A mid fears that disgruntled groups may stage a walk-out and hold parallel convention on Saturday, the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has concluded plans to come out with a ‘unity list’ ahead of the convention of the party on June 23.
The meeting Wednesday night is slated for the Imo State Governor’s Lodge Asokoro, Abuja, and is part of efforts not only to prevent division but also to elect “loyalists of the governors” into the new National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
Sources hinted that the meeting of the APC governors was necessitated by need to thwart alleged plot by “some members of the party who are working on agenda which may provoke a walk-out by some aggrieved members or cause a total parallel national convention.”
According to the source, “The APC governors will be meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) night at Imo Governor’s Lodge to take decision on the final list or what you may call ‘unity list’ of aspirants that will make it into the new National Working Committee (NWC).”
“Considering what happened during the ward and state congresses, and how the outgoing NWC maneuvered the whole process to suit their agenda, the governors do not want to be taken unawares a second time”, a source close to one of the convention subcommittees member disclosed.
Continuing, he confided in our correspondent that aside the aspirations of some present NWC members to return to their seats, that the tussle between Governor Okorocha and his kinsman, Senator Osita Izunaso, is central to much of the scheming.
“Bear in mind that there is an ongoing tussle between the outgoing NWC and the various committees, particularly the appeals committee headed by Governor Okorocha on who decides the final list of aspirants.
“Governor Okorocha, we know, has an axe to grind with some members of NWC who are seeking to return at the Saturday’s convention, top among them is the outgoing National Organising Secretary (NOS), Senator Osita Izunazo.
“As it is now Sen. Izunazo has seven petitions against him from his home state, though some of these petitions are alleged to be sponsored by the Imo State governor, who accidentally is the Chairman of the Convention Appeal Sub-committee.”
Senator Izunazo, a key figure in the Imo APC coalition that upstaged Okorocha in the last congresses, it was gathered, fought a battle of his life at the weekend when he appeared before Governor Okorocha-led appeal panel.
Aside the fact that Izunaso is battling seven petitions filed against him, about seven candidates from the South East zone also filed nominations to contest the NOS of the party despite the APC South East caucus decision to return all NWC members from the zone.
Recall that Governor Okorocha at the weekend disclosed that there were general petitions against the outgoing NWC members bordering on the fairness to represent themselves for elections at the coming convention.
The governors, we gathered, justified the ‘unity list’ as a way to ensure they produce national officers who will be representing their individual states at the NWC, hence the need to harmonise the list.
The governors, who adopted former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, as their chairmanship candidate, according to our source, do not want to expose him to hawks hence the need to draw preferred list of other national officers that will work harmoniously with him.
Apart from the presidency, National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; former APC interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande and many other governors have visited Oshiomhole’s campaign office in Abuja to publicly declare their support for his candidature.
Meanwhile, despite assurances from leaders of the ruling APC that the party’s national convention will not be postponed, there are palpable fears amongst stakeholders that some key stakeholders are working behind the scene to get it postponed by one week.
Just last week, there were reports that there are plans to further postpone the convention by one week so that the party can address some challenges bordering on finance, logistics and other issues.
This rumour was, however, dispelled by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, secretary of the party’s national convention committee, who said the event will go on as scheduled.
Ndoma-Egba, who said about 6, 800 delegates are expected to participate in the exercise, further disclosed that efforts were being made to resolve all pending issues from the states where there are issues especially subsisting litigations, assuring that issues that could abort the convention would be resolved.
He said: “It is not correct. The convention will hold on the 23rd of June as planned. Nothing has happened to suggest the contrary. So, I can say categorically that the convention is going ahead.”
“We are expecting about 6, 800 plus delegates. Of course, you know that we will have observers, vendors, the media, and entertainers. In all, you should expect about 8, 000 people.
“We are hoping to resolve those issues before the convention, especially in states where we have court processes. We are working to resolve them in one way or the other. This is politics and at the end of the day, you must leave a window open for harmonisation and reconciliation.”
Some of the party delegates who spoke with newsmen said one of the major stakeholders who is rooting for a shift in the June 23 date is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State, who is the head of the party’s reconciliation team.
According to a delegate, aside from some key issues facing the party such as funding, logistics and threat of implosion arising from the stalemate in talks with the aggrieved Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) bloc in the party known as New PDP, Tinubu also needs time to put the South West in order.
He said Tinubu is still having crisis with some critical stakeholders in the South West, particularly Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, who is working against the interest of Pius Akinyelure, incumbent National Vice-Chairman (South West), a protégé of Tinubu, who is seeking to retain his position in the National Working Committee (NWC).
“Despite assurances from the party leadership that the convention will go on as scheduled, some APC stakeholders are afraid that the convention may be postponed.
“Right now, the South West is not settled. The situation in the South West where Segun Oni is leaving and Niyi Adebayo, a former governor of Ekiti, is going there to replace him. Pius Akinyelure, the current National Vice-Chairman, South West, is also planning to retain his position.
“Many believe this cannot be because Ekiti and Ondo is one zone and two key positions in the NWC cannot come from one zone. There are six states in South West namely: Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo, Lagos and Ogun. Within the South-West, we have Ondo/Ekiti, one zone; Lagos/Ogun, one zone; Osun/Oyo, another zone.
“Akinyelure is from Ondo State while Adebayo is from Ekiti State that is one zone. If a single zone gets two key positions, what will be the fate of the other two zones? He asked.
“That is one riddle leaders of the South West are still struggling to resolve now and I think Bola Tinubu is behind the postponement because of the Ekiti and Ondo issue. It is public knowledge that he is not on the same page with Governor Akeredolu. Akeredolu is kicking against Tinubu’s nominee, Akinyelure, to go back as South West Vice Chairman.
“Right now, Tinubu wants to settle the logjam in the South West first before the convention because how can you be the leader of the party’s reconciliation committee and your home base is enmeshed in crisis?”
Also speaking, another delegate who spoke on condition of anonymity said the crisis has been resolved. He said there were pictures on Monday showing Akeredolu, Tinubu and Akinyelure together.
He also added that the party cannot afford to shift the convention till after June because the incumbent national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was elected in June 2014.
“While it is true that the issue of zoning is an issue in the South West, I believe it has been resolved because I saw pictures of Asiwaju Tinubu, Akeredolu and Akinyelure together at Akure airport. They are brothers and so they can’t afford to go to the convention divided.
“Also, don’t forget that Oyegun was elected in June. The party will be facing a legal and constitutional crisis if it conducts the convention in July or any other month. So, I think the June 23 date is in order”, he said.
In his reaction, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, also said the June 23 date of the convention remains intact.
“I don’t think the convention will be postponed. It will go on as scheduled. I have seen the national chairman, the national secretary and organising secretary, none of them mentioned the issue of postponement to my hearing”, he said.