The much awaited response from the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s letter came penultimate week and it was everything speculations posited it would be. ANDREW ESSIEN in this piece, brings to the fore what went wrong on both sides, culminating to the battle lines being drawn.
The issues arising from the Ondo state governorship primaries of the APC climaxed, presenting the well-set stage for a titanic battle for the soul of APC and the ultimate clash of two powerful gladiators in the ring just as party members and spectators, media and individuals across party lines in this political amphitheater, watch on with keen expectation, at the spectacle that is unfolding right before them.
The National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie – Oyegun has in the wake of the letter by one of the national leaders of his party and former governor of Lagos state, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, promised to respond to each of the alligations levelled against him. He however said that this would only be done after the Edo elections have been concluded and consultation with President Muhammadu Buhari.
APC won the election and by extention, Chief Oyegun had delivered his state to the party and again, he did meet with the President culminating in his own ‘counter attack’ on and to the national leader. While describing the allegations against him as “reckless and false”, Oyegun who responded to the allegations against him in a blow by blow account, said it was now time to set the records straight inview of the misinformation that has been fed to the public.
The Chairman, in a statement he personally signed and made available to newsmen in Abuja, further stated in that “The ripples from the controversy over the election have unfortunately dragged our great party on to the front pages of newspapers for the wrong reasons.’’
According to him “In view of the misinformation and false reports that have been fed to the media and that have pervaded the public space, there is need to set the records straight. Below are factual responses to the salient points and allegations made by the media office of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in its statement.
He said “Recently, the media office of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu falsely and recklessly accused me of corruption, rigging the outcome of the 2016 Ondo State APC governorship election primaries and overruling the Party’s National Working Committee (NWC) “vote” on the 2016 Ondo State APC Governorship Primary Election Appeal Committee Report.’’
Oyegun, who took time to counter all the allegations brought against him by Tinubu explained thus “The media office of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in its statement alleged that I overruled the NWC’s vote of “six against five” in favour of cancelling the primary election results and conducting another primary.
Reacting to the allegation of bribery and corruption against him he snapped thus “This reckless and baseless corruption allegation levelled against me is unfortunate and an insult to my person and my hard-earned reputation which I have strongly maintained. Nobody has the kind of money that can buy my conscience or make me do injury to an innocent man. In all the primaries conducted under my watch as National Chairman, I have strived to ensure a free, fair, transparent and credible process. The 2016 Ondo State APC Governorship Primary Election was not an exception. There must be internal democracy in the Party and our constitution must be respected by all,’’ he said.
Oyegun said what actually happened was that “According to the minutes of the 18th emergency meeting of the APC NWC held from Monday 19th September 2016 to Thursday 22nd September, 2016 at the Party’s National Secretariat in Abuja, there was absolutely no meeting which I chaired that voted in the manner alleged. Clearly, the report on which the media office of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu acted was a figment of someone’s wild imagination.
The party chairman further explained that “On Thursday 22nd September, 2016 being the final day for submission of candidate by Political Parties, the NWC discussed the possibility of voting having finished deliberation on the2016 Ondo State APC Governorship Primary Election Appeal Committee Report because members in support of cancelling the Primary results were still strident in their position.
Countering the allegation of tampering with the delegate list Oyegun said “The Ondo State approved delegates list was compiled in strict compliance with the Party’s constitution. Only qualified delegates were included in the list. Moreso, none of the aspirants or the Appeal Committee has submitted to NWC a list of delegates who were not qualified to be included in the delegates list but were listed as delegates or presumed qualified delegates who were not included in the delegates list used for the Primary.
Oyegun while appealing to party faithful to remain calm irrespective of the distraction affirmed that ‘‘It needs to be stated categorically that the NWC is confident that the Chairman of the Ondo State APC Governorship Primary Election Committee, H.E. Abubakar Badaru, Executive Governor of Jigawa State conducted a credible and exemplary exercise. We indeed commend the Governor and his team for their transparency and the free and fair manner the primaries was conducted.
