By Majeed Dahiru
Former labour leader, former governor of Edo State and current chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole is poised to become a trigger of an anticipated constitutional crisis in the election of the leadership of Nigeria’s ninth National Assembly. In what appears as a regular fit of adrenalin gush, with the characteristic bulging blood shot eyes and cold sweat dripping from all over his petite body, Oshiomhole is fast gaining notoriety for verbal indecency. His incendiary verbosity and brash leadership style that inflamed the APC into a mortal combat arena of political gladiators, if allowed to be taken into the affairs of National Assembly, have the potency of setting the entire polity aflame.
Obsessed by the extraneous to liberal democracy concept of party supremacy, Oshiomhole is now the chief agent provocateur for an emerging trend of a disruptive form of politicking, which does not clearly draw a distinctive line between governance and politics, citizenship and partisanship, constitutionalism and party conventions, with the ultimate goal of approximating loyalty to party leadership with patriotism to the Nigerian state. To underscore this fatal attraction to party supremacy, Oshiomhole has set off a storm with his latest epistle on the desirable form of leadership of the ninth Assembly.
Declaring the APC as a winner that must take all, Oshiomhole made the most brazenly insensitive proposition in the 20 years of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic, when in an address to a gathering of newly elected APC members of the House of Representatives, he said, “We will not share power in the House of Representatives and the leadership must ensure that critical committees that drive government are chaired only by the APC members. If the Nigeria people wanted them to be chairmen of committees they would have voted for them”. Oshiomhole stretched this ignoble admonition farther when he enthused, “so all the chairmen of committees, except the one that is statutorily reserved for the opposition, which is public accounts, they can have that.”
By this proposition, Oshiomhole seeks an installation of a National Assembly leadership that will emerge, not by the constitutional process of election by members across party lines, but through the anointing of the APC party leadership. By insisting the winners, in this instance the majority APC, must take all positions, Oshiomhole has expressed complete disregard for the significant minority of other parties in the National Assembly. The implication of this is that the former governor has crossed the red line from liberal democracy, wherein the principles of negotiation, concession and reconciliation as the kernel of political stability are exhaustively deployed to arrive at a broad consensus in throwing up the leadership of the National Assembly, to an autocratic civilian dictatorship where leadership is installed by command and subject to the control of the party hierarchy, whose supreme leader is the head of the executive arm of government.
By deploying such a carefully crafted narrative that portrays the presence of the opposition in the National Assembly as a disincentive for positive collaboration with the APC-led executive, Oshiomhole is setting a devious agenda for partisan purity, with the ultimate aim of arriving at a one-party dictatorship. In effect, Oshiomhole’s proposition will obliterate the separating lines of power between the executive and legislature, as the National Assembly will be reduced to a rubber stamp appendage of the Presidency.
In the light of Oshiomhole’s passionate obsession with the dogma of party supremacy and his eloquent elucidation of its significance for the performance of the party in government, it is important to straighten this crooked narrative. The very idea of party supremacy has no place in a liberal democratic setting. The concept of party supremacy as a dogma, is a common feature of one-party dictatorship, as were the cases in the former Soviet Union, North Korea, Vietnam, China, Cuba, etc. In most of these countries, there were armed struggles between opposing ideological leanings before the formation of the State and the winning ideology became the sole heir to power and ruling party, as a matter of conquest, and hence it took all appurtenances of power. The Bolshevik (Communist) party seized power after the fall of the last Tsar of Russia, following the 1917 revolution and established the Soviet Union as a one-party state. Similarly, the Communist Party of China, led by Chairman Mao Tse Tsong, defeated the Kuomintang forces of General Chiang Kai Shek, after a prolonged civil war and declared the birth of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, as a one-party dictatorship. To keep the triumphant ideology alive to guide the emergent nations, a centralised power block of party ideologues assumed the roles of the guardians of the people’s aspirations, as espoused in the party manifesto. This strategy was particularly strategic to maintaining alignments during the cold war era.
However, this is not the case with liberal democracies such as Nigeria, seeking a practice in emulation of other advanced democracies in Europe, North America and parts of South East Asia. The 2019 general election, like previous ones, was not an ideologically induced armed struggle resulting in victory for the APC over other political parties and the birth of a new nation under its ideological guide, which would have justified the notion of a winner taking all. Nigeria’s democracy is guided by constitutionalism and every election cycle is a healthy contestations of ideas on the best model of governance for the country and no political party may be designated as an enemy of the state.
In a liberal democracy, individuals who are elected to serve in various capacities of government on the strength of the ideals of a party – ideals that encapsulate an integrated strategy for inclusive socio-economic development of citizens of the state – are morally bound to be faithful to the obligations of their social contract with the people, in line with their campaign promises, but not to the dictates of self-appointed party apparatchik on their individual ambitions or alliances. That Oshiomhole, the chairman of a ruling party is passionate about a concept that is an anathema to liberal democracy is a gross display of ignorance. Oshiomhole’s eloquence of ignorance in elucidating the dogma of party supremacy becomes even more sinister in the reality that the APC, like every other party, is lacking in both ideology and coherent pragmatic ideas for socio-economic development of Nigeria and its citizens. The APC, like other parties, is nothing but a special purpose vehicle for grabbing power for self-service and any talk about party supremacy approximates the supremacy of the assault on Nigeria’s treasury through a most sophisticated political heist.
The fact that the APC, though the majority party in the National Assembly, does not enjoy an absolute majority, therefore necessitates consultative negotiations, concessions and reconciliation, leading to a broad consensus around the emergence of the leadership of the National Assembly to ensure sufficient stability to such an extent as to allow critical pieces of legislation to enjoy multi-partisan support in the course of the ninth assembly. The Oshiomhole option of installing a National Assembly leadership from the APC headquarters, under the prompting of the executive arm of government, wherein the winner will take all in the ninth assembly, can only be achieved through extra-constitutional means and democratic subterfuge.
Majeed Dahiru, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.