• Tinubu, NWC disagree on selection procedure for Senate Leader, others
• Odigie-Oyegun battles to retain post
The All Progressives Congress (APC), which is still smarting from the crisis over the defeat of its candidates for the leadership positions of the National Assembly, is enmeshed in a fresh trouble, New Telegraph has learnt.
It was learnt yesterday that the fresh crisis in the party followed another attempt by some party chieftains to select those to occupy the positions of the Senate Leader, Deputy Senate leader, Chief Whip of the Senate and the Deputy Senate Whip. New Telegraph gathered that the party became divided following pressure by a national leader of APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, on the party to nominate those to fill the positions.
However, the APC National Working Committee (NWC) prefers that the remaining principal officers should emerge by allowing the various zonal caucuses to nominate them from among their members.
A source told New Telegraph that Tinubu had already written to the NWC, led by the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, that the party should nominate the Senate Leader and other principal officers of the Senate.
The idea of the party nominating these officers, New Telegraph learnt, has not gone down well with majority of the senators who regarded such a formula as another attempt by Tinubu to manipulate the process and impose his “lackeys” on the parliament.
New Telegraph learnt that members of the NWC and some APC senators have been reluctant to accede to Tinubu’s request for fear that there might be a backlash on the long run. According to a source, Odigie-Oyegun expressed discomfort with the formula out of fear that it might lead to another rebellion in the party, especially on the heels of the defeat the APC suffered in the leadership tussle in the National Assembly.
In the race for the Senate presidency and the House of Representatives speakership, the party’s consensus candidates, Senator Ahmed Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila had lost to Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara. The party was embarrassed by the victory of Saraki and Dogara and has been battling to contain the crisis.
The selection process for the other leadership positions in the Senate, it was learnt, dominated discussions at some high level meetings of the party yesterday as the NWC members explored ways of resolving the matter without further widening the cracks in the party. A senator confided in our correspondent that he and his other colleagues were already mobilising members of the different caucuses to ensure that the Senate followed its tradition in the selection of principal officers.
According to him, it will be an aberration for a person outside the Senate to pick the principal officers of the parliament. “We may just ask the NWC to ignore the letter because it would be a breach of the tradition. But the trouble is that this may further widen the gap between Tinubu and members of the NWC. All the same, we intend to impress it upon anyone who cares to know that things are not done that way. There are traditions and there are precedents which we cannot shove aside,” he said.
Earlier yesterday, the NWC meeting of the party was inconclusive and would continue today. Odigie-Oyegun and APC National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, declined to speak to journalists on the agenda and resolutions reached. They just stated that the meeting would continue tomorrow (today). Yesterday’s NWC meeting was the first since the crisis in the party over the National Assembly leadership crisis.
The meeting, according to a source, was on how to resolve the internal crisis among the NWC members. However, New Telegraph which was at the party secretariat, noticed that all may not be well between the party’s NWC members and Tinubu as banners of the APC national leader have been removed at the national secretariat of the party. Hitherto, Tinubu’s banners were used to adorn the APC national secretariat in Abuja.
Meanwhile, Odigie- Oyegun has embarked on spirited moves to keep his job amid calls for his resignation. He has been under attacks from party members over his perceived poor handling of the National Assembly leadership crisis, which led to the defeat of Lawan and Gbajabiamila.
New Telegraph learnt that besides the fact that some party members held Odigie-Oyegun responsible for not being able to rally the party lawmakers to ensure victory for Lawan and Dogara, APC leaders were also piqued with him over his statement that the party had come to terms with Saraki’s leadership of the Senate and Dogara’s position in the House.
It was gathered in a bid to stave off any attempt to remove him from office, Odigie-Oyegun is relying on support from Tinubu, who was instrumental to his emergence as the party chair. Odigie-Oyegun also, on Wednesday, sought the backing of APC state chairmen during a meeting in Abuja after which he proceeded to the National Assembly to interface with the APC legislators.
A source said the state chairmen had resolved to align with Buhari and Odigie-Oyegun on the need to work with the present leadership of the National Assembly. A source said Tinubu and Odigie-Oyegun had decided not to allow the emergence of Saraki and Dogara to further polarise the party.
