By Emman Ovuakporie, Simon Ebegbulem, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA — The embattled National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, is to consult President Muhammadu Buhari over the attack launched against him by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Vanguard has learned from party sources in Abuja.
Odigie-Oyegun, the man at the centre of the controversy, on his part, vowed, yesterday, not to lose his cool on the matter, saying he would not respond to Tinubu, who he called a respected party leader until after the crucial governorship election taking place in his home state, Edo, tomorrow.
Meanwhile, senior party figures, including legislators, were, yesterday, divided over the faceoff. The party’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Timi Frank, however, picked up the attack by Tinubu as a vindication for him over his past demands that Odigie-Oyegun resign or be removed as national chairman of the party.
Tinubu had in a communiqué from his office on Sunday night, rebuked Odigie-Oyegun for allegedly sabotaging the wheels of democracy in Ondo State, following the decision to forward Chief Rotimi Akeredolu’s name as the party’s governorship candidate, despite claims by the party’s Ondo Governorship Appeal Panel that the delegates’ list used for the primaries was compromised.
Speaking to Vanguard, yesterday, Odigie-Oyegun said: “Asiwaju is a well-respected leader of our party, so I cannot be seen speaking evil against him. I have to consult properly with other leaders of the party before we make any definite statement. Again, you know we have a crucial election here in Edo, which is my priority right now.”
Though the national chairman did not name President Buhari, party sources in Abuja, however, told Vanguard that the President was on top of the list of those to be consulted.
He continued: “We don’t want to lose focus, and I know Asiwaju also wants us to win because we all have worked hard for this. So, maybe after the election, if there is need, I will speak, if no need, I will relax.
“But all I can say now is that most of the things said in the papers about me are not true. I have always believed in internal democracy, that the credibility of primaries must be taken seriously.
“I believe that if primaries of parties are not credible, it may derail any democracy, so I don’t play with these things at all. Everybody knows me, and I don’t joke with my credibility, and I have tried to maintain it.
“Like I said, Asiwaju is our leader, and we all hold him in high esteem, so I will never join issues with him.
“But may be after Edo elections, after we must have emerged victorious, we may speak on some of the issues raised. So there is no problem at all. Edo is the focus for now, and as you know, this is my state, so it is a very serious election for us.
“I want to be allowed to remain focussed, then after the election, we can speak,” he stated.
The issue is, however, raising mixed responses in the party hierarchy. A member of the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party, who sought to exonerate the national chairman of the allegations raised against him, revealed that a brief on the issues that led to Tinubu’s attack was being prepared for onward transmission by the national chairman to the President once he returned from Benin after the governorship election.
I’ve been vindicated —Timi Frank
Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Comrade Frank, however, saw the attack as a vindication for him over his past calls for Odigie-Oyegun’s resignation or removal from office.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja, Frank said if no action was taken, he would after 14 days, mobilise party members to protest against the chairman in Abuja.
He said he was already mobilising some members of the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the party to convene an emergency NEC meeting.
“I was one of the first persons in this party who took the bull by the horns to foresee what is happening today in our party, and I came out early to say there were issues or crisis in this party.
“As at that time, I was alone, nobody saw where I was coming from. This crisis started when the issue of the leadership of the National Assembly came up, and I foresaw it at that time that because of the decision and position that my party took at that time against their own party members like the Senate President and the Speaker, there could be further issues. I came up to shout but then again, nobody listened to me. Then, it was Saraki.
“They appropriated my job and said it is only Oyegun and the secretary that can speak for the party.
“Today, I have been vindicated. We all saw what happened in the aftermath of Ondo primary elections…a founding father of the party, a national leader of our party has concurred with my earlier call that Oyegun should resign as national chairman.
“That should let you know that I foresaw what they did not see. Yes, he has tried by taking the party to where he thinks he has taken it to and I congratulate him for that, but again, you cannot give what you do not have.”
Oyegun not sincere in leading APC—Rep Ayinla
Also speaking to Vanguard in Abuja, the member representing Mushin 11 Federal Constituency, Lagos State, Bolaji Yusuf Ayinla, said the virtue of transparency needed to lead the party was now lacking in the leadership.
“Asiwaju Ahmed Tinunbu will not make a decision without verifying what he is saying. This is a man that has struggled and suffered to build this party, and he has tried all his best possible, with his health, his life, he has put everything that needs to be put for the development of the party.
“Let the country know where you genuinely belong. We want a clean and clear person as a chairman, who will steer the ship of the party. Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu has found out, he has checked, he has been informed, he has seen what transpired in the Ondo APC governorship primaries.
“I am in support of the call for the resignation of the national chairman. If you are a leader of an organisation, and people working under you are not working genuinely, sincerely, if you tell them to resign, why not? If not for transparency, for honesty, for sincerity, that is what he said, that is why I am supporting him,” Ayinla said.
Also commenting, Rep Razak Atunwa, APC Asa/Ilorin West Federal Constituency of Kwara State said the faceoff remained an internal affair of the APC.
“APC is one family, there is always bound to be one disagreement or the other either between leaders or the followers. What is important is that we get our house together and come together as one family and whatever disagreement we have, we resolve it,” he said.