After four months in the saddle as the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), any right-thinking Nigerian that has followed the activities of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole closely, will agree that the former labour leader has brought with him, leadership style that spells doom for the APC, the reelection bid of President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria’s fledgling democracy.
That he is a misfit for the current job he holds as the APC chairman has been sufficiently demonstrated by the outcomes of the last national and state assemblies’ primaries of the ruling party across the country, where many APC-controlled states are nursing injuries, losses and in some instances, outright annihilation, occasioned by the excesses, immoderation and intemperance of a national chairman that ought to earn the party, political capital.
From Zamfara to Rivers, Delta, Imo, Adamawa and Ogun, amongst several other states, Oshiomhole’s leprous hands have emasculated the ones boisterous APC.
In Edo State, it would have amounted to a show of shame if the Edo State APC led by Barrister Anslem Ojezua did not take proactive steps by conducting the state-wide primaries for the national and the state assembly October 4, 2018, a day before the ultimatum approved by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It was a long wait at the state secretariat of the APC for the arrival of the team from the national secretariat, in Abuja to conduct the elections.
It was gathered that the national chairman approved that three out of the five-man panel should proceed to Benin while the chairman and the secretary were held in Abuja for reasons best known to the National Working Committee.
Recall that INEC had directed that all parties must conclude their primaries by Saturday the 6th of October, a day that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and APC set aside for their presidential primaries.
The Drama in Edo State
Having sensed that the national secretariat was not keen on conducting the state and national assemblies’ primaries in the state before the deadline set by INEC, sources close to the party disclosed that the state EXCO decided to work with the three-man panel from Abuja led by the former Speaker and former Acting Governor of Cross River State, John Odey. It turned out that the primary elections were peacefully conducted and were devoid of any irregularities and indeed candidates emerged.
However, in the middle of the announcement of results, there was a phone call allegedly from Oshiomhole ordering that the elections be declared null and void.
Oshiomhole was said to have claimed that the panel that came to Edo State to conduct the exercise was an illegal panel.
A new team led by one Hajiya Farida Odangi Suleiman was dispatched to the state to conduct new state and national assemblies’ primary elections.
While lawyers are still said to be researching on the legality of the October 6th primaries in Edo State which coincided with the national convention of the APC in Abuja, it is noteworthy that the Farida Odangi-led committee had strict instructions from Abuja not to declare or announce the final results of the primaries in Benin, a decision that elicited suspicion over the motive for the cancellation/rescheduling of the elections in the state.
Analysts believe that the battle for the soul of the party in Edo by Oshiomhole is behind the series of crises in the state’s chapter of the party, and the resulting tension that is yet to abate.
Oshiomhole’s leadership style leaves so much to be desired when juxtaposed with that of his predecessor, who was a decent, civilised and diplomatic leader. Chief John Odigie Oyegun brought on board, tact, experience and was alive to the sensibilities and viewpoints of all APC members. His leadership gave freedom to state chapters to operate within the ambit of the law, a condition which Oshiomhole enjoyed for eight years as Governor as against the stifling of the state chapters over which he has superintended in the last four months.
The refusal of the controversial Farida Odangi-led committee to declare results in Edo State led to a tale of woes as aspirants who won in the field in the 18 Local Government Area (LGAs) were substituted with various names at the discretion of the national chairman.
Hon. Damian Lawani of Etsako Central was replaced with Mr Ahmed Waziri; Hon. Kabiru Adjoto was replaced with Hon. Peter Akpatason; Hon. Emma Agbaje was replaced with Dele Oloruntoba, Hon. Justin Okonobo with Ephraim Aliovboese, Hon. Festus Edughele with Sunny Ojiezele, Hon. Ojo Asein with Mr Ohio Peter-Ezomo and attempt was made to also substitute Hon Osaigbovo Iyoha with Hon. Osaro Obaze, who never contested in the first place. This is an action a human rights activist based in Benin described as a rape on democracy and the peoples’ will.
One thing that is instructive in the whole Oshiomhole-orchestrated mess is that the Edo APC was proactive, took the right steps to save the face of the national leadership of the party to avoid the now popular Zamfara APC ill-fated scenario where for the first time since 1999, PDP may have a field day in a whole state without a fight from the ruling party.
While Edo State chapter of the APC has tried to manage the situation with equanimity because of the respect the leadership has for the national chairman of the party by calming frayed nerves even though some of the outright cases of “mandate stealing” have been taken to court by the aggrieved contestants, the situation is not the same in other states like Kaduna, Imo, Niger, Lagos, Ogun, Delta, Cross Rivers, Rivers, Bauchi, Zamfara and Ondo where there has been serious allegations of high handedness, manipulation of results, imposition of candidates, issuance of automatic tickets, personal vendetta, declarations of fake results and recklessness of panels set up by the national leadership of the party.
According to a source in the national secretariat of the party, some panel chairmen were constantly in touch with the national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, on the phone to take instructions on who to declare as the winner.
The same thing was observed in Edo State wherein the panel chairman Hajiya Farida Odangi was always on the phone with Oshiomhole and shouting ‘Yes sir,’ ‘No sir,’ ‘OK sir,’ ‘Thank you sir.’ The scenario has been described as highly shameful and unbecoming of a chairman, who has been sent to conduct an election on behalf of a ruling party in Nigeria.
The outcomes have been open protests and demonstrations at the national secretariat of the APC in Abuja and in some cases, open confrontation between panel members while some aggrieved persons have gotten court judgements against the NWC and the party. There was a particular case of a result in Imo State which the national chairman described as jankara market result but later turned around to accept the same result.
Remember the Lagos State melodrama. While the panel chairman, Dr Clement Ebri was addressing a press conference rescheduling the primaries that were ongoing, he was overruled by the national chairman, yet the result of the annulled elections were accepted, which produced the gubernatorial candidate of the Lagos State APC.
According to a member of the National Working Committee of the party in the APC Secretariat, “we predicted that these kinds of outcomes will play out at some point, a situation wherein the national chairman constituted panels to conduct primaries, consisting of personal staff, cousins, other relatives and people without political address and pedigree. You should not expect a different or credible outcome.”
He added, “For instance, when we served under the former national chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, you will see credible names like former governors, former ministers, former ambassadors, political chieftains, ex-commissioners, industry captains and former senators been sent out to conduct primaries across the country, but this was not the case this time around as everything revolved around the national chairman and most of the panellists were from a particular part of Nigeria, a scenario that does not augur well for the party.”
Oshiomhole is a bull in a China shop. He lacks the political maturity and experience to provide the kind of leadership the APC needs at this time.
The 2019 general elections are too important to be left to chance and in the hands of a rabble-rouser, more so, with a reinvigorated PDP that has Atiku Ababakar as its presidential candidate. The time to ease Oshiomhole out of office as national chairman is now.
The Nigerian project as enunciated by the APC and being driven by President Buhari is too delicate to be exposed to the risks posed by Oshiomhole’s indiscretion, recklessness and injudiciousness.
–––Mrs Justina Azughala is a freelance journalist based in Abuja