APC leaders meet to resolve ‘civil war’
• NEC may spare Odigie-Oyegun • Dogara moves to redeem House’s image
IN a bid to reposition the All Progressives Congress (APC) and calm the storm arising from the emergence of National Assembly leadership, President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders are billed to attend the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party in Abuja tomorrow.
Among leaders of the party expected at the parley are Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Chief Ogbonnaya Onu.
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has formally inaugurated the Ad-hoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs to correct misconceptions and improve the corporate image of the House.
Dogara also yesterday formally inaugurated the Ad-hoc Committee on Code of Conduct to deter and sanction specific cases of unethical behaviour by members in the broader context of preventing and fighting corruption such as conflict of interest, transparency and disclosure of interest on matters before the House.
The committee is to fashion out a code of conduct that members would subject themselves to.
Also towards healing the rift in the party, the President was scheduled to hold a fence-mending meeting with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara at the Presidential Villa last night at which the group loyal to Femi Gbajabiamila, who contested the speakership position with Dogara would also be present.
The 22 governors as well as the 36 state chairmen of the party are expected at the parley to do what Osita Okechukwu, a chieftain of the party, said is aimed at “putting behind the disappointment of having persons other than the party’s choices as leaders of both chambers of the National Assembly and move forward.”
Although party officials are silent on the agenda, it is likely that the issue of restoring party discipline revolving around whether to sanction the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Dogara would be part of the discourse in the parley of the highest decision making organ of the party.
The fate of the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun who has come under fire over his role in the emergence of the National Assembly leadership may also come up when chieftains of the party put heads together to chart the way forward.
While the decision by the Odigie-Oyegun-led National Executive Council to conduct a straw poll to determine the party’s candidates for the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly has earned him applause, there were also some who felt he deserve to get the boot for coming up with such idea which has polarised the party. There have also been hushed talks about some ethical misconduct against the former governor of Edo State.
The chairman has also come under scrutiny over the way and manner he rushed into accepting the outcome of the National Assembly leadership polls where Saraki and Dogara emerged winners against the wish of the party which preferred Lawan and Gbajabiamila for the two positions respectively.
Odigie-Oyegun appears to have been caught in the crossfire as two of the party’s power blocs – the G5 led by Atiku who had the victorious Saraki and Dogara on their side and the others led by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and a section of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) with Lawan and George Akume on their side, felt at various stages of the tussle that he was on a self-serving mission and had not done enough to live up to their expectations.
The Tinubu group, which lost out in the tussle, felt let down after Odigie-Oyegun who they considered one of their own, did little or nothing to sanction Saraki and Dogara but instead, rushed to endorse their emergence. The G5 who recalled how the aspiration of their candidates would have been dimmed after the straw poll still consider Odigie-Oyegun as Tinubu’s man in the party who must be axed.
In spite of calls for his sack by the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Timi Frank, there were indications that Odigie -Oyegun may be spared as the Alhaji Umar Haruna Mohammed-led forum of 36 state chairmen rose from a two-day meeting last week reaffirming their loyalty to him and members of his executive council.
Okechukwu also aligned himself with the state chairmen saying calls for Odigie-Oyegun’s resignation were unnecessary.
Odigie-Oyegun had in a chat with reporters, distanced himself from taking sides with any interest group, saying, he was more preoccupied with ensuring peace and harmony in the party.
According to him: “It is unfortunate and I think it has arisen because of the clash of major interest groups within the party and that has given rise to gross disloyalty and an unacceptable level of indiscipline and disrespect to the party. What is happening now is very unacceptable and painting us in very bad light. But thank God we have this period of recess in the National Assembly to bring things back together again. We are doing everything we can to ensure that by the time the National Assembly reconvenes, all of these things would have been put behind us.”
On allegations that he got gratification to endorse the Saraki-Dogara leadership, he said: “Well, the issue is simple, gratification to do what and for whom? And what have I done to justify that gratification except to stand as neutral as possible in the circumstance and emphasise adherence to the supremacy of the party. Let anybody who says he brought anything to me come out and say that.
“It is a public thing. It is my integrity they are trying to smear. That comes only through blackmail from some forces that feel that I am standing in the way for whatever their intentions are. But that is neither here nor there. What’s important is that we must put our party back together again and focus on the promises we have made to the Nigerian people.”
On calls for his resignation, he said: “That is going on all the time. People are trying to push me in one direction or the other but one thing I have to my credit is my neutrality. I don’t belong to any of the contending power blocs and of course, that has its price. And that is why you have heard a lot of it directed personally to smear me. I have built a reputation that has lasted for over 70 years. I don’t have to go and be taking peanuts from some political gladiators. Whatever they try to do, they cannot smear my character. If anybody has given me gratification to do anything, let him come out and say so, where and when and how much.”
Inaugurating the ad hoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs yesterday, Dogara, represented by the Deputy Speaker, Sulaiman Yusuf Lasun, specifically charged the nine members to ensure that legislative activities, whether in plenary or in committee, are accessible to the general public.
He noted that in a constitutional democracy, parliamentary activities are subject to citizens’ scrutiny and assessment, hence the need to adequately inform the public since parliament holds a central position in the functioning of a participatory government of the people.