By Muhammad Ajah
I strongly believe that with the experience I have gathered in my public life, having served as President of NLC, governor of Edo, I have what it takes to take our dear party, the ruling party, to the next level”,Comrade Adams Oshiomhole told newsmen in Benin, the Edo state capital.
If the former governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole wins the chairmanship race of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), just one thing will happen. I will try to explain the thing with difficulty because I do not see any serious obstacle to his victory. As for qualification, he has all that are required to win. So, I play this song for him: “Oshe Baba climb for your seat; And do the job that you know well well”. It is on record that he, with wit and gumption, pulled Edo state from the clutch of then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I award him the “Maradona of party politics in Nigeria”.
It is hard to come across him and resist his witticism and pragmatic approaches to party politics. He has to win in order to regain the assurances that APC sustains it supremacy for a longer time and re-fix Nigeria for all of us. He has remained a livewire in the party. He has made a clear promise to ensure win-win solutions to the crisis within the APC, if elected the national chairman.
Oshiomhole has the skill to negotiate, persuade and hit equilibrium. He knows the dangers in the politics of winners-carry-all and losers-lose-all. Having been the president of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) during the turbulent times in the history of Nigeria’s democratic governance demanded strict adherence the rule of law and selfless activism. He ran all those times, with serious confrontations with the governments, but without veering off the cause of the people. He could not be framed up for he knew Nigerian politics and played it to its tune. He believes in President Muhammadu Buhari and also strongly has the passion to change Nigeria for good.
Nigerians need a leader with confidence. Nigerians are ready for progress but need a leader of worth and trust. APC needs a leader like Oshiomhole to amend the past mistakes of the party. Many governors of states of the Federation are comfortable with him. Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state declared that Oshiomohle as a bad news to other political parties wishing to contest 2019 elections. Described as a dogged fighter, a fearless and strong man, the governors have built up hope in him to strengthen the APC.
Another supporter has called him a no-nonsense man who will face and defeat the enemies of the party. Hoping on large percentage of the electorate from the north and west, it is believed that Oshiomhole would help the party to secure victory in the south for the president. It is clear that Buhari’s name was a campaign instrument for the victory of many governors in the north. But Oshiomhole did it in the south where the president’s fame was weak. “If you see any governor emerges in the South South or South East, it is not with ordinary strength. I believe that Oshiomhole’s coming will strengthen this party in that part,” Okorocha observed.
Oshiomhole has the full support of his successor, Governor Godwin Obaseki. The people of Edo and South South APC are behind him. Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shuaibu, the State House of Assembly Speaker, Kabiru Ajoto, the APC National Vice Chairman, South-South, Eta Hilliard have been with him through the campaign for the position. A huge number of members of the National assembly are hopeful of Oshiomhole’s victory.
Above all the supports he enjoys is that of President Muhammadu Buhari who evidently knows his worth. The president has endorsed him. But the party, in an attempt to maintain its supremacy as custodian of democracy, still let the position open for every party member with the interest to contest. Unfortunately, the former chairman of the party who had insisted on re-contesting, Chief John Oyegun, has thrown in the towel. Former Cross River governor, Clement Ebri is in the race.
There were speculations of two political heavyweights from the Southeast joining the race. They are the former Governor of old Abia state, Ogbonnaya Onu, currently the Minister of Science and Technology in Buhari’s administration and former Senate President from 2005 to 2007, Ken Nnamani. Onu, from Ebonyi state, has remained a faithful party stalwart who played key roles in the pre-merger and post-merger stages. Enugu state-born Nnamani who defected from the PDP was a factor in the truncation of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s third term agenda. Any of both would have the task of winning souls to APC in the Southeast and South-South geopolitical zones ahead of 2019.
Akwa Ibom state-born Chief Don Etiebet, an ex-Minister of Petroleum under General Sani Abacha’s regime is said to be favoured by some governors for the position. A man who is said to have good relationship with President Buhari, he served as the National Chairman of the now defunct All Nigeria Peoples’ Party (ANPP) when the President flew the Party’s flag against Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003.
But Oshiomhole, born on April 4, 1952, was elected Edo State governor in 2007 but was sworn in 2008 after the Court of Appeal validated his victory. He won re-election in 2012 and left office as governor in November 2016. Before his election as governor, he had served as the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress.
After facing the Governor Aminu Bello Masari-led APC Screening Committee, he declared that as a democrat who is used to contestations and competitions, he opposed tenure extension. “At least, I know one and we have contested against each other before. He rigged me out, I pursued him and I won and retrieved the mandate from him. I went back to seek second term and I won. I defeated him even in his local government. I won 18 over 18, defeating him in his ward, his unit, his local government and senatorial district”, he noted. However, there are observations that although Oshiomhole will make a good chairman because of his independent mindedness, he cannot be pushed around, an attribute that may make him resist control.
It will be recalled that the National Working Committee (NWC) of APC had unanimously voted for a motion to elongate John Oyegun’s leadership by one year. That was an adoption of a caretaker committee that would have conducted fresh elections. President Buhari rejected it but sought waiver for the incumbent officers to contest any position of interest. It created disaffection in the party as party members found the motion fundamentally faulty for being in contravention with both APC’s and Nigeria’s constitutions. The provisions of the two constitutions require any serving officer to resign from current post at least one month before the election.
The implication of that motion meant that any primary elections conducted by the caretaker committee can be faulted. That may have led to legal battles and upturning of elections after the 2019 elections. The chairmanship election has now been slated for June 23 after postponements. Buhari, who is the leader of the party, has charged APC governors to ensure unity of purpose for the convention for a strong campaign team ahead of 2019.
Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. Efirstname.lastname@example.org.