One would have thought that the leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) would seize the moment and make gains on the peace process in the face of daunting challenges before the party. It is however proving more difficult at this point. ANDREW ESSIEN writes
After what seemed like ages, President Muhammadu Buhari finally decided to intervene in the internal wrangling currently threatening the unity and stability of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) by setting up the peace and reconciliation committee currently being headed by no other person than Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Without any iota of doubt, the contribution of Asiwaju to the success of the APC at the 2015 polls cannot be over emphasized and as such he has become a force to reckon with especially when serious politics is discussed not only in the south west but in the country as a whole.
Also, the contribution of the current national Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, is also worthy of commendation. In fact, some analysts have averred that should it have been another politician probably much younger, the party would have been in deep waters because his handling of some serious issues that ordinarily would have pushed the party to deep waters of crisis.
Others have however dismissed this line of thought and even fingered the national chairman of being at the heart of the issues that are wrong with the party. They argue that his handling of some teething problems currently rocking the party is, in fact, responsible for pushing the APC to its breaking point.
The saying that “when two elephants fight, it is undoubtedly, the grass that bears the brunt” readily comes to mind at this juncture. Both men are political forces to be reckoned with. Their rich political resume make them distinguished among others and the fact that they are leaders within the same party, makes it all the more complicated.
Unfortunately, immediately after the party came to power, there has been no love lost between the duo. From the events that culminated into the emergence of the current leadership of the current National Assembly, to various distinct elections especially in Kogi and Ondo states, both men have been at daggers drawn owing to perceived actions and inactions played either by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as the APC chairman and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who is generally regarded as national leader of the party.
Asiwaju’s famous letter after the Ondo gubernatorial elections is still fresh in the minds of political onlookers as he (Tinubu) came down hard on the national working committee of the party as currently constituted. Chief Oyegun also responded in a blow by blow sequence, debunking all the allegations leveled against him as contained in the said letter; this is after he had met with the president. Both men had avoided each other since then.
It was interesting therefore to see the president tasking Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to ensure that peace returns to the party that has, for most party of the period since it came to power, been largely emerging from one crisis to the other. Many had predicted that it was another opportunity for more cracks to appear in the party.
In settling down to carry out the task assigned to him, Asiwaju Tinubu would eventually visited the national secretariat that he had avoided for so long. In a rather tense atmosphere, the National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and Leader of the constituted Presidential team on Reconciliation And Confidence Building, finally came “eyeball to eyeball” for the first time at the national secretariat since after his letter criticizing the party’s national working committee (NWC).
One could practically slice the tensed atmosphere with a blunt knife as both men were not comfortable. After a meeting that lasted over three hours, Asiwaju Tinubu insisted that change does not come easy, insisting that APC remains the hope of Nigeria and platform through which the lives of the citizenry will be improved.
Acknowledging that there has been issues to be tackled, Tinubu said “The solution is to seek opinion and advice on the various complex around some states or if there is any national one, to reconcile, move the party in a cohesive manner and reposition if any and build the confidence among ourselves”.
On why he came to the party, Asiwaju said: “I started to say that I came for consultations. Consultation since you are aware of the assignment given to me by the president and I am all ears to listen to various challenges that we have. We have this party and we all worked hard.
“After the last convention of the party, congresses were held from various wards to elect representatives from the ward, local government and state levels as well as the national level. We worked hard for victory. We have never govern before, but we won the confidence of Nigerians to govern. We have a creed to really serve the country, change and reform the country.
On the way forward, he said: “It is not easy to have those changes implemented like instant coffee. We have to grow it and face challenges. I sympathize with us and we should equally look at ourselves. Since we won the election, the expectations was very high and the good will was extremely high. But where are we today?
“The solution is to seek opinion and advice on the various complex around some states or if there is any national one, to reconcile, move the party in a cohesive manner and reposition if any and build the confidence among ourselves.
“The challenges faced by our government and the president is enormous.
“It is only because people are not paying attention to the various statistics that are available and we have to push that I won’t touch those areas yet. The challenges of security, the challenges of reforms and re-engineering the finances of this country, stopping the corruption and challenging the status quo to change and reform ourselves is there. It doesn’t go away over night. You work on and work hard at it. For us, we have been patient, we have persevered to having this victory, but how are we now? We should equally face the immediate medium and serious challenges that politically, we will be facing. I believe that our party is the hope of Nigeria to improve quality of lives and we will do that.”
Earlier, while welcoming Tinubu, Chief Oyegun said: “Your visit is very significant in view of your Presidential assignment which I will describe as a peace ambassador, to heal wounds where the party has wounds and bring everybody together behind one single objective which is the APC being in good condition to be a fighting political force such that in 2019, the election will become virtually a runaway victory for the party.
