By Gabriel Enogholase
Hours after Chief Odigie-Oyegun told State House correspondents on Monday night that issues about truncating the extension of the tenure of his executive had been consigned to history, President Muhammadu Buhari reset the game for the national chairman at yesterday’s meeting of the National Executive Committee, NEC meeting
Yesterday’s reversal of the tenure extension plot for the national working committee of the All Progressives Congress, APC would have been seen as a shock to the party’s national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
Speaking on the eve of the National Executive Committee, NEC meeting, Odigie-Oyegun had told reporters after the national caucus meeting at the presidential villa that the calls for his removal belonged to history.
However, history frontally confronted him at the NEC meeting when President Muhammadu Buhari moved the NEC to reverse the move to extend the tenure of the Odigie-Oyegun led executive.
President Buhari’s stance was largely informed by the provisions of the constitution of the country and that of the party.
“While the APC constitution limits the tenure of elected officers to four years, renewable once by another election. The 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended, in section 223, also prescribes periodic election for party executives at regular intervals which must not exceed four years.
“Furthermore, article 31 of our party constitution provides that any principal officer wishing to re-contest or contest for another election must resign from his current post at least one month before the election.
“In this circumstance, what is expected of us is to conduct fresh election once the tenure of the current executives approaches its end,” Buhari further submitted.
Before yesterday, Odigie-Oyegun’s survival as national chairman had been seen as almost guaranteed. That was despite the opposition of strong elements within the party including Odigie-Oyegun’s one time benefactor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Besides Tinubu, President Buhari himself had for long been known to have doubts about Odigie-Oyegun given the way the two of them parted in the former All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP. Odigie-Oyegun, Buhari associates mutter, sided with Ibrahim Shekarau to grab the presidential ticket of the ANPP forcing Buhari to form the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC to contest the 2011 presidential election.
Odigie-Oyegun’s staying power was, however, based on the insistence of a sizeable proportion of the party’s governors. Their two reasons for supporting the national chairman were, however, not because of the man, but mainly incidental to the politics within the ruling party.
The first reason which was chorused was that conducting a national convention would lead to instability just when the party is preparing for a national convention.
The second but yet unstated reason was that the governors and critical influence moulders felt that removing Odigie-Oyegun would mean surrendering the party to Tinubu.
Kogi State Governor, Mr. Yahaya Bello, who briefed newsmen of the NEC’s decision to extend the tenure of the NWC members said, “considering the time left for the party to conduct all the Congresses and convention and considering that our leader, Senator Bola Tinubu had has been charged with the responsibility of reconciling all our aggrieved members of our party, we cannot afford to approach the general elections with more dispute and crisis”
A very close associate of the APC Chairman, who was at the just penultimate NEC, however, revealed that the Edo State chapter of the party played a subtle role in opposing the sustenance of Odigie-Oyegun’s tenure.
He said, “right from his own Edo State, party and government officials did not want him back as national chairman of the party. They teamed up with party officials from other states to ensure that he was disgraced out of office, but thank God for the effective role played by the governors who mobilized other leaders of the party to push for the tenure extension.”
“They were able to point out the dangers ahead if the NWC was dissolved with a general election coming barely a year from now and with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) the main opposition lurking around the corner ready to feed fat on the crisis that may arise within the party. President Buhari’s immense role in ensuring that the party was free from crisis this time around must be commended.”
The fact is that even before he became national chairman the Edo State chapter of the party and the state government did not support him.
Chief Tom Ikimi was the choice of the then governor of the state at the time of the election in 2014, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
“Right from the beginning they never wanted him,” an associate of the embattled chairman and one-time governor of Edo State said.
“Remember that they threw their weight behind the former National chairman of defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), Chief Tom Ikimi for the chairmanship of the party. But Chief Oyegun against all odds won.
“He had hardly settled down in the office when they started promoting the candidature of the immediate past governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as his replacement. But that did not work as all sorts of blackmail was employed by them to discredit Chief Oyegun.
“ Even, during the party’s mega rally on the eve of the just concluded local government election, it will interest you to note that the National Chairman of the APC was not invited to address the rally, but they hastily sent an invitation to him when they learnt that his tenure was extended by one year. Trust Chief Oyegun, he was at the rally and even spoke to tell them that he had nothing against them
He is hardly invited to any state function by the State government despite being a former state governor and the national chairman of the party.
State Chairman of the party, Mr. Anselm Ojezua, had following the first NEC meeting of the year dismissed reports of the extension of Odigie-Oyegun’s tenure as he pointed to the same constitutional provisions that President Buhari referred to yesterday.
“There must be a misconception as what decision the National Executive Committee of the APC made. There was a motion put before NEC proposing the extension of tenure for some reasons but our attention was also drawn to the constitution of the party that it does not contain any provision for extension and that should it be that there is extension, something has to be done to satisfy the constitutional provision.
“There was no decision to extend tenure. A motion was passed indicating a preference that tenure be extended, but there was the realization that the constitution does not permit it and therefore there needed to be a further action taken on it. No decision was taken to extend the tenure of the executives.
“Time is still ticking. Very soon the tenure of the executive will expire. The party will have to do something quickly to address the issue because as it is currently constituted, when the tenure expires then it is dead. NEC did not extend tenure.
Asked why the party in the state appeared hostile to Chief Odigie-Oyegun, the state chairman said:
“That is very far from the truth because we sponsored him and we cannot hate our products but in the same token, we are stickler for rules and the constitution, and so when we observe anything wrong it is our duty to let him know,.”