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Oyegun Going… Going…?

The All Progressives Congress (APC), may not come out of the wed of crisis that has engulfed it over the leadership of the National Assembly any time some, reports Peterclaver Egbochue

There are indications that the festering crisis in the All Progressives Congress (APC), may consume its National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, as some governors elected on the platform of the party had joined the clamour for his immediate removal. In fact, the Chairman has been accused of playing double standards in the National Assembly leadership crisis.

For example, he is accused of collecting “gifts” from Senator Bukola Saraki, before the election, while pretending to be doing the bidding of party leaders who wanted the seat ceded to Ahmed Lawan.

Eight of the 23 Governors, including that of his home state (Adams Oshiomhole of Edo), were at the party’s secretariat on Wednesday to deliver the message to the embattled Chairman. Other members of the Governors entourage, who met the Chairman behind closed door were: Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa), Mallam Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), and Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa).

To further prove Odigie-Oyegun’s alleged complicity in the NASS leadership debacle, those who want him sacked recall that all the candidates sponsored for positions in both chambers of the National Assembly lost to their opponents who contested, against the directive of the party. Also, while other party leaders were still engaging the camps of the Senate President, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Oyegun openly endorsed their elections. Meanwhile, Oyegun, in an attempt at settling the rift on Monday, met with the Saraki and Ahmed Lawan, as well as Dogara, his deputy, Lasun Yusuf, separately in his residence at Asokoro in Abuja. The party chairman, who was presiding over the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) meeting at the time, excused himself and met with the Governors in his office.

El-Rufai gave a hint of what was happening inside when he stormed out of the National Secretariat angrily, refusing to answer questions posed by newsmen on standby. When the meeting was over, the Governors who could not hide their anger, left without answering questions from newsmen. When the National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed was asked if there was any truth that Oyegun may have also been asked to resign by the governors, he said he was unaware of such a move, stating that the governors only came to confer with the national chairman over the crisis in the National Assembly. “It is absolute nonsense.

I am not privy to what the governors came to discuss with the national chairman in his office but I can assure you that they did not come to ask him to resign,” he said. However, the Edo State chapter of the APC has risen in defence of the Chief Oyegun following the bribery allegation leveled against him. The State Publicity Secretary, Godwin Erhahon, while reacting to the bribery scandal in Benin on Wednesday, said that the state chapter of the party had assessed the outcome of the meeting, which he said did not bother on the said allegation.

His words, “That publication is a figment of the imagination of the author. We in Edo have been able to read the statement of the governor and the national chairman and there was no spelt allegation or call for resignation. “In any case, who can bribe the national chairman and what for? The emergence of the current Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives was something that was not expected; it took everybody by surprise and the governor took his own position.

“Everybody is also aware that President Mohammadu Buhari, told everyone to calm down and ensure that the matter was not allowed to break the party. So, at what level will bribery come in?” Commenting on the zoning of principal officers of the national assembly, including the Deputy Whip which was zoned to the South-South and in favour of Senator Francis Alimikhena from Edo, Erhahon noted that the issue of what the national secretariat sent to the Senate had been overtaken by the current leadership of the upper chamber, adding that the “party should reason with the leadership of the National Assembly.”

The Edo APC scribe however, urged all governors on the party’s platform to cue behind President Buhari and seek peace in the party, rather than maintain rigid positions on the leadership in the national assembly. Meanwhile, speculations are rife that the canvassers for the removal of the national chairman are determined to have their way and replace him with the former Bayelsa State governor and Chieftain of the party, Chief Timipre Sylva, also from the South-south where the position has been zoned.

It would be recalled that Sylva indicated interest in the chairmanship of the party at its National convention in Lagos, on June 2014. He stepped down to pave way for the emergence of Chief Oyegun, as national chairman of the party. This was despite being backed by the APC governors, who constituted a key segment of the party, and favoured to emerge national chairman by other stakeholders.

Sylva’s withdrawal from the national chairmanship race, which followed pressure and high-level negotiations, was the highpoint of the convention to set up a leadership for the opposition alliance that was then only in embryonic form. Many believe the decision saved the party from a major leadership crisis that would have endangered it from the very start. Explaining the rationale behind his withdrawal, the former Bayelsa State governor said, “My decision to withdraw is based on my passion for the unity of our party.”

Since joining the party, Sylva had moved on and helped to reinvigorate the party in Bayelsa State, while also playing a higher role at the national level of the party. Sylva explained his move to APC, thus, “In agreeing to be part of this move, the need to position the Niger Delta and the Ijaw nation properly in the emerging Nigeria was uppermost on my mind. I also intend to keep alight a traditional alliance between the Niger Delta and the North, which over the decades has proved significant in our journey to emancipation. “We realised that in politics there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. So the move to APC is not an act of vendetta. We have forgiven those who plotted against us and left everything to God.

We have moved on and are right now simply pursuing a political career, which we think is in our best interest and the best interest of the Ijaw nation, the Niger Delta, and Nigeria.” However, it appears that some people are bent on frustrating this move. Sylva traducers, who perceived he might eventually be drafted into Buhari’s administration, may have woken the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from slumber with respect to his case. Only recently, the EFCC resuscitated the corruption charges against the former governor. He was accused of stealing N19.2billion from the state treasury while he governed the state between 2007 and 2011.

But he has denied those charges and currently defending himself in court. Since the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki, and Hon. Yakubu Dogara, as senate President and Speaker respectively, contrary to the choice of the party, the party has known peace. The national chairman of the party, it was leant sent a list containing other principal officers of the senate. It was learnt that the party’s list contained the name of Lawan as Senate Leader, Akume as Deputy Senate Leader, Adeyeye as Chief Whip and Ibrahim as the Deputy Whip.

The UNION further learnt that Saraki’s group had, however, made the choice of Senator Francis Alimikhena, the only senator from the Southsouth on the platform of APC for the office of Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Adeyeye as Chief Whip, and Senator Na’ala from the Northwest as Deputy Chief Whip. But the party eliminated Alimikhena and opted for Akume who, like Saraki, hails from the North-central.

Wednesday’s melee was indicative that the reconciliation said to have been reached among the senators was anything but real, as the altercation was premised on factional affiliations. At the beginning of the meeting, Saraki had told the caucus that he was ready to work with everyone without any ill feelings, with a view to achieving a focused leadership. He enjoined his colleagues to bury the hatchet and resolve to work together in the spirit of unity. He also enjoined them to promote a family affair.

“It is time to bury the hatchet and renew that spirit of love, cooperation and trust in one another. The leadership of our party expects us to hit the ground running and the Nigeria populace is waiting to see us in action to deliver on our promises and commitment. “Let us start this journey of unity today and let the world see that yes, in the Eighth Senate, we are one family. We should not allow ourselves to be distracted by the people around us or be carried away by the noise out there. Let us remain focused and determined,” he pleaded. While Nigerians are watching to see how the APC will resolve this crisis, observers call on the party leadership to limit its influence on the lawmakers and allow them choose their leaders.

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