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Sunday, 20 March 2016

Tinubu, Atiku fight over APC BoT chair


John Alechenu, John Ameh and  Eniola Akinkuotu
Cracks among key political office holders and leaders in the All Progressives Congress are threatening the unity of the party, which is in control of the Federal Government, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.
Investigations indicated that between President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, for instance, there is a “cold war” over key decisions taken by the former.
“There have been cases of appointments into offices, which have generated tension between the President and Tinubu. That is just one angle to the issues,” a top member of the party in the National Assembly confided in Sunday PUNCH in Abuja.
The other angle, the source said, was an attempt to sideline Tinubu because he held no official position in the party.
“During most decision-making meetings of the party, key officials often point out that he (Tinubu) cannot influence decisions on the grounds of being the national leader because there is no such office in the APC constitution.
“For example, while political office holders like the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Mr. President, National Assembly members, governors, among others may have a say in decision-making, the office of national leader has no much powers,” the source added.
SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that this was also why the choice of who would occupy the position of Chairman of the Board Trustees of the party had become a contest between former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and Tinubu.
“It had been initially agreed that Abubakar should become the BOT chairman. But, since the other leaders are now saying that the position of national leader is unconstitutional, Tinubu wants to revert to the position of BOT chairman.
“That way, he will become a major decision– maker in the affairs of the party and the Federal Government as presently constituted,” the official stated.
The source described the recent criticism of President Buhari and the APC-led Federal Government by Tinubu’s wife, Remi, and his daughter, as “signs” of the alleged cold war between the President and the national leader of his party.
Findings also showed that a group in the party had been pushing for the exit of Odigie-Oyegun as the national chairman, “owing to his not too impressive role in the election of the presiding officers of the National Assembly, particularly the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki.”
However, another faction backing Odigie-Oyegun was said to have held the view that he should be allowed to stay on till the party would have conducted its national convention and filled the vacant positions in the APC.
SUNDAY PUNCH further learnt that while Buhari had been cautious in relating with Saraki, he was “normally at home with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, whom he sees as an “ally” at the National Assembly.
However, a reliable source within Tinubu’s camp told one of our correspondents that the former governor and Buhari were back together.
He said the problem with the APC was that the presidency had distanced itself from the party and had thus lost touch with the change agenda.
The source added that there was a growing consensus that once the party had a new chairman and a new publicity secretary, things would change.
He said, “We are of the view that unless the party leadership is changed, the change agenda will fail. The new agenda is to make sure that the President and the party are on the same page. There is no presidency that can survive if it divorces itself from the party.
“The presidency’s action is also justified because we have a party leadership that is just not there. It is not focused, disciplined or pushing any agenda and so the presidency has ignored the party but the two must work together.”
He revealed that all party leaders will meet in Abuja on Tuesday where major decisions would be taken regarding the way forward.
He added, “Unlike three months ago when nobody cared, everyone now cares and has decided to work together and ensure that the party is structured. I don’t know how the restructuring will take place but we will change the party chairman and find a replacement for Lai Mohammed.
“Once we can get this right, things will change and that is why we are having a caucus meeting on Tuesday which all party leaders for the first time have agreed to attend.”
Attempts to get a reaction from the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, were unsuccessful. Calls to his mobile phone were neither picked nor returned.
A response to a text message sent to him on the subject was being awaited as of the time of filing this report.
A similar call made to the party’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Timi Frank was picked by an aide who said, “I will tell him you called.”
A response to a similar text message sent to him was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report. 7:00pm.
Similar attempts to get an official reaction from former Vice President Atiku Abubakar were equally unsuccessful.
A call to the Director General of the Atiku Media Office, Mazi Paul Ibe, indicated that his phone was switched off. A response to a text message sent to him was also being awaited as of the time of filing this report.

Punch

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