• South-east in dilemma over Onu, Okorocha’s ambitions
Ahead of the June 13 national convention of All Progressives Congress, which is expected to elect its substantive national officers, emerging permutations favour ex-governor of Edo State, Chief John Oyegun, and former Bayelsa State governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, for the post of national chairman, THISDAY has learnt. Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasiru el-Rufai, is being tipped to emerge as national secretary.
This is as the South-east chapter of APC appears to be in a quandary over the ambitions of a national leader of the party, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, and APC’s only governor in the zone, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha.
THISDAY gathered that those rooting for Sylva were APC governors, who are believed to wield a lot of influence in the party at the moment. While Sylva, 49, is said to be backed mainly by the northern governors, the candidacy of Oyegun, 74, is allegedly pushed by some South-west governors aligned with national leader of APC and former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Tinubu.
A close associate of one of the northern governors, who preferred anonymity, told THISDAY yesterday that the former Bayelsa State governor was being tipped for the job not only because he would help to neutralise President Goodluck Jonathan’s support in his home state, but also as a way of exploding the insinuation among Peoples Democratic Party elements that APC is Muslim-dominated.
Though, Oyegun had long been mentioned among stakeholders as preferred against fellow Edo man, Tom Ikimi, a former external affairs minister, in the race for the APC chairmanship, he had hitherto been thought to have only an outside chance of becoming the party’s national chairman.
“There is a preponderance of opinion among many governors of the APC is that Sylva and Mallam el-Rufai can steer the ship of the party to loftier heights,” the northern governor’s associate said.
He added that the governors were well aware of an attempt by Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi to get them to support his favourite for the national chairmanship position, Chief Sam Jaja. But the thinking among the governors is that empowering Sylva would put the party in a better position to strike at Jonathan’s political foundations, the source said.
Although, Tinubu’s loyalists are believed to be uncomfortable with the latest moves in the party, especially the growing influence of the governors, it appears they may not be able to change much.
A source in the party alleged that when a move by Tinubu to influence the appointment of Alhaji Abubakar Baraje as chairman of the convention was foiled by the governors, who chose one of their own, Sokoto State Governor Aliyu Wammako, it was clear that they were determined to have a strong voice in the composition of the party’s national structure. It is unclear if Ikimi and the others are still in the chairmanship race.
On the choice of el-Rufai for the post of national secretary, the source said without prejudice to the efforts of the interim national secretary, Tijani Tumnsa, in the setting up of the party’s administrative base, the former FCT minister was considered stronger and better equipped to reposition APC for the battles ahead.
APC stakeholders in the South-east have also been bitten by the convention bug. The zone is said to be torn between the ambitions of Onu, who was national chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, and Okorocha.
It was learnt that while Onu was being supported by a section of the party to vie for national chairmanship, Okorocha was considering contesting for the APC presidential or the vice presidential ticket.
A source at a meeting of the South-east zonal leadership caucus held in Owerri at the weekend said Okorocha had made it clear that he would seek the party’s 2015 presidential ticket. As such, the source said, he wished that any person from the zone with a national chairmanship ambition dropped it for his.
Okorocha’s stand was said to have the backing of some notable members like the interim national organising secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso, and Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu. But there were those who opposed the position based on the rational that it would be better to have the chairmanship post first before considering stepping down, if Okorocha secured the party’s presidential ticket.
But the interim national publicity secretary of APC, Lai Mohammed, said there were no plans to limit the choices of members ahead of the APC national convention. He also denied the insinuations about the emerging influence of the governors.
“This is most mischievous of the people making such insinuations. Are the governors not part and parcel of APC? Why would they be seen as dominating affairs? I think this is the handiwork of mischief makers seeking to sow a seed of discord within the party and they would fail.
“As far we are concerned, the leadership of the party will work and give support to our governors to make the national convention a highly successful one,” Mohammed told THISDAY yesterday.
On the permutations before the election of the national executive committee, Mohammed said, “Everybody is free under the party’s constitution to vie for positions in the party. I do not think it is out of place for Timpire Sylva or Mallam el-Rufai to canvass for support for office in the party.
“What I may not confirm to you is the discussion or decision reached at any of the APC governors’ meetings since I was not present.”
• South-east in dilemma over Onu, Okorocha’s ambitions