Trenchant political forces opposed to continuation in office of the All Progressives Congress (APC) national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, spearheaded by some governors and ministers, are going into overdrive to achieve their aim. However, the former governor of Edo State is pushing back, politically and legally. ORJIME MOSES reports.
Just as in their wild savannah habitat, hyenas thrive in chaos. They are sly beasts that feed on weakness and turmoil. But then these traits are evolved survivalist responses to live in their environment.
Curiously, in Nigeria’s political environment, these unseemly qualities have apparently been cloned and usually deployed to serve survivalist political agenda.
This scenario probably explains the intensity of the face-off between some governors and the APC national chairman, now suspended, pending resolution of issues around a subsisting High Court order. But there is a background to the current storm.
Interestingly, Oshiomhole’s erstwhile protégé, Governor Obaseki of Edo State is a key arrowhead of the ‘dethrone Oshiomhole project’, to ensure his second term which the national chairman had allegedly withheld his blessings from.
Significantly, much of the internal political landmines that ruffled the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries ahead of the 2019 general elections were well laid before his ascendancy as national chairman, he was never heard to grumble about these but set about defining a new direction. That is leadership. Like other leaders of note, Adams Oshiomhole disdains hazy journeys.
Without any blame-game, he seized the bull by the horns. Before his coming the governors had hijacked the party, creating serious crisis between governors and National Assembly members in their states. Oshiomhole decided to hand over the party to the people so as to bring the party back to life.
He introduced direct primaries so as to deepen democracy and ensure that the masses produce candidates of their choice not that of the god fathers. Apart from the fact that the direct primaries gave party members the feeling of belonging, it helped in checking the numerous legal issues which arose during the congresses held by the Oyegun-led NWC.
To a large extent, direct primaries was a huge success apart from states where the governors where hell-bent in producing their successors against the wishes of party members in their states. Oshiomhole changed the narrative such that the common party members and not the governors or leaders are the supreme commanders.
In no small way, this bold approach played a crucial role in APC’s victory in one of the keenest presidential electoral contests in the nation’s history. The APC candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari defeated Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former vice president and candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, with 15,191,847 to 11,262,978 votes. Little wonder, a grateful Buhari, in his post-victory speech, in Abuja, particularly commended the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole.
By effectively overhauling the party’s internal governance model and processes and boldly confronting party spoil-sports, the APC national chairman simply proved he is indeed a leader not to be trifled with. It is a given that without the enforcement of party discipline, a political party’s journey becomes uncertain.
Oshiomhole made it clear that the era of petulant, rambunctious anti-party intrigues to achieve personal interests were over. Members of the APC must submit to orderly, disciplined conduct and use prescribed channels to seek redress of any grievances.
To help reposition the ruling party and align it with 21st Century best practices, he clearly signaled a total break from the old way of doing things. He initiated a comprehensive, computerised membership data-base which would make it much easier to peg real members and ensure they are meeting party membership obligations. According to him, ultimately, this will be synced with members PVCs data, a really unprecedented course.
His moves, not surprisingly spawned internal resistance. But Oshiomhole quickly reminded his party stakeholders that they must adapt to the new party governance realities. Even when some angered APC governors went as far as turning dissent into political cudgels, Oshiomhole never backed down.
Drawing from a history of tough, diverse labour and political engagements, Oshiomhole has indisputably provided nimble guidance, intellectual spunk and bold party governance leadership for the ruling APC. It’s worth recalling that significant, unresolved deficits in these areas led to the sacking of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, from power in the 2015 poll and its rejection again in 2019.
The parameters for selecting the national chairmen of political parties in Nigeria do not specify sainthood as key requirement. Oshiomhole is not a saint and has never been heard proclaiming that arcane status. His choice, simply acknowledges the capacity of focused individuals to change their society for the better. Clearly, his revamping of the progressives’ vanguard has compelled the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to revise its gratuitous assumptions and now ponder its future, up till now an unaccustomed footing.
