Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past governor of Edo State, has emerged as the leading candidate to replace chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
His emergence is despite strong political pitches by leading South East members of the party for the position to be zoned to the region for inclusiveness.
Yesterday, the APC said President Muhammadu Buhari’s view cannot change the decision of the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the party on the claim that the President is just one person with one vote.
Meanwhile, the disruption of the tenure extension scheme for the serving executives has continued to generate reactions with party insiders fuming that the prospect of fresh internal elections just months away from the general election could instigate crisis.
The assertions were, however, fully set aside by Edo State chapter of the party which praised the President’s decision as a step in the right direction. Odigie-Oyegun and Oshiomhole are both former governors of Edo State.
Oshiomhole’s frontline position, Vanguard learned yesterday, followed his reconciliation with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, national leader of the party whose strident opposition to the tenure extension scheme for the Odigie-Oyegun-led executive helped to turn it into uncertainty.
Ironically, Oshiomhole and Tinubu were at opposite ends four years ago when Odigie-Oyegun emerged as national chairman of the then just emerging party. At that time, Oshiomhole was fully supportive of the aspiration of Chief Tom Ikimi to be national chairman, a move that was itself truncated by Tinubu who successfully pushed forward Odigie-Oyegun for the position.
Ikimi walked away from the party after a public spat with Tinubu, following the election of Odigie-Oyegun as national chairman.
Oshiomhole’s candidacy is being helped by the fact that Odigie-Oyegun is unlikely to contest the position on account of age. The national chairman who is 79, had seen the prospects of a one-year extension as a fitting anchor for him to leave public service at 80 next year.
“He has not told me, but I doubt it very seriously,” a close associate of Odigie-Oyegun said yesterday.
The Buhari advice
However, one challenge against the Oshiomhole candidacy, Vanguard reported, could be the muttering by party members on how President Muhammadu Buhari shocked members of the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the party by backtracking from the NEC resolution last February on the extension.
The motion for the adoption of tenure extension, party insiders grumbled during the NEC last Tuesday, was carried by 104 votes with only four votes against. Remarkably, many governors who are known to be supportive of Buhari are backing Odigie-Oyegun.
Party operatives and officials were also peeved by the fact that the President who was present at the February NEC did not speak against the move. They were further crossed by the fact that the President was mute on the issue at the national caucus on the eve of the NEC meeting.
The protests against the President’s stance on the extension of tenure, Vanguard learned, was what caused presidential body guards to storm the meeting as they felt that the mutterings were getting out of hand.
The chief whip of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Doguwa, had particularly challenged the NEC to wholly adopt the President’s decision, an assertion that caused many NEC members to shout at him, forcing the body guards to enter the meeting.
It was at that point that Odigie-Oyegun called for the composition of a compact committee to review the situation.
“We must ensure decorum and respect the views of members, whether we agree with it or not. The President is in our midst, we all should respect that,” a source quoted Odigie-Oyegun as saying.
Another source present at the NEC said: “We attended the National Caucus meeting at the Presidential Villa on Monday night, and he (President) gave us no notice or inkling of his decision to go against the decision on the tenure extension.
“This is not how you treat party leaders. In fact, this is at the crux of many of the problems we face in our party – no consultations and unilateral decisions. Truly, the President has taken us for granted.”