It was supposed to be a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, but some All Progressives Congress (APC) governors had other plans – the removal of National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole.
It took the swift intervention of Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum to kill the plot hatched by Governors Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa) and Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi).
Zulum was said to have spilled the beans when he saw that the quartet wanted to use the other governors to get the President’s backing for Oshiomhole’s removal, The Nation learnt on Sunday.
Sources said he told the President that El-Rufai, Fayemi, Bagudu and Badaru, among others, want to hijack the party leadership because they want one of them to be president in 2023. The quartet see Oshiomhole as an obstacle to the project.
”It is all about 2023. They want a pliant person as chairman, someone they can manipulate. That is why they want Oshiomhole out”, he told a stunned President Buhari, adding: ”They want to hijack the APC for selfish reason”.
The President agreed to the meeting after being told by the El-Rufai group that the governors wanted to see him on an issue of national importance.
The four governors told their colleagues that the President wanted to see them penultimate Thursday. They informed them about the meeting late on Wednesday, ostensibly to make it difficult for them to attend. Apparently wary of the quartet’s motive, the pro-Oshiomhole governors shelved other state matters and travelled to Abuja.
At the meeting, the President sought to know the governors’ mission.
El-Rufai responded that the governors have resolved that Oshiomhole should go because he is not running the party well. He said they came to inform the President about their plan.
Zulum and other pro-Oshiomhole governors were stunned by the disclosure. Other pro-Oshiomhole governors at the meeting were Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun) and Gboyega Oyetola (Osun). Zulum countered: ”Who are the APC governors with you? Where and when did we meet to agree that the national chairman should resign?” he asked El-Rufai.
He told the President that the governors were told he wanted to compare notes with them. Zulum said they were shocked to hear that El-Rufai and those with him asked for the meeting.
A source privy to the meeting and how it went said Zulum told the President to be wary of the four governors.
He told the President that El-Rufai and his collaborators had sinister motive. Zulum revealed that Bagudu once pleaded with him to support former Zamfara State Governor Abdulazeez Yari in his (Yari) bid to replace Oshiomhole. He challenged Bagudu to deny it.
Oyetola told the President that what El-Rufai said was a figment of his imagination. ”No APC governors meeting took place where it was resolved that Oshiomhole should be replaced”, he said.
The source also quoted Zulum as saying: “Mr. President, you see all these governors seeking the removal of Oshiomhole are doing so because they are aspiring to be President in 2023. This is why they are calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it. Must we destroy the party because of presidential ambition? I think we should be careful.
“I believe our National Chairman is a fair and equitable leader. I have never met him, yet he allowed due process in the party which made me to emerge as the governorship candidate of the APC in Borno State. He knew me during the presidential campaign in our state. He has never asked me for a favour.”
It was gathered that Zulum enjoyed the backing of Oyetola, Abiodun and Sanwo-Olu.
“The anti-Oshiomhole governors were glued to their seats as the President left”, the source added.
It was learnt that Zulum received “follow up telephone calls from some of the anti- Oshiomhole governors.
He reportedly told one of them: “I know what I am doing, I am not running anybody’s errand. I am not only a PhD holder, I am a Professor. Having attained professorial level, I am knowledgeable enough to know the right thing.”
But the anti-Oshiomhole governors are not relenting in their mission.
They have been strategising on how to woo about 120 members of the the APC National Executive Committee (NEC).
They are either looking at ex-Governor Yari or a former aspirant for APC chair, Mr. Sam Jaja.
A party source said: “I think they are peddling Yari, the choice might be Jaja eventually. They know Yari loves ego boosting and he has a lot to spend. If Yari is their ultimate choice, they will meet their match in President Buhari, who believes the ex-Zamfara governor must account for his tenure in the state. Buhari has refused to stop the investigation of Yari despite the entreaties of some of these anti-Oshiomhole governors.
“It also does not add up for the President to come from the North-West and the party chairman from the same zone. Yari is just a smokescreen.
“If they are able to convince Jaja to replace Oshiomhole, they must be running the errand of a third force.
