A former Governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was in the early hours of Saturday, announced as the first substantive National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress.
The emergence of Odigie-Oyegun was by a consensus arrangement perfected by the leadership of the party at the first National Convention of the APC, conducted by the election sub-committee, headed by Alhaji Kawu Baraje, at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
The party was run by an interim executive, headed by a former National Chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, since the merger arrangement was consumated last year.
Odigie-Oyegun’s early Saturday’s victory, was not, however, without a stiff opposition from a former chief of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Tom Ikimi, who did not come to the convention but had the strong backing of a former Vice – President, Atiku Abubakar.
The decision of the candidate of the APC Governors Forum, who is also a former Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Timipire Sylva, and another contestant, Chief Sam Jaja, to step down for Odigie – Oyegun, created a clear platfom for Ikimi’s defeat.
Sylva, who mounted the stage shortly before the commencement of voting, announced that he withdrew in order to maintain a formidable unity in the party.
He therefore pledged to offer necessary support and assistance for Odigie – Oyegun, who is believed to be the choice of a National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
A former governor of Ekiti State, who recently defected from the PDP, Mr. Segun Oni, emerged Deputy National Chairman (South), while former National Secretary of the defunct ACN, Alhaji Lawal Shuaibu, was also returned unopposed as the deputy national chairman (North).
The delegates also elected the interim National Secretary, Alhaji Ibrahim Bala Gubi, as the substantive National Secretary following the withdrawal of Alhaji Kashim Imam, from the race, while the Interim Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, was returned unopposed to retain his former position.
However, the process of electing other officers was disrupted by a downpour, accompanied by heavy wind, around 2am.
Officers, who may be declared winners by the leaders included Zakare Ede, (National Vice-Chairman, North-Central); Hajiya Ramatu, (National Women Leader); Jock Alamba, (Deputy Welfare Secretary); Hajiya Hassan, (North-Central Zonal Woman Leader); Nelson Alapa, and (ex-Officio from the North-Central).
The voting process could not be completed as offifers and delegates scampered to safety as the heavy wind scattered ballot boxes, canopies and the public address system.
Our correspondent learnt that Odigie-Oyegun’s emergence was preceded by lobbying by the duo of Tinubu and Atiku.
Meanwhile, the internal crisis rocking the party in some South-West states manifested at the convention on Friday as a former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Segun Osoba; his erstwhile deputy, Senator Adegbenga Kaka; and many other chiefs of the party, failed to turn up for the convention.
The reason might not be unconnected with the war of attrition between Osoba and Governor Ibikunle Amosun on who should control the party structure in Ogun State.
However, while delegates from Ogun State were dancing, singing and rejoicing over the triumph of Amosun in the whole saga, violence erupted in the camps of the Abia and Ebonyi states, leading to a free-for-all.
In the ensuing confusion, some irate delegates of the party from the affected states beat up two unidentified members of the party in the full glare of policemen.
Some of the aggrieved delegates alleged that they were democratically elected as delegates for the party’s convention, but allegedly denied accreditation by the Convention Committee headed by Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aliyu Wammako, and Senator Chris Ngige who served as secretary.
One of the delegates from Abia State, who identified himself as Uche Emeka, accused Ngige, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha; former National Chairman of All Nigeria Peoples Party, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, and National Vice-Chairman of the party for the South-East, Mr. Nyerere, as being responsible for their plight.
He said, “We were reliably informed that Ngige and Okorocha have instructed that our Chairman, who is Fabian Okonkwo, and the rest of us from Abia State should not be accredited.
“We have been calling to inquire and we also have it on good authority that they are directly responsible for this. Our state chairman has been making calls to find out what is wrong, but no answer has been provided.”
Another delegate from Ebonyi State, who identified himself as Christian Ali, said he was the secretary of the party in Ishielu local government.
He said, “There are two factions of APC in Ebonyi. One is led by Chief Ogbonnaya Onu while the other is led by Senator Julius Ucha, adding that there seemed to be a power tussle between the two of them.
“We conducted the state congresses and elected Ben Nwobasi, who belongs to Senator Ucha’s camp as chairman. Accreditation tags have not been handed over to us because the trio of Ngige, Ogbonnaya Onu and Okorocha directed that the congress in Ebonyi be re-conducted.”
Seated in the state box at the convention were all the APC governors, their deputies and state speakers.
