Odigie-Oyegun survives sack plot, gets tenure extension

The National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, yesterday, survived renewed efforts to oust him, as the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party extended his tenure by an additional year.

The extension also covers both elective and non-elective members of the NWC, and the chairmen and executive members of the 36 state chapters.

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State made this known at the end of the NEC meeting attended by President Muhammadu Buhari, the party’s 24 state governors and chairmen from the 36 states of the federation.

Bello justified the decision, saying it was aimed at preventing the crises plaguing the party from getting worse. He explained that the extension starts from June 30, after the tenure of the Oyegun-led NWC expires.

He also reiterated the party’s belief in the ability of National Leader Bola Tinubu to reconcile warring APC members, stressing that the party would still conduct its non-elective convention before the end of the year.

He said: “Considering the time left for the party to conduct all the congresses and convention and the considering that our leader, Bola Tinubu, has been charged with the responsibility of reconciling all aggrieved members of our party, we cannot afford to approach the general elections with more disputes and crises.

“And relying on Article 13 of our constitution, which empowers the NEC to carry out functions of the convention, the NEC has decided to extend the tenure of the current NWC and other executive committees at various levels for another 12 months, starting from June 30, this year. ”

The decision implies that both the NWC and the state chairmen have been saddled with the responsibility of conducting the presidential, National Assembly, and state Assemblies primaries ahead of the 2019 election.

At the start of the meeting, which lasted over three hours, Buhari enjoined supporters of the party to ensure free and fair primaries for aspirants vying for elective positions.

He commended the party’s leadership for its stewardship and urged support for Tinubu in the task to end feuds within the party.

He said: “Soon, primaries for wards, local governments, state and the centre will be due. I urge all members to take account of the fact that the APC has a history of conducting free and fair primaries whenever consensus about any position is not reached. Regardless of the outcome of the primary processes, it is imperative that we all work together to ensure victory for our party.”

The president commended the armed forces, the police and other security agencies for successes recorded in the fight against Boko Haram and showcased his administration’s effort at restoring prudence to the management of public finances.

He said: “On February 23, Nigeria issued 12-year and 20-year Eurobond on the international market, which were both oversubscribed. The 12-year bond was within days subscribed by 332 per cent. The 20-year bond was subscribed by 372 per cent.

“We have stabilised the naira, increased our foreign reserves from $20 billion to $40 billion. Inflation rate is down. With considerably less resources available to the country, we have improved all indices towards a stronger economy.

Above all, we must pay tribute to the Nigerian people. They still massively support the government in spite of distractions from exponents of ‘business as usual.’”

Oyegun described the outcome of the meeting as “beautiful and pleasant” and accused the media of manufacturing and exaggerating issues within the party.

He said: “I want to ask the media where did they dig them out of because we just had a pleasant meeting and all what I have been reading in the media none of it (happened). All the prophecies of doom, none of it even came near for mention.”

The Senate had hastily adjourned sitting to today to enable APC members to attend the meeting.

The motion for adjournment was moved by Senator Ahmad Lawan who noted: “In view of the fact that the largest party, the APC, is holding its NEC meeting today, I want to urge this Senate, especially our colleagues from the minority side, to let us stand down all other items on the order paper to enable APC senators to attend the meeting.”

The Senate President Bukola Saraki was, however, absent from the NEC meeting.

Reactions from some party leaders suggest Tinubu, who was recently appointed to lead the reconciliation of aggrieved members of the party by Buhari might have lost out in the power game.

The development could mean Oyegun and other members of the executive now have the opportunity to drive the reconciliation as they wish based on the party’s constitution.

“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,” a source said.

Explaining the implication of a letter by Tinubu, which criticised Oyegun, the source said: “In the first instance, Tinubu’s reconciliation committee was an arrangement alien to the APC constitution. And his (Tinubu) demand that information be given by the party secretariat did not go down well with other members of the executive.

It was that letter that spurred some governors and stakeholders to stand by the National Chairman, instead of conceding to Tinubu’s demands.

“Of course, some executive members who felt that the fall of the National Chairman is tantamount to theirs would ordinarily stand by the chairman, instead of subjecting themselves to a reconciliation committee that is unknown to the party’s constitution.”

The source noted: “If Tinubu’s reconciliation committee, which was put in place by the president had been allowed to scale through and have its way, then the party would have automatically come under the president, and Tinubu would have become an unchecked authority. This may spell greater doom for the party than implications of the tenure extension.”

The source added that the development could lead to many APC stalwarts including Tinubu leaving the party by July, “because I do not see how the former governor of Lagos can withstand the consequences of what happened without reacting.”

An APC member of the Senate, who did not want to be quoted, said another implication is that there may not be any congresses across the country.

He said: “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 President Buhari’s winning in 2019, if he re-contests, would depend on his personal strength and not that of the party anymore.”

The lawmaker said: “Tinubu did not help matters by some of his utterances when he was appointed by President Buhari to chair the reconciliation meeting.

For instance, why would he have attacked erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida, saying that they should retire? These (men) 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 situations 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 re-election in 2019. While they left Tinubu and the media to do their abracadabra, the other faction were also planning. The outcome of their moves was to rally around Buhari to get a second term so that they could also get theirs.”

He said the party had enough reasons to fire Odigie-Oyegun but that Tinubu’s approach turned the table in favour of the National Chairman.

A founding member of the party said: “It was a serious indication that our party is in disarray.” He expressed concern that the decision could curb Tinubu’s influence. “It was an open gang-up against him by the governors,” he said.

The National Chairman, African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Nwosu, described APC as a group of desperate persons desperate for power and desperate to destroy the institutions of power. He appealed to Nigerians to ensure the party is not returned to power in 2019.

Meanwhile, Broom United Movement (BUM), a new group launched recently within the ruling party, said the APC like other political parties is weak, unstable and lacking functional party apparatus. It said the party is suffering from low organisational capacity and lack of internal democracy.

Addressing a media conference in Lagos yesterday, the convener, Mr. Fouad Oki, said with current developments, “BUM is tasked with the responsibility of initiating genuine reconciliation among members.”