The leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) may be heading for a major battle over who emerges as the national chairman of the party as it holds its national convention next month. The contest is obviously between former Edo State governor who is also current party chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who is the immediate past governor of the state, PATRICK OCHOGA and ANDREW ESSIEN write
Ahead of the national convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC), after the failed attempt to elongate the tenure of the party’s chairman and other exco members, uneasy calm has since pervaded the party.
However, as the APC prepares to elect new officials that will steer the affairs of the party with time table drawn out ahead of its national convention, one key position that appears to be in serious contention is that of the National chairman.
The national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, it was learnt will contest to retain his plum job against the former Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Both leaders are not only from Edo State, they had both been privileged to govern the state at one time or the other.
Oshiomhole, a former labour leader, according to sources, is said to have been favoured by Pesident Muhammadu Buhari, for the number one party position.
Out of the 23 APC governors, it was learnt Oshiomhole is backed by a reasonable number of them, owing to the expectation that his emergence will go a long way to resolving the crisis plaguing the party in some APC-controlled states and restore confidence among party faithfuls.
Indications of his preference came to the fore Monday when leadership of the party in the South /South unanimously endorsed Oshiomhole for the National chairmanship of the party.
His choice to lead the party was announced barely 24 hours after the Edo State caucus of the All Progressives Congress (APC) endorsed the candidacy of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as chairmanship candidate for the position of the National Chairman of the party.
The National Vice Chairman (South South) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Ntufam Hilliard Eta, explained that the leadership of the party decided to endorse the immediate past governor of the state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, for the position of the National Chairman of the party because “Oshiomhole is the rebranding APC needs” ahead the 2019 general elections.
He noted that the party followed the tradition and due process in endorsing Oshiomhole contrary to the views from few leaders of the party in the zone, recalling that it was in a similar manner that the incumbent National Chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun was endorsed in 2014 in Port Harcourt, at a meeting hosted by the then governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, where he said, Oyegun was adopted as the candidate of the zone.
On the issue of four chairmen who disassociated themselves from the Benin meeting, Mr. Eta clarified that “I know that Cross River State does not have a chairman as we speak, so it could not have been four chairmen. Let me say that the chairmen are members of the zonal executive committee, just like the other 164 people in the zonal committee of the party.
“We are not holding a state executive meeting, we are holding a zonal committee meeting and in the zonal executive committee we have over 168 people including senators, governors, deputy governors, former senators, former House of Reps members. So, the chairmen who stormed out of the meeting were not speaking for their states. Let me tell you something, Senator Nelson Effiong was seated and participated in the voting when his chairman stormed out and said he disassociated himself.
“He could not have been speaking for Senator Effiong, he could not have been speaking for Hon.Robinson or Hon.Esieme Eyibo. When the chairman of Rivers state stormed out of the house, he could not have been speaking for Senator Magnus Abbe, because Abe after voting sat until the end of the meeting. He could not have been speaking for Senator Wilson Ake, these are people form Rivers state.
“In Bayelsa, the man there is just holding forth as chairman, he is not the chairman, however when he left the hall, people like Chief Ikisibor and others who were from Bayelsa state remained at the meeting. So these people cannot be claiming to speak for their states” he said.
On why they picked Oshiomhole ahead the incumbent, Chief Oyegun, Mr Eta said “Oshiomhole fought the god fathers of PDP in Edo state and defeated them. He has the name, the experience to change the fortunes of our party.
“I am the National Vice Chairman for close to four years now and what I can say now is that this party, the APC needs rebranding, reinvigoration, we need new creativity, we need to build strong leadership. I can tell you that we have been lacking very seriously, leadership at the national level of our party. And in bringing in Oshiomhole on board, I can tell you that the party will have a new lease of life. The impunity that has crept in, in the APC will be halted. And the laws of the party will be respected. For now, God forbid that Jesus Christ will come to the headquarters of the APC, he will not flog us with cane, he will flog us with thorns” he stated.
