The immediate past national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, was penultimate week removed from office after a protracted crisis over his leadership style. In this piece, ANDREW ESSIEN writes that the leadership crisis may have been resolved but the path to peace is still a long way off.
For those who are familiar with the recent history of Nigeria, the mere mention of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is somewhat synonymous with unionism, struggle and in some cases, and outright fight in others. It is, therefore, safe to say that Oshiomhole is not new to environment beclouded with contestations, face-offs and outright clashes.
From his time at the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to his systematic transformation into politics and becoming the Edo State governor and consolidating his political journey as the APC national chairman, Oshiomhole has fought his way through several battles and often times, he comes out swinging on top. This was, however, not the case after an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) that truncated his supposed four-year tenure as the party chair.
The latest events, however, did not only have an impact on the man, it shook his party to its very foundation, threatening to even overheat the political climate to an unprecedented degree not seen in recent times. It is safe to say that the APC had reached a boiling point as event unfolded: four different personalities were at one point or the other, laying claim to the chairmanship of the party.
Just as some are quick to point out that his coming as APC chairman brought with it several electoral successes, others countered that the myriad of challenges that plagued the party arising from various interest groups and factions were further accentuated and even heightened with his coming due largely to his leadership style which arguably threatened the APC’s delicate balance and albeit tilted the party’s internal polity to a melting point.
At another level, some school of thought had argued that the crisis was largely inherited from the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the party and as such should not be attributed to Oshiomhole. However, others say that the fragmentation of groups within the party was further emphasised due to the dictatorial tendencies of Oshiomhole.
Comrade Oshiomhole is a forceful personality, but he may have been too assertive to the point that his actions and inactions claimed the whole of his leadership team, the NWC, analysts averred.
The ex-chairman’s many “sins” began from the introduction of the Direct Primary System. It was the beginning of more internal wrangling that polarised the APC even as pundits had wondered on the party’s ability to rise from the ashes of the crisis that beset it, galvanised all its “formations” and “arsenals” in time to prosecute future elections.
Arguments for and against this process has continued to rage. In trying to make a case out of their decisions, the party leadership argued that the introduction of the direct primaries was not only meant to deepen the internal democracy of the party, eliminate, if possible, the penchant for trading votes for money and the imposition of candidates, but to bring an acceptable and to a large extent, credible candidates for the party even as it prepared the all-important 2019 general elections.
Oshiomhole had while explaining the rationale behind the move stressed that the NWC “decided that in order to ensure popular participation, and to deepen democracy in Osun State, in line with the provisions of the APC constitution which allows for either direct or indirect primary,’’ they ‘’have resolved that the governorship election primary in Osun State will be conducted on the basis of direct primary.
In a layman’s term, every registered member of the APC may not just be an “observer” but a participant and a delegate who will not just be involved in general elections but also in all primary elections, to choose their prospective elective representatives.
From this point, the then national chairman recently came under intense fire over his handling or otherwise of party issues especially since the primaries that produced the party flag bearers at different levels of government. Accusations and counter-accusations fill the media space over what did or did not transpire within the period even as party faithful try to make sense of what is the true situation of things.
His then deputy (North), Lawal Shuaibu, threw the first stone by calling for the chairman’s resignation. In a letter to the chairman dated May 27, 2019, the top official declared Oshiomhole’s leadership was a “failure”.
The former senator from Zamfara State in the five-page open letter insisted that Oshiomhole was squarely responsible for the party’s loss in his home state among other alleged gross misconduct even as he alleged that the comrade ex-governor caused the APC loss. He also listed other dwindling fortunes of the party, which he said “is on the path of extinction” to buttress his claims.
The political crisis in Edo State also heated up the party. Expectations were that the current administration would be a family affair as the first four political officers in the executive arm were seen as Oshiomhole’s political children; the governor (Godwin Obaseki) was the chairman, Economic Team of Oshiomhole’s eight-year administration; the deputy governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, rose to become the majority leader of the state House of Assembly before going to represent Etsako federal constituency in the House of Representatives where he was called back to become the deputy governor; the secretary to the state government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, first-served as secretary, Oshiomhole Campaign Organisation and then chief of staff (CoS) to Oshiomhole in his first term and commissioner for Works in his second term; the chief of staff to Obaseki, Taiwo Akerele, came to the Oshiomhole government as senior special assistant (SSA) attached to the Economic Team headed by Obaseki.
