Sunday, June 15, 2014

CONVENTION: Cracks appear in APC

Following the national convention of the All Progressives Congress held on Friday, cracks have started to appear in the nation’s main opposition party, SUNDAY PUNCH checks have revealed.

Contrary to feelers from the APC that its leaders emerged at the convention through hitch-free consensus, some notable members of the party have expressed anger over the manner the leaders emerged, threatening future actions.

A notable founding member of the party, Chief Tom Ikimi, in an interview with one of our correspondents, denied reports that he conceded the chairmanship position of the party to the eventual winner, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.

“I did not willingly step down for Chief Odigie-Oyegun. I was not there. I did not step down for anybody because I was not there. Whoever said I stepped down is telling a lie because I was not at the convention. I didn’t participate. I boycotted the convention,” Ikimi responded, angrily.

Ikimi, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, was credited as being instrumental in the merger process of the Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party, All Progressives Grand Alliance and Congress for Progressive Change.

It was he who announced the merger of the four political parties to form the All Progressives Congress.

Ikimi, who was the chairman of the ACN Merger Committee, had said during the official announcement of the merger and the new name of the party, that the APC was “a recipe for prosperity”

He said, “At no time in our national life has radical change become more urgent. And to meet the challenge of that change, we, the following progressive political parties, namely ACN, ANPP, APGA and CPC, have resolved to merge forthwith and become the All Progressives Congress and offer to our beleaguered people a recipe for prosperity”.

He also explained that the new party came about in view of the need to promote principles of internal democracy and bring about national development.

On what his next line of action will be, following his discontentment with the convention, he said, “I am preparing a statement which I shall release in the next few days.”

Also, a former Deputy Governor of Ogun State and member of the Senate, Adegbenga Kaka, said he did not attend the convention because he was not officially invited. He said even though he had the privilege to be at the event, he decided not to attend when he sensed irregularities in the conduct of the exercise.

He said, “There was no formal invitation and I was not waiting for any invitation. I perceived injustice and I decided not to go. I was not the only one; many of us in Ogun State did not go.

“The moment they (APC national leadership) decided not to review the appeal committee’s report and take action that would unite the party; and they decided to recognise a faction, then we lost interest in whatever was going on.

“We are waiting. We will do necessary analysis; we will listen and assess all that transpired (at the convention) and take a decision.”

In Cross River State, a co-chairman of the screening committee, who resigned to contest for the position of the national Vice Chairman, South-South, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, said he would seek redress to correct the manner in which consensus candidates were picked.

Obono-Obla contested against Mr. Hilliard Eta, who emerged winner as the consensus candidate for the position zoned to Cross River State.

He lamented that he was not invited to the meeting where Eta was picked as the consensus candidate.

“What criteria did they use to pick him? Before this convention, a delegate from the state called to inform me that I should not bother; That Eta had been picked. Why so,” he queried?

He said although the issue of consensus candidacy was in the party’s constitution, the manner of picking a candidate should be made more transparent.

Obono-Obla also alleged that during the convention, a list purported to have been endorsed by the APC governors, was sent round indicating the chosen candidates.

He said such a practice was wrong as the fate of contestants whose names were not on the list were known before the conduct of elections.

He said, “I am thinking of seeking redress. Why should they pass a list of preferred candidates. What criteria were used?”

Meanwhile, fresh facts have emerged on how a former Governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, emerged as the first substantive National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, in the early hours of Saturday.

It was learnt that the emergence of Odigie-Oyegun, as the consensus candidate for the post was an arrangement perfected by the leadership and executed by the Alhaji Kawu Baraje-led election sub-committee of the first National Convention Planning Committee, at the Eagle Square, Abuja.

Odigie-Oyegun’s victory was made possible by a powerful lobby led by a leader of the party, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu. A few hours to the convention, a former chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Tom Ikimi, was the only remaining contestant who could not be prevailed upon to step down for Oyegun.

One of the contestants, Chief Sam Jaja, told reporters at the convention venue that contestants and leaders of the party from the South-South geo-political zone “agreed to zone the position to Edo State.”

This, he said, reduced the number of strong contenders to two instead of the initial four, which included him and the former Bayelsa State governor, Timipre Sylva. He, however, declined further comments on what else transpired after that.

It was learnt that Ikimi insisted on going ahead with the contest but could not get a majority of party leaders, who were more disposed to a consensus arrangement, to support him.

When it became obvious that he was in the minority, he stayed away from the convention ground to register his displeasure at the turn of events.

In line with an agreement brokered by the party leaders who met at the Sokoto State Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro for several hours, the candidate of the APC Governors Forum, who is also a former Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Timipire Sylva, Chief Sam Jaja announced their decision to step down for Oyegun. This decision sealed the fate of Ikimi as Oyegun was announced as the sole candidate for the position.

A former governor of Ekiti State, who recently defected from the PDP, Mr. Segun Oni, emerged as Deputy National Chairman (South), while a former national secretary of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, Alhaji Lawal Shuaibu, was also returned unopposed as deputy national chairman (North).

The delegates also elected the interim National Secretary, Alhaji Ibrahim Bala Gubi, as the substantive National Secretary following the withdrawal of Alhaji Kashim Imam from the race, while the Interim Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, was returned unopposed to retain his former position.

However, the process of electing other officers was disrupted by a downpour, accompanied by strong wind, around 2:00am.

The voting process could not be completed as officers and delegates scampered to safety as the wind scattered ballot boxes, canopies and the public address system.

Other notable party members that were absent at the convention were the former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba, his erstwhile deputy and many other chieftains of the party from the state.

The reason might not be unconnected with the cold war between Osoba and Governor Ibikunle Amosun on who should control the structure of the party.

Some APC senators, who did not attend the convention, expressed mixed feelings over the consensus arrangement that produced the national officers of the party.

Some believe the development could force some members, perceived to be advocates of primaries, to leave the party.

A serving Senator from Ogun State, who preferred anonymity, said he shunned the convention in agreement with his colleagues because of the decision of some leaders in the state to hijack the structure of the party.

But the Oyo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress has said that it is satisfied with the conduct of the convention and the emergence of John Oyegun as the new national chairman.

Speaking with our correspondent on Saturday in Ibadan, the Chairman of the party in Oyo State, Akin Oke, who was at the convention, said, “We are satisfied with the election of Oyegun as APC National Chairman. He is a democrat and a man of clear vision of how an ideal nation should look like. Among the candidates that vied for the position, he was the most acceptable. We have confidence in him because in the days of the Social Democratic Party (defunct) we worked with him and we are satisfied with his leadership qualities.”

Similarly, the former military administrator of Rivers State, Mr. Sam Ewang, has commended the APC for organising a congress that was acceptable to members of the party.

Ewang said, “I am happy about last Friday’s APC congress. The congress met my expectation. I believe things are going to take a new turn completely. Whatever that are needed to be corrected are going to be corrected and that is my joy.”

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