Lagos & Abuja – But for the swift intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari the crisis rocking the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would have consumed its national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on Tuesday.
A bigwig in the party told INDEPENDENT on Wednesday that the pre-NEC meeting that was held between the president and a national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, with other leaders in attendance, on Monday, paved way for reconciliation with restive groups who had sworn to remove the chairman.
Tinubu and Odigie-Oyegun, both friends since the days of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), had been at loggerheads since the fallout of the Kogi governorship election where the national leadership of the party backed incumbent governor, Yahaya Bello, against Tinubu’s protégé, James Faleke, as a replacement for the late Audu Abubakar, who died before the announcement of the election result.
Their relationship worsened during the build-up to the governorship election in Ondo in 2016 as it was alleged that Odigie-Oyegun and some of his loyalists in the National Working Committee (NWC) openly declared support for Rotimi Akeredolu against Segun Abraham, Tinubu’s favoured candidate at the poll.
The issue led to altercation in the media between both men.
While Tinubu insisted that Odigie-Oyegun must go for peace to reign in the party, the former governor of Edo State said he could not be removed on the pages of newspapers.
Prior to the meeting, there were reports that Odigie-Oyegun may be asked to step aside as many of the party leaders and the governors no longer had confidence in his ability to pilot the affairs of the party.
However, at the end of the meeting, not only did Odigie-Oyegun retain his seat, nobody brought up the issue of his removal, according to many party leaders present at the meeting.
Protest Before The NEC Meeting
On Monday, before the NEC meeting on Tuesday, scores of sponsored party youths besieged the party secretariat in protest.
They demanded Odigie-Oyegun’s removal from office if he refused to resign.
The protesters, under the aegis of Save APC and Democracy Youth Vanguard, blocked the entrance to the party secretariat, brandishing different placards with messages asking for the chairman’s ouster.
The protest by the youths was staged less than 24 hours after Odigie-Oyegun had held a save-my-soul meeting with all chairmen of state chapters of the party in Abuja, ahead of the Tuesday’s meeting.
At the meeting, in Abuja, on Sunday night, it was gathered that the state chairmen could not guarantee him their absolute support, but assured him that they would discuss the issue with their governors.
Aside from Governor Ibikunle Amosun, who was said to be a die-hard loyalist of President Buhari, other governors in the South West did not hide their disenchantment with the party chairman.
To drive home their anger, the meeting called by the chiarman about two weeks ago was boycotted by the South West governors.
Some northern governors, led by the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, saw the removal of Odigie-Oyegun as a war against the second term ambition of President Muhammadu Buhari.
A source at the party secretariat told INDEPENDENT that the youths who protested against Odigie-Oyegun at the party secretariat on Monday were mobilised by one of the governors.
Tinubu To The Rescue
According to our source, “Many of us believed the president’s discussion with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu before the caucus meeting went a long way in dousing the tension.
“While those calling for Odigie-Oyegun’s ouster had legitimate reasons for doing so, some of us believed that removing him now would send a wrong signal to the world that our party is in crisis.
“It would also have boosted the morale of the PDP who were really interested in what would happen at the meeting.
“They were expecting an implosion but, thanks to the ingenuity of the president and maturity of the various stakeholders, it all ended well.
“I can’t deny that some people wanted Odigie-Oyegun out. It is public knowledge that if you ask Timi Frank, the party’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, he would tell you, yes, and he has always been canvassing that only Odigie-Oyegun’s removal can bring peace to the party.”
Aside from his meeting with Tinubu, it was also reported that President Muhammadu Buhari had met with some governors at the Presidential Villa last week.
Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, led his Zamfara State counterpart, Abdul Aziz (who incidentally is chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum) to the meeting.
Also in the team were Mohammed Abubakar and Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, governors of Bauchi and Kano states, respectively.
Their brief, according to a party source, was to talk to their colleagues to seek soft-landing for embattled Odigie-Oyegun.
Also speaking with INDEPENDENT, Bolaji Abdullahi, APC’s National Publicity Secretary, said he was not aware of what transpired during President Buhari’s meeting with Tinubu.
“He also dispelled rumours of a plot to remove Odigie-Oyegun, saying there was nothing like that.
“I am not aware of what transpired during the meeting between President Buhari and Asiwaju since I wasn’t there.
“There is nothing like the removal of the national chairman. Some people are just speculating.
“That is why the issue didn’t come up at all at the NEC and national caucus meetings,” he said.
In an interview granted few days before the meeting, Odigie-Oyegun had stated that he enjoyed a harmonious working relationship with the governors elected on the platform of the party and had no problem with any of them.
Also allaying fears about his likely removal at the meeting, he had said his leadership of the ruling party was not in doubt.
We Must Not Allow Nigeria Experience Civil War Again – Buhari
Meanwhile, President Buhari on Wednesday reflected on the events that culminated in the Nigerian civil war and advised such ugly experience should never be allowed to repeat itself.
Buhari said this when he launched the 2018 Armed Forces Remembrance emblem and appeal fund at the Presidential Villa.
“We must cast our minds back at the events that led to the civil war, the immense human capital loss of the tragic war, and resolve that never again shall we allow our dear nation by our actions or inactions to experience another war,” he stated.
He also said Nigerians must not forget veterans who paid the supreme sacrifice to keep the country united, noting that members of the armed forces were still prosecuting the war on terrorism in the North East till date.
According to the president, “Our gathering here today is in continuation of a worthy tradition of recognising and appreciating the sacrifices of our veterans in the first and second world wars, Nigerian civil war, peace support operations around the world, and internal security operations particularly the ongoing war on insurgency in the North Eastern part of the country.
“It is indeed worthwhile to honour the memory of our distinguished veterans who paid the supreme sacrifice to keep the country united. Some others have spent the best part of their lives in service to keep our nation and the world in peace.
“The resolve by our countrymen and women to remain in one indivisible and indissoluble nation, Nigeria, is at the centre of this celebration.
“Indeed the Remembrance Day Celebration is being marked on the 15th of January instead of 11th of November as in other Commonwealth nations to commemorate the end of the Nigerian civil war – a war that was fought to keep Nigeria one.
“I want to salute the gallantry, courage and sacrifices of men and women of the armed forces as they grapple with diverse and contemporary security challenges plaguing the country.
“I appreciate your display of unparalleled loyalty to the country and dedication to duty. Being one of you, I understand what you have to undergo. This administration will continue to do all within its power and resources to ensure that your welfare is adequately catered for.”