Forget all you'll probably read today, the beef between Oyegun and Tinubu didn't begin with the Ondo primary election
For evidence that Bola Ahmed Tinubu is getting increasingly emasculated in the larger scheme of things within the party he helped cobble together, look no further than Sunday night.
That blistering attack on APC chairman John Odigie Oyegun threw up three things:
1. The Jagaban (as Tinubu is fondly called) isn't having his way in the governing party any longer as he's accustomed.
2. The party hierarchy has done a decent job of alienating the Jagaban.
3. The APC has been managing an internal crisis for longer than we all knew.
First, the genesis.
Tinubu's candidate for the Ondo Governorship election was a certain Michael Olusegun Abraham. The Jagaban isn't used to not having his way and as the Ondo APC primary drew ever closer, APC Chairman Oyegun looked as determined as ever to hand Jagaban a bloody nose. Abraham lost the primary and Rotimi Akeredolu was declared winner with some 699 votes. Bourdillon's anointed candidate polled second with 635 votes.
Akerodolu's victory rubbed Tinubu the wrong way. The former Lagos Governor has maintained a loud silence since Akerodolu was declared the APC standard bearer for Ondo on September 3. As soon as Oyegun submitted Akerodolu's name to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)--a move that practically sealed Abraham's and Tinubu's fates--last night's press statement was born.
The Ondo primary election result shouldn't stand because it was a travesty and had been rigged by Oyegun in cahoots with certain fifth columnists, Tinubu railed. Oyegun had played a trick on the National Working Committee (NWC), alleged Jagaban.
I'll crave your indulgence in reproducing parts of Tinubu's tirade:
"Fortunately, the grand deception afoot had been unable to cover its tracks fast enough. Truth began to cry for justice. Several candidates filed petitions contesting the result. The party established an investigative board to review the evidence. In a two to one decision, the panel found the delegate roster had suffered tampering. The panel recommended that a new primary should be held using the valid delegate list. This recommendation was tabled before the National Working Committee (NWC).
"After many hours of deliberations spanning several days, a final vote was held by the NWC. Before hand, NWC members agreed that the decision of the majority would become the stance of the party. Such is the way of democracy.
"The NWC voted six against five to cancel the fraudulent results and hold an honest primary. For a moment, it seemed the party would restore its integrity by giving democracy a chance. However, those who sought to scam an entire state would not let the vote of 11 people spoil their enterprise.
"After the NWC vote, a noticeably agitated Chairman Oyegun proposed the NWC engage in prayer before concluding the meeting. Adhering to this chairman’s request, NWC members began to pray.
"Seeing that the others had taken his bait, Oyegun used the prayerful interlude to secretly excuse himself from the meeting. Contravening the NWC decision and in violation of all rules of fundamental decency, Oyegun decided to safeguard the fraud done in Ondo by perpetrating a greater fraud. Oyegun arrogated to himself the right to submit the name of Rotimi Akeredolu to INEC as the candidate of the party.
"Truth has finally come to light. There exists a regressive element in the party that cares nothing for the progressive ideas upon which this party was founded".
Oyegun is the antithesis of the Change the APC preaches, said Tinubu. Oyegun and his ilk "joined the APC because it was the best ride available at the time. Now they want to guide the party into the ditch. They want to turn the party into a soulless entity incapable of doing good, just like they are. When such a person tastes power, they shed all good restraint. They come to abuse the trust given them as if they are the owners of that trust and not its mere custodians. These people did little to build the party but now will do much to wreck it.
"Our party was to stand for change. Oyegun and his fellows seem to be on a different wavelength. They are the cohort of Unchange".
Then the uppercut: "On the chopping block, lies the future of the political party in which the majority of voters had placed their confidence. To rescue the party, Oyegun must go. He has shown that he and democratic fair play cannot exist in the same party at the same time.
"If Tinubu is to choose between John Oyegun and progress toward a better Nigeria, the choice has already been made."
Oyegun must go.
I read those words all night long and woke up with them ringing in my ears. Forget all you'll probably read today, the beef between Oyegun and Tinubu didn't begin with the Ondo primary election. The roots were sown even before the presidential election that threw up Muhammadu Buhari as the country's president.
In the inner APC circle, Oyegun is often derided for his inability to put his foot down and for pussy-footing. After the electoral contest, Tinubu and other powerful forces within the APC echelon slated Oyegun for allowing a Saraki senate presidency materialise on his watch. The APC had little joy in the House of Reps as well; where Femi Gbajabiamila who was the APC's anointed candidate, lost to an 'outsider' in Yakubu Dogara.
Oyegun must go was heard from Bourdillon last night, but the undercurrents have long been simmering. It has only just been made public. Oyegun is no one's favourite party chairman in the APC, several sources have told this writer in the past. The Edo born politician has also been blamed for the manner the Budget Padding scandal and Saraki's corruption trials have panned out. In the cut-throat world of Jagaban politics, Saraki should be a goner today.
There comes a time when a Godfather who is feeling increasingly insular and who now feels emasculated, has to let off steam. The Ondo primary outcome was a perfect opportunity for Tinubu to bring to the fore all he's nursed against Oyegun. He wouldn't let the moment pass.
“The informal title of national leader of the party was given to me at the onset which I accepted as a sign from those who wished to recognize my contributions to the party’s formation", bleated the Jagaban.
"It is an honorific title which I have been proud to wear until today. I would rather not have any title yet reside in a party that honors democracy than hold a title in a party that says it honors me but that treats justice with indecency. I find greater honour and comfort where democracy and fairness are found and respected".
Well, Jagaban hasn't had his way for a long while within the APC and in the Buhari presidency. He's been pushed to the margins and asked to stay there--a tough ask.
He may or may not win the battle to unseat Oyegun, but the party chairman should be very afraid. Jagaban's voice served as the echo chamber for several other disgruntled ones in the APC. Oyegun's days are numbered.
The APC is also in crisis and that may have affected the pace of governance seen thus far at the center. Its chances at the ballot in 2019 will depend on how it gets out of this fiasco.