Hardly had the dust settled that the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Comrade Timi Frank, challenged his National Chairman to, among other things, publish the original minutes of the meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) where it was agreed to throw away the reports of Ondo Primary Appeal Panel.
Frank also faulted the statements credited to Chief John Oyegun against the party’s National Leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, asking the chairman why it took him two weeks to respond while insisting that the current crisis has gotten to a stage where the national chairman must publish the original minutes of the meeting if he does not have anything to hide.
“Unknown to the National Chairman the last two NWC meetings were properly recorded and the record shows the contributions of each and every member of the NWC present the the meetings.
“Chief Oyegun should tell the world why he brushed aside the suggestion of the National Youth Leader Hon. Dasuki Jalo who suggested that the party should submit an interim name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) pending the time a political solution will be find to the matter. But Oyegun and few others who benefitted from the corruption that produced Rotimi Akeredolu as governorship candidate of our party did not see wisdom in what the national youth leader said.
“Chief Oyegun’s few responses to the many of allegations raised by our leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu can never hold water. For example, the chairman and his cohort contradicted themselves when Oyegun said there was no voting at all but he forgot that the National Vice chairman Hilliard Eta, told newsmen that there was voting, which is in agreement with the position of the party’s South-west National Vice Chairman Chief Pius Akinyelure, who also said that the NWC members actually voted on the Ondo State Governorship Appeal Panel Report.
Frank quoted Oyegun as saying in his statement that: “Also, voting on the issue became unnecessary and never took place in view of the NWC’s rejection of the Appeal Committee’s report.”
Driving ho home his point, he further argued that on his part, the South-south vice chairman Hilliard Eta had told newsmen that “Before we met on the last day for the submission of name to INEC, we met three days earlier. In that meeting, there were two reports before the NWC, that of the appeal committee was voted on. That very day, we were 14 in number, not 11 as we have it in the media.
“After that, we mandated our National Chairman and Secretary to go out and do wider consultations so that we can have a political solution to the heated environment the situation has caused the party.”
“But it is not too late. Our national leader Tinubu has spoken that Oyegun should step aside, and that is the opinion of larger percentage of leaders and members of APC. It is expected of our National Chairman to do the needful before the evidences of many evils done to the party will be made public.
According to the APC chieftain, all lovers of APC should disregard Chief Oyegun’s recent defense statement because the true position of what transpired at the NWC meeting had been truly revealed by the National Vice Chairman (South-west) Chief Pius Akinyelure.
Guided by a school which posits that nothing much happens without the support from and or of the presidency, the question on the minds of many is therefore: what may have brought about these varoius vexatious vituperations? What is so special about the Ondo primaries? Is these outbursts a reaaction to recent happenings or about things to come?
Analysts aver that trouble may have started soon after victory was won and the party formed the government at various levels ( federal, state and local governments levels). No sooner had this happened that the flavour that had so far endeared many and kept the party together, gradually began losing its savour owing to the modus operandi in the party which may be in part, responsible for this tone of music being sung at this time.
The first case that may have resulted in the recent “bomb” to the party leadership was the way it handled the National Assembly leadership tussle. The inauguration of the 8th national assembly on the 9th of June which produced Senator Saraki’s as President of the Senate and Dogara as the Speaker, House of Representatives respectively as against the preferred candidates of the party, had no doubt, polarized the APC.
Pundits say this were not the “anointed” candidates from the Jagaban who arguable had put in “an arm and a leg” to ensure that the party won the elections at all levels. Since that election, the development is still being greeted with mixed reactions as to the legality and acceptability of the process that produced them giving rise to speculations that the leadership is weak.
In fact, the bone of contention was and still is the inability of the APC leadership to have reined in on their lawmakers to agree on the choice of their candidate. Moreso, the leadership did not come out on time on the choice of candidates.
Analysts aver that the party dilly-dallied and when candidates had already expressed interests and neck-deep in keen campaign with different camps emerging, it then dawned on the party leadership to conduct a straw election which produced senators Lawan and George Akume, who were supposedly the “preferred” candidates for senate president and deputy respectively. By this period, the party had already been polarized.
