The recent call by a national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, that the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, should resign has shown cracks in the party, which may set the pace for the 2019 presidential election, GBENRO ADEOYE of the PUNCH writes
For more than a decade, there has been a lion at the centre of South-West political empire whose name is Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu. But the enduring rein of the man also known as the Lion of Bourdillon appears to be facing its stiffest test yet.
Tinubu rose to the position of real influence and prominence because of his hold on Lagos politics and the roles he played in breaking the dominance of the Peoples Democratic Party in Oyo, Ogun, Osun and Ekiti states as the leader of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria.
Then his role in the merger that brought about the All Progressives Congress and the success the party recorded at the last general elections further enhanced his profile as a political godfather.
The ACN, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, the Congress for Progressive Change, and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance had merged to form a mega party which ended the PDP’s rule after 16 years.
Of the parties that make up the APC, the ACN was the biggest so Tinubu can be said to be the biggest partner.
But recently, the fallout of the APC’s governorship primary in Ondo State has snowballed into crisis within the party and thrown up political intrigues capable of damaging its chances in the forthcoming Ondo Governorship election and even the 2019 general elections.
Tinubu, had in a communiqué from his media office on Sunday, called for the resignation of the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, saying he had “dealt a heavy blow to the very party he professes to lead” by derailing from the path of progressives.
Oyegun has, however, declined to comment on Tinubu’s statement, saying he would need to consult before replying the party’s national leader, which political experts have described as understandable, considering that the latter had played a big role in the former’s emergence as the party’s national chairman.
A lawyer and political analyst, Yemi Adetoyinbo, who linked the crisis in the party to its governorship primary in Ondo State, said it was clear that Tinubu was still angry that his godson, Dr. Olusegun Abraham, lost the election to the eventual winner, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN).
Akeredolu had 669 votes to put Abraham in second place with 635 votes.
“The election was seen to be transparent by the media but there was inkling that there would be issues when the party’s chairmen in Ondo East and Ondo West local government areas, Akintunde Samuel and Adeola Ademulegun, respectively, submitted a petition that their delegates had been replaced but the election had to go on,” he said.
“Tinubu had endorsed Abraham but others had ganged up against his godson to make sure that he was defeated, until the presidency met with them in Abuja and a list of delegates was given to them. But when the votes were cast eventually, Abraham had 635 votes and Akeredolu led with 669 votes. Olusola Oke came third and Prof. Ajayi Boroffice came fourth.
“We heard that Tinubu had guaranteed 805 votes for Abraham but that was not possible because the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, decided to work for Oke because of his Special Adviser on Environment, Bola Ilori, who was his running mate.”
Therefore, following allegations by some party members including Oke, who specifically alleged that some names of the delegates were removed from the delegates’ list while non-delegates were allegedly allowed to vote, the APC set up a three-person Appeal Panel Committee, headed by Mrs. Helen Bendega.
Two of the committee members, which represented the majority, voted that the primary election won by Akeredolu should be cancelled and that a fresh one be organised.
The committee’s report was then submitted to the party’s National Working Committee, headed by Odigie-Oyegun, which upheld the primary and dismissed the report.
But reports that later came suggested that six out of 11 NWC members present at the meeting had voted in favour of the committee’s report and that Odigie-Oyegun had deceived the NWC by leaving to submit Akeredolu’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission while they were praying or under the guise that he was visiting the toilet.
One of those said to have voted that the Appeal Panel Committee’s report be dismissed was the party’s National Legal Adviser, Muiz Banire (SAN), who had argued that there was no documentary evidence to support all the allegations put forward except oral accounts.
In a five-page letter to Odigie-Oyegun, Banire had recommended “the rejection of the recommendations of the Appeal Committee and the dismissal of the petitions as same are lacking in merit.”
However, Tinubu’s communiqué has enhanced the fault lines within the ruling party to make them bigger.
Analysts close to the APC say there are two major cabals and possibly three operating within the party, with Tinubu on one side, President Muhammadu Buhari on another and former Vice President and presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar on the third.
They say Oyegun, even though, has Tinubu to thank for his position, had acted the script of the Presidency’s cabal when he submitted Akeredolu’s name to INEC.
A source in the APC confirmed that Buhari had earlier promised to support the former NBA President, who was one of the President’s foot soldiers during the 2015 electioneering as a member of the presidential campaign committee, which was headed by the former Governor of Rivers State, now Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
So Amaechi is said to belong to the Presidency’s cabal along with the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN); Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State; and Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State.
Meanwhile, on the other hand is the Tinubu faction with elders of the party like its former Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, and former Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba. Then the third cabal in the party is said to belong to Atiku, who has a leg in each of the other factions and still calls some shots in the PDP.
Adetoyinbo said, “We have the Presidency’s group and the Tinubu camp. What everyone did was to defeat the candidate of Tinubu. The Presidency and his team allegedly came together to ensure Akeredolu emerged winner at the Ondo APC governorship primary.
“It means that it is now a battle between the President and Tinubu and Oyegun is allegedly with the Presidency while Tinubu is on his own. So if anybody will remove Oyegun, it will have to be the President and there is no way Buhari will remove because he is enjoying his loyalty to him instead of to Tinubu, his benefactor.
