The ambitions of two leaders of Nigeria’s ruling party, APC, have caused a split among state chairpersons of the party.
The current National Chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun, and a former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, both seek to emerge the national chairman of the party at its forthcoming convention.
While Mr Odigie-Oyegun seeks to retain his position, Mr Oshiomhole, who is believed to enjoy the support of ex-Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, wants to lead the party for the first time.
Both challengers are from Edo State, South-south Nigeria, the region the chairmanship is believed to have been zoned.
A major indication of the split in support for both contenders emerged on Monday after a meeting of APC chairpersons from the South-south.
At the end of the meeting, four state chairpersons of the party held a press conference, alleging they were ambushed to support Mr Oshiomhole.
The video of the press conference was sent to newsmen by the national leadership of the APC hours after a statement claimed the APC chairpersons had endorsed Mr Oshiomhole.
The South-south state chairpersons said they were ambushed with Mr Oshiomhole’s adoption agenda at the meeting insisting that Mr Odigie-Oyegun be given a right of first refusal to seek re-election for the position.
The state chairmen that opposed Mr Oshiomhole’s endorsement are the Rivers State chairman; Davies Ikanya; Bayelsa State chairman; Joseph Fafi; Cross River State chairman, Etim John; and the Akwa Ibom State APC chairman, Amadu Attai; as well as the APC Deputy National Secretary, Victor Giadom.
The National Vice Chairman, APC South-South Zone, Ntufam Eta, had earlier in a statement said the zone had endorsed Mr Oshiomole after a meeting of executive members of the party held in Benin City.
He said Mr Odigie-Oyegun was invited for the meeting but failed to attend. Efforts to reach Mr Odigie-Oyegun via calls and text messages were unanswered.
However, the four APC chairmen in the video said they were at the South-south zonal caucus meeting held at the Edo State Government House on Sunday in protest at what they said were plans by the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, and Mr Eta to adopt Mr Oshiomhole as the zone’s candidate for the national chairmanship position.
The chairmen said any decision made is null and void as there was no voting done.
The Rivers State APC chairman, Mr Ikanya, said, “We were here for a meeting only to be ambushed by the National Vice Chairman of the Party (Mr Eta) to adopt a preconceived candidate.”
“Yesterday (Sunday), we held a meeting which he attended, only for him to come and manipulate, sort out every suggestion and he is trying to say he has come out with a resolution.
“First, I want us to know that the Zonal Executive Committee does not have the power to elect, nominate or to adopt candidates for national offices. It is the national convention that can do that.
“Secondly, there are very senior members in the zone that were shut out of this meeting purposely. Number one, the national chairman of the party who is from this zone and the national vice chairman of the party ought to seek the permission of the national chairman of the party even to convene this meeting because the constitution states that the national vice chairman shall assist the national chairman.
“So, in this zone where we have a sitting chairman and he is not invited to a meeting, you have six ministers, you have former governors, you have very senior citizens of this zone and they were shut out of the meeting only for the national vice chairman to ambush everybody, ignore every motion that was moved, even when somebody moved a motion that he should disqualify himself having shown bias from the beginning in this meeting, he still sat there and he is saying to the public that there was a resolution.
“We want you to know that out of the states of the zone, four states are saying that this was an ambush, it was not acceptable, there was no resolution. We have said that every person is free to run in the election.
“We stand by the resolution of the National Executive Committee (NEC) that there is waiver. The national chairman can recontest if he wants to recontest, any other person from the zone can recontest if they want to recontest.
“What has happened in this meeting is a farce, is not binding on anybody, it is null and void. Four states are saying no, whereas just two states – Edo and some parts of Delta are the people that are saying that they have a resolution.
“This is not how democracy should be practiced. Arising from this meeting today, the majority view is that there is no consensus on any candidate.”
The APC NEC had given a waiver to Mr Odigie-Oyegun and other members of the outgoing national executive to allow them seek re-election at the May 14 convention.
The NEC decision followed it’s reversal of a one-year tenure extension it initially granted the executives. The reversal was done following rejection of the extension by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Odigie-Oyegun’s reelection plan still faces an uphill task as it is believed to be opposed by Mr Buhari and Mr Tinubu.