A week after the Ondo State governorship election, there are indications that the All Progressives Congress leaders, particularly the National Working Committee members, are still divided over a former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Saturday PUNCH reliably learnt in Abuja on Friday that the party leaders had not agreed on how to handle the former governor on his alleged role in the Ondo State poll.
While some members believe that Tinubu and the Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, worked against the interest of the party in the election, others are of the view that the duo did no wrong.
It was gathered that the hardliners in the APC, who are mostly against Tinubu, are calling for the sanctioning of the former governor and his loyalists.
Investigations showed that other APC leaders had called for caution, arguing that any tough measure against Tinubu would destroy the party.
It was learnt that those, who are sympathetic to the former governor, said the party should reconcile with him.
A chieftain of the party, who confided in Saturday PUNCH, said, “We have told those who are against the man to remember his contributions to the formation of the APC and the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari. We should not take any action that will destroy the party.”
But those calling for sanctions insisted that there should be consequences for party members who engaged in anti-party activities, irrespective of their status.
They argued that such sanctions would send a strong message to would-be rebels.
A former lawmaker, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH on the condition of anonymity, said, “We should not treat Tinubu like a god. The laws of the party should apply to all members.”
Those opposed to punitive actions against Tinubu argued that the outcome of the Ondo governorship election offered a new opportunity to unite rather than further divide the party.
But the APC leaders calling for sanctions are accusing the two party leaders of allegedly supporting candidates of rival political parties against APC’s standard bearer during the polls.
Specifically, they are accused of supporting the candidature of Chief Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy with funds and other logistics.
Oke had defected to the AD to contest the Ondo governorship election after losing to Akeredolu in the party’s primary held on September 3, 2016.
A source, who confided in one of our correspondents, also said another South-West APC governor was also among those believed to have funded Oke’s campaigns.
The source was silent on whether the governor would also face sanction or not.
One of the party leaders, who appealed for caution, said, “The outcome of the Ondo election is enough humiliation for these people. Why would anybody want to add salt to injury by sanctioning them?
“Besides, we cannot afford at this stage of our development to begin to behave like the former ruling party. Did anyone see Asiwaju or Aregbesola anywhere near Oke’s campaign? You know it is normal for politicians to drop names if such names will give them an edge over opponents.”
A member of the APC National Working Committee loyal to Tinubu, said calls for sanctions against Tinubu were misplaced.
He said, “Who are those making such calls? I am sure they are people who did not know how the APC was formed. When did showing preference for a particular party member over another constitute an anti-party activity?
“Anyone who can provide proof of any anti-party activity against Tinubu should come out in the open instead of chasing shadows.”
Tinubu contributed to the success of APC in Ondo –Aide
When contacted, Special Adviser (Media), to Tinubu, Mr. Tunde Rahman, said, “I’m not aware of any such call (to sanction Tinubu). If there is any, it has no basis. As a leader of the party, Asiwaju Tinubu contributed his quota to the success of the APC in Ondo, notwithstanding his initial misgivings about the party’s primaries. And immediately Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu emerged the winner of the election, Asiwaju Tinubu was one of the first to congratulate him and to urge all and sundry to rally round the governor-elect. Only on Monday, President Buhari acknowledged Asiwaju Tinubu’s role and contribution to the success of APC in that election.”
We will do a postmortem later – APC National Vice-Chairman
The APC National Vice Chairman (South-South), Hilliard Eta, said the party’s leadership was too preoccupied with preparations for another successful outing in Rivers State to give in to distractions.
Eta, who is also a member of the party’s National Working Committee, said, “We are going to do a post-mortem of the whole process later. For now, we have the elections in Rivers State coming up on December 10. This is our focus as we speak.”
Speaking on the issue, the Director-General, Voice of Nigeria, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, dismissed reports of the planned sanction of Tinubu and Aregbesola as a “baseless rumour” being spread by enemies of the APC.
He said “Nothing could be further from the truth. The Governance Support Group met with Mr. President on Friday.
“When our people spoke on the affairs of the party, Mr. President said his business as the leader of the party was to see everybody as equal before him.
“He also said he would make sure that everybody got a sense of belonging. I don’t see Mr. President who spoke in this nationalistic manner trying to sanction anybody. It could be one of those rumours which lacks basis in fact.”
The newly elected National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Bolaji Abdulahi, did not pick the calls to his mobile telephone line on Friday.
Also Abdulahi had not responded to a text message on the issue as of the time of filing the story by 5pm.
However, the embattled Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Timi Frank, said that the party had directed everybody including the aggrieved persons to work together as there was still much work to be done.
He said that it was the duty of the governor-elect to unite everybody and not to go into who was involved in anti-party activities or not.
He said, “Well, for us, we have won Ondo State. This is not the time to talk who did something anti-party or who did not.
“We have accepted the victory and we have directed everybody to go and work together as there is still much to be done including those that are aggrieved.
“The duty of the newly elected governor is to unite Ondo State, not to go into who did anti-party or not.”
President Buhari had in a statement on Monday dismissed insinuations that there is a rift between him and the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu.
In the statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant (Media), Garba Shehu, he had said he was embarrassed by such suggestions.
The Ondo State governor-elect, had in an interview with state House correspondents on Wednesday, said Buhari was the national leader of the APC.
Explaining why he did not mention Tinubu in his victory speech, he had said, “On the names that were mentioned in my speech when expressing gratitude and that I didn’t specifically thank Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I thanked the President and the leader of our party profusely for the leadership which he showed leading to this election.”