Politics

Oshiomhole becomes Buhari, Saraki’s darling

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is compiling a ‘unity list’ of a new set of its National Working Committee (NWC) members, Saturday Tribune has reliably learnt.

Governors perceived to be loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari, who include Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna State), Yahaya Bello (Kogi State), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun State) and Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo State), are believed to have finally endorsed Comrade Adams Oshiomhole for the chairmanship of the party after extracting commitments from him not to be controlled by any leader other than the president.

Apart from the governors’ group, the Senator Bukola Saraki camp, which had also refused to endorse Oshiomhole because of his reported closeness to certain forces in the party, has also bought into the Oshiomhole project after some trade-offs by the former Edo State governor.

With the three major camps in the party reportedly settling on not going into the national convention divided, the “unity list” is primed to accommodate all contending interests, especially those with discontent that could hurt the party in the 2019 general election at the centre.

Saturday Tribune was informed by a government source in the South-West that despite the initial objection of a certain South West governor to the aspiration of Oshiomhole to lead the party, he and other governors have finally closed ranks on the endorsement of their former colleague.

With the new arrangement and understanding, Oshiomhole is sitting atop the unity list as the national chairman-designate of the party.

The South-West governor who, alongside his other colleagues in the North, had been the rock behind the agenda to keep the incumbent chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, on the job for another four years, finally joined others in endorsing Oshiomhole.

A united governors’ forum of the party has also persuaded Oyegun not to stand election against Oshiomhole, the anointed of both the camps of President Buhari and the party’s leader, Bola Tinubu.

The camp of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, working in concert with that of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, reportedly had no objection to the arrangement – replacing Oyegun with Oshiomhole.

Pro-continuity groups, according to findings, didn’t just endorse Oshiomhole because the president said so or decided to back him.

A party link explained that the original plan of the groups was to shock anti-Oyegun elements at the convention, adding, “At least, the election which they demanded would have taken place and their candidate (Oshiomhole) would have lost.”

Commitments were reportedly extracted from the incoming chairman before a shift was made by the Oyegun backers, especially among the governors.

Fears that he would be subservient to the interest that propelled his candidature were said to have been made known to him, which he reportedly dispelled, assuring that he would be fair to all.

His core supporters also touted his successes in dismantling the age-long godfatherism phenomenon and structure in Edo State as governor, taking on and defeating establishments that long dominated the political space in the South-South state.

Some of the political establishments which he succeeded in dismantling in Edo State helped him to power as governor, following their disaffection with happenings in the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) regarding its choice of governorship candidate.

After falling out with the PDP leaders, he consolidated his hold on power and ensured his party retained the governorship when he ran out his tenure.

He is celebrated by his supporters as the one with the formula to end the reign of godfathers, even when such persons helped him to power.

Oshiomhole is seen as Tinubu’s choice and anointed.

The former Lagos State governor, Tinubu, against the grain of NEC agreement, forced the party to agree to an elective convention and a change of leadership at the NWC.

Buhari, who had earlier signed off on the Oyegun extension agenda, made a U-turn to support Oshiomhole, who was presented to him in London by Tinubu.

Oshiomhole, before now, had enjoyed a chummy relationship with Buhari with the president publicly announcing he had a national assignment for him after his tenure as governor.

His choice by Tinubu was said not to be a difficult one for the president to accept after Tinubu insisted that Oyegun must leave office in June when the tenure of the current NWC would expire.

Governors, who were initially opposed to Oshiomhole’s ascension as the national chairman, were said to have cited his rigid approach to issues, his stubborn streak and a carriage of intellectual superiority, aside from his resumed cozy relations with Tinubu, who isn’t their political friend.

In Kogi State, a member of the House of Representatives, James Faleke, was Tinubu’s choice for governor following the death of the party’s original standard-bearer, Abubakar Audu.

Faleke remains a protege of Tinubu and a political foe of Governor Yahaya Bello, who was an ardent Oyegun backer, until recently.

Apart from the assurance from Oshiomhole, Saturday Tribune learnt, his latter-day backers are not putting all their eggs in his basket by ensuring they put enough of the outgoing NWC members on the Oshiomhole train to check him if he wanted to derail.

The “unity list,” if the erstwhile Oyegun backers had their way, would only be altered slightly at the top, that is, Oyegun’s name replaced with Oshiomhole’s, while all other members of the outgoing NWC are kept intact and returned wholesale.

But while the majority of the NWC members are likely to return, a couple of them have signified it was time to go.

Apart from about two seeking the governorship of their states and expected to be replaced by the same states, some others would also be exiting voluntarily.

Those not returning from states not controlled by the NWC backers have reportedly been asked to seek out their replacements that would stand election against those from such “unfriendly” states.

The positions currently occupied by those not returning may become a test of strength among the major camps at the convention, despite the “unity list.”

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