For the chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiuomhole, the recent removal of David Lyon by the Supreme Court just 24 hours to his inauguration as the governor of the oil-rich state has become a major pain in the neck. Some critical observers think the development which is now etched in the annals of the nation’s political history, has once again put a question mark on the ability of the former Edo State governor to continue to pilot the affairs of the ruling party.
Though seen as having helped to ensure the party won at the federal level in the last general elections, the dominant argument now is that David Lyon would today have been governor of Bayelsa if only the APC chairman and his team had done enough due diligence on Degi-Eremienyo, who was the APC deputy governorship candidate in the November election. Not a few believe that if the Oshiomhole-led party had done what it was supposed to do, it would have discovred the inconsistency in the information provided by Degi-Eremienyo and saved the party the embarrassment of last week where its governorship candidate was sacked by the apex court. It is a lesson to APC and other parties and would remain a reference point for years to come on how not to conduct screening of candidates before an election.
Many commentators agree that what makes the embarrassing situation more painful was the fact that it could have been avoided easily as there were recent experiences that could have guided the APC leadership to do the right thing.
Many instances abound as there was a similar case for instance in Taraba State, where a candidate’s infractions cost the party dearly. Also in Zamfara State, the party’s apparatus up till now is in shambles due to what many consider as the highhandedness of the current APC party leadership under Comrade Oshiomhole. In Rivers State, the situation is even more heartbreaking as the party could not even present a candidate during the 2019 general elections. Similar issues also played out in Oyo, Ogun and Imo states among others.
The question on the lips of many critical commentators is –now that the same APC is heading for elections in Edo and Ondo states, will the ruling party put its acts in order not to allow another blunder to trail its fortunes?
In the case of Edo, many argue that except the party moves fast, the signs of what to expect are not looking good. Followers of events in the state agree that the battle between Comrade Oshiomhole and the state governor, Godwin Obaseki is unecessary, and unfortunately for the APC National chairman, the public perception is that it is his intention to control the politics of the state that is fueling the crisis in his home state.
Not a few agree that though the Edo State governor is seen to be performing well, his predecessor is not impressed because he is allegedly not allowed to call the shots in the state he held sway as governor for eight years.
Observers insist that Oshiomhole should not forget in a hurry his mantra that he has buried godfatherism in Edo politics and should rather adopt the approach of his predecessor, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who never bothered about state local politics while both were in the saddle as party national chairman and state governor respectively.
As one top politician in Edo who wants to remain anonymous said, “Oshiomhole should descend from his high horse, remove the toga of cane-holding headmaster mentality as the national chairman and concentrate on national politics, leaving Obaseki to deploy the state funds into productive democratic dividends instead of using it to wedge enemy war.”
So, ahead of Edo guber poll, the calculation is that the APC would only have a smooth ride if Oshiomhole as a leader would agree to swallow his pride and mend fences with Governor Obaseki whose candidature would obviously be easier to market to the people.
Analysts argue that it would be difficult, if not impossible for Oshiomhole to convince the Edo voters that it is not for selfish reasons that he fell out with Governor Obaseki who he stuck out his neck to ensure his emergence as the governor of the state. The APC National chairman, many recall, was the number one supporter of Obaseki and marketed him round the state as his annointed successor.
Surprisingly, one of the frontrunners of Comrade Oshiomhole’s campaign to unseat Governor Obaseki in his re-election bid is the former governorship candidate of the PDP, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who the APC National chairman had earlier carpeted as a bad candidate that Edo people should not touch with a long pole.
Many wonder why Oshiomhole now wants to replace Obaseki with Pastor Ize-Iyamu who has a corruption case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The anti-graft agency filed charges against Ize-Iyamu and four others bordering on illegal receipt of public funds for the purpose of the 2015 general elections, contrary to the provisions of the EFCC Act and the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
Others being arraigned with Ize-Iyamu include the Chairman of the Edo State chapter of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, a former deputy governor, Mr. Lucky Imasuen; a former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Tony Azegbemi; and one Efe Anthony.
