As the quest of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to elect a new national chairman gathers steam, several names, aside that of incumbent chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, have popped up as contenders for the powerful.
Among them are former Edo State governor and former NLC president, Adams Oshiomhole; a former governor of Cross River State, Chief Clement Ebri; current minister of science and technology, Ogbonnaya Onu; and a former senate president, Ken Nnamani, who scuttled former president Olusegun Obasanjo's third term bid.
Oyegun is still in the race because he is eligible to go for another term of four years.
Although Oshiomhole is touted as the front runner in the race to clinch the position, stalwarts of the party in Cross River State have unanimously declared that Ebri, a Third Republic governor, is the best man for the job. They told TNN in telephone conversations that Ebri's chances were very bright because of his antecedents and experience.
According to foremost lawyer, Utum Eteng, “Ebri is one of the charismatic leaders in Cross River State, in the south-south and Nigeria. He is eminently qualified to be national chairman of the party.
“He is experienced, a former state governor, a former member of the Constituent Assembly, and a former national chairman of Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA).”
He described Ebri as “sociable, kind, friendly and has friends all over the country and he has all it takes to be chairman of the party. If given the opportunity, he will redirect APC. He is a man of peace and he will bring about peace in APC in the state and at the national level.
“His outreach is rich enough. It cuts across the geopolitical zones in the country. APC is a skeleton hanging on the framework of Tinubu and Buhari. The party should be given to someone who will give it flesh. That person is Chief Ebri. His chances are very bright.”
Another APC leader in the state who endorsed Ebri for the job is Chief Wilfred Inah. He opined that the former governor had a very bright chance of being elected national chairman of the party.
“The position is zoned to the south-south. Edo state has had its fair share. Oshiomhole and Oyegun cannot contest. Ogbonnaya Onu is from the South-east just as Ken Nnamani. He also cannot contest,” Inah stated.
Goddy Akpama, an outspoken leader of the party who recently criticized the party for not showing any seriousness to take over the governorship seat in the state in 2019, said “If APC wants a mature person to handle the party's affairs at the national level, Clement Ebri is the right man for the job. He is the best person to manage the party at that level.”
An interim chairman of the party in the state, John Ochala, simply said “Clement Ebri's chances are very bright. It's a straight fight between him and Oshiomhole.”
Ebri is said to be an uncompromising man of integrity and highly principled and would be a great asset to APC if elected as national chairman. It is believed that his election as national chairman would not only boost the party's profile in Cross River state but also in the south-south states where the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) appears to have unassailable dominance since 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic rule.
The need to elect a new chairman became imperative after the APC governors and the party's National Working Committee (NWC) upheld the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari and other party leaders not to extend the tenure of Oyegun and his executive by twelve months. The tenure extension was also to be enjoyed by other elected and appointed party executives at all levels even in the states. This, most party leaders argued, would have negated the party's constitution and created avenues for litigations that would have distracted the party in the run up to the 2019 general elections.
Oyegun and his executive almost got away with the earlier backdoor tenure extension if not for the rancour and outcry it generated among various interest groups within the party for several weeks until
the issue was resolved last week.
The new chairman of the party and his executives will emerge later in the year during the party's national convention. All eyes are on the forthcoming convention whose list is already causing ripples in the party.