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With NWC tenure extension, more headaches for APC

By Niyi Bello (Political Editor), Samson Ezea and Seye Olumide
01 March 2018   |   3:44 am
Although the All Progressives Congress (APC) claimed it wanted to avoid internal bickering that could threaten its unity before the 2019 elections with the proposed elongation, by one year, of the tenure of members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, more crises may have been created by the decision.

Bola Tinubu

Although the All Progressives Congress (APC) claimed it wanted to avoid internal bickering that could threaten its unity before the 2019 elections with the proposed elongation, by one year, of the tenure of members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, more crises may have been created by the decision.

By aligning themselves with the tenure extension, which by the way, has not been legally sealed with an amendment of the party’s constitution, major stakeholders have pitched their tent with the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun who is regarded in many quarters as one of the main stumbling blocks to the progress of the party.

That the decision was gleefully announced by Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, who last week climbed on the back of the Odigie-Oyegun leadership to allegedly impose a new set of party executives in his state, a move that was publicly condemned by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, showed that those opposed to the reconciliation efforts of the National Leader were having the upper hand.

Tinubu had been given a presidential mandate to reconcile all the warring factions of the party before the 2019 elections by the former Lagos governor, in his complaints to President Muhammadu Buhari last week, identified Odigie-Oyegun as a clog in the wheel of his reconciliation process citing Kogi as one of the states where the National Chairman was thwarting his efforts.

The Kogi governor had been at loggerheads with James Faleke, a known protégé of Tinubu who currently represents Lagos at the House of Representatives and who as the running mate is believed to have been schemed out by powerful anti-Tinubu forces after the sudden death of the candidate of the party, Abubakar Audu, when the 2015 governorship election was being concluded.

To the chagrin of Tinubu, Odigie-Oyegun, who is believed to have the support of powerful elements within the presidency who were allegedly bent on reducing the influence of the foremost Southwest APC leader, had shown open support to Bello and some other anti-Tinubu groups in the APC.

During a meeting on Monday ahead of the Tuesday event, the Forum of APC State Chairmen, had “unanimously resolved” to propose a two-year tenure extension for Odigie-Oyegun-led NWC and other constituted organs of the party at state, local and ward levels who were elected for a four-year tenure on June 14, 2014 at the first National Convention of the party held at Eagles Square, Abuja.

With this controversial extension, it is obvious that Tinubu’s reconciliation assignment may end up as an exercise in futility. It is also obvious that President Buhari may have not consulted with the governors and other stakeholders before choosing Tinubu for the onerous task.This may be the reason no terms of reference was given to Tinubu in the assignment, which the governors, some ministers and other party stakeholders see as unconstitutional.

To many political observers, the development looks like a deliberate attempt by the powers-that-be to rubbish and checkmate Tinubu ahead of 2019, as President Buhari cannot pretend not to know that the National Leader and the National Chairman are not the best of friends.This is despite of the fact that Odigie-Oyegun’s emergence as was facilitated by Tinubu. It would be recalled that the choice of Odigie-Oyegun made the likes of Tom Ikimi and former governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff, defected to PDP ahead of 2015 elections.

The Guardian gathered that the decision of tenure extension despite its alleged abysmal performance of the NWC was the handiwork of the governors and some ministers, who don’t want Tinubu to assume larger- than-life image in the party and polity again.“The anti-Tinubu members of the NEC outnumbered pro-Tinubu people and the presidency was overwhelmed. Before the NEC meeting, the Presidency was determined to dissolve the NWC at the end of its tenure, but majority of the governors and ministers saw it as a move to pacify one man- Tinubu. That was why they decided to oppose it strongly. Leading the governors against Odigie-Oyegun’s removal was a governor each from Southwest, North Central and Northwest zones.”

According to a source within the party, who pleaded anonymity, “the state governors, to whose tunes Odigie-Oyegun has been dancing to at the detriment of the party, pressured President Buhari and insisted that it would be counter-productive to change the party leadership few months to the next election.“This is even when it is obvious that the party has not faired well under Odigie-Oyegun’s watch, considering the myriad of crises that have bedeviled the party.” Crises have been rocking the party in Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Bauchi, Rivers, Cross Rivers and other states.

In April 2017, the Odigie-Oyegun leadership set up peace and reconciliation committee in the two states of Kogi and Bauchi, leaving out other APC crisis-ridden states. While the Bauchi committee was headed by Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, that of Kogi was headed by Prince Tony Momoh.

Despite this, the committees are neither here nor there, while the crises in these states have not abated. So surprising and disappointing is that in the face of the overwhelming crisis in these states, the leadership of the party and the presidency are carrying on as if all is well with the party ahead of 2019; a development that worried and surprised many party observers and members when President Buhari asked Tinubu to reconcile aggrieved party members.

