Loyalists of President Muhammadu Buhari, those of Senate President Bukola Saraki and the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Senator Bola Tinubu, are locked in a game of wits over the control of the ruling party.
National chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, is at the centre of the intrigues, which have left party faithful in confusion so far.
Party insiders, who confided in Sunday Tribune, are, however, wondering whether President Buhari would allow Tinubu get the better of the national chairman, whom they believe offended the former Lagos governor by switching to the side of the president shortly after the former backed him to emerge as chairman.
Some of them are also curious about the position of the president on unfolding drama involving the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the affairs of the party, with which is alleged to have the fingerprints of the former Lagos governor over it.
Equally, some party faithful is asking whether the president will allow the incumbent National Working Committee (NWC) which has supported him go without having a hand on the next occupants of top party seats.
Though President Buhari had asked Tinubu to reconcile the warring factions in the party, sources had confirmed long before now that the president and Saraki are aware Tinubu does not hide his key ambition of seeing Odigie-Oyegun removed as chairman.
Indeed, a source had claimed that Tinubu’s main motivation for taking over the reconciliation job was because of the opportunity he could see Odigie-Oyegun out of the national chairman’s post.
Investigations by Sunday Tribune confirmed that Tinubu had told the NWC to start preparing its hand over notes and set the stage for congresses and convention.
At the very first interaction he had with the NWC, Tinubu was quoted as telling the Oyegun-led NWC that extension of tenure is not written in the party’s constitution.
Even at that, there were no visible plans on the ground to suggest the NWC, whose tenure lapses in April, had commenced plans for a national convention.
It was gathered that the EFCC, which was acting on a petition against the chairman and members of the NWC, had visited the party secretariat twice in the last one week and also invited the party’s Chief Accountant for questioning.
Sources said the plan of those who invited the EFCC into the unfolding saga was to force out Odigie-Oyegun, using the report of the anti-graft agency, which they believed would be “damaging.”
Sources hinted that the EFCC had already questioned the payment of the sum of N600 million to the account of a member of the NWC besides other discoveries.
Whereas Buhari has so far allowed the EFCC intervention, sources expressed confusion as to what the president really wanted to do with the national chairman.
Sources said that some months ago when Buhari had signed off that Odigie-Oyegun should go, it was the Senate President, Bukola Saraki who called his attention to the possibility of “leaving the party in the hands of Tinubu’s loyalists” if that should happen.
The president was then said to have called off the bid to have Odigie-Oyegun removed then.
Party insiders were of the view that Buhari’s game of wits was twofold and that while the president was seeking a party man he can rely on as chairman, and had backed Odigie-Oyegun so far, he might also sacrifice any of the NWC members if indicted by the EFCC.
“The lowering rating of the anti-corruption war embarked upon by the government may play a factor. The president could withdraw backing from any of the party chiefs indicted by the EFCC as a sign of his commitment to the anti-corruption war,” a source said.
Another source, however, stated that if that happens some other forces in the party could read ethnic meanings into the development and orchestrate the claim that the president permitted that because the people involved are not “core northerners.”
Last week, Chief Odigie-Oyegun met with President Buhari before issuing a reply to Tinubu’s letter.
It was gathered that Buhari had used the visit to re-assure Odigie-Oyegun of his support, even as the president’s loyalists were said to have insisted that the national chairman should be allowed to complete a twin project of delivering the 2019 presidential ticket to Buhari and securing at least one-year tenure extension for his NWC.
The argument of those in sync with NWC’s push for tenure extension is that any new NWC that comes in April or May would not have enough time to settle down before the clock ticks on primaries and national convention.
They are also arguing that the crisis that would erupt from the national convention could tear the party apart and puncture the already fragile peace in the party.
“The game of wits is unsettling for many party loyalists. On one hand, the president is giving Odigie-Oyegun the confidence and on another hand, he has given Tinubu the powers to resolve all crises in the party.
“Now, Tinubu has told the NWC that his first assignment is to see an end to their tenure while some people have called in the EFCC. It’s becoming dicey inside the APC,” a chieftain said at the weekend.