While advocates of Oshiomholeexit may be jumping the gun following the loss of five (possibly seven) states by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), under the watch of its national chairman Adams Oshiomhole, his future – or lack of one – invites stern examination, writes Louis Achi
For sheer nimble swiftness and energy, few politicians in Nigeria today can match the dancing skill and prowess of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. But these humorous, unscripted performances could easily fool some observers into misreading the essence of the diminutive Edo State-born politician.
However, following the Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday, against the victory of the APC in Zamfara State, many worried party stakeholders are asking – has Oshiomhole danced himself into a bind by considerably diminishing the party he met?
At press time, the governing APC has conceded five states – Adamawa, Zamfara, Oyo, Imo and Bauchi to the PDP with Kano and Osun states dangling precariously. The apex court held the APC did not conduct valid primaries in the buildup to the 2019 general elections in Zamfara. The ruling was in validation of the judgement of the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division, which ruled that no valid primaries were conducted by the APC in Zamfara State.
The Supreme Court also ruled that the candidate with the second highest number of votes in the election, and who meets the constitutional requirement, should be declared winner of the election – thereby making PDP’s Matawalle effectively the governor-elect of Zamfara State.
After his two-term governance of Edo State, quick-witted Oshimhole is certainly not a rookie by any parameters. Very few current governors – whether in the ruling party or opposition – can intimidate him or educate him on the finer points or intricacies of managing a behemoth like APC. But significant tactical contradictions in the party chair’s perceived imperious administrative footing are being blamed for what the faithful see as the shrinking of the political party under his watch.
It is worth recalling that Oshiomhole was in serious battle with some state governors, fallout of the party’s primaries held to elect candidates for various elective offices in the 2019 general elections.
Oshiomhole’s main antagonists were Governors Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara, Rochas Okorocha of Imo, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun and Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo States. The four governors accused the party chair of highhandedness in his handling of the primaries held to elect their successors.
In November, 2018, the APC national chairman was interrogated by the State Security Service (SSS) following petitions allegedly filed by some governors. Oshiomhole later travelled to London, where he reportedly met national party leader Bola Tinubu who was undergoing treatment for an undisclosed medical ailment.
Back to Nigeria, Oshiomhole confirmed that he was interrogated by the SSS and declared that it was not their business to investigate corruption allegations against him. Sources within the intelligence services disclosed that Oshiomhole had become an ‘interesting individual’ to them.
More specifically, Oshiomhole incurred the wrath of the erstwhile chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara, over the mode of conduct of governorship primary and the “politics” that played out afterwards. Willy-nilly, this led to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declaring that Zamfara APC did not submit the names of its candidates before the deadline given by the commission.
The crisis apparently peaked when the national headquarters of APC issued a statement three days to the deadline for elections, disbanding the Zamfara State executives and banning Yari from participating in the conduct of primaries alleging “interference”. The APC had earlier directed states to decide which mode of primary they will use in selecting candidates: direct primary, indirect and consensus.
While Yari’s camp, including the executive officials, chose the indirect mode, another camp, encompassing most of the other governorship aspirants, preferred the direct mode. However, notwithstanding disbanding the executive officials and sending two different committees to conduct the exercise, Zamfara APC still found it difficult to conduct a primary acceptable to all.
Going forward, Yari’s camp organised an election supervised by security officials and others. But the Oshiomhole-led NEC rejected the results. To be fair to Oshiomhole, he clearly kicked against Governor Yari’s group but conceded ultimately – even when Yari was cursing him. Still Yari unendingly blames Oshiomhole for the muddle that caged APC in Zamfara, after INEC declared that the state’s APC has no candidates to field for the 2019 elections. As it is, last Friday’s apex court ruling has effectively buried APC in Zamfara. There is more.
