Heated arguments broke out among All Progressives Congress’ governors during a strategy meeting at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja on Wednesday, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
The governors held the meeting to discuss the party’s upcoming national convention and election of new party executives.
Party insiders told PREMIUM TIMES that the politicians also discussed the lingering controversies over the major candidates for the chairmanship position.
The seat is being hotly contested by the incumbent John Odigie-Oyegun and Adams Oshiomhole, a former governor of Edo State.
Our sources said halfway into the meeting, which held behind closed-doors late afternoon, serious confrontation erupted amongst the governors, first over the upcoming congresses.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt the party is planning to send officials to monitor congresses from outside their home states. Typically, state governors are allowed to send names of party members that they want to serve as officials during the congresses to the national headquarters.
The party’s convention committee is planning a modality that would randomise the posting of thevnominated congress officials, PREMIUM TIMES learnt. This would mean that congress officials nominated from Gombe State could end up officiating in Kogi State or another state further south.
Akeredolu takes on Okorocha
But this arrangement appears unacceptable to some governors, especially Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
Mr Okorocha said officials must not be posted out of their states. He threatened to act decisively should the officials he nominated be posted out of his state.
But Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State interjected, and called Mr Okorocha’s bluff. He said Mr Okorcha cannot do anything because he is not above the party and whatever decision the party ultimately takes would be biding on all its members. He challenged the Imo governor from threatening violence on the party and its members.
Other governors present eventually intervened and calmed frayed nerves.
Ajimobi, El-Rufai clash over Oshiomhole
As the meeting progressed, Mr Okorocha again sparked controversy when he said President Muhammadu Buhari had endorsed Mr Oshiomhole as the next chairman of the party.
Mr Okorocha said the president made the statement when they held a meeting with him earlier in the day.
But Governor Nasir El-Rufai who was amongst the governors who visited the president said Mr Okorocha’s claim was not true, our sources said.
Mr El-Rufai said the governors and the President would give all candidates equal support in the course of their campaigns.
But that was immediately countered by Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State who accused his Kaduna counterpart of double-dealing.
Before that meeting at the APC secretariat, Mr. El-Rufai was believed to be one of Mr. Odigie-Oyegun’s major backers. In fact the APC chairman believed the Kaduna governor was pushing his case vigorously with the President.
But Mr Ajimobi pointedly declared at the meeting that he and Mr El-Rufai met at the residence of Mr Oshiomhole on Tuesday night and wondered why the Kaduna governor continued to pretend that his loyalty remained solely with Mr. Odigie-Oyegun.
Mr Ajimobi said Mr El-Rufai pledged loyalty to Mr Oshiomhole and assured him of victory at the convention. Messrs Oshiomhole and Odigie-Oyegun are from Edo State.
Based on the party’s internal arrangement for its upcoming convention which said all slots must remain as they are, the chairman would have to emerge from Edo State.
While Mr Oshiomhole’s has covered huge ground in his quest for the chairmanship of the party, there are indications that some governors are still opposed to him because of his alleged connection to Bola Tinubu, an immensely influential figure in the party.
Mr Oshiomhole is widely seen as a candidate of Mr Tinubu. But governors like Mr Akeredolu who have political axe to grind with the former Lagos governor are heading for a showdown with him at the convention, our sources said.
Bolaji Abdullahi, a spokesperson for the APC did not return PREMIUM TIMES’s requests for comments Thursday night.
Protecting party’s image
One other issue that was a subject of intense bickering amongst the governors was on how to properly time their party’s upcoming activities in a way that would not portray the leadership as insensitive to the plight of Nigerians, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
After observations were raised about the possibility of the congresses and convention clashing with this year’s Ramadan, some governors, especially Mr Okorocha and Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara, canvassed the adjustment of the dates to a period that could coincide with the annual Muslim fasting of Ramadan.
But Mr El-Rufai strongly opposed this idea, slamming his colleagues for subscribing to an idea that could send out a wrong signal about the party’s strategies and care for its members and Nigerians.
Mr El-Rufai “asked what message the APC would be sending to Nigerians if the party failed to consider the holy month before fixing its activities,” one of our sources said.
Ultimately, the Kaduna governor won, as was later confirmed by Mr Abdullahi.
“We want to be sensitive to the feelings of Muslims who will be fasting in the month of Ramadan,” the spokesperson told reporters shortly after the meeting. “Therefore, we tried avoid conducting any political activity during the month of Ramadan.”
Furthermore, as the governors were emerging from the meeting, two of them were overheard ridiculing Messrs Okorocha and Yari for delaying in settling their ‘convention dues’ to the party and yet believing they have the moral right to push for the postponement of congresses and convention.