“It is like a chess game, you hold your own tail and shake Tinubu’s hand while you go behind to plan against him.”
Analysts believe that President Buhari’s moves suggest that he is laying the foundation for his re-election or for the election of the person he will nominate to succeed him should he wish to pass the opportunity to go for second term to someone else.
A political analyst, Mr. Segun Balogun, said, “It appears that Buhari’s camp is after two things: one, cutting Tiinubus’ wings and two, laying the groundwork for himself or the candidate that he will anoint ahead of 2019 presidential election.
“Tinubu did not support the nominations of Fashola and Fayemi as ministers but he picked them to work with him all the same and that has won him their loyalty and broken Tinubu’s influence on them and in the region. So it is a game that will get really interesting later. Gradually, Tinubu is being demystified and the situation will repeat itself henceforth. It used to be suicidal for party members to challenge Tinubu’s anointed candidate but many people will start to do so now because some others have done it successfully.”
Also, Adetoyinbo said the Presidency’s cabal has limited Tinubu’s influence to the South-West, where it is also being threatened.
“Tinubu still has the support of Akande and Osoba, so his influence is more regional now, limited to the western region and even in the region, there is a crack. Amosun never supported Senator Adeola Solomon (YAYI) from Lagos to be anointed to succeed him as Governor of Ogun State because he is already grooming his own candidate to replace him in office.
“Tinubu nominated Wale Edun, who was his Commissioner for Finance when he was governor, to be Buhari’s Minister of Finance, but Amosun nominated Kemi Adeosun. Edun and Adeosun are both from Ogun State but Amosun convinced Buhari that Adeosun did well as his commissioner and would do well as minister.
“She is the daughter to the late Oluwole Adeosun, the renowned economist and former Managing Director of First Bank of Nigeria Plc. And Amosun, as an accountant, trusts Adeosun, so it will be difficult to remove her despite the economic crisis.
“So the practice by Tinubu to always want to plant people everywhere may not work every time as it has shown in Ondo and the National Assembly, where his candidates for the positions of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senator Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila, lost out to Dr. Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara.
“Buhari is now creating his own political structure; he had none as of the time he vied to become the President because he was never a politician. So this politics will go on until 2019.”
According to Adetoyinbo, the intrigues that the APC crisis could throw up before 2019 could see Tinubu working with Atiku or Rabiu Kwankwaso, former Governor of Kano State, who is also interested in becoming the President of Nigeria someday.
He said, “They are trying to checkmate Tinubu, but if the situation continues like this, he is likely to support another candidate in 2019 and they may use one of the new parties. This is because Tinubu is not likely to run for the position himself.
“Atiku wants to be President by all means and he is working in-between the APC and the PDP and funding candidates here and there. The problem now is that Tinubu wants to be a supremo, the power broker and for Buhari to be under him. He wants to be the authentic party leader and not just a ceremonial national leader; he wants to sit down at meetings, take charge and give orders to the President but Buhari will not agree to that.
“But Kwankwaso will still want to contest and Saraki as well; all of them, including Tinubu are showing interests in new parties now. Atiku is still keeping his Peoples Democratic Movement in the cooler despite being in the APC and still funding candidates in the PDP.
“Tinubu has fielded Atiku as presidential aspirant for the ACN before and he can do it again because there is no permanent friend or enemy in politics. The two of them can still work together in 2019. Even Kwankwaso may work with Tinubu tomorrow as things stand because Tinubu will not likely support the return of Buhari for second term in office. Tinubu believes that he should be able to call the shots and anoint candidates.”
If Tinubu chooses any of the options highlighted by Adetoyinbo, it will throw up a stiff contest between the APC; the PDP, particularly, if its two factions are able to unite; and a new party that is likely to have the backing of the APC National Leader and either Atiku or Kwankwaso.
A similar situation is already playing out in Ondo State ahead of the governorship election, where Oke and his political structure are said to have almost finalised their move to Action Alliance, should Akeredolu remain the APC candidate for the election.
Oke is banking on the support of Abraham and Boroffice to defeat Akeredolu and the candidate of the PDP, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN).
Both Balogun and Adetoyinbo’s advice is that Tinubu and Buhari should close ranks and resolve the crisis in the party, describing the power of the Presidency as difficult to beat into submission.
“Buhari has the power of the Presidency and does not mind to step on toes, so even tomorrow, we can see Tinubu being hounded by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission because Buhari doesn’t believe there is any powerful toe that cannot be stepped on,” Adetoyinbo said.
Balogun said, “It will be difficult for Tinubu to win the war because even the people with him can switch alliances tomorrow and align with the Presidency because of the benefits that the office can provide.”
A member of the APC, Mr. Niyi Ajidahun, said the solution to the crisis was to have a fresh primary.
“I’m not comfortable with everything going on in the party but I think that we should cancel the primary and have a fresh one,” he said.
“Why should some people sit in Abuja and doctor the delegates’ list and say we have no resources to conduct a fresh primary? And without the support of Oke, Boroffice and Abraham in the Ondo governorship poll, I don’t think Akeredolu can win.”