Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The bottled-up tension towards the proposed All Progressives Congress (APC) emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, last week Tuesday, finally died down owing to series of interplay of factors on the eve of the meeting.
Several contentious court judgements procured by both camps of the gladiators which clashed sporadically for attention and supremacy, helped in creating confusion and overheating the political atmosphere in the build up to the emergency meeting.
In less than 24 hours to the controversial meeting, there were five court judgements, unending threats to remove the national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the National Organising Secretary, Emma Ibediro, the National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the Acting National Secretary, Victor Giadom, the new three officers co-opted into the national leadership, comprising Abiola Ajimobi, Pual Chukwuma and Waziri Bulama.
Of serious concern was the ease with which the conflicting court orders were procured by one faction against the other. While many were procured from Abuja as a potent weapon effectively deployed to unsettle each other and heighten tension within the ruling party, others came far away from the farther part of the North like Kano, Sokoto.
There were hi-tech schemes, horse-trading and shenanigan smartly used to outmanoeuvre each other. Open and clandestine meetings were held to strategise and perfect the schemes to outwit each other.
At a time, the anti-Oshiomohle forces had upper hand, proactively winning several litigations to their favour, and recruited heavyweight party stalwarts like the four Ministers, state governor and some federal government officials that attended the South-south stakeholders meeting to nail Oshiomhole’s coffin.
From the presidency to other party chieftains, it was certain that every force was deployed and all indicators perfectly worked against the embattled national chairman. In fact, he did not only look subdued and pummelled but also constantly inched close to the exit door.
As part of the efforts to enhance the aesthetics of the secretary in readiness for the emergency NEC meeting, extensive renovation works were carried out at the NEC Hall, including installation of brand new split-unit air conditioners, repainting of the interior and exterior walls and fences of the compound.
Amidst the controversy that trailed the meeting, invitation letters to NEC members were dispatched and every other arrangement plotted to relegate Oshiomhole to the dustbin of inconsequentiality was made.
To remove any trace of him being part of the meeting, his posters on the three large billboards within the secretariat were removed, the curiosity of the secretariat staff heightened and on daily basis, they became more despondent and inquisitive over the future of the party; the secretariat degenerated to a ghost town with insignificant human and vehicular traffics. In fact, everything kept shutting down as if a virus afflicted the secretariat and party. The headquarters of the ruling party literally became a carcass of itself.
The perfectly articulated build-up had dangerously continued to fall in place against the embattled national chairman until the meeting held by the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) 48 hours earlier, where his faith was partially decided, pending the outcome of the larger meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, before the meeting of the APC governors, Imo state governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, had embarked on a one-man-battle rescue mission, warning that he would do whatever it would take to stop Oshiomhole from any humiliating removal regardless of what it would cost him.
Hanging on that assurance of Hope, the former Edo State governor continued to hold precariously onto such promise to keep him afloat in the sinking boat. However, danger signals started emerging in the early hours of Monday when an Abuja Appeal Court reserved judgement on the suspension clamped on him. Security around the secretariat equally tightened with more and more deployment of security agents to the secretariat.
Rattled and subdued, the embattled national chairman had allegedly headed for the State House on a last minute, last hope rescue mission, to hold a help-me-out meeting with the presidency. He however got the first reprieve when news filtered in that President Buhari and the Progressive Governors have agreed to suspend the NEC meeting indefinitely.
The news became the turning point Oshiomhole desperately needed as events moved in his favour in a quick succession. He breathed the air of life when the Appeal Court did not only reschedule its sitting for 4.00pm but also ruled in his favour, ordering a stay of execution to the suspension clamped on him.
Taking it from there, an enlarged National Working Committee (NEC) meeting was convened in place of the suspended emergency NEC meeting. The meeting resurrected the tensed atmosphere as the situation looked apparent that the gladiators had not lowered their guards.
From the time the Acting National Secretary, Giadom, arrived the secretariat and occupied the parking lot allocated to the newly co-opted National Secretary and also took over the seat next to the National Chairman inside the conference hall to the time the loyal Oshiomhole NWC members met inside his office for several minutes, the tension almost built to boiling point.
Thugs were hired to unleash mayhem on anyone who desired brute force; pro-Oshiomhole state party chairmen that ought not be part of the meeting were among those that stood guard to receive him on arrival for the NWC meetin; there were mixed feelings from the secretariat staff and more curiously, the deployment of security agents rose to all time high.
Catching on the tensed atmosphere and mood of his colleagues at the NWC, Oshiomhole had doused the tension that culminated in the graveyard peace witnessed before the meeting, when he dwelt so much on rendering apology to those that felt offended by his action.
“We are our own enemies litigating against ourselves,” he started, adding: “Let me be the first to admit that I am not the best party chairman in the world and I will never be. However, no one can fault the sincerity of my purpose. My style can only be my style. But, I recognise that I must reconcile my style to others so that we can meet in the middle of the road.
“It is the hallmark of democracy. The capacity to transform our divergent views and even you might say conflicting orientation sometimes but no conflicting interest, mission and ambition. So, I want to thank all my colleagues who are here and those who are not,” he apologised.
Speaking further on the crisis, he said: “We do not lay claim to a family that has members so docile that they cannot argue among themselves or even sometimes want to fight. That is the hallmark of democracy. It can only be unusual when we fight each other, we quarrel with one another, we develop that level of animosity that we become incapable of sitting down; putting in our thinking cap, reminding ourselves that what binds us together is much more than whatever divides us.
