Ortom Quits APC, Akume Eyes Senate Presidency

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•APC settles for direct primary for Osun State guber contest

Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Omololu Ogunmade, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and James Emejo in Abuja

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State Monday said he had left the All Progressives Congress (APC), following what he described as “a red card” given to him by some powerful forces within the party.

The governor’s exit, THISDAY gathered Monday, was part of an elaborate political intrigue, shaping the future of the ruling party as its leaders, particularly in Benue State, position for the spoils of anticipated victory of the APC at the impending 2019 presidential election.

At the root of Ortom’s ordeal, it was learnt, was his erstwhile godfather, Senator George Akume’s ambition to clinch the Senate Presidency in the event of the incumbent, Senator Bukola Saraki’s exit from the party.

Saraki along with the House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara are believed to be estranged from the party and are hugely suspected to be behind the reformed All Progressives Congress (rAPC) that is unsettling the APC and is spearheading a coalition of opposition party to work with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to dislodge President Muhammadu Buhari from power.

Akume’s calculation, THISDAY learnt, was that Saraki might leave the party shortly, a situation that might endanger his position and lead to his ouster. In the alternative, he calculates that even if Saraki serves out his term, he anticipates that the next Senate would be dominated by the APC, a situation, he feels would put him in good stead to bid for the coveted seat.

But Akume is said to feel that for all of these to happen, Ortom has to be out of the way, hence his move against the governor.

This, THISDAY learnt, was responsible for the intractable nature of their quarrel.

But speaking to reporters in Abuja Monday, APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, denied the defection of Ortom, dismissing it as mere rumour.

He said the governor was a loyal party man and a man of integrity, who would not take such steps without consulting with the party leadership.

Oshiomhole also stated that the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) had settled for direct primary for the Osun State governorship contest in the party.

In a telephone interview with THISDAY, however, the Benue State governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Terver Akase, said his boss made his position known Monday in Makurdi, the state capital, shortly after swearing in a new Special Adviser on Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. Jerome Shimbe, who replaced Mr Titus Zam, relieved of his duty on July 8.

He quoted the governor as saying that the ‘’red card from APC’’ would enable him to join any political party that has an ideology worthy of being adopted by his administration, adding that he had not made up his mind the party to join.

THISDAY exclusively reported recently that the governor had resolved to dump APC following his tense relationship with the party, the platform he used to contest the governorship election in 2015.

The governor in part dissolved his cabinet last week, retaining only four out of the 16 commissioners and seven out of 19 special advisers.

Although, he gave no reason for sacking of the members of the expanded cabinet members, insiders said the sudden cabinet reshuffle might not be unconnected with the friction between him and the APC leader in the state, Akume.

Ortom also said the appointment of Shimbe was based on his impeccable character and proven track record of service, advising him to strive to justify the confidence reposed in him and open his doors to all indigenes seeking for assistance from him regardless of their political affiliation.

Responding, Shimbe thanked Governor Ortom for finding him worthy of the appointment, pledging to ensure that the governor succeeds in all his endeavours.

Oshiomhole: It’s Mere Rumour

But addressing journalists, shortly after the NWC meeting of the ruling party, Oshiomhole said the alleged defection of Ortom was a mere rumour, adding: “The party will not comment on the basis of rumour; I am sure that eventually we will find out the facts of the matter and we will now act.”

‘’Governor Ortom is a respected, prominent member of the APC and he has said repeatedly to that he will not leave the APC unless he was pushed out,” he added.

…Summons Benue Gov, Akume, to Abuja

Meanwhile, the AP Monday night summoned Ortom and Akume to Abuja over irreconcilable differences between them which led to the former’s decision to quit the party.

A presidential source who did not want to be named, told THISDAY Monday night that APC’s summons of the two political rivals was conveyed to them by the Deputy National Chairman (North) of the party, Senator Lawal Shu’aibu.

The source said: “Deputy Chairman (North), Senator Lawal Shu’aibu has summoned to Abuja for an urgent meeting, the two known gladiators in the APC in Benue State, Governor Samuel Ortom and Senator George Akume who have been at daggers-drawn over the control of the party in the state.

“This is directly connected with the threat to pull out of the party made by Governor Ortom on Monday.”

Dogara’s Top Aide Dumps APC

As Oshiomhole laboured to deny the exit of Ortom, the news came that the Special Adviser to the Speaker of the House of Representatives on Special Duties, Alhaji Usman Bawa, had resigned his membership of the APC.

Bawa was a member of the House of Representatives where he represented Kaduna North Local Government Area at the National Assembly.

He sent his signed resignation letter, dated July 14, to the APC chairman in his local government Monday. Bawa was appointed in 2015.

Dogara’s spokesperson, Turaki Hassan, confirmed that Bawa was still an aide to his principal though.

Bawa wrote: “I write to convey my decision to resign as a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) following consultations with my teaming supporters.

“The decision has become imperative to enable me pursue other course of life. I seize this opportunity to express my appreciation to the executives and members of APC for their support during my stint with the party.”

He did not mention the new party he will be joining.

Bawa’s decison comes weeks after an aide to Senate President Bukola Saraki, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, also left the APC.

Baba-Ahmed is also a politician from Kaduna State.

Although Dogara and Saraki are still officially members of the APC, they are believed to be the key sponsors of the rAPC, a splinter group within Nigeria’s ruling party.

The rAPC is already in talks with the other parties, including the main opposition PDP to form a coalition for the 2019 election.

APC Settles for Direct Primary in Osun State

In the meantime, Oshiomhole said Monday that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC had decided to use direct primary to conduct the nomination contest for its candidate for the governorship election scheduled for September in Osun State.

He also said Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, had been appointed to head the panel to conduct the primary election.

Defending the decision to adopt direct primary, Oshiomhole said it was more democratic, saying majority of all the stakeholders of the party in the state had indicated preference for it.