“Some of these governors, their allies and foot soldiers are so petty to the extent that they are deploying huge cash to remove Oshiomhole. Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, who is having a running battle with Oshiomhole, is said to be one of those funding the project. They have offered some NEC members as much as N500,000, and even infiltrated the National Working Committee ( NWC) of the APC by dangling N10million to N20million to the members. Those offered the huge cash were from both North-Central and South-West.
“A member of the NEC said he was offered N100,000 but he will collect the balance after the removal of Oshiomhole.”
It was learnt that the aggrieved governors have shifted base to the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ovie Omo-Agege, who is a staunch backer of Oshiomhole.
They are throwing the presidential ticket to him as a bait, if the 2023 presidency is zoned to the South-South.
“Omo-Agege is wiser, he is presently a Deputy President of the Senate and the South-South leader of APC. His future will take care of itself”, a source said.
As at press time, Oshiomhole’s camp has started fighting back with about 90 NEC members ready to ”sink or swim” with him.
A member of the NWC said: “It is not only the governors that make up the NEC. Out of about 120 members, we have 36 from the National Assembly, state chairmen of APC and non-NWC members among others.
“And some governors have started backing out of the plot having realised that the proposed removal of Oshiomhole has to do with the presidential aspiration of some of their colleagues.”
While El-Rufai, Badaru and Bagudu are said to be banking on power likely being retained in the North, Fayemi is said to be either eyeing a joint ticket with El-Rufai or a presidential slot, if power shifts to the South in 2023.
Fayemi and El-Rufai are close to Oshiomhole, but because of their ambition, they are determined to sacrifice him, an APC insider said. They visit Oshiomhole regularly and pretend that they are with, the source added.
El-Rufai was said to have sold a dummy to his colleagues that he is ”the only one who can read the body language of the President”.
He was said to have told them ”the body language of the President is that Oshiomhole must go”
The confidence exuded by el-Rufai was said to have informed the deployment of huge cash, ranging from N500,000 to N10million, as bribes to the APC NEC members.
Despite the huge war chest, about 90 NEC members have signed up to ”sink or swim” with Oshiomhole.
Findings revealed that at the prompting of El-Rufai, the anti-Oshiomhole governors had tried four times in the past two months to get him out to no avail.
They made the attempts at the November 21 National Caucus session; the November 22 NEC meeting; the emergency session of the Progressives Governors Forum in Abuja; and the December 5 session with the President.
APC stalwart Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr. Boss Mustapha were said to have saved the party from sinking into a deeper crisis at the APC Caucus meeting on November 21.
It was learnt that when Tinubu moved a motion to raise a National Reconciliation Committee, Oshiomhole unwittingly called for a counter-motion.
But with Badaru raising about 22 defects in the party’s Audit Report, those who wanted the party intact (like Boss Mustapha) quickly waded in.
It was the same SGF who rescued the party at the November 22 NEC meeting when he doused tension by telling members that the President had a tight schedule, which led to the abrupt adjournment of the session.
Buhari, who had been fully briefed about the governors’ plot, was said to have given nothing away with his inscrutable countenance.
Although Buhari had asked the aggrieved governors to “follow due process and adhere to the constitution of APC in effecting any change”, the intelligence at his disposal about their plot was rated as “disturbing” before the NEC meeting.
His address at the NEC meeting, according to a source, was a “subtle warning” to the ”coup plotters.”
Unknown to the El-Rufai group, intelligence had picked up his audience with the APC chairman some hours before the NEC session.
The source said: “Pretending to have met Oshiomhole as a long-standing friend, El-Rufai asked the APC chairman to resign to avoid being disgraced at the NEC meeting.
“Oshiomhole, however, snapped by asking him the basis for his resignation having led the party to secure a comfortable majority in the National Assembly and put in place good leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives to assist the President to achieve his agenda. He also said the party has won more states in recent elections.
“The National Chairman of APC put El-Rufai to task in a manner that made him look ordinary. Oshiomhole was emphatic in telling El-Rufai that he will not resign.”
“He (Oshiomhole) said: ‘There is nothing to this office, I am a leader who knows when to quit if I have committed infractions. I know the standard all over the world, I am not an exception’. This is what he told El-Rufai.”
Investigation revealed that Oshiomhole had to take on El-Rufai because he had reposed “much trust” in the Kaduna State governor only to hear that he is one of those plotting against him.