Fresh indications have emerged that the embattled National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, may get his tenure elongated through an electoral contest in June.
Impeccable sources within the party informed our correspondent that his supporters among the APC governors and ministers had mobilised resources for his re-election.
According to sources in his Benin, Edo State, home base, Oyegun was shocked by President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement, reversing the earlier concluded tenure elongation for the APC national chairman.
The President’s volte-face sharply contravened a position reached, early last February, at the National Executive Council meeting of the party in Abuja, where it was resolved that Oyegun’s tenure of office, which would lapse in June, be extended by one year.
President Buhari’s fresh position, which saddened Oyegun’s supporters, who include ministers and governors, however, elicited wild jubilation among forces loyal to the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, whose support for Oyegun had long collapsed.
A close aide to one of the pro-Oyegun APC governors in the South-West confided in our correspondent that in order to neutralise Buhari’s statement and still keep the current National Working Committee members, led by Oyegun, intact, the governors and ministers in support of the embattled chairman had retreated to the boardroom, to re-strategise.
The aide, who craved anonymity, disclosed, “What the governors and ministers are going to do is to work for the re-election of Oyegun at the next party convention. Something of this nature is all about getting the needed financial resources to motivate the various delegates to re-elect all the current NWC members.
“Apart from the Deputy National Chairman, Engr. Segun Oni, who is contesting for governor in Ekiti, all the others will be re-elected, and if the Tinubu camp has candidates to stand against them, let’s see how they (the Tinubu camp) will make it.”
But speaking frontally on the touchy issue, a close aide to Odigie-Oyegun, Hon. Soni Idahagbon, said the next convention of the party would “finally sink the dominance of Tinubu in the APC.”
“The next convention will finally sink the perceived domination of Tinubu, who is trying to install Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, as the national chairman of the APC. We are waiting for them, and I can assure the whole world that my boss (Oyegun) will win any election at the next party convention. He will not only re-emerge as national chairman, all his people will re-emerge in their respective categories with him,” he said.
Idahagbon predicated his confidence on his claim “that over 22 governors, many ministers and 98 per cent of the NEC members are in full support of Oyegun.”
He said Buhari was deceived by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to speak against tenure elongation, adding that the Oyegun camp had no fear ahead of the party convention.
Odigie-Oyegun’s aide said, “My brother, you see, it was later that day (when Buhari spoke against tenure elongation) that he realised that his Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, deceived him about the whole issue. The governors were angry with him (Buhari), except for those in the camp of Tinubu and Oshiomhole.
“You see, Osinbajo told the President that as the issue of tenure elongation was in court, if the court eventually gave judgment today, and it was not in Oyegun’s favour, when Oyegun might have conducted the presidential party primaries, the court might void the APC presidential candidate’s election, and that might give room to the PDP.
“Osinbajo, having brainwashed the President, using the advantage of being a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, made the President to come to the meeting with that impression, until the overwhelming population of the governors and the NEC members shouted him down. But the President later explained to them what transpired.
“The political maneuvering of Tinubu and Oshiomhole will not work because our people know them too well. Their desperation has further given Oyegun more support from the governors and the 98 per cent of the NEC members. Remember, the governors control their various state delegates. So, how will they win?”
Complementing him, an APC chieftain in Edo State, Hon. Blessing Edigin, lambasted those demanding the removal of Oyegun.
He said those critising all the moves of the APC national chairman and asking for his sack from the office were only doing so out of jealousy.
Edigin, in a chat with our correspondent in Benin City, the Edo State capital, added that the politicians who derived joy in criticising Oyegun were ignorant of what a national party leadership entailed.
He argued that most of Oyegun’s critics were only just bellyaching because of the rising political profile of the former governor of the state.
Edigin said, “Most of those criticising Odigie-Oyegun are not conscious of what they are doing. They are just echoing the voice of their paymasters, whose intentions are not noble. If you ask some of these people to analyse the situation, they will be tongue-tied as they are not sure of what they stand to benefit from their protest or the crux of their argument.
“What is really happening is that some elements are bent on rubbishing the good deeds of Chief Odigie-Oyegun. But their evil machination will come to nothing, by God’s grace. For the record, Chief Oyegun’s tenure as national chairman of the ruling APC has brought some measure of good tidings in the lives of ordinary and honest Nigerians.
”As we speak now, the party is in control of over 20 states out of the 36 states in the country. That is a sign of Chief Odigie-Oyegun’s depth in character. He has the ability to relate with the high and the low, no matter the circumstance. Those agitating against his leadership will learn to respect him when he is put on a scale of character evaluation. As they say, a prophet is never respected in his own home.”
Meanwhile, the Publicity Secretary of the APC in Ogun State, Mr. Sola Lawal, speaking on behalf of the party, said the NEC remained the supreme body of the APC. According to him, Buhari is only a leader, and as such, the decision of the APC NEC to elongate Oyegun’s tenure is still valid.
Lawal said, “The President only has a voice, the NEC is supreme. In this case, I do not see the NEC reversing itself on tenure elongation for Oyegun and others because 20 out of the 24 APC governors voted in favour of tenure elongation.
“It is not possible for an individual to foist a new candidate on the NEC without carrying everyone along.”