences and had become one family.
But as recent events have proven, what happened at the NEC meeting was only a temporary relief, because the two groups have resumed hostilities. Since the national offices of the party were thrown open for grabs, stakeholders have been engaged in intrigues over who emerges the new national chairman.
So far, the incumbent, Odigie-Oyegun, has been encouraged to seek re-election even though he is yet to confirm his intention. But Oyegun, it is believed, has some good backing from some of the governors and state chairmen of the party.
Another aspirant for the position, a former governor of Edo State, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, seems to enjoy the support of the president and a leading figure in the party, former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Tinubu.
There is also another aspirant, a former Cross River State governor, Mr. Clement Ebri. But the battle seems to be between Oyegun and Oshiomhole.
While Oyegun is banking on his experience, having been in the saddle in the last three years, Oshiomhole seems to have found favour with Tinubu, who as a major power broker in the APC, is working hard to convince Buhari to use his influence to get him the plum job.
To show that he has accepted Oshiomhole, the president invited elected governors of the party last Tuesday to the Presidential Villa, Abuja to inform them of his choice.
Addressing State House correspondents at the end their meeting, the chairman of the APC Governors Forum and the Governor of Imo State, Chief Rochas Okorocha, said the president had expressed his support for Oshiomhole to become the next national chairman of the APC. Before the president’s endorsement, Oshiomhole and those propelling his candidacy had played a fast one on Oyegun by convening a meeting of the party’s stakeholders in the South-south zone to secure their endorsement. It was however not clear if the meeting endorsed Oshiomhole over Oyegun, as there were conflicting versions of the positions taken by the six state chairmen, who attended the meeting.
While pro-Oshiomhole group said the South-south stakeholders’ meeting had fully endorsed his aspiration to take over as the next national chairman of the APC, others routing for Oyegun said majority of the state chairmen had expressed their support for the incumbent chairman to continue in office.
So far, Oyegun and Oshiomhole, both former governors of Edo State have been engaged in shadow-boxing and not coming out openly to declare their intentions. Perhaps, it was Oyegun, who has tried to say something about the intrigues surrounding the APC chairmanship.
Oyegun, described claims that the South-south zone of APC had endorsed Oshiomhole as “absolutely childish,” even though he did not confirm whether he would seek re-election or not. But he told journalists that he was still making consultations and would make his position public soon.
Attempting to rubbish the endorsement of Oshiomhole by party stakeholders, Oyegun said the voting for the election of new national chairman would be done at the convention and “not in state houses, or in government houses.”
Oyegun, who spoke on the outcome of the South-south zonal meeting, noted, “They have their reasons for what they did and you have to respect their own reasons, however wrong it is. Don’t bother about this teaser; I will give a comprehensive interview, to speak with you when the time comes.
“It doesn’t bother me because one of those who want my job is from Edo and he is the immediate past governor and he was very instrumental in installing the present governor, so I think it is a case of ‘rub my back, I rub your back’ that is playing out.”
On whether he would still go ahead and contest despite the opposition from the home front, Oyegun said, “The consultation, I think is concluded. Well, I’m going to know when the convention committee announces their programmes, then, when I’m going to buy a form. If I will re-contest, I will let you know.”
The die, however, appears cast with Buhari and Tinubu being on Oshiomhole’s side and Oyegun hanging on with some of the governors and state chairmen of the party. Like Oyegun has assured, the next few days will determine whether the duo will be facing each other in an epic battle for the soul of the party or one side will first blink and allow peace to reign.
Meanwhile, the waiting game for the national convention may be prolonged further as the meeting of the governors and the National Working Committee held last Wednesday has proposed a review of the timetable for the congresses and convention.
According to the National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, the governors had asked for an adjustment in the timetable to create room for unforeseen circumstances like the coming fasting period for Muslims.
The Spokesman gave an insight into the deliberations and said the date of the national convention might be shifted forward as part of the timetable review.