By: Jude Opara
Many political observers were not surprised when on the eve of the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for his second term in office, the Deputy National Chairman (North) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Lawal Shuaibu called on the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole to resign his position.
Shuaibu said Oshiomhole has since his tenure did more harm to the party than good including the various electoral losses which he insisted were as a result of the combative nature of the embattled Chairman.
Interestingly, the call for the head of Oshiomhole is not only coming from his deputy but some state governors and other party chieftains who believe that his leadership style has been anything but progressive.
Former governors, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State and Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State.
Oshiomhole’s travails started with the primaries of the APC ahead of the 2019 general elections. Many stakeholders especially the governors accused the Chairman of highhandedness in the conduct of the process of selecting their successors.
The leaders of the APC for reasons best known to them decided that states were free to choose the pattern of primary that will suit them. There were at liberty to conduct either direct or indirect primaries.
In most cases, this threw up a battle of wits between the governors who wanted to handpick their successors and other party stalwarts who insisted that the process should be done in a more transparent manner.
As the altercations with the governors were growing, the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) quizzed Oshiomhole over some petitions or corruption against him.
As a former labour leader, the former governor of Edo State does not shy away from conflicts and perhaps that is why he embraced them with both hands as it appears that hardly any month that passes without him engaging one person of group.
Remember he once engaged even top members of the government without batting an eyelid.For instance, he once threatened to suspend the former Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige over the inauguration of the National Health Insurance Trust Fund (NHIF).
There is another school of thought that believes that Oshiomhole wanted to restore the supremacy of the party over its elected officers including even the president. Those who accept this argument say that is why while threatening to suspend Ngige, Oshiomhole said; “I will suspend Chris Ngige if he fails within 72 hours to inaugurate the NHIF, if Mr. President will condone indiscipline, I will not condone it.”
May be, the earlier desire of the members of the party to have a more forceful chairman, as against the gentle milieu of former chairman John Oyegun, who was removed shortly before the conventions in 2018 encouraged Oshiomhole to introduce his style of government.
Shuaibu in his statement among others blamed Oshiomhole for the eventual loss of the APC in all elective offices in Zamfara State adding that he was taking unilateral decisions.
He further noted that in other climes, when people fail to live up to expectations, they simply resign so as to give the organization or state the chance to chart a new course.
In his views, the APC has lost a lot of grounds under the leadership of the former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
“In advanced democracies, people who fail to add value or build over and above what they met on assumption of duty show some civilized examples, they honourably bow out.
“In that connection therefore, I want to advise you to take the path of honour, to step aside and allow the Party to embark on the onerous task of reconstruction and rehabilitation in those States it was weakened by the effect of manner the last primary election exercises were conducted or even the task of recreating the party where it is on the path of extinction, arising from the loss of a sitting APC Government, for example in Zamfara State, where you directly personally created the problem leading to the painful complete loss of APC’s electoral fortunes, from up to down! All these are uncontestable facts. You cannot exonerate yourself from blame on what happened to APC Zamfara State, thereby destroying the hopes and aspirations of 534,541 APC members and supporters, including my good self!”
To state the obvious, the fortunes of the APC have dwindled drastically since the emergence of Oshiomhole. After the 2015 elections, the party had 20 governors but this year only 14 were inaugurated. Yes I know that some of them may have decamped to other parties, but that still underscores the fact that some of them were forced to jump ship due to the leadership style of the party.
From what we know of Nigerian politics, there is always a fall guy when something like this happens and if Oshiomhole never suspected that people will call for his head then he was not thinking properly.
It will also be foolhardy to believe the Deputy Chairman was acting alone; usually there are the real masquerades that are hiding behind the curtains to pull the necessary strings to ensure that the comrade politician kisses the dust.
Another truth that is as clear as the crystal is the fact that if the APC really wants to heal some old wounds and recover lost grounds in most of their hitherto strongholds, Oshiomhole as the Chairman will not be a bright idea.
Unfortunately for Oshiomhole too, he is not in best of relationship with members of his National Executive Committee (NEC). Most of them are said to be very upset with him for his alleged highhandedness. In fact the zonal officers who he was said to have forced to relocate to their respective zones may be at the forefront of axing him when the opportunity arrives.
I don’t know for instance how Okorocha despite his suspension and Oshiomhole will be in a peace meeting after they allowed their quarrel to get to the market place. If you talk of the former Zamfara state governor, Abdulaziz Yari, the story remains the same.
The only thing that could save the Chairman today is if President Muhammadu Buhari decides to wade into the crisis. If not, it will be a matter of weeks before the man capitulates.
But given the posture of the President when it comes to issues like this, he usually likes to stay aloof so as not be said to have favoured or not favoured anybody. Also should he play the type of politics he played in Imo and Ogun States during the presidential campaigns where he urged his supporters to vote for him and vote for any party of their choice, then the days of Oshiomhole is numbered.
The other day immediate past governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha advised President Buhari to be careful with people like Oshiomhole. Though the statement was made jocularly, the message was nonetheless delivered.
Today most of the party chieftains who worked against Oyegun are regretting their action. I recall that when the name of Oshiomhole was touted as the man favoured by Buhari, former Governor Okorocha declared that returning the former labour leader as the party chairman was their mandate. Today I am sure he holds a different view.
Another thing that is seriously counting against Oshiomhole is his penchant to voice out words that tend to humiliate others. Since his party formed government at the centre, he carries on as if democracy should be a one party affair.
Shortly after the 2019 elections, Oshiomhole gathered all the elected members of the National Assembly of the APC to a meeting where he read ‘the riot act’ to them that they do not want the support of members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to elect the principal officers of the Assembly. He did not end there, he threatened that the PDP members will not even get the chairmanship of any committee unless those statutorily designed by the Constitution.
That singular unwarranted outburst is one of the nemesis hunting the preferred candidates of the party for the leadership of the 9th National Assembly, Ahmed Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.
Today, with about 44 senators, the PDP if they speak with one voice can decide who really becomes the next senate president. And many stalwarts of the APC are blaming the chairman for making some unguarded statements.