The shocking reality is that for the past one year, the crisis has defied all solutions as the party remains sharply divided into supporters of the governor, and those of Oshiomhole. Supporters of the governor accuse Oshiomhole of playing a godfather role and wanting to control the governor.
But the crisis must be brought to an end one way or the other to ensure the APC participates in the election.
However, egos have been bruised and it is believed that there would be casualties at the end of the day.
At another level, from the South to the North, from the West to the East, the APC at the both national and state levels has been battling with so many issues with political analysts fearing that these crises, if not checked, may significantly weaken the overall fighting power of the party when the time comes.
From faraway Bayelsa State to the distant Kano, across to Gombe, then Kaduna, Kogi, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Yobe and the list goes on, the APC chapters in these states erupted in one form of crisis or the other. The leadership at the center, added to the issues it was dealing with, had to intervene in all these troubled spots, even as it surprisingly went on to win elections conducted in some of these “troubled spots”.
To unravel the many tension spots within the party, in mid-December 2019, the NWC revealed that “after due consultation”, the APC appointed a high-level 10-member National Reconciliation Committee chaired by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan.
This was in line with the November 22, 2019 resolution of the party’s NEC. Other members of the committee were First (Interim) APC national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande (vice chairman), deputy speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, Senator Kashim Shettima; Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor; Alh. Nasiru Aliko Koki, Senator Khairat Gwadabe-Abdulrazak, Senator Binta Garba and Senator John Enoh (as secretary).
The committee was empowered to address the grievances of party members and resolve existing conflicts, all with a view to fostering unity and oneness within the party.
No sooner were the committee members named that opposition to its constituents gathered momentum. In fact, Obaseki, in his reaction faulted the development and accused the Senate president and the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Wase, of playing a prominent role in the crisis rocking the Edo APC.
Obaseki rejected the arrangement and vowed not to recognise it until the party substituted those he complained about.
For reasons best known to it, the party’s leadership decided to make a U-turn, reconstituting the committee with Chief Bisi Akande, who was to serve as the vice chairman of the “rejected” reconciliatory team, appointed as chairman, to replace Lawan in the new team.
All these came to a head when a High Court in Abuja, after considering a case brought before it, asked Oshiomhole to step aside. The battle that followed this judgement left many party faithful questioning the very essence of the APC even as it further widened the already gaping wound that will take some time to heal.
The major reason that analysts posit is the biggest contributing factor in the ouster of Comrade Oshiomhole is a fierce power struggle which had been going on by major players in the mearger process that saw to the birth of the party. This is further heightened as permutations ahead of 2023.
The Oshiomhole-Obaseki rift was until recently just a fragment in the whole mix until it snowballed to become the epicentre when in March of this year, the Federal High Court in Abuja suspended the party chairman. The court order was based on his earlier suspension by the APC leadership in his ward in Edo State, which apparently was instigated by Governor Obaseki.
With the suspension activated, Chief Victor Giadom was prepped by a faction of the contending forces to take over the APC leadership. While the other group was busy with rhetoric and processes of what should or should not be, the Giadom group was doing the leg walk.
The APC NEC meeting which would have decided Oshiomhole’s ‘fate’ was adjourned indefinitely on March 16 by President Muhammadu Buhari not after Asiwaju Tinubu had issued a public statement, knocking those pushing for the chairman’s removal.
Notable members of the APC NWC who are working with Giadom are Mustapha Salihu, the national vice chairman (North-East) of the party, and Lawal Shuaibu, the deputy national chairman (North).
But in a bid to stem the growing dissention within the party, President Buhari recommended the dissolution of the NWC which NEC accepted, and thus, the Oshiomhole era came to a close.
The questions on the minds of many are: Has lessons been learnt? Is the various factions ready for true reconciliation? Will they make the difficult sacrifices to ensuring long lasting peace?
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