Last week the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun confessed that the party is finding it difficult to get a replacement for LaiMohammed who was the national publicity secretary of the party. In this piece MIKE ODIAKOSE writes on the intrigues surrounding the appointment of new Spokesman for the party
All Progressives Congress deputy national publicity secretary, Timi Frank, has remained in the cold despite the fact that he was supposed to assume the position of the Spokesman of the party following the exit of Alhaji Lai Mohammed. Prior to the exit of Lai Mohammed, APC leaders gave indications that they will never allow Timi Frank to take over as the party’s Spokesman because of apparent differences with the outspoken indigene of Bayelsa state.
Timi Frank, has been a thorn on the flesh of leaders of the party, especially anytime they attempt to skew burning issues out of proper perspective. A political gadfly, Timi Frank is known to have opposed the APC leaders on several issues in the past and he is never shy of going public anytime he disagrees with the official position of his party. Last June Timi Frank demanded for the resignation of the party’s national chairman over the crisis that trailed the emergence of the leadership of the national assembly. He heaped the blame for the logjam in the national assembly squarely on the door step of Odigie-Oyegun.
His words: “The party’s national chairman caused it because times out of number, some of the leaders told him to come up with a zoning formula from the beginning. He was asked to take a decision and let people follow that but he didn’t do that. They were playing hide and seek with the issue until the last minute when they saw the danger, and they wanted to play hanky-panky, which led us to lose one position at the Senate.”
Against this background, the position of the national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun that himself and the party’s national secretary, Mai Buni, that they are now the mouth-piece of the party pending the appointment of another national publicity secretary, did not come as a surprise to many Nigerians.
Addressing journalists a few days ago, Chief Odigie-Oyegun said “It was a great loss of Lai Mohammed to the Executive but he’s still within the system. He was truly very special and unique but as we speak, the National Secretary of the party has largely on temporary basis taking up the job of communication to the press and myself (as the Chairman) is always available to any enquiry,” Oyegun said.
“I will start by saying who does not speak for the party, the person you are talking about does not speak for the party. Secondly, if there are any issues that need clarification for now, pending when we have a substantive publicity secretary, the national secretary will do so for the party and also when I speak, I speak for the party. It is as simple as that,” the APC chairman said.
But Timi Frank, will have none of that as he insisted that constitutionally he has stepped into the shoes of Lai Mohammed as the Spokesman of the APC.
Addressing another press briefing where he vehemently countered Chief Odigie-Oyegun, the Bayelsa-state born Timi Frank said: “Our party constitution is very clear, anybody that does not understand the party constitution within the party or anybody that is still thinking who is the acting spokesperson or acting spokesperson.
“Today I am the spokesperson of the party, I’m the acting spokesperson of the party I can tell you without fear or favour that when the substantive person in the office of the national chairman or the national secretary or anybody that is not there, the deputy takes over automatically.
“This is the principle of the party constitution we have this also existing today in the PDP, you could see that when (Adamu) Muazu was not there (Uche) Secondus today is acting for the party. So there is no difference, Lai Mohammad is not there so automatically I’m the acting spokesperson of this party, so I can tell you without fear or favour.
“Any other person issuing a statement is doing that maybe on a personal capacity but constitutionally I am the acting spokesperson of the party. It’s not something I need to lobby for, it is something meant to be the trend and I stand by it,” he said.
True to his threat that Timi Frank will not be allowed to replace Lai Mohammed as APC Spokesman, Chief Odigie-Oyegun said on resumption from his 10-day vacation last week insinuated that Timi Frank is not good enough to be Lai Mohammed’s successor because of the former Spokesman’s ‘outstanding performance.’
Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, made this confession on Moday at a press briefing at the party secretariat in Abuja, said the party had a problem getting a spokesperson to fit into Mohammed’s shoes.
Oyegun, however, said that the issue was being resolved and the party would have a substantive spokesperson soon.
“I think arrangements have been completed to hold the necessary congresses to nominate a spokesperson.
“I think that should be done very shortly. In fact the issue is getting somebody that can be as close as possible to the outstanding performance of the present minister of information, Lai Mohammed”, he said.
Again, Chief Odigie-Oyegun incurred the anger of the party’s deputy national publicity secretary, Comrade Timi Frank, who carpeted the national chairman over his comment that it would be difficult to get someone to fill the position of national publicity secretary of the party.
Frank, in a statement, described the statement as “reckless, baseless and unwarranted”.
He said, “I am the deputy national publicity secretary of the party and as such can act in the absence of the national publicity secretary. I am also qualified to act as a substantive publicity secretary of the party”.
He said the statement was “malicious, insulting and meant to discredit my person as well as the party, by saying it is difficult to fill the office from the present calibre of party men and women we have”.
Frank also said “As a good party man, Chief Odigie-Oyegun ought to have informed the public about the next convention date to fill all vacancies”, and not use the medium to discredit him and the party.
“I like to use this medium to call on him to retrieve the statement and desist from making further malicious statements in the future”, Frank said.
It is also widely believed that power struggle among APC chieftains is responsible for the reluctance of the APC leaders in allowing the deputy publicity secretary to perform his duties as enshrined in the party’s constitution.
Timi Frank is an unapologetic political godson of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki who are both member of the defunct new-PDP that defected to the APC last year. The controversial Frank never hides the fact that Atiku is his chosen leader and has even been alleged to be more loyal to Atiku than to the party.
Responding to the impression that he is more of Atiku’s man than a loyal party man, he responded by saying “Well, I will maintain my position whether anybody likes it or not; Atiku is like my father, my political mentor, my leader. If anybody thinks it is wrong for me to adopt any father in politics or a leader who I believe in or a mentor whom I have chosen to have, then that is the person’s personal opinion. I am a politician. I am a young man in politics. It is my right to have a godfather. It is my right to have a leader. That is the only way you can grow.”
It is believed that Timi Frank’s unalloyed loyalty to Atiku once led to a near clash between him and Lai Mohammed over who holds the position of the national leader of APC. Former governor of Lagos state, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is referred to in several quarters as APC national leader despite the fact that he is not holding any constitutionally recognised position in the party. Lai Mohammed, an acolyte of Tinubu, is never known to have referred to President Buhari as APC national leader being the highest office holder produced by the party. Lai position was at a point challenged by his then deputy, Timi Frank.
While Odigie-Oyegun and APC leaders are raking their brains on how to come out of the dilemma created by the exit of Lai Mohammed, some chieftains are even suggesting that the party picks a replacement from the South West. However, this calculation will likely meet a brick wall as Lai Mohammed represented the North Central (Kwara) in APC National Working Committee, NWC.
If the party opts to go to Kwara to pick a new Spokesman then Governor Abdul Fata Ahmed will be likely consulted to nominate a replacement. This again will be another quagmire for APC leaders as the governor is a core loyalist of Senator Bukola Saraki who is still having battle with the party over his emergence as Senate President.