The APC is gradually being wracked by widespread indiscipline, and open brawling between party chairperson Adams Oshiomhole and some state governors.
Within four years of seizing power at the federal level from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Congress (APC) is on a mission to implode. When that occurs, it will be a self-inflicted injury. The APC is gradually being wracked by widespread indiscipline, disunity among rank and file and those who wield influence, lack of restraint among various cadres, and open brawling between party chairperson Adams Oshiomhole and some state governors. In various ways, the APC has shown it is no better than the PDP.
Everywhere you look, you will find pockets of top party officials at federal and state levels fighting with their fists, mouths, and feet. Ahead of general elections in 2019, everyone is fighting to advance their political and financial interests. Nigerian politicians do not normally wrestle publicly except when there are obvious financial benefits to be amassed. Those who have no strength for physical fight serve as cheerleaders for the combatants.
In a political party made up of politicians who hold divergent ideologies, it is not surprising that the APC would unravel one day. How could the chairperson of the APC who was celebrated and garlanded shortly after he was given the nod to lead the party in a new direction suddenly become a source of restlessness within the party? Within months of emerging leader, Oshiomhole’s good fortune has tumbled faster than that of any other leader of the party. On the day he was elected as APC chair, Oshiomhole danced gracefully and merrily from the podium to outside the venue where he shook hands with just about any member of the audience.
Everyone is mystified by the sudden turn of events. For Oshiomhole, the political honeymoon has ended much sooner than his enemies expected. His image as the poster boy and miracle maker who would reposition the party ahead of elections next year has been shredded by serious allegations of corruption. Oshiomhole is now fighting alone to clear his name. He is isolated, moving about like a man lost in the wilderness. He has just found out how capricious political friends can be when you need them. Those he assumed would support him in his current ordeal have abandoned him.
Against the background of his ongoing war with state governors such as Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State and others who are still hurting
that Oshiomhole did not endorse their handpicked candidates to contest the governorship election in their states next year, it is unlikely that Oshiomhole’s current dilemma exacerbated by that dizzying interrogation by officers of the Department of State Security Service (DSS), would end soon. The Sun reported last Saturday, 17 November 2018, that the DSS has submitted to the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami a report of its investigations into allegations of corruption levelled against Oshiomhole.
Interrogation by the DSS must have rattled Oshiomhole badly. Soon after the inquisition, he slipped quietly out of the country, a move that sparked rumours on social media. For days, Oshiomhole remained silent. This is strange behaviour coming from a man who usually spoke as a commander-in-chief and one with no character flaws. Before now, no one would have imagined that Oshiomhole could be distressed by serious allegations that raised questions about his morality, his level of accountability and transparency, and his credibility as a true party leader. Oshiomhole’s fate now rests in the hands of the DSS and, in particular, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General who will decide whether the DSS investigations have uncovered substantial evidence of wrongdoing that calls for further probe or prosecution.
Weeks before he disappeared from the public eye, Oshiomhole spoke angrily and publicly about his commitment to uphold party rules, the tenets of democracy, and his determination to end the culture of some governors attempting to create some kind of political dynasty in their states.
He said he was opposed to the idea that governors should handpick people who should contest as governorship candidates to succeed them in their states, particularly in cases where those candidates did not enjoy popular support. He said he could not understand why one governor and his commissioners who constitute a minority in a state should overturn popular support enjoyed by another candidate.
Following a meeting he held with President Muhammadu Buhari over two weeks ago, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha addressed a press conference in Abuja in which he criticised Oshiomhole’s style of leadership. Okorocha said: “… I’m here to clear the air that the presidency is not behind what Oshiomhole is doing in some of the states, which has affected our party negatively; and from my understanding from Mr. President, there is no such directive for Oshiomhole to do anything illegal or create any sort of injustice. So, Oshiomhole is on his own in this whole thing. There is no presidency’s support for him to refuse those candidates who won elections and give wrong candidates who didn’t win election.”
Okorocha did not have the last say. Emerging from his own meeting with Buhari, Oshiomhole addressed a press conference in which he said: “Let me say that if there is a choice between my conscience – what I believe is right and mortgaging that conscience in order to keep the job – I will have no difficulty resolving it in favour of my conscience. Those who know, know that at my age, I cannot learn new tricks.
I am absolutely committed to justice and fairness.”
With the cracks in the party widening, with Oshiomhole and the affected governors disagreeing openly, it is obvious that all is not well with the leadership of the APC. But let us be clear here. Oshiomhole’s current problems go beyond his battles with state governors. Prior to this time, he had carved out an image of a man in search of enemies. In his eagerness to demonstrate leadership, he used disrespectful language against high and low members of his party. Sometimes the language was offensive, abrasive, and authoritarian.
Perhaps more significant is the impact that Oshiomhole’s problems would have for the APC. The man is a representation of the APC. Whatever affects him also carries consequences for the party. Should the APC support a polarising chairperson or should it back some disaffected governors by dumping the garrulous party chair?
In reaching a definitive decision, APC leaders might be guided by the philosophy that a party leader is always expendable. While party leaders come and go, the party will remain. That decision, when it is delivered, would hurt Oshiomhole deeply. How he would respond is uncertain. But you can expect the man to fight back in any way he could.
Oshiomhole, we must remember, was a one-time militant labour leader. Unlike his predecessor John Odigie-Oyegun who emerged party leader in 2014 and was eased out of office quietly amid dissatisfaction expressed by national leader Bola Ahmed Tinubu and other party leaders, Oshiomhole may not go gently.
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