Oshiomhole’s Travails and 2023 Calculations

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Nosa Ogbemudia

While many have accused the embattled National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of high-handedness and hence, the need to kick him out, it is also obvious that those after him are not doing so for the growth of the party but for their 2023 ambitions.

The plot against the national chairman is as old as his tenure itself. But it was not until recently, and perhaps after his spat with his estranged political godson and governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, took a turn for the worse that the hawks joined forces, baring their fangs in a desperate attempt to get him out of office.

While the plot against the former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is national, those who want his political demise had gone to his home state, in fact, his local government, to get his suspension from the party by some political sleight of hand. It was strange that Oshiomhole’s ward would be said to have suspended him. It is is just not possible for anyone familiar with Oshiomhole’s larger than life image in Edo North politics, his alleged ward suspension a huge fraud, a grand deception with the fingers of the state governor written all over it.

Following that, a Federal High court in Abuja, on Wednesday March 4, ordered that Oshiomhole could not continue to parade himself as the national chair of the APC having been suspended by the local branch of his party in his native Edo State. According to Justice Danlami Sanchi, APC’s branch in Ward 10 in Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State had on November 2, 2019, suspended Oshiomhole from the party and as a result, the former governor of Edo State could not continue to serve as the national chair of the party since his local branch had suspended him from the party.

A day later, another Federal High court sitting in Kano, headed by Justice A. Lewis-Allagoa, directed all parties to maintain the status quo ante and stay action on the issue. In other words, Oshiomhole should remain the substantive chair of the ruling party.

The National Secretary of the APC declared that the party would obey the court order. A fallout of the high-stakes intrigue was that he chose the one suspending Oshiomhole as the order to obey. Pronto, the party fixed March 18th as the day it would hold its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting.

Those against him seem to be very formidable and unrelenting. The embattled national chair himself mentioned that some governors were against him and it all boils down to 2023 calculations. Sources close to him specifically mentioned the Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi as being the arrowhead of the plot against Oshiomhole. And the cold calculations mean that prisoners would not be taken.

The thinking within the ruling party is that Buhari has never shown the kind of interest and control previous presidents showed in the management of a ruling party. For instance, President Olusegun Obasanjo never joked with the choice of whoever was the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at any point in time. Even the more benign Goodluck Jonathan too never joked with the leadership of the PDP. But not Buhari. He is seen as weak as far as party management is concerned. This has left the party at the mercy of different tendencies with varying intentions and interests threatening to tear it apart.
A political analyst explained, during the week, that after Buhari might have left, the party would be there for the taken. Interestingly, they are the over ambitious individuals are not waiting for Buhari’s exit. They have drawn their swords.

“After 2023, APC would not only be in disarray but would be without any recognised father figure,” he explained “But going by the way politicians think, it would be suicidal to wait till 2023 before going for the jugular of the party. That is why they want to do this as early as possible. They want to get Oshiomhole out, so that the former governor of Edo State does not have a foothold in the party.”

That analysis is spot on because most of the governors on their second terms are against Oshiomhole. To them, they would not be returning as governors again and would naturally be going for something higher (presidency) in 2023. And with Oshiomhole still in the saddle, they know it won’t be easy. Ironically, a governor in one of the Northeast states is also against Oshiomhole and he is on his first term. His own permutation is that if the presidency returns to the South in 2023, he would not mind being the running-mate to whoever is picked as the party’s presidential standard-bearer. So it’s a high-stakes game.

Some of the APC governors have accused Oshiomhole of being teleguided by an individual within the party who has a presidential ambition. This individual is no other person than former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu. One of the governors who spoke to a national newspaper on condition of anonymity said the governors were against him because of this. This was how the governor put it: “Yes, he (Oshiomhole) was right to say governors are against him. We were also the ones that made him national chairman. He was a governor and he knew how important his office was. He cannot deny that we are serious integral part of the party. So if we are working with the minister he once abused are against him, that is fine. It is also an indication that he is losing his grip on the party. We will not allow someone to de-market the APC ahead of the 2023 elections. That is why he has to go. A national chairman that is being teleguided by an individual because of ambition can no longer lead us.”

Some northern elements who are against the perceived presidential ambition of Tinubu, are automatically also against Oshiomhole. To them, Oshiomhole is Tinubu’s man in the party and with him (Oshiomhole) still running the party, Tinubu’s chances would be enhanced.
Another major accusation against the embattled national chairman of the APC is that he has brought crisis to the party and has also led the party to losses in states it should have won easily such as Bauchi and Bayelsa. But they have also forgotten that the party has recorded victories in states like Kogi, Ekiti, Osun and Imo.

Oshiomhole himself had elaborated that some governors that were against him all because of 2023 wanted to frustrate his efforts to reposition the party ahead of coming elections. He also accused some of them of not being fully committed to the party as they have membership of more than one party and would move to those parties after destroying the APC.

“They are the ones who will plot how to get rid of (Oshiomhole) because they want to be president in 2023 even when their hold on their state at the moment is doubtful if they were to go for a referendum in terms of their approval rating. But you see, whatever you do, those who want to fight you will fight you. But I know that my tenure will be defined by God and not by man,” he added.

While Oshiomhole may have some weakness as a party leader, the fact remains that those who put his head on the chopping block are not doing it for any altruistic or patriotic reasons or even for the sake of the growth of the party. All is about 2023. It is all naked politics.

For instance, many have been saying that Obaseki, the Edo State governor, could not have had the effrontery to take on Oshiomhole the way he is doing if not because he was being goaded on by political heavyweights with coalesced interests outside the state. Observers believe that he also enjoys the support of the presidency and some members of the president’s kitchen cabinet.

But with each side trying to outmanoeuvre the other in this high-stakes political battle, it may take more than that Federal High court pronouncement to kick Oshiomhole out of office. The APC is tense with suspense and the days ahead are going to be very interesting.