Battle over zoning of national chairmanship slot rages
BY Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
A major struggle to grab the soul of All Progressives Congress, APC, from the grip of the pair of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) is on the way.
Leading the onslaught against the two national leaders is Chief Tom Ikimi, erstwhile national chairman of the defunct National Republican Convention, NRC. Ikimi, it is alleged, is the face of many of the governors are allegedly hoping to use Ikimi to assert their influence in the party.
The shape of the battle was formally expressed at a national caucus of the party in Abuja on Tuesday that lasted into the early hours of yesterday.
At that meeting, Tinubu and Ikimi were said to have engaged themselves in a shouting match that followed reservations from some party officials including Tinubu over the leakage of a memo from Ikimi to party elders.
Ikimi and Tinubu were also divided on the recommendation of the governors that the next National Chairman of the party should come from the South South.
In the memo, exclusively published by Vanguard last Friday, Ikimi, the National Vice Chairman (South South), expressed strong concern over recent developments in the party which has led to the exodus of senior party members from some states, notably Ikimi’s own Edo State.
A memo’s contents
In the memo directed to the National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande and copied to several party stakeholders, Ikimi particularly noted the failure of the party leadership to resolve issues concerning the recent congresses organised by the party across the country.
He also noted his concern that top level issues that ordinarily should be resolved by the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the party were reportedly being decided by a few unnamed persons.
At the Tuesday night national caucus hosted by Governor Rochas Okorocha at the Imo State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja and attended by several governors and NEC members, Tinubu was said to have taken up Ikimi on the leakage of the memo asserting that it was against party discipline for internal issues of the party to be taken to the press.
Ikimi, however, vehemently denied leaking the memo as he said that it was copied to several party officials.
Multiple sources at the meeting told Vanguard yesterday that the two men exchanged strong words on the developments in the party.
“That is what happens when adults get to talk,” a member of NEC told Vanguard yesterday.
“It was not that bad,” another member of the national caucus said. “You know politicians. We would talk but it was not that bad,” the APC chieftain said.
It’s no issue— LAI
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, also played down the development yesterday as a non-issue, saying that it was not strange in a democratic setting for personalities to have different perspectives on issues.
He said: “They disagreed on issues. So what is the issue there? That is democracy. Did they fight? These are very strong personalities and they disagreed on their perspectives to issues, so how does that become an issue.
“It was a very impassioned meeting and people expressed their divergent views and that is the essence of democracy, isn’t it.”
The governors, it was learnt, had recommended that the next national chairman of the party should come from the South South geopolitical zone. Tinubu, some party elders, however, allege, wants Akande to continue as national chairman after the national convention.
A source said: “Ikimi and the governors know that the only way that they can curb Tinubu’s influence in the party is to zone the office of national chairman out of the South-West where Tinubu has almost total control of the party.”
Tinubu is also said to be wary that Ikimi could emerge as the national chairman if the office of national chairman is zoned to the South South.
Many in the party, however, also question Ikimi’s activism, saying his past activities in the Sani Abacha government and political infidelity before joining the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, CAN, made him ineligible to lead the struggle against Tinubu.
“I hear he is now born again, but I still have my doubts,” a senior party official privy to the development told Vanguard on the condition of anonymity.
The national caucus, which was supposed to provide a guide towards resolving the crisis that followed the ward congresses, it was learnt, could not focus much on the issue. It was, however, resolved that APC NEC should meet next week to resolve the fault lines triggered by misgivings on the conduct of the congresses.
Among the states that have been seriously engulfed in crises following the congresses are Delta, Ogun, Edo.