By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Right from the outset of his interest in the chairmanship of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole knew that his programmes of reform, which formed the major plank of his electioneering promises, would not only ruffle the feathers of some influential stakeholders but also break their backs.
Some of the governors, who reluctantly threw their weight behind him because of the massive endorsement he got from President Muhammadu Buhari, also knew that they had Oshiomhole’s independent-mindedness (read stubbornness) to contend with in the months ahead. Perhaps, they were not sure of the extent he would go to push through his reform.
As it were, the sheer dimensions of the Oshiomhole reform and its implications for some governors’ political structures in their respective States have become writ large. Real and pseudo political empires have collapsed under the magnitude of the reform like a pack of cards.
Whereas, the feeling of apprehension was noticeable in their dispositions, the emperors who have been subdued in the states never thought that apocalypse was inches away from their skin.
Their nemesis, one-time president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and former governor of Edo State, was magisterial in his pursuit of the policy to return the party to members. On the basis of that, he resisted the urge to pander to the whimsical and entrenched desires of some of the governors for impolitic control of the party structures in their respective States.
I am not too sure that the APC, which, by the circumstances of its formation, was change-inclined, bargained for the significant reform that Oshiomhole has driven, thus far, by his utter will-power as well as moral and mental discipline. His can-do spirit has unraveled in its vast flourish; but, in a fit of resistance by warmongers, he has become a butt of attacks in the onerous task of cleansing the Augean stables and setting the party on the trajectory to greatness.
But the governors, in their determination to fight back to reclaim their dismantled structures, have since thrown all manner of dirty tricks into the mix. Some governors unsuccessfully mobilised for a no-confidence vote in Oshiomhole. They also purportedly influenced the invitation by the Department of State Services (DSS) over the conduct of the governorship primary elections in some States. When the first two gambits failed, they resorted to the third option, which is to consistently make bribery allegations through some proxies.
In all of the shenanigans, Oshiomhole has been uncompromising to the chagrin of his traducers who are doing a great job, stoking the fire of the war of allegations of bribe-taking even when they have not directly produced the specific evidence. Characteristically, they have resorted to media propaganda, using their hirelings to disseminate the phantom amounts in millions of dollars that Oshiomhole allegedly received.
Their odious strategy is simple: continue to assail the sensibilities of Nigerians with the lies so that, with time, they could pass off as truth. Interestingly, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some of its leaders, particularly the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, have joined in the fray to assassinate the character of Oshiomhole and destroy his hard-earned reputation. Again, the expectation was that the stratagem would discount the moral high ground that the APC national chairman occupies.
But as a veteran of many struggles in labour activism and survivor of subterfuge in the nation’s cloak-and-dagger politics, the raging battle of wits and grits is for Oshiomhole to win. He is poised to run away with victory, having put the control of party’s structures in the hands of members in realisation of the new governance reform that has, as its essential components, party discipline, supremacy and internal democracy. This has, undoubtedly, benefitted from the strategic support of President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Indeed, Oshiomhole has put up a defence that appears more rational against the backdrop of the allegations of bribe-taking coming out from the camps of the embittered governors. He explained that the primary elections were not about money. In one of his ripostes in the last one week, Oshiomhole had said that the exercise was not about money or bribe-taking, arguing that if it was, nobody had resources more that the governors to dispense in that circumstance.
Oshiomhole has continued to insist that the governorship primary elections fulfilled the requirements of transparency and due process. The significant narrative by him is that the governors who lost out had deployed state machinery, to no avail, in their desperate bids to impose their preferred candidates on members of the party in their respective states.
I posit that Oshiomhole’s uncompromising stance on internal democracy which is sine qua non for the party’s victory in the general election. And, with the critical presidential support he enjoys, he has left the rank of the governors, who lost out in the primary elections, exasperated, thus making them to resort to all manner of despicable self-help.
The objectives of that enterprise, among others, centred on forcing Oshiomhole to resign his position before the window of substitution of candidates closed so that his successor could revisit the issues and do their biddings. But because that failed, the conspirators set out to erode the moral basis of Oshiomhole’s leadership through the medium of irresponsible allegations and propaganda.
It is remarkable that Oshiomhole has served notice to those who propagate such defamatory comments of his intention to seek redress in court. In a desperate situation of partisan frenzy where good reputations are unkindly sullied for parochial political ends, it is in apple-pie order to call on the courts for injunctive reliefs and compensation for damages.
And, the fact of the narrative should not be lost in that the war of allegations resulted from the dismantled political empires of some governors that Oshiomhole turned into crying and browbeaten emperors. Oshiomhole was politically pragmatic enough not to align with them to promote their imperial control of the party structures in their states.
Oshiomhole’s commitment to return the party to members, which was the reason he swayed the national working committee to introduce direct primary election for the selection of the party’s standard bearers, would be judged by history and remembered by posterity. In fact, the significance of that policy continues to be reinforced by President Buhari’s decision to submit to it.
Seventeen States chose the direct primary election mode while nineteen States settled for indirect primary election. What the governors who settled for indirect primary election wanted to achieve was to use the state government machinery and their entrenched structure in their respective State Chapters of the party to predetermine the governorship candidates and those who would be awarded the tickets for other elective positions.
The move was to unconscionably shut out the vast majority of the members of the party in the choice of their representatives, a development which was contrary to the spirit of the reform. To be clear, the reform was geared towards achieving internal democracy together with party supremacy and discipline.
The party members, according to reports, are happy with the decision of Oshiomhole in Imo State where Senator Hope Uzodinma is the bona fide governorship candidate at the expense of Governor Rochas Okorcoha’s son-in-law, Uche Nwosu; and, in Ogun State where Governor Ibikunle Amosun could not, single-handed, foist his preferred candidate, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade, on the party as the governorship candidate. Prince Dapo Abiodun is the validly-nominated candidate.
Zamfara State presents the same scenario. Governor Abdulazeez Yari had threatened fire and brimstone, to no avail, to produce his crony as governorship candidate. As a corollary of his failed brinkmanship, INEC has claimed that the APC in the State could not field candidates for all elections in the 2019 as, according to it, the party did not conduct its primary election within the time set for the exercise. The matter is before a court of competent jurisdiction. Meanwhile, we watch the the unfolding war of allegations, the mongers and other theatrics in the APC with keen interest.
Ojeifo contributed this piece from Abuja via email@example.com