National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun is fighting hard to retain his job.
He pointedly told National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu that the national chairman of the ruling party will not be removed.
Oyegun told State House Correspondents, yesterday, that the tone of the open letter addressed to him by Tinubu, last Sunday, was harsh.
He said he had a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Newsmen reported on Monday that Oyegun was scheduled to meet with the president this week, after the September 28 Edo governorship primary.
On Monday, October 3, Oyegun and Tinubu met for the first time at the International Conference Center (ICC), venue of the launch of the president’s book Muhammadu Buhari the Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria written by Prof. John Paden.
Asked to speak on the rift between them and if he was going to step down as demanded by Tinubu, Odigie-Oyegun replied: “There is no rift with Asiwaju. We have differences of opinion, differences of perception and, I think that is normal. Yes, I agree that the nature of the statement was a bit harsh.
“The method of getting rid of a national chairman, if that is what I will call it, are spelt out in the (party’s) constitution; they don’t take place on the pages of newspapers.”
On why members of the National Executive Council (NEC) were yet to meet, he assured “they will meet at the appropriate time.”
Oyegun was also asked if he was willing to make U-turn on the contentious Ondo governorship primary since it has caused crisis in the party.
He said: “It is only INEC that can make U-turn on Ondo”
Tinubu had faulted Odigie-Oyegun’s position on the primary and called for his resignation.
Odigie-Oyegun said the report was with the chairman of the committee.
On allegations that he was behind some youths who protested at the party’s headquarters against alleged highhandedness of Tinubu, the APC’s chairman said, “God forbid! Anybody who knows me knows that that is not my style. I’m equally shocked and I’m going to look into it and find out why and who is behind it.”
Asked if the smile and pleasantries he shared with Tinubu at Buhari’s book launch were genuine, he replied, “do they know how far back our association goes? Do they know that we were in the trenches together in the NADECO days? Why can’t people who have mutual respect for each other have different opinions? All we had was difference of opinions. Yes, it was expressed a bit harshly but, that doesn’t remove the basic fact that we have worked together for a very long time.”
Speaking on the Edo guber election, Oyegun said: “Well, it was a hard fought election that was clear. Two things, really, it was more of a referendum; first on the performance of the governor and second, on the quality of our candidate and, most importantly, considering the economic situation, it was an opportunity for us to measure the continued popularity and acceptability of our president. And, what it indicated was that by and large the people of this country still have faith, confidence in the fact that if there is any one man that can fix their situation, it is president Buhari.”
Meanwhile, the face-off between the two party chieftains worsened yesterday when several anti-Tinubu protesters grounded the national secretariat of the party in Abuja.
The protesters, under the auspices of APC Youths Democratic Frontiers (APCYDF) stormed the headquarters with seven 18-seater buses bearing placards and condemning what they termed the overbearing influence of the former Lagos state governor.
Warning that Tinubu is not God to determine the fate of APC leadership, the youth group also cautioned him to limit his political empire to the South-west region. “Nigeria is bigger than a region or Lagos state.”
Addressing newsmen on Tinubu’s letter to Oyegun, the National Coordinator, Salahudeen A. Lukman, accused Tinubu of undermining the position of Mr. President by incessantly sponsoring the spurious ridicule of his anti-corruption fight.
“Each time fake stories of impropriety is written about these appointees, paid critics and activists on hire are always quick to accuse President Buhari of fighting corruption while surrounding himself with corrupt people but we all know this is far from the truth,” he said.