‘He may not return to Nigeria until after Ondo polls’
The crisis in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is taking a turn for the worse. It was learnt that a meeting scheduled for last week Tuesday to resolve the controversy trailing the September 3 governorship primaries in Ondo State won by the former President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, did not hold.
A source from the party said he was not aware of any meeting scheduled for last Tuesday, but confirmed the one scheduled for today at the instance of the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
The Guardian learnt that the National Leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, who is considered central to the issues, tactically evaded the last Tuesday meeting on the excuse of going abroad for a medical treatment.
Tinubu has been having a running battle with Odigie-Oyegun over the Ondo primaries and had openly called for his removal in a published statement.
Akeredolu, who allegedly got the blessings of some APC leaders led by Odigie-Oyegun and some ministers, won the primaries against Mr. Segun Abraham, the alleged preferred candidate of Tinubu. The situation resulted in the defection of Mr. Olusola Oke, one of the APC governorship aspirants, to the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to pursue his ambition.
As the crisis deepens, there is a rumour that the Abuja caucus is supporting Akeredolu while Tinubu, the Lagos chapter and some stakeholders in the South West zone are backing Oke, a development some people have described as anti-party activity perpetrated by the national leader.
It was learnt that whether the reconciliation meeting was to have been held last week or will hold today, Tinubu is not favourably disposed to attending any meeting with Odigie-Oyegun.
An influential party leader in the South West said: “I am not aware of the last Tuesday meeting but I knew that the national chairman called for a meeting for November 8 and the invitation was extended to some leaders including Chief Bisi Akande and Tinubu. What the agenda is, I don’t know but obviously the national leader is currently in Chicago and may definitely not attend the meeting.”
When The Guardian sought the opinions of some South West APC leaders on the issue, many of them said the crisis was beyond what they would want to get themselves involved in.
One of those approached, however, said : “Did you want me to tell you that some people are involved in anti-party activity when I don’t have any proof? There is a crisis, yes, but it has to do with the leadership of the party. They will resolve it.”
When also asked if Tinubu would return from his medical trip before the election, he retorted, “I am neither Tinubu nor Odigie-Oyegun. You can direct your question to them. I don’t want to get involved.”
Yet another South West member of the party said: “I am not from Lagos or Ondo. It is true I am close to the national leader but that doesn’t mean anything because I belong to the Oyo chapter of APC.”
The Guardian learnt that Tinubu deliberately travelled abroad to avoid going to Ondo to campaign for Akeredolu. “For instance, it would look abnormal if President Muhammadu Buhari goes to Ondo to campaign for Akeredolu and Tinubu fails to follow him. The best bet for him is to stay out of the country until the Ondo election is conducted.”
It was also alleged that some leaders of the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere are sympathetic to Tinubu over his plight in the APC and by so doing have decided to give their blessings to Oke, whom the national leader is allegedly supporting.
But the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin dismissed the insinuation, saying he was not aware of such sympathy.
“I don’t have any interest in the Ondo governorship election outside the fact that the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) candidate, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede was shortchanged and his mandate transferred to Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim under questionable circumstances.”
“That development speaks volume about the kind of shenanigans Nigerians should anticipate in the conduct of the election. I doubt if there is going to be a level playing field for all the candidates to test their popularity before the electorate.”
Odumakin who said he spoke for himself, further denied having any sympathy for the APC. “I don’t belong to their party and Afenifere is not into partisan politics,” he said.