PREPARATORY to the 2023 presidential contest build-up, there appears to a loud rumbling in the ruling All Progressipves Congress (APC) touching on scheming for the ticket of the party.
Gladiators in the party, particularly in the South-West zone, are flexing muscles over the control of the party machinery, particularly as it relates to the vacant position of the Deputy National Chairman (South) last occupied by the Chief Niyi Adebayo, a former governor of Ekiti State.
The position became vacant when President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Adebayo as Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment last year.
A fresh crisis is brewing in the South-West APC over an alleged plan by a powerful clique to hijack the structure of the party in the region.
Sunday Tribune learnt that the plan was hatched as part of the moves by the powerful group to gain a strong foothold in decision making of the party both in the South-West region and at the national level ahead of the battle for the 2023 presidential ticket.
According to one of the sources, the issue came to a head on Friday night during a stakeholders’ meeting called by leader of the party to surreptitiously activate the plan and foist it on the other stakeholders.
The grand plot, Sunday Tribune was told, centred around the post of Deputy National Chairman South-West which would eventually be used to hijack the structure of the party at the national level.
“The plan is to fill the position of Niyi Adebayo at the national level with their own person. That was the crux of the meeting, the main agenda that dominated the meeting in Lagos,” one of the sources in the know told Sunday Tribune.
Credible sources informed Sunday Tribune that some other interests in the South-West were said not to be favourably disposed to the plan, especially the forces behind it and had also moved to reject it outright.
Even when it became known that the plan to supplant Chief Adebayo’s position had the full endorsement of a national leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, most of the chieftains at the meeting were said to have voiced out their objection immediately.
“In fact, a former governor in the South-West was even nominated by the national leader as Adebayo’s replacement. But most of the stakeholders kicked against him. They were simply not impressed by the reasons advanced by the hatchers of the plan, knowing that the game plan is all about 2023,” another source told Sunday Tribune.
“To worsen the matter, the proposed replacement is not even from Ekiti State. So why take away the slot given to Ekiti to another state?
“What some of those at the meeting demanded was fairness. Besides, they [stakeholders] all know the major reason they are pushing for Chief Adebayo’s replacement now. It is to firmly position themselves at the apex of the party in Abuja and eventually take it over.
“Per adventure [Adams] Oshiomhole, [National Chairman of APC] is booted out as being canvassed by some governors, then their replacement would take over in an acting capacity. Do you know what political mileage that would give in the battle for 2023 presidential ticket?” the source asked.
According to the sources, the meeting ended without reaching any consensus as the other members claimed they would resist any plan by any person or group to hijack the party in the region through the back door.
“We know their plan is to use the post to achieve their 2023 ambition. But we are also ready to resist any imposition,” a source said.
Sunday Tribune was also informed that the Lagos meeting was not the first. There was a meeting in Abuja, a little more than a week back, where two senators, a recently-appointed chairman of board of a major Federal Government agency and a couple of other party big shots, unequivocally stated their objection to the national leader of the party, a source at the meeting told Sunday Tribune.
At the Abuja meeting, Jide Awe, a former state chairman of the party in Ekiti State, was initially pencilled in, for the vacancy, before shifting permutations took him out of serious consideration.
A former senator, Gbenga Aluko, is also being projected into the race.
Despite being largely seen as Tinubu’s boy, a perception said to be primarily responsible for his ordeal in the state, he was reportedly ruled out for not being a big player with the needed network to facilitate what would be expected of him, when the chips are down.
The source further disclosed that though the meeting wasn’t planned, as some of the chieftains met at the party leader’s residence by coincidence, he noted that the unanimity in the rejection of the former governor should send a clear signal to those behind the move that it was being designed to fail.
To discuss the development and sundry matters, a crucial meeting of the South-West caucus of the APC has been scheduled for Tuesday in Osogbo, the Osun State capital.
The party’s zonal spokesperson, Honourable Karounwi Oladapo, confirmed the planned parley when reached by Sunday Tribune, as controversy rages over the vacancy expected to be filled by the South-West.
Oladapo also refused to comment on the reported controversial meeting of the zonal caucus in Ibadan on Friday, where attempts were said to have been made to shift the vacancy from Ekiti to another state.
He said he wasn’t at the said meeting and would not want to embark on a speculative voyage, in reacting to what he didn’t know anything about.