Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Among the very few past national chairmen of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole may go down in history as the man who faced and survived the harshest and most consistent impeachment and sack threats.
Call him the lucky one with the solid backing of the presidency and/or cabal, and one may not be far from the truth. Again, call him an iron-clad, dogged fighter and a man with an ordained survival strategy and one may equally be right. However, what may perhaps describe him aptly is a cat with nine lives.
Right from when he muscled out his predecessor and kinsman, John Odigie-Oyegun, in what many termed biggest fraternal political stab at the back, to take charge of the leadership of the ruling party, Oshiomhole has continuously fought one survival battle or the other to remain in the office.
Despite being accused of various allegations, ranging from high-handedness, dictatorship, fraud, incompetence among other forms of unpalatable words, Oshiomhole has remained resolute like the rock of Gibraltar, in fighting the battle of his life, resisting every attempt or conspiracy to disgrace him out of office.
If the torrent of attacks did not come from his divided family, the APC National Working Committee (NWC) members, disgruntled party stakeholders like factional forum of APC state chairmen, non-NWC and NEC members, Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), the sack onslaught sometimes comes from the presidency. In reality, Oshiomhole has been confronted with endless battles to remain in his exalted position.
While the former APC National Publicity Secretary, Bolaji Abdullahi, blamed his exit from the ruling party on his ‘high-handedness and dictatorial mentality’, Oshiomhole’s deputy, Lawal Shuaibu, who unleashed more ferocious attack on him, had demanded for his immediate resignation over what he described as gross administrative infractions and malfeasance.
The Director General, APC PGF, Dr Salifu Mohammed Lukman, perhaps, pungently but tacitly delivered the inner thinking of the APC governors in the personal letter he wrote to him to equally demand for his honourable resignation.
As if the demands were insufficient, physical and legal arsenals have equally continued to be hauled at Oshiomhole especially from his home front, the APC Edo State chapter, culminating in his contentious sack from the party and more recently, from another of his deputies, the Northeast National Vice Chairman, Mustapha Salihu.
He did not only describe him as an illegal national chairman, but also instituted a legal action against him at an Abuja court, praying that he leaves his office following the Edo court judgement upholding his sack from the party.
Regrettably, members of the secretariat staff were not left out in demanding for the removal and the head of their national chairman. But, for Oshiomhole, who has resolutely withstood the stormy conspiracy and orchestrated plans to pull the rug off his feet, it has been a case of the harder they come, the harder they fall.
In fact, conscious of the magnitude of the battle threatening to consume him, he had described himself variously. At the peak of the battle last year and apparently responding to the degree of the conspiracy to oust him, he had, likened himself to a dustbin receiving all manners of dirt as a leader.
Only this year, he had, equally described himself as a good tree with good fruit that must constantly attract stones, boasting that his detractors are fighting a lost battle.
However, political watchers, had, after critical evaluation, averred that apart from the solid backing of the presidency and the cabal, nature may have also contributed in sustaining Oshiomhole in the office till date.
They argued that at every stage the battle to consume him rises to fever pitch, expected and unexpected electoral and legal victories usually smile on the party to divert attention and rescue Oshiomhole from the hangmen and elongate his days in the office.
Only recently, in an attempt to trivialise the spate of crisis rocking the party, he had noted: “Every time I pick up newspapers and see where they are writing that APC is in crisis and by the time you turn to the next page, they will announce that APC has won this or that elections, I was like, if crisis is what it takes to win election, maybe we will continue to be in crisis.”
Oshiomhole’s travails could be traced to the build up to the conduct of the party primaries to elect party candidates for the 2019 general elections when he failed to diplomatically manage the various clashing interests at the grassroots, states and national levels of the party.
Apparently overwhelmed during the party primaries, he had watched helplessly as crises brewed between him and the governors of Imo and Ogun states, Rochas Okorocha and Ibikunle Amosun.
He equally seemed stunned by the attacks coming from Enugu State chapter of the party, especially from disgruntled senatorial aspirant, Osita Okechukwu, who took him to the cleaners. It was the same from Adamawa State, where it was speculated that he refused to endorse the First Lady’s anointed governorship aspirant.
The ugly situations were the same in Lagos State, where he was allegedly at a dilemma whether to pitch tent with the godfather of Lagos APC or the immediate past governor over who takes the ticket of the party. The situation was the same in Zamfara, where the then state governor even warned him not to send any delegation to conduct the primaries for the governorship and other elective positions in the state.
From the North to the South, East to West, Oshiomhole became the man to be hated and devoured. It climaxed to an intolerable level at some states where he was physically pelted with stones and other objects while making a podium appearance during presidential campaigns especially in Ogun State.
In fact, it took the party’s victory at the presidential and National Assembly polls and celebration of the re-election of President Buhari to douse the tensed, turbo-charged political atmosphere within the party, provide respite for the embattled former governor of Edo state and restore peace of the graveyard within the party.
However, few days to the May 29, 2019 President Buhari’s second tenure swearing-in date, fresh crisis erupted and reared its ugly head again. Miffed by what it described as the ignoble role he played during the primaries that affected the fortunes of the party at the elections, Oshiomhole’s deputy, Shuaibu, had released a bombshell, urging him to resign his position immediately.
