Strong indications have emerged that state chairmen of the All Progressives Congress have made a U-turn on their initial position that members of the party’s National Working Committee should be given a one-year tenure extension.
According to a report monitored by SUNDAY PUNCH, state governors had already reached out to the APC chairmen in their states to back the decision they reached with President Muhammad on the need to hold congresses where new party officials would be elected.
The state chairmen and other officials, who are members of the National Executive Committee, started arriving in Abuja on Friday evening ahead of Monday’s NEC meeting.
It was learnt that the governors had assured the state chairmen and their officials that their positions were not under threat by the decision not to elongate the tenure of the leaders of the party at all levels.
A party chairman said, “You will recall that the idea of tenure elongation was muted by the state and national executives of the APC before the February 27, 2018 meeting.
Between Monday and today (Saturday), almost all the chairmen have been directed by their governors to abandon the idea of tenure elongation.
“From all indications, when the national convention is held, the state chairmen and their officials may not support the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, if he re-contests.”
It was gathered that the support base of the national chairman had thinned out and his chances of being re-elected were slim.
ADVOCATE also learnt that a series of meetings were being held at various locations across Abuja ahead of Monday’s NEC meeting.
A top-ranking party leader, privy to some of the meetings, spoke to the media in Abuja, on Saturday, that while those urging Oyegun to seek re-election had not given up, those who desire to see a change in leadership were also not relenting.
The party leader added, “Governors, who have aligned with the position of the President on this issue of tenure, are also not leaving anything to chance. Already, the party chairmen from the 36 states of the federation are in Abuja and as members of NEC, they are meeting party leaders from both sides.
“Apart from the general meeting, some governors from the various zones have been assigned to meet with them.
“The Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, is meeting with the chairmen from the South-West. The Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, is to meet with all the chairmen from the 19 northern states tomorrow (Sunday), while the Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, is to meet with those from the South-East.
“The message to them is simple: Support the President’s position. In exchange they are to seek re-election and be returned.
“For those who fail to retain their positions, especially because of the activities of the opponents of the President’s position, they will be compensated.”
As of Saturday, a former Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, and a former Governor of Cross Rivers State, Chief Clement Ebri, were among top contenders for the national chairmanship of the APC.
It was also gathered in Abuja, on Saturday, that it was still unclear whether Odigie-Oyegun had made up his mind to seek re-election or not.
Odigie-Oyegun, a former Edo State governor, was not available for comments as he neither returned several calls to his mobile nor respond to text messages sent to his telephone.
However, Oshiomhole and Ebri are said to have signalled their intention to challenge Odigie-Oyegun for the job should he decides to run.
It was gathered that the national chairman was facing stiff opposition from Edo State, where he and Oshiomhole hail from.
“If you are talking of a strong support from his state, Odigie-Oyegun does not have it. Oshiomhole will displace him,” a national officer said.
A member of the party’s NWC, who did not want his name in print, said, “Personally, I am not seeking re-election; I have had enough. I want to go and face my business.
“However, I was informed by Chief Ebri that he is contesting and I know he will be a good chairman. His experience and disposition stands him in good stead.”
The party is expected to make public a timetable for the congress at all levels as well as the names of members of its national convention committee on Monday.
It was further gathered that the governor ofKaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai; his Ondo and Kogi states’ counterparts, Rotimi Akeredolu and Yahaya Bello respectively, were making a case for Odigie-Oyegun’s return.
A top-ranking member of the party, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, explained that the decision to hold fresh congresses had also thrown up other issues.
The source said, “We are still meeting. Some of our leaders feel since we don’t have the luxury of time, we should retain the zoning arrangement put in place in 2014. Some others feel we should tinker with it.
“If we retain the zoning arrangement, it means only members from the South-South will be eligible to contest the position of national chairman. This option is likely to be our most viable considering today’s exigencies.
“If, on the other hand, we throw it open, other zones may feel left out and it is likely to throw up additional challenges.”
Most members of the current APC NWC, who are not in good terms with their state governors, are still weighing their options because the support of governors will be crucial.
The embattled Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Timi Frank, said he would seek re-election.
Speaking with Journalists, Frank stated, “Some are saying Oyegun should run. Those who are telling Oyegun to run are the enemies of the APC.
“Look at all the governors supporting him, they are governors who have issues in their states.
“For me, he should take a bow and go back to Benin or go back to the farm. He should not allow these young men to push him around. I don’t want him to be disgraced.”
Meanwhile, the Edo State chapter of the APC has thrown its weight behind the decision of the APC governors to reject tenure elongation for the current NWC officials.
Speaking with correspondents on Saturday, the Chairman of the Edo State chapter of the party, Mr. Anslem Ojezua, said the decision of the APC governors to support the President was in tandem with the position earlier taken by the state executive committee.
He said, “That is exactly our own position too. What the President is saying is that neither the constitution of the party nor the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria supports the extension of tenure under any guise.”
Ojezua said the APC governors were convinced by the superior argument of Buhari on the matter, rather than being forced against their personal opinions.
He added, “What will give the party respect in terms of internal democracy is to obey our own rules, which is our constitution. The constitution says when your tenure expires, the party must conduct congresses.
“It is a mandatory decision; it is not discretionary. The governors were not coerced to agree with the President; No, certainly not.
“I think it (President’s position on tenure elongation) was a superior argument. There was no pressure at all. The contents of both constitutions are very clear and unambiguous and in English language understood by all.”
Also, the APC chairman in the Ovia North-East Local Government Area of Edo State, where Odigie-Oyegun hails from, Mr. Benson Edosomwan, said the leadership of the council would abide by the decision taken by the state chapter.
“Well, that one (reaction) has to come from our state chairman. We align with whatever he tells you; it (Edo APC) is a big family,” he said.
Ojezua told one of our correspondents that he was not in a position to determine whether Odigie-Oyegun would seek re-election or not.
He said, “I think the question (about Odigie-Oyegun re-contesting) is better put to him; it is a personal decision. It is a decision he has to make and then the rest of us will respond.
“That matter (support for a candidate) has not been discussed. At the appropriate time, we will discuss it.”
Also, no fewer than eight APC chairmen from different states, who spoke with journalists on condition of anonymity, described the issue of tenure elongation for Odigie-Oyegun as a foregone conclusion.
One of them said, “I am a staunch supporter of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and he does not want Oyegun there again. My governor will tow this line and I am sure that if there is any way he can decide the fate of Oyegun politically at least for now, such decision will be in the negative.
“For instance, Odigie-Oyegun and Tinubu did not want the same candidate during the Ondo State governorship election and that animosity is still there. So, my governor will not be among those who will support tenure elongation for the national chairman or vote for him if he chooses to contest again.”
24 Governors backing Oyegun to return — Adamawa organising secretary
But the Organising Secretary of the APC inAdamawa State, Ahmed Lawan, said the 24 governors on the platform of the party would still support the re-election of Oyegun at an elective convention.
Lawan stated, “Oyegun will contest because apart from the various APC state branches, virtually all the 24 governors, elected on the platform of our party, are urging Oyegun to contest and return as the national chairman.
“The governors are coming with their delegates. They will direct the delegates to vote for Oyegun. That decision will be perfected on Monday (tomorrow) at the NEC meeting.”