As if the national chairman of the party, Chief Oyegun and the Minister of Transportation got a wind of what would transpire at the Benin meeting, they decided to boycott the meeting even after they were said to have been surely invited.
The boycott by Oyegun and Amaechi was another clear pointer to the fact that the party is sitting on a time bomb waiting to explode if its leadership fails to come up with the right leadership that enjoys the confidence of the majority of party members.
Speaking on the absence of the National Chairman of the Party, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, at the meeting, Eta said: “we were told that the National Chairman was duly invited for the meeting like every other person.”
Prior to the meeting of the South/South zonal leaders of the party, Edo state caucus of the party had also at a meeting endorsed Oshiomhole to join the race ahead of the convention.
Oshiomhole’s home support for his endorsement which was presided over by Governor Godwin Obaseki had in attendance other leaders of the party.
Among those present includes the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; former governor of the state, Prof. Osarhiemien Osunbor; Deputy Governor of the state, Comrade Philip Shaibu; Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Francis Alimekhena; Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Pally Iriase; Secretary to the Edo state Government, Osarodion Ogie and entire members of the House of Representatives in the state under the APC platform.
The state chairman of the party, Anslem Ojezua stated that Oshiomhole remains the sole candidate of the state for the position, noting that he has all it takes to lead the APC to victory in the forthcoming 2019 general elections. This endorsement by implication dealt a fatal blow to Oyegun’s ambition.
His words: “Today, we had our state caucus meeting and at the meeting, a motion was put to urge our leader, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to put himself forward for the position of the National chairman of the APC considering the fact that NEC had graciously approved that the zoning formula earlier put in place should be sustained.
¨Which makes him eminently qualified and therefore we felt that at this critical time of the development of our party we needed to have a very strong party leadership that will lead us to victory. As you know, at this point in time, we require to have a leadership that the people of Nigeria can relate to.
¨A leadership that people trust, a leadership that can represent Mr President in his presence and on his behalf and a leadership that is strong enough to instil confidence and discipline among the rank and file. And we think that there is no other person at this time that can provide all these qualities rather than Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
“We believe he is eminently qualified and to underscore that fact, the motion was carried unanimously, there is no one dissenting voice. I believe in the next few days there will be more of such as we move on emanating from Edo State¨.
Ojezua added: ¨Let me also be a bit more specific. I think we are going to have a more efficient party administration in terms of the services they render and in terms of financial transparency. I think that with the political sagacity by which we ran the last election here, we need to have that kind of experience and leadership at the National level in the forthcoming election which you and i agree, will certainly not be easy.
¨It is very easy to criticize when you are in opposition but when you have been in government for a period then you need a party leadership that can also be a spokesman that can speak to the issues in a manner that people can understand.
¨Comrade Oshiomhole has oratorical talents that we can put to bear at this time because as you now know, we have people who have the statutory duties to do those jobs but clearly their voices have been submerged across board and you know that Adams Oshiomhole is vociferous and at all times he is logical and he makes sense. He has good understanding of the issues and he will be speaking to them very clearly¨ he stated.
On the flip side, National Chairman Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, a day after the meeting dismissed its outcome, describing as “absolutely childish” the endorsement of immediate past governor of Edo state, Adams Oshiomhole to take over from him as national chairman.
The party chairman who refused to categorically confirm or deny speculations about whether he will seek re-election as APC national chairman or not stated clearly that he had concluded consultations which he would make public in the coming days.
When specifically asked to comment on the endorsement of former Edo state governor Adams Oshiomhole and his own rejection by Edo state chapter of APC, Oyegun said: “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.”
On whether he was bothered about his rejection by his state chapter of APC, Oyegun said: “No. It doesn’t bother me because one of those who wants my job is from Edo and he was 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.”
Speaking with newsmen on whether he will re-contest his office or not, he simply said: “The consultation, I think it’s 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,” he said.
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