“There is no question at all that we have major issues with the National Assembly, major issues in Kano, Kogi, Benue states which the current challenge that we are facing. So, we truely welcome your appointment and I want to say that we will give you all the assistance that you will possibly need to make your assignment a most successful one”.
One would think that all hands were on deck to travel the difficult road to peace but alas, the bomb was coming. The feud between the duo would go up a notch as Tinubu, last week Friday, wrote a seven-page strongly worded letter to, Chief Oyegun accusing him of doing everything to undermine the ongoing peace process.
Tinubu further alleged that the APC Chairman has been taking unilateral decisions regarding the crisis in the party in Kogi, Kaduna and Adamawa states.
In the letter dated February 21 Titled, ‘Actions and Conduct Weakening the Party from Within’, Tinubu said, “those who were entrusted with positions of high responsibility within the party seemed unable to handle the success given them. Little attention was tendered the principles upon which this party was formed and pursuant to which it was presented to the public as an alternative to the cynical politics of the PDP”.
He said Oyegun had mentioned the APC in Kogi, Kaduna, Adamawa and Kano states as chapters deserving critical attention due to the peculiar nature of their crisis, and accused the national chairman of rushing to Kogi last weekend to “unilateral inaugurate a new slate of state officials, parallel to the officials already heading the state chapter of the party”.
“It is my understanding that your dissolution of the duly-constituted state executives and the hurried naming of the above-mentioned caretaker group was not approved by the NWC. You had let this situation fester for months on end. Only when I was apointed to help resolve internal disputes and when you realized I might focus early on Kogi, did you stir from your indifference and inaction”.
Tinubu said Oyegun’s inaction led to the festering crisis in other states, saying the chairman also failed to avail him of the status reports on the affected state chapters as earlier promised.
“Drawing from your behaviour in Kogi, Kaduna and with regard to the state chapter assessment requested I am led to the inference that you have no intention of actually supporting my assignment”.
The letter was copied the president, vice president, Senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives.
Chief Oyegun would respond in a terse but simple two-paragraphed letter he personally signed :”I thank you for your letter dated February 21, 2018, for your prayers and good wishes for my health. I wish you the same and pray that our good God keeps you strong and grants you His peace. Let me once again formally congratulate you on the peace making assignment Mr President has entrusted you with. It is most challenging but I believe you will ultimately justify the confidence reposed in you by Mr President. In this you have my fullest support.
“Be assured, dear Asiwaju, of my highest regards now and always”
In the heat of all these however, themembers of the Adamawa State House of Assembly, led by their Speaker were at the national secretariat of the APC to pass a vote of confidence on the national chairman and the NWC.
“It is a great pleasure for members of the Adamawa House of Assembly to be in your midst this afternoon to deliver our solidarity message from the depth of our hearts. It is obvious that…and also there is a tendency to have divided opinions at this crucial hour. There are several partisan criticisms but the criticisms hold no weight. They are not constructive and that is why today we are here to register, render and show our appreciation and maximum support to the national executive of the APC. We also want to register and show our appreciation and maximum support to the state executives of our party. We appreciate them and are in support of them. We are behind them 100 percent. We also want to show our appreciation to our able executive governor of Adamawa state with the laudable project he has put in place in the state. We commend him and we have passed a vote of confidence on him. And lastly, our own zonal vice chairman, Comrade Mustapha Salihu, we appreciate him for his services to the party”, the speaker said.
Majority Leader of the House on his part said; “I will just build on what the Speaker has said. We have to commend your style of leadership. When the President was inaugurated, he said that we were going to face some challenges, turbulences and encumbrances in the government and the party is not excluded. For the past three years, we have seen how you have handled the party right from national to states, local governments and wards. With all these turbulences and encumbrances, we are still the great party that we are.
“We are ready to make this party great. Our visit is a show of support for the national executive. We are with you. We are synergizing with the state executing. We are happy with their leadership because they are copying your leadership style. We are very comfortable with the national executives. Despite whatever is happening, there is no impunity in the APC. This good leadership of yours is what has made me to come to the APC.
Responding, Odigie-Oyegun said; “In the last few months, I have had the fortune of having nothing but good news from Adamwa. Your colleagues in the NASS have also visited and showed solidarity.
“Today you are hear and what have you said? Loyalty to your governor, loyalty to your party in Adamwa, loyalty to the national party and loyalty to Mr President and I don’t think anybody can wish for more”.
Speaking on the strides of the governor, Oyegun said: “That so much change can happen in so short a time is something that must be appreciated. I am proud to say that if we are to showcase our governors and our achievements, there will be few that will beat Adamawa state”.
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