The EFCC accused the defendants of conspiring among themselves to commit the offence in March, 2015. It alleged that they took possession and control of the funds without any contract award.
Many argue that one of the shortcomings of Oshiomhole is that he says things that have the potential to haunt him later. For instance, one of the people being projected by Oshiomhole in the coming Edo election is his erstwhile deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu who, he said damning things about in the past. In the build up to the election that produced Governor Obaseki, the APC National chairman for instance, has accused, Odubu of being ‘a thief and an herbalist’. The same trend of accusations can be traced to other aspirants he is now cohabitting with politically.
Apart from Edo, something of similar proportion may also happen in Ondo with rumours that the incumbent governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, is likely going to fight a battle of his life to get re-elected.
Many commentators argue that though Oshiomhole remains a great mobiliser, he lacks the requisite aptitude and temperament to occupy the office of the National Chairman of a ruling party whose membership is of people in all strata of life.
For members of the APC, the ruling party is between the devil and deep blue sea and the question is –how far can the party go with Oshiomhole as its head? For some members, the APC chairman has done well for making sure the party still controlled the centre after the last general elections.
However, there are many who feel that if the APC wants to move forward and consolidate its fortunes as a ruling party, it needs to do away with the current leadership. The argument is that a very critical population of members of the party are already losing faith in the party because they see Oshiomhole as brash and too autocratic to further move the party forward. What led to the downfall of the PDP, in the estimation of observers is playing out actively in the APC with the way Oshiomhole is handling the affairs of the party. They believe that once members lose confidence in the leadership of the party, they will either be inert its activities or go elsewhere in search of their political future. On the unfortunate episode in Bayelsa State, many insist that it is unforgivable to adopt an individual who presented five certificates with different names and even when it was spotted, the party hierarchy failed to take advantage of the window to substitute the candidate.
There are observers who also feel that the recent protest by some APC youths against Justice Mary Odili is seen as a misplaced aggression and reaction to the dwindling fortunes of the party by members. The former governor of the state and Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva who is allegedly being accused of sponsoring the protest has dissociated himself from the protest. Also, David Lyon has cautioned that people should not capitalize on his silence to break the law in the name of protest.
Even the APC has disassociated itself from the protest at the Abuja residence of Justice Odili.
The party’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yekini Nabena, who said this at a news conference on Wednesday in Abuja, claimed that some protesters who identified themselves as “APC supporters” were sponsored by the opposition party.
However, the Rivers State government said it would hold Oshiomhole and Timipre Sylva responsible if anything happens to Justice Odili who led the Supreme Court panel which sacked APC’s Lyon as Bayelsa State’s governor-elect.
All these flaws in the eyes of observers, flow from the turbulent leadership style of Oshiomhole who appears not to observe due process in dealing with party affairs.
They believe that as the National Chairman of a ruling party, he should be careful with what he says and not talk with emotion as is always the case.
For instance, on the day the Supreme Court sacked Lyon, Oshiomhole said nobody was going to be sworn in as the new governor of Bayelsa State and hinged his statement on the condition by the apex court, which instructed the electoral body to declare the party with the highest number of lawful votes and geographical spread as the winner.
Mr Oshiomhole, at a briefing at the party’s secretariat in Abuja shortly after the court verdict, said only the APC candidate met the “desired spread as expressed by the Supreme Court.”
In a manner which seemed as if he was blaming the supreme court, Oshiomhole said when a similar case was brought before the apex court in 1999, INEC was ordered to conduct a fresh election.
He said: “In 1999, there was a similar case in Bauchi involving Gov Adamu Muazu. The court found out that the running mate was not qualified for whatever reason to contest that election and accordingly, the Supreme court nullified the election of Gov Adamu Muazu. And the court as a consequence directed INEC to conduct a fresh election.”
His position on the development in Bayelsa did not stop the PDP candidate, Douye Diri from being sworn in the next day after the apex court sacked David Lyon.