Shuaibu had in a letter dated May 27, 2019 personally addressed to the party chairman, noted that in advanced democracies, people who fail to add value or build over and above what they met on assumption of office should “honourably resign”.
Accusing him of leading the party to the path of extinction, he emphasised: “arising from the loss of a sitting APC government in Zamfara State, where you directly personally created the problem leading to the painful complete loss of APC’s electoral fortunes, it is my honest opinion that your ability to ensure this party flourishes is deficient as you lack the necessary composure and you also don’t possess the capabilities and the requisite experience to run a political party.
“I write this letter with a very deep heart and high sense of responsibility, thinking because I am a critical stakeholder in the APC project. I write with my hands shaking, arising from the realisation of my involvement in a project that is currently seen as failing, even before achieving the ambition of its founding fathers. I never found myself in any failed project.
“In advanced democracies, people who fail to add value or build over and above what they met on assumption of duty show some civilised 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 the last primary election exercises,” he quipped.
Shuaibu’s letter did not only send negative signal to the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but also presented the APC as a party divided even in victory. For some, the letter and demands came at the right time while to others, it was ill-timed.
Days later, the immediate past Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, had joined in the growing list of those demanding for Oshiomhole to honourably quit office.
“I endorse it. The truth is that with Oshiomhole, this party would go down by the time President Buhari finishes his second term,” the aggrieved former Minister, still bitter with the denial to contest the Oyo State governorship ticket fired.
However, fortunately for Oshiomhole, while the increasing demands for his resignation and other fundamental issues raised in Shuaibu’s letter dominated the political discourse, the APC victory at the presidential poll and the glamour of President Buhari’s swearing-in ceremony did not only douse the tension and provide succour for him, it rather turned the table against the writer, Shuaibu.
Many hauled abuses at his embittered second-in-command, blaming him for working as PDP mole to dampen the party’s moment of celebration of Buhari’s victory at the poll ahead of the swearing-in ceremony.
Call it another temporal reprieve or Pyrrhic victory for Oshiomhole, the joyous moment turned the heat on his detractors, rescuing him again from the hangmen.
When many thought that the storm was over for the former labour leader, the simmering rift between him and his successor at the Edo State Government House, Godwin Obaseki, reared its ugly heads.
Apparently identifying with their own, to declare war against Oshiomhole, greater members of the APC governors, indirectly passed a vote of no confidence on him through the personal letter the DG of their forum wrote to him.
The letter among other things claimed that only his resignation would restore unity and peace in the party. Pushing their case further, recent report had it that for the intervention of Borno State governor, Babagana Zulum, who killed the alleged plot hatched by the governors, Oshiomhole would have been ousted at a meeting of some APC governors with President Buhari.
However, hardly had the letter and plot achieved its desired aim than the party scored another political electoral point, winning the litigation over the disputed presidential election at the Supreme Court.
The APC victories at both the November 16, 2019 Bayelsa and Kogi states governorship elections were all Oshiomhole required to eclipse the letter from the DG PGF, which trended in October to the build up to the election last year.
Expectedly, the victories at both the Supreme Court and at the governorship polls ostensibly rendered the potency of the letter ineffective, giving Oshiomhole another temporal reprieve. He did not only survive that thick plot but soldiered on boastfully leading the victors to have handshakes with Mr President.
Only recently, the demand for his removal got to another zenith with the National Vice Chairman Northeast, Mustapha Salihu, not only declaring him an illegal national chairman, unlawfully unfit to preside over any meeting of the party but also guilty of many other sundry infractions.
Storming out of the NWC meeting recently, he had told newsmen: “Illegality has been prevalent in this party since Oshiomhole took over. There is never a time for official meetings. He constituted electoral committees, a night before primary elections. That was the reason we have all the problems we had during the general elections.
“The party was moved from the National Secretariat to his private office at Aso Drive. Illegality has continued. We have taken this for too long because we took the advice from our elders but the illegality knows no bound. The man will dream agenda and come and pass them.
“I have seen a subsisting court order somewhere gotten from our party in Edo, they followed the procedure to suspend him from his ward, local government, state and his suspension was announced and court upheld it. I have not seen any court that vacated that subsisting court order. So, I am not recognizing him as the national chairman, he doesn’t have the right to call for any meeting,” he fired.
Mustapha did not stop there, he, in collaboration with other party stakeholders instituted an ongoing legal action against Oshiomhole. However, the recent onslaught against him only trended few days before the victories of the APC at the Supreme Court, which did not only make Oshiomhole a hero but also a super national chairman, relegating the conspiracy to remove him to the background.
Oshiomhole may certainly be a prophet without honours at home following his rejection at his home State Edo, but from the North to the South, East to West, he has continued to receive support and backing with a recent vote of confidence on him from a high-powered delegation led by the governor, Umar Ganduje of Kano state chapter that paid him courtesy visit.
However, how long Oshiomhole intends to continue to clutch to the sinking ship of his rough tenure is still shrouded in mystery and lay in the womb of time. How long can the presidency and the cabal continue to sustain him and how many of APC’s expected victories can weather these gathering storms and check assembled projectiles waiting to be hauled at him?
If he survives the alleged plots from the still aggrieved Progressives governors and other disgruntled party stakeholders and chieftains, will he also survive the political landmines strategically laid for him, waiting to explode on his face, at his home front, Edo? Only time will decide Oshiomhole’s future and fortune as the APC boss.