Barring any last minute changes, a leadership meeting of the All Progressives Congress will hold next week to determine the fate of the embattled National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.
A prominent member of the party, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, confided in one of Punch correspondents, in Abuja, on Friday that as a precursor to this meeting, the party's National Leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, and Oshiomhole, met in Paris, France, on Thursday. Tinubu had gone to France ahead of the President's visit to the country.
It was further learnt that the meeting between Tinubu and Oshiomhole centred on the growing plot by aggrieved party members especially governors to remove Oshiomhole from office.
The former Lagos State governor is one of the party stalwarts backing Oshiomhole who is now under probe by the Department of State Services.
An APC source said, "Tinubu and Oshiomhole met in Paris on Thursday over attempts by governors and some members of the NWC to remove the party chairman. You will recall that it was Asiwaju who paved the way for the emergence of Oshiomhole as the chairman when Chief Oyegun wanted a tenure extension.
"Now that he has come under probe by the DSS and is being asked to step aside, he has run to Tinubu to save him. It remains unclear what their strategy will be to put a stop to the probe."
It was also learnt that some aggrieved governors had begun reaching out to members of the National Working Committee to ask Oshiomhole to step aside pending the outcome of the DSS probe.
A member of the party's NWC, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution said, "The fact that Oshiomhole is under investigation for allegedly collecting money from aspirants is bad for the image of the APC government which claims to be fighting corruption.
"It is for this reason that the NWC members are being asked (by interested parties) to push for the suspension of the APC chairman pending the outcome of the probe. The President's body language and actions in the coming days will determine Oshiomhole's fate. For now, we are still considering it but we don't want to make any hasty decision until we are sure that we have the President's backing."
Another party source said high-ranking party leaders would meet "next week" to decide the best way to proceed without "further depleting the party's public image and goodwill."
It was also gathered that President Buhari, who has taken charge of efforts to resolve the party's post primary crisis, would be convening the meeting.
Apart from Buhari, those expected at the Abuja meeting include: Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Tinubu, pioneer Interim National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu (as former chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party), and Prince Tony Momoh (former National Chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change).
The party source said, "The matter is receiving attention at the highest level. We cannot pretend, the situation involving our national chairman is already in public domain.
"His invitation and subsequent interrogation by the Department of State Services, is an indictment if you ask me; but you cannot pronounce a man guilty without giving him the right of fair hearing.
"The leadership meeting will take place because as you know, we don't have a Board of Trustees in place. Mr. President as the leader of the party, who in fact, has personally taken over the process of dealing with the post-primary crisis, is convening the meeting to deal with all these issues."
In response to a question on whether there were charges against the party chairman, he said, "Our party has a constitution, I refer you to Article 21 which deals with the issue of party discipline. Go and read sub-sections i, ii and xi."
Article 21 of the APC Constitution (April 2014 As amended) which deals with the discipline of party members reads in part, "Subject to the provision of this Article and the right to fair hearing, the party shall have power to discipline party members. The power shall be exercised on behalf of the party by the respective Executive Committee of the party at all levels.
"Offences against the party shall include the following: (i)a breach of any provision of this constitution; (i) anti-party activities or any conduct, which is likely to embarrass or have adverse effect on the party or put it into hatred, contempt, ridicule or disrepute; (xi) in cases of alteration of delegate lists, falsification of nomination results, and or tampering with the processes of internal democracy of the party, the offender shall be liable to expulsion from the party and be prosecuted."
Efforts to get a response from the party chairman were futile. Calls to the mobile telephone number of Oshiomhole's media aide, Mr. Simon Ebegbulem, were neither picked nor returned.
A response to a text message asking him to confirm whether or not his principal had returned to the country and what was his response to the news making the rounds about his encounter with the DSS was still being expected as at the time of filing this report at 8:07pm.
The APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, told Saturday PUNCH on Friday night that Oshiomhole was back in the country.
He said, "The APC chairman is back in the country as scheduled. This is contrary to speculations that he was running away. He has been postponing the trip due to the party primaries and submission of candidates' names to INEC "
Asked about the meeting between Oshiomhole and Tinubu in France, the APC spokesman replied, "I don't have such information yet."
On the proposed leadership meeting holding in Abuja next week, Issa-Onilu said, "I am not aware but even if such meeting would hold...you see there is no crisis in APC. What people call crisis, I call conflict. I can assure you that we are in peace in the APC. The chairman and the NWC are standing for democracy and you should expect resistance.
However, the Spokesman for Buhari Campaign Organisation, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN), said the crisis within the party was being exaggerated by the media.
Keyamo said the crisis was normal for a ruling party, adding that things would become normal very soon.
He said, "Let me say clearly that what is happening now is only normal for a ruling party."