There are strong indications that the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun has reached the end of the road as head of the ruling party in Nigeria.
It initially looked as though he had effortlessly secured one more year in the saddle with the decision of the National Executive Council, NEC, of the party on February 27, 2018, to extend the tenure of National Working Committee, NWC, of the party by one year starting from June, but the volte face by President Muhammadu Buhari, at another NEC meeting on March 27, 2018, declaring the earlier decision unconstitutional seems to have changed all that.
Many see the President’s declaration as victory for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his supporters who have, for a long time, been seeking the removal of Odigie-Oyegun as national chairman.
The President’s presence at Asiwaju Tinubu’s well publicized birthday colloquium in Lagos further strengthened speculations concerning his full return as national leader of the APC and the abandonment of Odigie-Oyegun.
The widely held belief is that Odigie-Oyegun cannot, without the support of Tinubu and his group, garner enough votes to return as national chairman once an election is held.
The situation was further compounded by the declaration of support by APC governors for President Buhari’s position that the extension granted Odigie-Oyegun and other party executive members is unconstitutional. It is strongly believed that once the governors, most of who control the party hierarchy in their states team up with Tinubu against Odigie-Oyegun, his fate would have been sealed.
But the Edo State born Odigie-Oyegun, who up till now had been seen as a weak leader, is clearly not taking the threat to his continuing in office as national chairman, at least till after the general elections next year, lightly.
The constitution of a technical committee, headed by Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, to look into the matter and recommend a way forward for the party is seen as not only a way of asserting himself as leader of the party but as a way of seeking an escape route from the tight corner into which he has been boxed by the President and the APC Governors’ position which agrees with Tinubu’s.
The appointment of Muiz Banire, an out of favour political godson of Tinubu, as Secretary of the Committee is also seen as his way of fighting back at Tinubu and those who want him out by all means.
The Lalong committee has submitted its report and another NEC meeting, on Monday, is expected to take a position based on its recommendations which, Gov. Lalong said should accommodate all interests.
There are different scenarios. Some, like Tinubu and his supporters want Odigie-Oyegun out at all costs and the media empire of the Lagos political supremo has been deployed to achieve that end. Indeed, those that took the party to court to challenge the extension of tenure are believed to be Tinubu’s supporters.
However, many agree with the argument, which President Buhari advanced, supported by Tinubu, that extending the tenure of Odigie-Oyegun and others without election would violate the party’s and the country’s constitutions and would endanger the party’s candidates that would be nominated by such executives.
But some others want Odigie-Oyegun to continue till after the 2019 general elections to avoid the inevitable political schisms that will follow congresses and an elective convention.
The way forward is what the Lalong committee was mandated to recommend and the NEC is expected to debate this Monday.
What will the committee’s recommendation be and what will be the position of the APC NEC? Will the party expose itself to elective congresses and convention and risk implosion? Will the party agree on “carry go elective congresses” where all the serving executive members will be returned by acclamation?
It is doubtful that some state governors that are seeking a second term in office and those that are leaving but who want their preferred aspirants to be endorsed will want to rock the boat at the state and local government levels, especially if such officials are already firmly in their corners. The incumbent party executive members would, also, prefer an option that would not subject them to the (financial, physical and emotional) rigours of fresh elections.
The suggestion that they should trade in Odigie-Oyegun in exchange for their own positions, according to reports, was rebuffed by the party executives from a particular zone when it was put to them, an indication that it may not be an entirely easy ride for the pro-Tinubu lobby.
Whichever way the pendulum swings, there would surely be schisms and the outcome of this Monday’s NEC would determine whether Odigie-Oyegun has, indeed, reached the end of the road as national chairman of the ruling party and whether Tinubu has fully returned as national leader of the APC, which he undeniably midwived.