The cracks were further widened when a shadow election was also conducted for members of the House of Representatives to drum up support for Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila to emerge as Speaker, resultant effect was that the Dogara group denounced that outcome.
Pundits also believe that President Buhari’s position that he would work with whoever emerged at both chambers, paved the way for all the interested parties to throw their hats into the ring. It provided the fuel for the keen contest thus, when the party tried to impose a candidate on them, it was stiffly resisted.
Jolted by the outcome, the party and other party bigwigs had refused to recognize the officers, a position they have since vacated even as a group had asked Ekweremadu to step down as a condition to recognize Saraki’s leadership.
At another level it was the varied elections in some states that the Asiwaju was alleged to have favoured a candidate to move in especially as governor but that was not meant to be.
In Kogi state, the intricate web of politicking such as never seen before played out occasioned by the death of the APC standard bearer, Prince Abubakar Audu and it created both a political and judicial logjam, the kind that the framers of the constitution had never envisaged.
While many had thought it was an open and shut case, the same could not be said in the race to fill the vacuum so created. Behind the scene however, it was touted in some quarters that the Jagaban (as he is often referred to) had tacitly endorsed Hon James Faleke, who was the running mate to the late Audu, to succeed the late candidate.
Audu’s death, pundits say, robbed Tinubu of the chance of ‘cornering’ up Kogi for himself as Audu had been his political ally since 2011 when he dumped the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and contested the governorship under the platform of ACN.
In the governorship ballot in Kogi on November 21, Tinubu recommended Faleke, a House of Representatives member representing Ikeja Federal Constituency of Lagos State to Audu as his running mate. He however died while the results were trickling in. But election had not taken place or were cancelled in 91 polling units with 49,953 registered voters.
But like tales by moonlight, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, shattered political calculatoions and was sworn in as the 5th executive governor of Kogi State. From the face value, it looked as if nothing had happened because some members of the political class never gave him any opportunity to survive the holocaust.
The contentious hotbed and the mother of all is the Ondo case. The state seems to be the issue that is a ‘nutcase’ and threatening to “break the camel’s back” with the mountainous gale of rejection that accompanied the governorship primaries of the state and the rejections came in torrents even as several contestants distanced themselves from the result of the primaries.
The issues that snowballed into a full blown media war started after former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu emerged as the governorship candidate of the APC in Ondo State.
Akeredolu polled 669 votes to defeat Dr Segun Abraham, the ‘anointed’ candidate of the APC National Leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, who got 635 votes. Twenty five aspirants contested the election.
It was alleged that aspirants at the venue of the election agreed to work against the interest of Tinubu and allegedly directed delegates in their camps to vote for a particular aspirant. This was even as Chairman of the primary election committee and Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, described the exercise as a peaceful and successful one, noting that delegates comported themselves well all through the exercise.
He lauded the aspirants for ensuring that peace reigned in the party and the state during the exercise, stressing that the election supervised by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was free, fair, transparent and credible.
From that point, it was issues after another even as an aspirant, Olusola Oke, on alleged irregularities in the process.
Mr. Oke said the governorship primary, which returned Rotimi Akeredolu as winner, was fraught with malpractices. According to him, over 500 illegal delegates were included in the list of delegates, while authentic voters were denied the opportunity to vote.
Resulting from all these, Asiwaju Tinubu, asked the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, to resign without delay and the target, from the look of things, may not want to leave without setting the records straight.
Political onlookers have posited that all these are pointers to the fact that the race for 2019 may have effectively started, which certainly, has come a bit too early both within the party and without. The race for who gets what, who controls who and who goes where is threatening the delicate balance upon which the party is struggling to stand even as some want the chairman out of the way for whatever reason.
Chief Oyegun had however dismissed such a move stating that he could not be removed on the pages of newspaperssince there were processes to follow for the removal of the chairman as stipulated for by the consitution guoding the party.