It could be recalled that the APC became swamped in crisis after a court ruling ordered the suspension of Oshiomhole as the national chairman of the party pending the determination of suits filed against him. The court gave the order following an application by a member of the party that the national chairman had been suspended by the APC in his home state of Edo.
Oshiomhole is appealing the suspension as well as the attendant decision to deny him access to the party’s national secretariat. Last week, the assistant national secretary of the party, Victor Gaidom, circulated a statement announcing a NEC meeting on March 17.
But a counter-statement issued by some top officials of the APC enjoined party members to ignore Gaidom saying his action fell outside the party’s constitution and jurisdiction. The statement was jointly signed by Lanre Issa-Onilu, the party spokesperson; Babatunde Ogala, the national legal adviser; and Bulama.
Gaidom, it was alleged, continued to insist he is the next in line in the party hierarchy following Oshiomhole’s suspension and the absence of a substantive national secretary. The party’s former national secretary is now the governor of Yobe State.
Mid last week, a high court in Abuja restrained party members – specifically Messrs Issa-Onilu, Ogala, and Bulama – from disrupting next Tuesday’s NEC meeting. The application was filed by Mustapha Salihu, the North-East zonal vice-chairman of the APC.
In his counter application, which is designed to effectively oppose the Abuja court ruling, the Lagos State APC chairman prayed the court to compel the party to recognise Bulama as the acting National Secretary, Ajimobi as the acting National Deputy Chairman (South), and Chukwuma as the acting National Auditor of the party. He said the trio were nominated by their geo-political zones after the offices became vacant and were zoned to the North-East, South-West, and South-East respectively.
According to Balogun, the nomination of Bulama was ratified at the meeting of the APC National Working Committee held on January 14, 2020, while those of Messrs Ajimobi and Chukwuma were ratified at the NWC meeting of March 4, 2020.
“By virtue of the ratification stated above, the nominees have become members of the National Executive Council and are entitled by the constitution of the defendant (APC) to work and operate in acting capacities in their respective offices pending their swearing-in at the National Convention of the party,” he said.
“In spite of the foregoing, the defendant (APC), acting through its officials and officers, particularly, the Deputy National Secretary, has not allowed the nominees to perform their duties as members of the National Executive Council.”
He argued that the party’s NEC could not effectively operate unless Messrs Bulama, Ajimobi, and Chukwuma were allowed to perform their duties and prayed the court to compel the APC to recognise them.
After listening to the applicant’s lawyer, Justice Liman granted the prayers and adjourned till March 25, 2020, for further hearing.
At press time several court orders and counter orders are in play. But the fact that most of them emanated from courts of co-ordinate jurisdiction speaks to some level of desperation – a common feature of forum shopping.
It could be recalled that before Oshiomhole’s ascendancy as national chairman, governors regularly anointed their successors in office as well all other candidates contesting elective positions. They blandly contrived party primaries as a formality. But Oshiomhole opposed this practice and that was the beginning of his woes.
Some of the opponents of Oshiomhole today, like former Governor Rochas Okorocha (now senator) who wanted his son-in-law as successor, former Governor Ibikunle Amosun, former governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State were pegged back by Oshiomhole who stopped their imperious agenda.
Early on in his tenure, Oshiomhole reined in the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige who was attempting to punch above his political weight. That was during the controversy over the constitution of the board of the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).
Interestingly, in this unseemly plot, Oshiomhole has his strong supporters too. At least two of the leading APC states with proportionate NEC members, Lagos and Kano, are solidly behind him. Borno is also believed to be behind him and more.
The emerging consensus is that Oshiomhole’s insistence on the supremacy of the party can never be faulted.
The party is the pivot around which all revolves. Without the political party, there will be no candidate for any election, without which there no elective offices to hold. Cut to the bone, the crisis in the governing APC is really a fight between governors and Oshiomhole for the control of the soul of the party.
The governors are confronting the party chairman not because of their love for the APC but they are trying to enforce governors’ dictates on the party.