A member of the NEC from Southeast told The Guardian that Tinubu should have known that his assignment has limits as far as the party leadership is concerned. “Tinubu cannot usurp the powers of the NWC of the party. Not even President Buhari can do so. Governors made this known to the President during one of their recent meetings. That was the reason for sudden meeting of the party caucus and NEC to resolve the issues, extend Oyegun’s tenure and avoid crisis in the party ahead of 2019. It is obvious that the governors have hijacked the Odigie-Oyegun leadership. And President Buhari cannot help it, because the party needs the governors’ support to win 2019 polls.

“The governors and majority of the party chieftains even from Southwest region believe strongly that they can deliver victory for the party in 2019 without Tinubu’s contribution.”On what will happen to Tinubu’s reconciliation assignment, the NEC member said: “It is left for Tinubu to decide what to do or at worst meet with President Buhari for discussion on that. Oyegun is in charge of the party constitutionally and that has been affirmed by the extension of his tenure. The party is on course and don’t want to go into election distracted. The crisis in the states will be resolved before the election.”
Also reacting to the development, some sources close to the party and Tinubu said the implications of the tenure extension decision was that Tinubu might have lost out while the National Chairman and other members of the executive now have the opportunity to drive the reconciliation as they desire based on the party’s constitution.
One of the sources said, “I envisaged this coming and also sounded a warning that Tinubu ought not to have attacked Odigie-Oyegun when he was appointed to drive the reconciliation by Mr. President in the first instance immediately he was appointed to drive the reconciliation.”
Explaining the implications of Tinubu’s letter to the NWC, the source said, “In the first instance, Tinubu’s reconciliation committee was an alien arrangement to APC Constitution and for him to have made demands for information to be given to him by the party secretariat did not go down well with other members of the executive. It was that letter that spurred some governors and other stakeholders in the party to decide to stand by the National Chairman instead of conceding to Tinubu’s demands.
“Of course some of the executive members, who felt that the fall of the National Chairman is tantamount to their own fall would ordinarily stand by their chairman instead of subjecting themselves to a reconciliation committee that is unknown to the party’s constitution.”
The source also explained that another implication of the decision is that it sent a signal that the party is not under the Presidency according to the constitution, saying, “If Tinubu’s reconciliation committee, which was put in place by the President had been allowed to scale through and has its way, then the party would have automatically come under the president and Tinubu would become an unchecked authority. This may spell greater doom for the party than whatever the implications of the NEC tenure extension would have had.”
The source further disclosed that part of what is expected to happen as a result of the extension, is that many of the APC strong, committed and influential members, including Tinubu may leave by July “because I do not see how the former governor of Lagos could withstand the consequences of what happened without necessarily reacting.”
An APC Senator who craved anonymity said another implication of the decision was that there wouldn’t be any congress across the country “but what I don’t know is whether there are still going to be conventions where the delegates that would vote during the party primaries would be elected or that the present executives would decide that.
“What I know is that the decision would definitely divide the APC into two and for President Buhari to win in 2019, if he is going to re-contest, would depend on his personal strength and not that of the party anymore.”
To the federal lawmaker, “Tinubu did not help matters by some of his utterances when he was appointed by President Buhari to channel the reconciliation meeting. For instance, why would he have attacked erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida that they should go and retire? These are institutions and they played some roles in APC’s victory in 2015 whether directly or indirectly. It is therefore inconsequential of him to have told them to go and retire. Who is now going to be retired politically?
“Secondly, the media and particularly the social media did not help situation when it started writing that Odigie-Oyegun would go since Tinubu is in charge. This alone sent a warning signal to all the APC governors seeking reelection in 2019. While they left Tinubu and the media to do their media abracadabra, the other faction were also planning; the outcome of their moves was to rally around Buhari for him to get second term so that they could also get theirs.”

He said there are enough reasons for the party to fire Odigie-Oyegun but the Tinubu’s reconciliation approach turned the table in favour of the National Chairman.The lawmaker added he pitied Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos ahead of the 2019 governorship election because the politics at play now is an open one and not unlike before when Tinubu dictated the show. “But the governor has performed beyond expectation and he may use that as a template to return if he scaled the primary.”
Meanwhile, when contacted for comments, a founding member of the party said the decision to extend the NWC tenure would send APC packing the way of the PDP saying, “It was a serious indication that our party is in disarray devoid of internal democracy with a lot of disrespect for the party’s constitution and indecency.”

He however expressed concern that the decision may also rest Tinubu politically in the party adding “It was an open gang up against him (Tinubu) by the governors.”The Senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, who like his Kaduna North counterpart, Suleiman Hunkuyi, is also having a running battle with his state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, summed up the situation by suggesting that the move has not solved the problems of the party and would create more when he tweeted, “By the extension of tenure of the National Executive of the APC, the party and its stakeholders used a Helicopter to fly over the inferno at Eagle square.”When The Guardian asked him to explain what he meant, he replied via an SMS, “I meant the APC used Helicopter and flew over its problems.”