…He is our best man for the job – presidency source
By Omeiza Ajayi
President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to lead the reconciliation process in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has jolted some leaders of the party who have commenced a quiet move to cage the former Lagos State governor.
When the National Working Committee, NWC met last Wednesday, a day after Tinubu’s troubleshooting role was made, members were said to have mandated the national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun to meet with the president to clarify the issues about Tinubu’s appointment.
Despite the public adulation by some of the national officers, Saturday Vanguard learnt that the NWC members were shocked by Tinubu’s choice as a peace envoy. They were also displeased with the president’s lack of consultation on the issue.
The party executives particularly fumed that the appointment disregarded what they claimed as Tinubu’s contribution to some of the major crises in the party. They particularly cited the crisis that led to the trial of the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki on multiple issues and the crises in the Kogi and Ondo State chapters of the party.
The national chairman, Chief Odigie-Oyegun who had a very public falling out with Tinubu in September 2016 was in the Presidential Villa on Thursday.
Saturday Vanguard could not confirm if Odigie-Oyegun, a Roman Catholic who was present when President Buhari received the delegation of Catholic bishops that Thursday had the opportunity of a one-on-one with the president on the issue.
The opposition of the NWC members nonetheless, some of Tinubu’s associates on their part have not been particularly excited by the new role the president has given to the famed political navigator.
As at press time Tinubu who marshaled the political alliance that transformed Buhari from a three-time election loser to a success story was yet to get into the job, a source said. It was learnt that he had not been fully briefed on his job specification.
His associates were particularly concerned that the president may be taking advantage of Tinubu having not brought him into the inner circle of his administration after his inauguration in 2015.
“Asiwaju is the soul of the party even though those in power may not want to agree with it because he helped to forge the kind of alliance that helped to bring down a ruling party and after that, they left him.
“For me what they did was that after helping the party they have come back to him when the party is almost having a heart attack for him to help revive it, let’s see how it can be done,” a Lagos based associate of the political leader disclosed.
The NWC’s discomfiture with Tinubu’s appointment nonetheless, the presidency is apparently not likely to be moved, a senior presidency official disclosed.
Citing the confidence President Buhari has in Tinubu to patch up the cracks in the party, the source was quick to dismiss the seeming opposition of the NWC as he told Saturday Vanguard that the president had greater confidence in Tinubu over the Odigie-Oyegun led executive.
The presidency official said that Tinubu’s first job could be mediating in the brewing face-off between the legislative and executive branches of government over the amendment of the Electoral Act that has led to the reversal of the schedule of elections.
A very bitter party official speaking on the condition of anonymity at the national secretariat said on Thursday:
“How can the president appoint Tinubu to head a reconciliation committee when he (Tinubu) played a central role in some of the topical crises like the National Assembly crisis and the crises in the Kogi and Ondo state chapters of the party?”
“I understand the need for the president to bring Tinubu closer because of his desire to seek re-election in 2019 and off course get South West votes, but there are better strategic ways of doing things. The president’s decision is ill-thought, meddlesome, and vexatious and portrays the party leadership in bad light.
If indeed the president is genuinely interested in true reconciliation among the party ranks, he should urgently address the lopsided and hijacked reward system; the Senate President’s obviously political-motivated trial and the funding challenges the party faces,” the NWC source disclosed.
He added: “While we back the president for a second term, the president should not take our endorsement for granted. Truth be said, the president nonchalance and aloofness on party matters has been another reason for the crisis among the party ranks and the general weakening of the party.”
The relationship between Tinubu and Chief Odigie-Oyegun got to a low in September 2016 when Tinubu’s Media Office issued a statement denouncing the role of the national chairman in the conduct of the party’s governorship primaries in Ondo State.
In blasting Odigie-Oyegun who he backed for the office of national chairman against the aspiration of Chief Tom Ikimi in 2014, Tinubu said:
“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.”
“On the chopping block, lies the future of the political party in which the majority of voters had placed their confidence. To rescue the party, Oyegun must go. He has shown that he and democratic, fair play cannot exist in the same party at the same time. If Tinubu is to choose between John Oyegun and progress toward a better Nigeria, the choice has already been made,” the statement concluded.
Odigie-Oyegun swiftly responded two weeks later when he debunked the insinuations by Tinubu that his actions in the Ondo State primary were influenced by money as he affirmed that nobody has the kind of money to buy his conscience.
“This reckless and baseless corruption allegation levelled against me is unfortunate and an insult to my person and my hard-earned reputation which I have strongly maintained. Nobody has the kind of money that can buy my conscience or make me do injury to an innocent man. In all the primaries conducted under my watch as National Chairman, I have tried to ensure a free, fair, transparent and credible process,” Odigie-Oyegun had deposed.
Meanwhile, ahead of the planned APC National Convention, a proposal for an extension of the tenure of the APC elected executives will be tabled before the planned National Caucus and National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings, it has been learnt.
The tenure of the current party executives at all levels ends in June 2018.
Although details of the proposal were still sketchy at press time, the plan which reportedly has the support of the president it is learnt will be tabled and sponsored by the Party’s state governors. There are suggestions that an interim executive could be put in place to conduct the party’s primaries, but backers of the extension fear it will be counter-productive, chaotic and hijacked.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had scheduled elections for February 2019. INEC in its recently announced time- table for the general elections also fixed the conduct of party primaries for August 18, 2018, to October 7, 2018.
If the party’s executive positions are reconstituted in June 2018, then only about five months will be available for the Party to organize congresses nationwide and the National Convention to choose state and national candidates including the Presidential Candidate as well as design strategy, manifesto and other programs for the general elections. In addition, there will be Primaries to pick Candidates for Ekiti and Osun States governorship candidates and also campaign for the elections.