In Imo State, the battle between Governor Rochas Okorocha Oshiomhole also flowed from the conduct of the governorship primaries in the state. Ahead of the primaries, Imo APC was divided into two. One camp was led by Okorocha and the other camp by his deputy, Chief Eze Madumere. Essentially, Okorocha plotted the emergence of his son-in-law, Henry Nwosu, to succeed him, while tactician Senator Hope Uzodinma was the leading aspirant on the other camp, which enjoyed the support of key party chieftains in the state.
The National Working Committee (NWC) dispatched a panel led by a former presidential aide, Ali Gulak, to conduct the election and thereafter controversially declared Uzodinma winner.
Curiously, after Gulak’s proclamation, eight members of his committee alongside the secretary, Henry Idahgbon, announced a separate result declaring Okorocha’s in-law, Nwosu, as the winner of the Imo APC governorship primary. Oshiomhole dismissed both results are fake only to U-turn later and accepted the result announced by Gulak. He said he turned his back on Okorocha because the governor wanted to use him to create a dynasty in Imo state. The rest is history.
Interestingly, as in other states, the association between Oshiomhole and Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State degenerated after the party’s governorship primary. Ogun State held two separate primaries, producing two candidates. While the state chairman of the party Derin Adebiyi declared Rep. Adekunle Akinlade winner, the panel sent by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party declared oil mogul Dapo Abiodun the winner. The Oshiomhole-led NWC upheld the election of Abiodun.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu Ondo State’s main dispute with Oshiomhole was over the later’s alleged manipulation of the Ondo State legislative primaries in favour of those seen to be the core enemies of the governor. Flowing from this heated feud, parallel congresses were held from the two opposing camps. Oshiomhole, a Tinubu loyalist, allegedly simply identified the group opposed to Akeredolu and their names were forwarded to INEC as APC candidates in the 2019 elections.
Beyond unseemly confrontations with some governors belonging to his party, Oshiomhole also engaged in a war of words with Senate President Bukola Saraki who left the APC and returned to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In his response to Oshiomhole’s position that Saraki lacked the moral right to remain president of the Senate, the former pointedly said Oshiomhole should also resign and even quit politics following unsubstantiated allegations that he accepted bribes during APC primaries. Clearly, Oshiomhole fought on many fronts – several quite needless.
Trailing the avoidable crises spawned by the outcome of the primaries, Oshimhole inaugurated six reconciliation committees that went round the six geo-political zones and attempted reconciliation of aggrieved party members. This, not surprisingly, failed woefully.
With all this happening, crisis seems to be brewing on Oshiomhole’s home state Edo, currently. He cannot deny this. It seems he does not want the Governor Obaseki returned. Significantly, in all states where there have been self-inflicted crises, the APC has lost. It’s certainly time for him to put his own state in order. He can’t afford to play the ostrich. This will also help to tone down the negative stakeholders’ perception of a national chair who covets imposition.
When Oshiomhole ascended the national party chairmanship of APC – a coalition of ideologically disparate bedfellows that morphed into a national party, he pledged to reposition the party and align it with 21st Century best practices. He also signaled a total break from the old way of doing things.
He moved for the enforcement of party supremacy, a feature that has curiously gone downhill since the wistful days of Chief Adisa Akinloye, then national chairman of the ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN, under the Alhaji Shehu Shagari presidency in the Second Republic.
The Edo-born party administrator also made it clear that the era of petulant, rambunctious anti-party intrigues to achieve personal interests were over. Members of the APC, according to him, must submit to orderly, disciplined conduct and use prescribed channels to seek redress of any grievances.
But beyond famous pledges, an emerging consensus within the ruling party indicates that indeedgood party governance has about eight major characteristics. It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of the party. Deficits in these areas give rise to conflict in a party as were clearly experienced in the APC, leading to its loss of five and possibly more states
Clearly, the position of national chairman of a ruling party, especially at a challenging period like today, requires leadership of a certain stature. After managing to oversee the reelection of President Muhammadu Buhari, many party stakeholders feel strongly that for the ruling APC to heal and strengthen its grip, a new national chairman, less imperious and controversial, is an imperative going forward.