That all is not well with the All Progressives Congress is no more in doubt. Many agree that the ruling party has not particularly enjoyed the best of times since its victory in the 2019 general elections. But critical observers believe that its challenges are more internal than external.
There are permutations that the crisis currently rocking the party is not unconnected with the power play ahead of the 2023 general elections. The argument is that power brokers are already jostling to reposition the party for their interests in the next general elections.
And for those familiar with events in the party, the latest of such calculations is the move to sack the national chairman, comrade Adams Oshiomhole. The development has polarised the party into two opposing camps. While some are pushing for the replacement of the former Edo governor as the national chairman of the party, others believe that Oshiomhole’s ouster would negatively affect the party.
Critics of Oshiomhole’s leadership argue that he has not lived up to expectation in terms of improving the fortunes of the APC since he assumed office. Those in this school of thought argue that lack of due diligence by the Oshiomhole leadership led to the exclusion of the party in Rivers and Zamfara states in the 2019 general elections. They further butress their position with the recent sacking of the Bayelsa State APC governorship candidate, David Lyon by the Supreme court over discrepancies in the certificates of his deputy, Degi Eremienyo Wangagra.
The argument is that if due diligence was carried out by the APC leadrship, the discrepancies in the certificate presented by Wangagra to the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) could have been detected.
However, despite some lapses by the APC in handling some issues, many believe that Oshiomhole has recorded more achievements than loses since he assumed office as the national chairman of the ruling party. Indeed, not a few argue that but for the doggedness and commitment of the former Edo governor to his party, the APC could not have been in control of the Federal Government today.
But some critical observers insist that the APC national chairman has been speaking a language that most members of the party are not used to in terms of conducting credible and acceptable primary elections. Those who have followed events in the party agree that Oshiomhole’s biggest headache has been with some state governors who insist that by their position, they should determine the outcome of the selection process of candidates in their states.
From inception, it was obvious that Oshiomhole wanted to assert the authority and independence of the APC national leadership unlike what used to be the case before he assumed office.
The day his leadership of the APC was inaugurated on June 24, 2018, the mood at the Eagles Square, was upbeat for obvious reasons. He came highly recommended having had a relatively successful two four-year tenure as Chief Executive of Edo, which culminated in the emergence of his successor, Godwin Obaseki, as governor.
Once the baton of leadership of the party was firmly in his grip, Oshiomhole attempted to establish the supremacy of the party, vis-à-vis the rule of collective bargaining -a process he was conversant with, having been a labour leader for years. Conversely, many argue that the purveyor of individual interests which had held the party captive for so long were unyielding in their bid to maintain the status quo.
One month after, he threatened to suspend the Labour and Employment Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige over delay to inaugurate the board of some parastatals under his ministry. He made it clear that he would not foot drag on the issues of discipline. Not a few were rattled by his statement; “If the Minister refuses, we will suspend him from the party. We must return to internal discipline. For me, it is the height of mischief for any Minister, you cannot purport to be an Honourable Minister and you act dishonourably. Nobody is greater than the party.
“If the President condones disrespect for his office, I will not condone disrespect for the party.”
Oshiomhole’s initial position, was an unmistakable notice to the discerning that a new Sheriff was in charge of the affairs of the party. About five months later, it was time for the primaries of the APC across the country. Much of the selection process for the party’s candidates in the 2019 national elections became enmesshed in controversies. In one instance, the National Chairman of the APC was reportedly detained by the Department of the State Services (DSS) on allegations made by certain governors that he received bribe to manipulate the party’s primary elections.
Conducting a hitch-free primary election became Oshiomhole’s biggest headache on account of the insistence of state governors to determine the outcome of the selection process. Many APC state governors took their fight to the party’s National Chairman, for refusing to play it according to their script. Among those who challenged Oshiomhole openly were former governors Ibikunle Amosun, Rochas Okorocha, and Abdulaziz Yari of Ogun, Imo and Zamfara states respectively whose bid to install their favoured successor failed.
Oshiomhole had stoutly stood his ground and continued to draw attention to his most cherished achievements.
He had said: “We, the executive members of the party were sworn in on June 3, 2018, at about 6 p.m. Two weeks later, we went to Ekiti to contest election against a PDP incumbent governor, Fayose and we won. Kayode Fayemi today is the governor of that state. Few months later, we went to Osun State, we contested a by-election, we won and we had the Osun State governor elected for his first term. Then we went for the national elections. You know all the tensions in the country at the time.
“The gap between President Buhari and the former candidate of the PDP, Abubakar Atiku was about four million votes. The one between President Buhari and former President Jonathan in 2015 was about three million. Under my leadership, this President has more votes than the first runner-up. We would like to claim credit for that because if it went the other way; we would be crucified,’’ he said.
Another attainment which Oshiomhole likes to gloat about is the defeat of the immediate past Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki in Kwara State. “We went to Kwara, we did ‘Otoge’ (enough is enough). We uprooted Saraki and you cannot commend me for this? Do you know who Saraki is? If you are talking of the smartest political player, seasoned smart guy, he is. But for every smartness he has, I have a superior smartness. At the end of the day, who won?”
Oshiomhole’s supporters argue that the APC has enjoyed a certain degree of decorum since Oshiomhole became chairman of the party but he literally speaks a language that most corrupt members of the party were not used to; he crushed egos and promoted selflessness. Not one to cavil at his opposition’s remarks, Oshiomhole aims at professionalism and excellence, two traits that have accompanied him since his days as a union leader. His ultimate objective, in the eyes of many is to ensure that the party’s structures and ideals are maintained and not used to serve selfish interests. This was clearly seen in his first public speech after the High Court ruling.
Oshiomhole said that he was more concerned about his legacy than the title.
“I worry more about what I will be remembered for when I was chairman rather than how long I was chairman.”
Despite his shorcomings, not a few argue that his impact would be felt by many and even his traducers are likely to regret their steps if Oshiomhole is pressured to step aside. The argument is that at least, none can accuse him of promoting anti-party policies or embezzling funds, hence,
he is aware of the battle ahead but is not having sleepless nights over it.
“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 man,” he said at that public address.
His confrontational style might have yielded him more friends than foes but his loss will cost APC more than just a title.
However, those who started the current round of troubles for Oshiomhole think differently. Incidentally, they are from his home state. “There will be peace in Edo state,” are some of the jubilatory comments that have greeted the suspension of Oshiomhole by a Federal High Court in Abuja recently. Justice Danlami Senchi of the court in Jabi ordered Oshiomhole to step down on March 4, pending the determination of the substantive suit by Edo state chapter of the party seeking his removal as the APC chairman.
The ruling came almost a fortnight to the next National Executive Meeting of the party which Oshiomhole should preside over. Going by the constitution of the party which stipulates that the deputy national chairman, South should assume the exalted office of chairman of the party in an acting capacity if there is a leadership vacuum, Ajimobi, who was approved as the deputy national chairman of the party, the same day was poised to fill in the seat.
But in another drama, some members of the party endorsed Victor Giadom, the party’s National Secretary to occupy the seat.
But there is no gainsaying that the ongoing drama is evidence of the crisis that pervaded the party which Oshiomhole have been trying to resolve. For many, the battle to remove Oshiomhole is more than meets the eye.