“APC house of embarrassment” was the title of our last week’s edition in this column. The article concluded that the majority of the members of the All Progressives Congress had become fed up with the anarchy that descended on the National Working Committee. Within twenty four hours after our writeup went to press, but before publication, the National Executive Committee of the party struck and dealt a decisive blow to the intractable crises besetting the party. It reached four major decisions which include: the withdrawal of all pending litigations against the party by members; ratification of Edo primary election; dissolution of the NWC and the setting up of a Caretaker/Extraordinary Covention Committee. The valuable political lessons learnt from this experience has introduced a new trajectory to the evolution of political parties in our country.
Preliminarily, any party that surrenders its destiny to the courts is finished. Political problems are better settled politically. The courts are not sufficiently equipped with the essential maneuverings that are needed to settle political disputes. Although a lot of Judges may be above board, politicians can always manipulate some of the compromised ones to purchase judgements in their favour which may be unfavourable to the wellbeing of the party. The danger in judgement of courts is that it leads to a winner-loser situation which is often inimical to a party’s political survival. History has shown that when one side wins, the loser side often leaves the party for another party. The order by the NEC of APC that every member should withdraw every litigation from the Court or face stringent sanctions from the party is perfectly in accordance with Article 21(D)(v) of the APC Constitution. At the twilight of the last NWC, the Working Committee had become a nest of litigators with all the contending forces in Court seeking redress and protection at the cost of the cohesion of the party. Even if it’s only for this reason, the dissolution of the NWC was justified. However, no amount of such lofty provision in a Constitution of a party can prevent members from suing their parties except justice is seen to be done in all cases because seeking refuge in a Court of Law is a Constitutional right which is superior to a party’s Constitution.
Another important lesson from the dissolution of the NWC is that in politics, once the end satisfies the thirst for justice, the means becomes overlookable. It was to the consternation of the Oshiomhole faction of the NWC when it was confirmed that the President had accepted to attend the NEC meeting summoned by the Victor Gaidom led NWC. They immediately dissociated themselves from the meeting and consequently boycotted it. Some even threatened legal action against the outcome of such “illegal meeting”. A look at the resolution of the NEC showed that they served the course of justice of both sides. The caretaker committee members are men who are not known members of either faction. Gov Mai Mala Buni, the caretaker committee chairman was the immediate past Secretary of APC under both Oyegun and Oshiomhole signifying fairness in his choice. The NEC ratified the primary election conducted in Edo which Gaidom had cancelled before the NEC meeting thereby assuaging the feelings of the Oshiomhole faction and making it clear that it was not summoned to carry out the wishes of the Gaidom faction. It dissolved the NWC, thereby satisfying the desires of the anti Oshiomhole faction who believe that anarchy had befallen the party under Oshiomhole. Convention was fixed in six months in which every party member or group is allowed to contend for the soul of the party. With these outcomes, every member of the party accepted the outcome of the NEC and nobody went to court to seek redress. Every act of omission or commission in the process of summoning the NEC was overlooked by everyone.
We must address some ominous signs that dug Oshiomhole’s regime, which he ignored to his own peril, but from which future leaders must learn from. The most fundamental was his mindset before assuming the leadership of APC. He believed that the regime before him was weak and the members were not disciplined. He concluded that the party needs a tough hand to whip the members to line. He came in with a big stick to achieve that. He fired the first shot at the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige and ordered him to swear in some board members within seven days or face suspension. He warned the Minister that if President Buhari has been tolerating indiscipline from him, that he Adams will not. He suspended the Deputy Chairman North at a time when the position of the Deputy Chairman South and National Secretary were vacant thereby wiping out the next layer of authority under him. In order to assume absolute authority, he refused to summon the NEC of the party and successfully excluded all the serving governors from the running of the party. The Deputy Chairmen of the party are the only ones constitutionally empowered to take over from the Chairman in his absence. This lacuna trumped up the Assistant Secretary of the party to legitimately assume the position of the Acting Chairman of the party through the instrumentality of the judiciary. The lesson here is that absolute power has no place in a democracy and you cannot win a battle fighting from all flanks at the same time. A leader must commence his leadership with an open mind. Self-fulfilling prophecy often leads to self-destructive tendency.
Adams neglected that the court decision which suspended him was adjourned at the Court of Appeal not struck out, meaning that his opponents do not trust him to fulfil his own part of the deal if they fulfil theirs. The agreement appeared to be that Oshiomhole’s suspension be lifted and Obaseki be allowed a second term. John Oyegun said this publicly. Immediately Obaseki was denied the ticket, after Oshiomhole’s initial suspension was lifted, the hammer of the suspension landed again on the forehead of Oshiomhole. This time he never recovered. The lesson here is that we must learn to respect deals no matter the bitter pill we may need to swallow in the process. If you are not ready for such occasional painful sacrifice, please stay away from politics, especially Nigerian politics.
Oshiomhole failed to recognise that his main pillars which are the President and the National leader had stepped in once to save him and will be more reluctant to do it the second time without appearing partisan. When the first NEC was summoned by Victor Gaidom to move against Adams, Ashiwaju Bola Tinubu wrote against the move and the President supported Adams. He would have immediately summoned the NEC and mended fences with the Governors. He did not. When they moved against him the second time, the President preferred the Acting Chairman who summoned the NEC to the one who couldn’t. Ashiwaju decided to keep mum to maintain his fatherly figure. Oshiomhole became an orphan when his opponents came against him. His suspension and eventual removal received the endorsement of everybody including himself. The lesson here is that your backers are also human and not invincible. They will not be there for you forever. Negotiate with your opponents as if you do not have any backer even if the most powerful men are backing you. This will make you avoid unreasonable demands on your opponents and make the necessary concessions with humility.
The former Chairman neglected to nip the uprising from his ward against him in the bud. His membership of the party was suspended by his ward executive. The suspension was immediately made a subject of litigation as the basis for his suspension as the Chairman of the party. These acts of the ward executives would have attracted automatic expulsion from the party if Adams had gone through the NEC and mounted vigorous legal challenge against these forces at the High Court. But he relied on his personal ability to solve the problem. He decided to form a parallel executive in Edo State and suspended the suspenders, practically committing the same offence his opponents committed and being a judge in his own cause which offends the law of natural justice. This was later to consume his regime and the entire NWC. The lesson here is that a leader must realize that when a man is dancing on the bank of a river, the music producers may be inside the river. Do not underate anybody. No ward can contemplate moving against a National Chairman without some very powerful forces behind them. The story of David and Goliath taught us that the battle is not to the strong but time and chance happens to all men. God in a weapon of stone is mightier than the most powerful fighter jet without God. We are all where we are today by the grace of God and we must wield the power given to us by God with humility and mutual respect for one another. It’s only God that is omnipotent.