The verbal war between two chieftains of All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, National Leader and Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, National Chairman of the party, may linger for a while.
The war, arising from the Ondo state governorship primaries, is a deep seated one, which did not just start but has always been there only that it just surfaced because Tinubu could not bottle it any longer.
Going by the findings of The Street Journal, days ahead, the fight will be messier because none of the gladiators will want to stoop low.
Dependable sources close to the National Chairman, told The Street journal, that it has been cat and mouse relationship between the two chieftains since the days of Kogi election in 2015.
It was learnt that the quarrel is not far from the ambitions of the two leaders. While Tinubu is on an expansionist drive, Odigie-Oyegun on the other hand wants a little breathing space to operate as the Chairman of the party, rather than be told of what to do from outside, the source said.
From the backlash of Ondo primaries, where Rotimi Akeredolu emerged as governorship candidate of the party in the November 26 gubernatorial election as against Tinubu preferred candidate, Olusegun Abraham, the former Lagos State Governor was said to have had enough of the cold shoulders from the party hierarchy he helped and bankrolled all the way to the positions. He decided to voice out his frustration against those he felt had betrayed him. And Odigei-Oyegun readily became a scapegoat.
“It was out of frustration and pent up anger he demanded for Odigei-Oyegun’s resignation. This is a man who fought and deployed his deep pocket to make APC what it is today but after the cake had been baked he is being sidelined in the sharing”, a source told this magazine.
In the aftermath of his candidate’s failure to sail through in Ondo primaries, Tinubu, last week, accused the National Chairman of manipulating the process that produced Akeredolu, moreso for refusing to call for another primaries even when the panel set up to look into complaints by other aspirants, recommended that the whole exercise should be discarded for a new one, Tinubu alleged.
Tinubu also alleged in the acerbic statement, that Oyegun’s action in allegedly subverting the will of the people was not of his doing, saying that for a man of the age of the National Chairman to have done what he did must have been under the influence of a “powerful and sinister arm at work.”
Tinubu said APC was now under threat of being suffocated by anti-democratic forces pretending to be progressives
He said: “The APC, a party born of the quest for democratic good governance, is under critical threat by those who managed to be in the party but never of it. From the party’s inception, the principles of democratic fairness and justice were to guide APC internal deliberations. Party founders realized that only by intramural fair dealing could the party remain faithful to the progressive ideals that we presented to the Nigerian electorate as our governing creed. If the party could not justly govern itself, it would find it difficult to establish and maintain just government throughout the nation.
Speaking further, Tinubu noted: “In essence, the party was the embodiment of a democratic promise made between its members as well as a democratic vow made to the public. Evidently, some errant members believe promises and vows are mere words to be easily spoken and more easily broken. Chairman John Oyegun has breached these good pledges in a most overt and brazen display. In doing so, Oyegun has dealt a heavy blow to the very party he professes to lead. It is an awful parent who suffocates his own child for the sake of a few naira. The party was supposed to buttress APC members elected to government at all levels. Because of Oyegun’s conduct of our affairs, the party is rapidly becoming an albatross to those it was meant to help.
“Oyegun’s comportment regarding the Ondo State primary will become the textbook definition of political treachery and malfeasance of the basest order. In early September, the state primary was held. A purported winner was named. Having faith in the ways of the party, Tinubu publicly accepted what he assumed to be a verdict honestly derived. As a democrat, one must face the possibility of defeat and accept such as outcome with as much grace as one would embrace victory’, Tinubu was quoted as saying.
He was not done yet as Asiwaju alleged that “after the NWC vote, a noticeably agitated Chairman Oyegun proposed the NWC engage in prayer before concluding the meeting. Adhering to this chairman’s request, NWC members began to pray. Seeing that the others had taken his bait, Oyegun used the prayerful interlude to secretly excuse himself from the meeting. Contravening the NWC decision and in violation of all rules of fundamental decency, Oyegun decided to safeguard the fraud done in Ondo by perpetrating a greater fraud. Oyegun arrogated to himself the right to submit the name of Rotimi Akeredolu to INEC as the candidate of the party.”