“I think that God is never wrong, He has allowed what has happened to happen so that we all can learn; everybody should re-examine their conscience, strengthen those bonds of friendship, bonds of solidarity and work as a family. I am honoured to be able to preside here as chairman of this party and I believe that every one of my colleagues in the NWC is honoured out of millions of our members,” he noted.
At the end of the NWC meeting when the warring factions came out smiling, it was enough indication that temporal peace, no matter how fragile, had eclipsed the resentment and animosity built in the past three weeks.
The gladiators had risen from the meeting, resolving to withdraw all pending cases in the law courts instituted by the members and to lift the suspension the NWC clamped on its two national officers – the Deputy National Chairman (North), Shuaibu Lawal and National Vice Chairman (North-West), Abdulkadir Inuwa.
“We have also resolved that we are going to withdraw all cases in court that any member of the NEC is involved in so that we must lead by example and we have shown that we are capable of managing ourselves and therefore we do not need the court to help us resolve what we are capable of resolving.
“People have issues which they feel strongly about and as a result, the NWC took some decisions which affected Lawal Shuaibu, Deputy National Chairman North. The NWC had a reason for suspending him as at then. Today, we have reviewed the situation and believing in the spirit of our renewed commitment to build unity and true reconciliation, we as leaders of the party elected at the national convention should live by example.
“That means for those we think have offended the system; we have chosen to lift their suspensions. Lawal Shuaibu can resume his duties as Deputy National Chairman (North). We also reviewed the matter of Inuwa Abdulkadir and by the same spirit, the NWC was unanimous in lifting the suspension and he resumes work with immediate effect,” Oshiomhole told newsmen after the meeting.
Speaking on the reconciliation efforts, he said: “We have asked everyone to forgive and they have accepted. Whatever they consider to be my own shortcomings, I have asked for forgiveness and they have forgiven.
“Whatever I considered to be anyone’s shortcoming that irritated me, I have also forgiven. This is the way it should be. It can only be abnormal if people know how to fight and they do not know how to settle,” he quipped.
Call it peace of the graveyard or assuring lasting peace and reconciliation, the real defining factor for the enthronement of harmony was the stringent conditions handed over to the embattled national chairman to retain his seat.
A source close to the governors’ forum revealed to Daily Sun that Oshiomhole agreed to among other conditions concede to his rival, Godwin Obaseki, an automatic ticket for the Edo 2020 governorship election and his counterpart in Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu.
According to our source, Oshiomhole also accepted to lift the suspension clamped on the national officers, drop the three persons co-opted into the NWC as national officers, urgently organise NEC meeting, return the day to day running of the party from his personal office to the secretariat and report to the office on daily basis among many others.
“The governors agreed during the meeting on Sunday night and presented them to Mr President that Governor Obaseki and Akeredolu must be given automatic ticket as party’s candidates for the governorship elections. All the national officers suspended must be reinstated and that the new members co-opted into the NWC should not be part of the meeting of the national leadership until the needful is done from their zones.
“He was essentially told to dismantle the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) which is the militant political arm he has been using to fight Obaseki. They instructed that all the court cases be withdrawn and he convenes NEC meeting as soon as possible where the future of the party will be deliberated and decided. He was also mandated to relocate the activities of the party from his personal office to the party secretariat,” the source revealed.
However, how long this graveyard peace can last and how religious Oshiomhole had been in implementing the conditions given to him, remain the questions on the lips of many political watchers.
Responding to the unanswered questions, our source said: “These conditions are just palliative measures because it is obvious that he must still go. If he is lucky to survive now, he will not handle proceedings for the 2023 general elections because his tenure ends in 2022 before the election.
“The fear in many quarters is that he may have entrenched structures favourable to him and other persons before leaving his position. Curiously, you can notice that he has already started flouting the conditions given to him by allowing two out of the three newly co-opted national officers to attend the NWC meeting. He has even gone a step further to introduce one of them, Abiola Ajimobi, to Mr President,” the source observed.
Beyond Oshiomhole’s intransigence, the drum of war seems not to be over, considering the position of his second in command, Shauibu Lawal, who has not only pressed for an automatic ticket for Obaseki but equally wished that Oshiomhole will change from his highhanded leadership style to enable them rebuild the party.
“There is no time bomb in Edo ahead of the election. We all heard President Buhari during the last NEC meeting announce that any governor who has performed well deserves a second term. Why should you prefer any other aspirant than the sitting governor? It is like that all over the world even in America that started this democracy.
“Donald Trump has no opposition and nobody is contesting against him. It does not make sense to bring another person to contest against the governor. Governor Obaseki is the strongest candidate of the APC we have in Edo state,” he insisted.
With the backing of the presidency and the recent Appeal Court adjournment of his case, the apprehension in many quarters is how much of compliance to the conditions would come from Oshiomhole.
The Abuja division of the Court of Appeal had on Friday last week adjourned indefinitely, proceedings in the appeal he filed challenging his suspension from office.
Although the sacrificing of Waziri Bulama reduced the hostility from some of his traducers, the battle is far from over as an aggrieved member of the party and Director General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Chief Osita Okechukwu, insisted that Oshiomhole is no longer a valid member of the party.
“The truth is that Comrade Oshiomhole is no longer validly a member of APC. Don’t forget that he validated the suspension of Inua Abdulkadir, by his ward. It’s trite law that one cannot approbate and reprobate. Like Super King, he glossed over his suspension and our great party’s constitution is scant with time, for it allows only seven days to appeal.
“One was impressed with Mr President’s intervention, which is fatherly; I was also enthused by Oshimohole’s show of remorse, however, I am sceptical and bidding my time to believe Oshiomhole. As a Christian, I may have forgiven him, but not all have,” he noted.