Also in the state box were former head of state, Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari; former vice president Atiku Abubakar, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, presidential aspirant, Sam Nda-Isaiah; former Chairman, EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu; Chief Bisi Akande, Lai Mohammed, and all APC members in the National Assembly.
Former vice president Atiku Abubakar, while addressing delegates, said he had “volunteered to lead the broom revolution that will end the PDP’s inept era.”
He appealed to Nigerians to vote out “a government that is corrupt, a government that is inept and a government that has no clue.”
He maintained that the PDP should not rule Nigeria after 2015 and vowed to be in the vanguard to chase out the government.
Buhari noted that next year’s election would be a watershed in the history of the country and urged Nigerians to make use of it by voting out the PDP.
He compared Nigeria in 1999 to that of this year when life is tougher for the common man, recalling that the emergence of the APC and its mission were to liberate the country from the inept PDP-controlled government.
The outgoing national chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande, assured Nigerians of victory of the party come 2015.
In his farewell address, Akande, said the party was solid and strong enough to defeat the ruling PDP in 2015.
He asked President Goodluck Jonathan to stop playing semantics with his anti-corruption agenda.
He said, “President Goodluck Jonathan has been trying to make distinction between stealing and corruption. We say to him, corruption is corruption which has eaten deep into the fabrics of our society. This is no time for semantics.”
Akande lamented that Jonathan had refused to accept suggestions made by the APC on how to tackle the insurgency in the northern part of the country.
He said, “While we can say that the state of our party is strong, we cannot say the same for our country. Nigeria that had contributed troops to global peacekeeping is today overwhelmed by insurgency.
“The US, the UK and others are assisting us to rescue over 200 students. This is a clear failure of our country’s leadership.
“We have stretched our hands in a non-partisan approach to end the insurgency. As I speak, the government has not acknowledged our efforts. Instead, they blamed us for the crisis.
“No free and fair election has been held under the watch of the Peoples Democratic Party. In recent times, the PDP under the government it controlled at the centre, had moved to emasculate the court.
They did it in Anambra election; they are attempting to do it in Ekiti and Osun states. I urge you all to be vigilant as eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Ultimately, power belongs to the people and no one can take it from them by force.
”In the face of persecution, APC will reach the Promised Land. We have been able to create alternative for Nigerians who are already tired of the PDP.”
He lamented the failure of the Federal Government to arrest the menace of insecurity and recalled how Nigeria that used to send military personnel to keep peace on the global scene, now plays host to others who are coming to help its military to free the abducted schoolgirls and to end insurgency.
He noted that the ruling party had been accusing the APC and its chiefs as sponsors of the insurgency.
Akande, however, said the acceptance of the party as manifested during the recently conducted registration exercise, was evident of its popularity.
The out-going chairman acknowledged the support he received from other members of the interim NEC and urged party supporters to do the same for the new leadership.
Okorocha paid tributes to the founding fathers of the party while Governor Rotimi Amaechi on his part, asked the party supporters to prevent manipulation of next year’s general elections, stressing that the ruling party would not let go of power easily.
Ogbonnaya Onu and former Governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, also urged the party faithful to remain one and work for the success of the party, starting with the Ekiti and Osun states elections in June and August this year, respectively.
Tinubu told the delegates that it had become necessary for APC to take over power because of the manifest ineptitude and weakness of the PDP-led government.
He alleged that the government could not protect the citizens especially with the abduction of 250 girls abducted in Chibok, Borno States about two months ago.
He said, “Nigerians cannot continue to tolerate this government and APC had come to present the clear alternative. The successful holding of this national convention has shamed detractors who had said that it was impossible for the legacy parties to merge and form one formidable party.
“We have every reason to congratulate ourselves not only for the history we have made, but for showing that we are capable and ready to bring that which Nigerians desire.
“They have attempted to brand us a religious party, yet they failed. They should know that poverty knows no religion. We are making history today and assure that we are one and we must remain united.”
The Chairman of the First National Convention Committee, Governor Aliyu Wammako of Sokoto State, said the party leadership came together to rescue Nigeria, “out of historical exigency.”
He said, “We have realised and we have come to accept that Nigeria has never been pulled down like this.
“All the crises pose threats to our economy; there is a nightmare in the name of insurgency. Despite this, they want to take power at all cost.
“The Federal Government is adopting divide and rule tactics. However all hope is not lost because Nigerians are rising above ethnic divide.”
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