By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, & Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was yesterday strengthening his frontline position to become the next chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, despite last minute intrigues within and outside the party to scupper his aspiration.
With all the national officers but three, almost set to return to office, the focus has been directed towards the office of national chairman where Oshiomhole’s bid has remained unassailable.
The three national officers, who have met a roadblock in their re-election bid, are the National Legal Adviser, Muiz Banire; the National Woman Leader, Hajiya Ramatu Aliyu, and the National Treasurer, Alhaji Mohammed Bala Gwagwarwa. All three are being seriously opposed by their state governors.
The National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, despite the opposition from his governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, is set for a smooth return to office, having joined other like-minded party chieftains to take the party structure from the governor.
The seeming failure of the plot involving the use of two former governors (Senator Osehrienmen Osunbor and Mr. Clement Ebri) to check Oshiomhole, Vanguard gathered yesterday, may have instigated the latest plot to use the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, as the last hurdle against him.
In the latest bid, an Edo State-based cleric, Bishop Osadolor Ochei, has approached the Federal High Court in Abuja for an order of mandamus to compel the EFCC to investigate and commence criminal proceedings against the former governor.
Oshiomhole’s bid, party sources in Abuja told Vanguard yesterday, had become almost unassailable with his two major rivals, Senator Osunbor, also a former governor of Edo State, and former Governor Clement Ebri of Cross Rivers State, yet to get traction in the race for the top position in the party.
However, party insiders say that despite profusions of loyalty to Oshiomhole, deep-seated political interests are still uncomfortable with him, especially based on the fact of those sponsoring him.
“There are two main blocs behind him, the Presidency and the governors, but you cannot guarantee that everybody is queuing loyally,” a senior party operative disclosed yesterday.
At least, two state governors, Vanguard learned yesterday, notably Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara and Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto, who belong to the new Peoples Democratic Party, nPDP bloc, in the party are alleged not to have got into the Oshiomhole tide.
The position of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, on Oshiomhole remained inscrutable yesterday.
Amaechi, according to party insiders, had initially been firmly against Oshiomhole, not only because of his inclination to the outgoing chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, but also because of local South-South politics.
“It is the matter of regional supremacy, over who will now call the shots,” one party source said.
Until now, Amaechi had been the leader of the South-South caucus of the party and the emergence of Oshiomhole as national chairman, it is feared, could be a hindrance to that.
A party source, however, dismissed the aspiration of the two challengers against Oshiomhole, saying “there is no one in the wings that can stop the momentum.”
Vanguard gathered that the court action to compel the EFCC to investigate Oshiomhole’s alleged infractions as governor was the work of some Abuja-based APC stakeholders against his aspiration, working in cahoots with the former governor’s domestic foes in Edo State.
The suit to stop Oshiomhole
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/628/2018, the applicant prayed the court to declare that EFCC has a statutory duty to investigate different petitions containing allegations of financial recklessness against the former governor.
He alleged before the court that the ex-governor built a sprawling mansion worth more than N10billion in his hometown, Iyamho, while in office, among other allegations.
The applicant told the court that he had on November 4, 2016, sent a petition to the EFCC, detailing some corrupt practices he said the ex-governor was involved in.
He maintained that EFCC’s refusal to act on petitions containing “weighty allegations” against Oshiomhole, ran contrary to Section 15(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which enjoined the State to abolish corrupt practices.
EFCC as 1st defendant
Highlighting some of the allegations, the applicant told the court that Oshiomhole, “bought a property along Okoro-Otun Avenue, G.R.A., Benin City owned by Edo State Government while serving as Governor of Edo State in an insider deal without due process and an abuse of his oath of office.”
He said the property acquired by the 2nd Respondent was originally given to University of Benin as a gift by Edo State Government.
“The 2nd Respondent, while a dispute was pending in Court between University of Benin and Edo State Government, forcibly acquired the property for his personal use. The 2nd Respondent has since erected a structure with an underground apartment, roof-top swimming pool, another giant structure worth more than N500,000,000 (five hundred million naira) which is far beyond his legitimate income. At the time of the sale, the open market price of that magnitude of property and in that such high-brow location was about N100 million naira.
“This transaction took place while the 2nd Respondent was Governor of Edo State and he bought the said property for just N23 million naira vide an Access Bank cheque.
“The 2nd Respondent authorized and awarded the highly inflated contract and payment within a relatively short time for the construction of a 168 room-hostel in Edo State University, Iyamho for the sum of N1.88 billion naira. The average cost per room translates to N10 million naira for each hostel room.
“This contract was awarded to the firm of A & K Construction Limited without compliance with due process. Similarly, the 2nd Respondent authorized and awarded the highly inflated contract of building the Teaching Hospital of the said University for the sum of N12.2 billion naira without compliance with due process”, the applicant alleged among others.
Meanwhile, the National Woman Leader, Aliyu despite a strong lobby on her behalf is, however, facing serious challenges from her Kogi base on account of the sponsorship of a rival by the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.
Aliyu, Vanguard gathered was rejected on account of the fact that she won her position in 2014 through the structure of the late Governor Abubakar Audu who was in the firm control of the state chapter of the party until he died midway into the election that would have returned him as governor for the second time.
Bello has been at variance with the rudiments of the Audu structure.
Aliyu’s challenger, Hajia Salamatu Baiwa from Ofu Local Government Area of the state, it was gathered, is being seriously backed by the governor’s powerful Chief of Staff, Edward Onoja.
Banire, it was gathered, is under pressure from the Lagos State chapter of the party which had even before now sought to sanction him on account of his alleged involvement in the crisis in the state chapter of the party.
The national treasurer, Gwagwarwa, Vanguard learnt yesterday is sure to be stopped on account of his unalloyed loyalty to Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso on whose back he rode to the office. Gwagwarwa has remained loyal to Kwankwanso and rebuffed pressures to join the faction of the party loyal to Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, a senior party operative in Abuja told Vanguard yesterday.