There is something of a political drama that has engulfed the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC). At the centre of the theatre are the party chairperson Adams Oshiomhole and some members of the party who have one grievance or the other against Oshiomhole and the party. Last week, the nation woke to the startling news that Oshiomhole, the man who must be obeyed, had been suspended as party chair by a high court in Abuja.
Barely 48 hours after the court ruling, Oshiomhole summoned a media conference in Abuja in which he alleged that his suspension was engineered by politicians who did not like his style of leadership. In his single-minded belief that he was always right, Oshiomhole also directed his anger at the judge who suspended him.
Oshiomhole suffers from a mix of character flaws. He is abrasive. He lacks tact. He is inflexible. He is easily irritated by things other leaders would overlook. He is too capricious. He is power-driven. He talks too much, sometimes to the detriment of his own case. A man who talks too much and listens less is bound to commit fundamental errors of judgment. He sees himself as the only man endowed with divine wisdom. A smart party chair must be accommodating, compromising, and a sympathetic person with a high degree of people-to-people skills.
How could Oshiomhole who was celebrated shortly after he was given the endorsement to lead the APC in a new direction suddenly become the cause of agitations within the party? On the day he was elected, Oshiomhole danced stylishly and cheerfully from the podium to outside the venue where he shook hands with those who wished him well and those who wished him harm.
During his coronation in 2018, many people saw him as the miracle worker who would transform and reposition the party before the 2019 federal and state elections. In fairness, one must admit that Oshiomhole achieved some successes within the time he has served so far. He led the campaign that returned President Muhammadu Buhari to a second term. He also successfully steered the APC to electoral victories in states that were deemed unconquerable, notwithstanding numerous allegations of rigging. But these and other achievements may not be enough to appease Oshiomhole’s enemies, particularly those determined to see him axed.
It is not an exaggeration to say that, within the two years Oshiomhole has served as APC chairperson, he has made far too many political enemies who worked deliberately to undermine his leadership and the interests of the party.
The APC under Oshiomhole’s leadership is about to implode. When it happens, it will be self-inflicted damage. The party is haemorrhaging seriously. There is widespread indiscipline and disunity among the leaders and ordinary members of the party.
Last year, the APC experienced open brawling between Oshiomhole and some former state governors who were unhappy with the way the party conducted its state primaries ahead of the 2019 elections. At that time, Oshiomhole fought former state governors such as Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, and Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, who were offended that Oshiomhole did not approve their exclusively selected candidates to contest the governorship election in their states.
With Oshiomhole and the then affected governors disagreeing openly, it became clear that all was not well within the APC. Oshiomhole’s problems extended beyond his quarrels with the former state governors. He once had a stoush with Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige whom he ordered to swear in board members of four agencies and parastatal within his ministry. Not only did Oshiomhole command Ngige to inaugurate the boards within seven days, he also threatened the minister with suspension from the party, if the minister refused to obey the order. However, it was the discourteous language and aggressive tone with which Oshiomhole communicated to a minister that caused the public to censure the APC chair.
In his response to Oshiomhole, Ngige said emphatically he was not intimidated by one man’s threat of suspending him from a party he helped to establish.
Soon after the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election, Oshiomhole transferred his anger to former Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, whom he accused persistently of mismanaging the economy. He used hateful, spiteful, and insulting language to describe Okonjo-Iweala. In an interview published in the Vanguard of Sunday, August 23, 2015, Oshiomhole savaged the integrity and moral character of Okonjo-Iweala. He said scornfully of the former finance minister: “Okonjo-Iweala is a failure; there is no question about that. She cannot withstand rigorous public scrutiny.” But look who is talking.
Oshiomhole’s enemies might point to his temperament as a major weakness. When he was Edo State governor, Oshiomhole failed in 2013 a fundamental test of character, maturity, responsibility, and ability to control his temper when he came across a street trader in Benin City. He reprimanded a woman who was selling her wares along a major highway in Benin and ordered his aides to seize the woman’s merchandise and to remove her from the spot.
The woman knelt down and begged Oshiomhole to show mercy. Her pleas did not receive attention. When the woman informed Oshiomhole that she was a widow and deserved some consideration, Oshiomhole was even more enraged by that revelation. He shouted at the woman in front of television cameras and journalists: “You are a widow. Go and die!” That callous remark by the then governor exposed his volatile nature. There was no need to abuse the woman, particularly when you realise that the woman’s late husband was a policeman who lost his life in the service of the state and the country.
By telling the woman “You are a widow. Go and die,” Oshiomhole implied that it was a crime for a woman to be a widow. It is not an offence under our laws for any woman to be a widow. The woman in that episode did not choose to become a widow. Widowhood is the outcome of an unfortunate event that occurs in a married woman’s experience.
Oshiomhole, who projects himself as a public prosecutor and defender of the nation’s conscience, should be examined closely so we can understand the true character of the man the APC crowned party chair. Since his election, he has spoken as though he is the elected President of Nigeria. Some people have asked the question: “What is it about Oshiomhole that makes him carry himself around with the swagger of a man who has appropriated all knowledge, notwithstanding his limited political achievements?”
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), we must remember, was the platform through which Oshiomhole rose to become Edo State governor. Unfortunately, as labour leader and governor, Oshiomhole frequently engaged in melodramatic performances that diminished rather than improved his public image.
There are valuable lessons to be assembled from Oshiomhole’s political problems.
Lesson number one: All forms of power are ephemeral. In other words: “No condition is permanent.”
Lesson number two: Don’t sacrifice your family, relatives, and close friends while serving a political party in Nigeria. Sooner or later, the party will abandon you but your family and authentic friends will stand by you.
Lesson number three: Never count on the support of party leaders in good times or in bad times. That support is as fickle, frivolous, unfaithful, untrustworthy, and unreliable as the promise of marriage a decadent man makes to a prostitute.