Going by this frontal attack on Odigie-Oyegun, Tinubu, it was gathered has decided to bare it all – a sharp division within the party. And Odigie-Oyegun is not ready to tolerate Tinubu any longer, a source in the known said. This is crux of the matter.
“The Edo Chief is ready to fight Tinubu to an end. From his posture he is not ready to tolerate Tinubu any longer. In fact their quarrel dated back to Kogi issue, immediately Abubakar Audu died in the middle of the state governorship election. Tinubu had wanted his protégé, James Faleke to succeed Audu but the National Chairman and some northern elements, who are afraid of Tinubu’s widening influence in the region kicked against the idea vehemently and Odigie-Oyegun had supported them. That was when a battle line was drawn”, a close confidant of the Chairman said.
The Edo primary election also opened the wound but was managed. Odigie-Oyegun and the presidency had wanted an establishment man, a former Minister of Works, Chris Ogiemwonyi, to fly the party’s flag at the just concluded election but Governor Adams Oshiomhole and Tinubu wanted the governor elect, Godwin Obaseki.
After the primaries, Ogiemwonyi was one of those who protested the outcome of the election. But for diligence and counsels from party men, the issue would have come to the front burner.
Although, it caused some rumblings, it was quickly nipped in the bud. Some party faithful had accused Oshiomhole and Chairman of the party in the state, Anslem Ojezua, of using derogatory words on Odigie-Oyegun, and had threatened to work against the interest of APC in the state.
The Street Journal learnt, this was another situation that would have brought the Chairman and Asiwaju to an open fight but averted when Odigie-Oyegun refused to press further.
After meeting with President Mahammadu Buhari on Tuesday, the National Chairman, though tried to wave off the altercation between them, he nevertheless said he can’t be sacked by Tinubu on the pages of newspapers.
“This is another indication that there is no truce in sight and the fight between them could be longer and devastating at the end’ said the source.
“Why the fight may last longer is the northern factor in the party. The north is fully behind the Chairman. They don’t want Tinubu’s influence to extend to the north because of 2019. So, they are backing Odigie-Oyegun to fight Tinubu, they are the one fanning the embers of discord between them.
“Look at the protest against Tinubu at the party’s headquarters Tuesday. I can tell you it was sponsored by these northern politicians in the party and not the Chairman. This is to tell you that they don’t want the fight to end”, he noted.
“Read between the lines, the protest is not necessarily for the Chairman, but a survival strategy by the north”, he noted.
The protesters had asked Tinubu not to enthrone himself as the “god” of the party.
The youth group asked the former Lagos Governor to limit his political empire to the South-West “because Nigeria is bigger than a region or Lagos State.”
They called on Tinubu “to either leave the party or curtail his greed.”
Addressing reporters, National Coordinator of APC Youth Democratic Frontiers (APCYDF), Salaudeen Lukman, said Tinubu has continued to “undermine the position of the President by incessantly sponsoring the spurious ridicule of his anti-corruption fight. Each time fake stories of impropriety is written about these appointees, paid critics and activists on hire are always quick to accuse President Buhari of fighting corruption, while surrounding himself with corrupt people. But we all know this is far from the truth.
“What we learned is that Tinubu is attacking these aides of Mr. President because he believes he should have been the one who makes appointments into those positions as opposed to what happened when Mr. President acted in national interest and cohesion to appoint tested and trusted individuals”.
The group, while expressing support for the Chief Oyegun-led leadership of the APC, said: “We can no longer fold our arms, watch and allow party feudal lords to expropriate our party’s ethics simply on regional nomenclature aimed at usurping party’s national interest.
“It should be stated categorically that we are no longer comfortable with the whims and caprices of an orchestrated Jagaban resident in Bourdilion, Lagos and directed at misdirecting our progressive party simply to achieve egocentric empirical relevance”, the group said.
With the rumours that Tinubu encouraged his supporters in south west, especially in Ondo State, to move en mass into the mother of APC, that is the Alliance for Democracy, the prospect of reconciliation between the Jagaban and the Edo born politician, is as close as distance between the earth and the sun.