President Muhammadu Buhari last night solicited the support of All Progressives Congress (APC) governors for the emergence of former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, as the next national chairman of the party.
This came as National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, yesterday described as “absolutely childish” the endorsement of Oshiomhole, to take over from him as national chairman by some party stakeholders from the South-south zone.
Buhari, who met with the governors behind closed doors at First Lady Conference Hall in the Presidential Villa, tabled only one agenda before them.
A presidential source who did not want to be named, told journalists last night that the sole aim of the meeting was to persuade governors to work for the emergence of Oshiomhole as the party’s next national chairman.
“The party’s national convention where new members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) will emerge has been slated for May 14 in Abuja.
“It is not clear yet if the party’s current Chairman, Oyegun, will be seeking re-election at the convention but the president has resolved to support Oshiomhole’s candidature.
“The president called this meeting with the progressive governors to ask them to back Oshiomhole’s candidature. That’s the purpose of the meeting. That is the president’s position,” the source said.
Meanwhile, Oyegun has described as “absolutely childish” the endorsement of Oshiomhole to take over from him as national chairman by some party stakeholders from the South-south zone.
Oyegun who did not confirm whether he would seek re-election as APC national chairman or not, told journalists yesterday that he was still making consultations and would make his position public in few days.
Ahead of the May 14 national convention of the APC, the governors elected on the platform of the party will today hold a meeting with Oyegun and members of the National Working Committee (NWC) to consider the level of preparations for the event.
THISDAY gathered from a party source that the meeting would among other issues, decide on the budget for the event and how to raise funds to ensure the success of the convention.
There have been speculations that both Oyegun and Oshiomhole among others were in the race for the exalted APC position.
However, in what seemed like a tacit confirmation of Oshiomhole’s interest in the race, a meeting of the forum of South-south APC stakeholders was held on Monday in Edo State capital where state chairmen from Edo and Delta were said to have endorsed the candidacy of Oshiomhole.
However, while reacting to the development yesterday, Oyegun said it was “childish. Absolutely childish.”
He said the voting is to be done at the convention and not in state houses or in government houses.
When specifically asked to comment on the endorsement of Oshiomhole and his own rejection by Edo State chapter of the party, Oyegun said: “They have their reasons for what they did and you have to respect their own reasons, however wrong it is. Don’t bother about this teaser, I will give a comprehensive interview, to speak with you when the time comes.”
The national chairman further said he was not perturbed by the action of his home chapter.
“No. It doesn’t bother me because one of those who wants my job is from Edo and he was the immediate past governor and he was very instrumental in installing the present governor, so I think it is a case of ‘rub my back, I rub your back’ that is playing out.”
On whether he would still go ahead and re-contest for his office despite the opposition from the home front, Oyegun simply said: “The consultation, I think is concluded. Well, I’m going to know when the convention committee announces their programmes, then when I’m going to buy a form, if I will re-contest I will let you know.”
Meanwhile, the party yesterday inaugurated a screening and appeal committees for aspirants contesting the May 5 primary election to elect the party’s flagbearer for the 2018 Ekiti governorship election.
The party’s National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, who inaugurated the committees said the screenings were mandatory for all aspirants.
He charged committee members to continue in the APC’s tradition of adhering to due process and ensure fairness during the exercise.
At close of the submission of nomination forms, 33 aspirants made up two women and 33 men are on queue for the contest.
Members of the screening committee include the former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva who is to serve as Chairman, Denton Ogbuehi (Secretary); Samaila Hassan Yusuf, Hajia Amina Gamawa (member); Ayo Afolabi, Hon. Bilyamin Shinkafi and Mohammed Mustapha.
Speaking while inaugurating the committees, Izunaso said they would rely on the party’s 2014 guidelines for the nomination of candidates for public office; the party’s constitution and the 1999 Nigerian constitution (as amended) in carrying out the assignment.
He disclosed that 33 aspirants picked expression of interest and nomination forms, the highest recorded by the party.
The screening appeals committee comprises: Abuzarri Ribadu (Chairman); Tunde Esan (Secretary); Hon. Kayode Oseni, Mr. Osaro Bizugbe and Edem Selong.
Speaking on behalf of the committee members, the Chairman of the screening committee, Timipre Sylva promised that the committees would be thorough and fair to all aspirants in carrying out the assignment.
“We will do a thorough job and make sure that no misfit or anybody not qualified pass through this committee,” he said.
However, the Delta State chapter of the APC has rejected Oshiomhole as the chairmanship candidate in the forthcoming national convention of the party.
The rejection came as the chairmen of four states in the South-south had earlier denied endorsing the former Edo State governor.
The four states chairmen of the party who had earlier dissociated themselves from the purported endorsement are Davies Ikanya, Rivers; Joseph Fafi, Bayelsa; Etim John, Cross River, and Amadu Attai, Akwa Ibom.
They said at a press conference yesterday that Oyegun, the incumbent chairman of the party, reserved the right to seek a reelection.
They had stormed out of the South-south zonal caucus meeting held at the Edo State Government House last Monday in protest of what they said were plans by Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, and the Zonal Vice-Chairman of the APC, Hilliard Eta, to adopt Oshiomhole as the consensus chairmanship candidate of the region.
Speaking to journalists, the South-south states chairmen said they were ambushed with Oshiomhole’s adoption agenda at the meeting.
They insisted that Oyegun should be given a right of first refusal to seek re-election for the position.
In a statement issued by the Delta State Deputy Chairman of the party, Chief Cyril Ogodo, yesterday the party described the adoption as desperate and despicable.
The statement distanced the state APC from the purported endorsement.
Also commenting about the development, the leader of APC in Delta State, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, expressed shock that the national vice chairman South-south could contrived such a dangerous and dishonorable situation.
He stated emphatically that the leaders and stakeholders of APC had at no time deliberated on adopting Oshiomhole as their candidate.
But the National Vice Chairman (South south) of the party, Eta, yesterday explained the reasons the leadership of the party decided to endorse Oshiomhole for the position of the national chairman of the party,
He said: “Oshiomhole is the rebranding APC needs” ahead of the 2019 general election.
Eta said the party followed the tradition and due process in endorsing the former Edo State governor contrary to views from few leaders of the party in the zone, recalling that it was in similar manner that Oyegun was endorsed in 2014 in Port Harcourt at a meeting hosted by the then Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi where he said, Oyegun was adopted as the candidate of the zone based on the position of his state party leaders.
On the issue of four chairmen who disassociated themselves from the Benin meeting, Eta clarified that “I know that Cross River State does not have a chairman as we speak, so it could not have been four chairmen. Let me say that the chairmen are members of the zonal executive committee just like the other 164 people in the zonal committee of the party.
“We are not holding a state executive meeting, we were holding a zonal committee meeting, and in the zonal executive committee, we have over 168 people, including senators, governors, deputy governors, former senators and former House of Representatives members. So the chairmen who stormed out of the meeting were not speaking for their states. Let me tell you something: Senator Nelson Effiong seated and participated in the voting when his chairman stormed out and said he disassociated himself.” he said
On why they picked Oshiomhole ahead of Oyegun, Eta said: “Oshiomhole fought the god fathers of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State and defeated them. He has the name, the experience to change the fortunes of our party.
“I am the National Vice Chairman for close to four years now and what I can say now is that this party needs rebranding, reinvigoration, creativity, and need to build strong leadership. I can tell you that we have been lacking very seriously in the leadership at the national level of our party. And in bringing in Oshiomhole on board, I can tell you that the party will have a new lease of life. The impunity that has crept in the APC will be halted. The laws of the party will be respected.