The source told New Telegraph in Abuja yesterday that their decision to close ranks over the National Assembly leadership crisis was informed by their strong conviction that the political forces that stopped their preferred candidates from emerging were beyond them.
The crisis took a different dimension recently when one of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) members, Mr. Timi Frank, called on the party’s national chairman to resign.
However, giving a hint about the latest moves by Tinubu and Odigie-Oyegun to reconcile their differences, a leader of APC who is close to the duo, denied any “serious conflict” between the two leaders. Although the APC chieftain blamed Tinubu for bungling the issue of the National Assembly leadership elections, he said the two party leaders had “suddenly realized” that the forces that worked against them were too powerful. He said: “I am an insider in the whole arrangement; two strong political forces prevented Tinubu from having his way this time around – in the election of the National Assembly leadership: first, there are those who believe he was solely dictating the entire affairs of APC.
And the other force comprises those around President Muhammadu Buhari, who rightly or wrongly calculated that unless they stop Asiwaju (Tinubu) now, he might sooner than later become too powerful to control.
“There is no need calling for Odigie-Oyegun’s head or looking for scapegoat in Tinubu for mismanaging the entire arrangement. You recall it was when the national chairman called for support for the new National Assembly leadership that they started looking for somebody to blame for their failure. “But, within these circumstances, is there any alternative? Are we going to start fighting ourselves and start behaving like opposition?
Are we going to take our members to court for expressing their rights? Nobody should blame Odigie-Oyegun for not managing the process very well because he was not carried along.” The source, who is a member of APC’s National Working Committee (NWC), advised leaders of the party to work with the new leadership of National Assembly to make things very easy for Buhari.
“In the next few days, President Buhari will forward a list of ministerial nominees to the National Assembly for approval and this is not the time to start fighting them (National Assembly leaders),” he stated.
Narrating how the whole process started, the source said although the party did not use the word ‘zoning’ from day one, leaders of the party agreed that the president of the Senate should go to the North- Central and that Senator George Akume should be their preferred candidate. “Having been a Senate Minority Leader, we felt we should support him for the president of the Senate.
But the whole arrangement changed when Senator Saraki joined the race and he was getting mileage. And in order to stop Saraki, Asiwaju switched his support to Lawan from the North-East and insisted that the party must support Lawan.
“Nobody was carried along; he was doing it alone and forcing everyone of us to toe his line. There was no proper coordination of the entire arrangement. Two weeks to the inauguration of the National Assembly, Asiwaju forced members of NWC to invite senators-elect and House of Representatives members-elect for a briefing.
The whole idea was to see how we could present consensus candidates for the leadership positions of both chambers. “We were mindful of the fact that if we do not present consensus candidates, the PDP may capitalise on it, present its candidates, and go ahead and win the election. But instead of adopting opensecret system for the inhouse election, we were told to use open ballot. At that point, Saraki-led supporters pulled out from the arrangement; the same thing with members of the House of Representatives.
“We were at that stage when, on Tuesday morning, about 4a.m., the day of the inauguration, Asiwaju went to the national chairman’s house in Asokoro, Abuja and said President Buhari had agreed to meet with the senators-elect and their counterparts in the House and advised him to schedule a meeting for 10a.m. same day.
“The chairman asked Asiwaju what would be the reaction of PDP members and he said he had taken care of that. The chairman fixed the meeting; many of us were at the venue of that meeting until about 10a.m., when somebody called us to say that senators had conducted their election and new leaders had emerged. It was at that point everybody started running back to the National Assembly.
“Asiwaju bungled the entire thing. He did not carry people along. Do you know that he even gave a directive to the Inspector General of Police to lock up the National Assembly’s gate until we are through with the meeting, claiming the directive was from the president?
The National Assembly was eventually locked, thousands of policemen deployed until somebody advised the IG to crosscheck with the presidency – and it was at that point that the IG discovered that there was no such directive from the president,” the source added. Efforts by New Telegraph to get Tinubu’s media aide, Mr. Sunday Dare, to state their side of the story were abortive yesterday as calls to his telephone line did not go through.