The quarrel between the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, assumed another dimension on Tuesday.
While Odigie-Oyegun took his case to President Muhammadu Buhari, some party youths protested Tinubu’s vituperative call on Odigie Oyegun to resign from office.
The crisis in the party blew open recently when Tinubu, in a statement, called for the resignation of the party chairman.
The bone of contention was the party’s governorship primary in Ondo State, which produced Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu as the candidate for the November 26 governorship election in the state.
Tinubu, a former Lagos State governor, had faulted Odigie-Oyegun for overruling the decision of the party’s National Working Committee that upheld the decision of the Appeal Committee which recommended the cancellation of the primary.
The party chairman, who had said he was engrossed in the preparations for the Edo State governorship poll, which was won by APC’s Godwin Obaseki, however, refused to take issue with Tinubu, who he said he held in high esteem.
Odigie-Oyegun lost his ward to the Peoples Democratic Party in the governorship election, held on September 28, 2016.
On Tuesday, however, Odigie-Oyegun took his grievance to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The meeting between the President and the party’s national chairman, who is also a former governor of Edo State, was held behind closed doors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the meeting with Buhari, Odigie-Oyegun said Tinubu was too harsh on him.
He, however, said the situation between the two of them could not be described as a rift but a difference of opinion.
“There is no rift with Asiwaju. We have difference of opinions, difference of perception and I think that is normal. Yes, I agree that the nature of the (Tinubu’s) statement was a bit harsh,” he said.
When asked if he would resign as demanded by Tinubu, the ex-governor said, “The methods of getting rid of a national chairman, if that is what I will call it, are spelt out in the constitution. They don’t take place on the pages of newspapers.”
He said it was proper for all arms of the party, including the National Executive Council, to meet and the meeting would hold at the appropriate time.
Odigie-Oyegun denied being the brains behind the youths who protested against Tinubu at the party’s national headquarters earlier in the day.
He, however, promised to investigate the matter.
“God forbid (that I sponsor the protest)! Anybody who knows me knows that it is not my style. I am equally shocked and I am going to look into it and find out why and who is behind it.
“Do people know how far back our association goes? Do they know that we were in the trenches together in the NADECO days? Why can’t people, who have mutual respect for each other, have different opinions?
“All we had was difference of opinions. Yes, it was expressed a bit harshly but that doesn’t remove the basic fact that we have worked together for a very long time,” he added.
Odigie-Oyegun said all that transpired in the party’s primary election in Ondo State were contained in the report of the chairman of the primary committee.
When asked whether the party would consider a change of mind since the result is generating controversy, the party chairman said, “It is only INEC (the Independent national Electoral Commission) that can make a U-turn on the Ondo primary.”
Odigie-Oyegun described the recent governorship election in Edo State won by the party’s candidate, Godwin Obaseki, as a referendum on the performance of Governor Adam Oshiomhole and on the quality of the party’s candidate.
Earlier on Tuesday, a group of youths stormed the APC National Secretariat to protest what they claim was Tinubu’s overbearing influence on party’s affairs.
The party’s youths, who came under the aegis of the APC Democratic Youth Frontiers, held several banners with anti-Tinubu posters.
Some of them read, ‘We are united in APC; Tinubu can’t separate us’; ‘Tinubu is not God’; ‘Greed is not democracy’; ‘No room for an emperor’.
Leader of the protesters, Mr. Lookman Salaudeen, said the APC national leader should be told to either toe the party line or be shown the way out.
He said, “We call on Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu to either leave the APC, (or) curtail his greed (and) toe the line and exhibit the kind of loyalty needed for party cohesion whether from ordinary members or national leaders.
“Nigeria is bigger than Lagos State, where you control affairs like a god; whose words are sacred and must be obeyed at all times.”
The group leader said he and members of the group were compelled to stage the protest when it became apparent that attacks on Buhari’s appointees and other party leaders were coming from within.
Salaudeen added, “We had initially thought this was the handiwork of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, who wanted to continue with the unjustified attacks on the administration of Mr. President.
“We are unusually perplexed that our leader, who parades himself as the national leader of our great party, the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, is the one now whistle-blowing against the same party he claimed to have brought into prominence.
“Had any other member of the party done something like this, it would have been classified as an anti-party activity; it remains the same anti-party act, an offence from whatever perspective it is considered.
“He is apparently not seeing reason as he again launched an attack on our national chairman, Chief John (Odigie-) Oyegun, whom he asked to resign, the same way his proxies have been demanding the resignation of the appointees of Mr. President.
“He did this without any thought on how the call on the national chairman to resign would affect our party in the Edo State governorship election that was taking place just hours away from when he made that error of poor judgment.”
When contacted, Tinubu’s spokesman, Mr. Tunde Rahman, promised to get back to The PUNCH.
His response was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report.
Also, a pro-APC group, ‘APC Disciples in Edo’, has warned against plots by some leaders of the party to force Odigie-Oyegun out of office by all means.
The group, in a statement by its leader, Chief Francis Inegbeniki, on Tuesday, said no amount of conspiracy would remove the national chairman.
It stated that Oyegun had not committed any offence warranting such calls for his resignation when it was so evident that he had delivered on his mandate as results of different elections held under him had testified.
It added, “it is unfortunate that Chief Bola Tinubu, our National leader, whom we all respect so much and Timi Frank to have asked Oyegun to resign from office, as both of them never disclosed any offence that Oyegun committed to warrant his resignation.
“Oyegun was not an aspirant in the Ondo APC primary; so, it is unnecessary for anyone to direct his anger to Oyegun. It is not fair to put all the blame on the head of Oyegun.”