I read the back page piece by Levi Obiojiofor, titled “Oshiomhole meets his match,” published in Daily Sun of Tuesday, July 31, 2018, and I must say that I felt very disappointed at his commonplace drift. I had expected perspectives that were much more elevated on the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, in the number of contexts in which he tediously attempted to sardonically revise Comrade Oshiomhole’s individuality.
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Obiojiofor’s choreographed attacks on Comrade Oshiomhole remain, essentially, products of a flawed deconstruction. It is, without a doubt, jaundiced and unfair in all its ramifications. But then, I will not adopt Obijiofor’ strategy of hoisting Comrade Oshiomhole on a petard on account of his official actions and attacking his character so unconscionably in the guise of ventilating an opinion, forgetting that opinions are simply what they are, opinions, which are not sacred.
Suffice, therefore, to say that what Obiojiofor celebrated on the back page of the Daily Sun newspaper edition under reference was his perception with which he intended to influence or manipulate the judgement of undiscerning or uninformed members of the public who do not clearly understand the dynamics of the issues he laboured very hard to interrogate. In the process, he fell into the avoidable pastime of character attack.
Indeed, I find it somewhat salacious that Obiojiofor, in his opening gambit, would declare magisterially that Comrade Oshiomhole does not understand his job as party chair. Is that so? His thesis is that Comrade Oshiomhole’s definition of his job, which is to get the critics of the party and the President to toe the line or be thrown out, is off the wall. It is understandable if this is “wacky” to him as an outsider, except he wants to claim secret membership of the APC.
But for those in the APC, it is the ambience that the new leadership wants to create as part of conscious effort to entrench a culture of discipline in the party. It is not a happenstance.
It was one of the fulcra on which Comrade Oshiomhole hinged his electioneering for the position of party chair. He cannot, therefore, be indicted now if he is living up to his words. Instead, he should be saluted for walking his talk.
While I thank Obiojiofor for acknowledging that Comrade Oshiomhole has approached his job with characteristic panache, I, however, disagree with him that he (Oshiomhole) is arrogant. This again is a faulty perception of the Oshiomhole persona. You can accuse Comrade Oshiomhole of being too vocal. You can accuse him of being too assertive. You can even accuse him of not suffering fools gladly, but not arrogance. However, if the summation of all of these is arrogance in Obijiofor’s estimation, then I think it is good to be arrogant.
It is also preposterous to suggest that, since stepping in the saddle, Comrade Oshiomhole has abridged the democratic space of freedom of expression. How on earth could Obiojiofor have penned that reprehensible line that
the new creed in the APC is that “let all who have something to say be wise to shut their mouth”? Even in a junta, men of courage still stand to be counted in the articulation of their wise counsel.
Even though I had an idea from the title of the piece what Obiojiofor’s motivation was, I never thought his offering could be this pedestrian and irritating. The Comrade Oshiomhole-Chris Ngige saga does not qualify for or validate the tenor of the title. Rather than the misnomer of “Oshiomhole meets his match,” I would surmise that party supremacy threatens a resistant culture of indiscipline and laissez-faire in the conduct of APC affairs under a new leadership that knows and understands the issues. It is, therefore, not about contestation or supremacy battle. It is about rebuilding the APC and the culture of obedience to party regulations.
In getting party leaders and members to understand the direction to go, the national chairman must not be docile or passive about it. He must verbalise the issues, ventilate the space, exhort or even upbraid in the process. If the former leadership had been placid in its approach and the APC became an enclave of disrespect for constituted authorities, should that not be a good reason to change strategies? Comrade Oshiomhole, in fitting into the new imperative of “authority speaking” in the party, is benefitting from his essential persona as a man of strong will.
He does not vacillate or prevaricate. He takes on issues and challenges frontally, in line with the extant rules or regulations and within the ambit of the superintending authority of the party, which was why Obijiofor and others who had deliberately reduced the exchanges between Comrade Oshiomhole and Dr. Ngige (Minister of Labour and Productivity) as a personal war were wrong in their summation.
This is the reason I am surprised that, in spite of Obijiofor quoting exactly the words of Comrade Oshiomhole, to wit: “if the minister refuses, we will suspend him from the party … And, if the President condones disrespect for his office, I will not condone disrespect for the party,” he still went ahead to see Comrade Oshiomhole as the one talking. Comrade Oshiomhole was not the one talking. It was the party that was talking and this fact is validated by his use of the royal “we.” “We will suspend…” cannot be Oshiomhole talking. If he was the authority, he would have sued “I.”
The bit on the President was ostensibly taken out of context by propagandists and twisted by commentators. Those who watched the full clip on television would attest to the facts that Comrade Oshiomhole pointed out how some people have taken advantage of the fatherly and avuncular dispositions of President Buhari to misbehave. It was in the corollary that he pledged that the party would not tolerate any such disrespect.
Therefore, it is not Comrade Oshiomhole that is threatening to sack ministers, it is the authority of the party that is. And there is nothing Obijiofor and others can do about that or about the small frame of the man in whose hands the authority of the party is. In any case, the totality of these underscores the mission of the new APC leadership to rebuild and refocus the winning machine ahead of the 2019 general election and beyond. One of the main tasks is to remove the indiscipline that Obijiofor erroneously adduced for Comrade Oshiomhole’s perceived assumption of the powers that he does not have.
The party has disciplinary powers over all its members. In the exercise of those disciplinary powers and other ancillary regulations, the national chair, who gives a stamp of authority to them in concert with the President, cannot be said to have exceeded the limits of his powers if he threatens to ensure that ministers who are card-carrying members of the party are disciplined if they err.
In the final analysis, the argument by Obijiofor that chairing a party is not the same as effective leadership is moot. Nevertheless, I am not in pari materia with his suggestions that Comrade Oshiomhole does not have the capacity to listen, or to be decorous or to mediate, et al. His conclusion that these approximated to Comrade Oshiomhole’s major character flaw is uncharitable. The whole world knows that Comrade Oshiomhole is a good listener, which is why he is a good talker and he has shown a good measure of decorum and equanimity in mediation processes dating back to his years as labour leader.
The assertion of “a major character flaw” is, therefore, vehemently rejected. Obijiofor’s other arguments directed at the personal values and characters of Comrade Oshiomhole as well as the references to some of his actions as Edo State governor are puerile. Indeed, the good news about all these calculated attempts by opposition elements and back-end sponsors in the polity to denigrate Comrade Oshiomhole is his resolve not to be distracted from the mission ahead. To the continued chagrin of the opposition, Comrade Oshiomhole will speak clearly and emphatically, deploying his oratorical prowess on issues that affect the party as well as ventilate the space with the policies of government that need elucidation and reinforcement for better understanding by party members and Nigerians. With Comrade Oshiomhole in the saddle, better days are here for the APC.