THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu
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By Mohammed Adamu
Most Nigerian politicians are more readily ‘conservative’ and or ‘reactionary’ about politics than they are prepared to admit. Quite few are prepared to be ‘liberal’ and or ‘progressive’ about it. And yes, although the few liberal-minded ones may also lay claim to ‘progressive’ disposition, yet quite fewer even are practically expressive of that vaunted claim -to progressivism. Until the advent of the new Chairman of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, Adams Oshiomhole, one would’ve thought that to be ‘radical’ and ‘progressive’ at the same time is an ideological combination alien especially to our democratic clime. But then came Oshiomhole, a radical-progressive fermented, like the amber-hued cognac, by the processes both of ‘distillation’ in labor activism and ‘aging’ in the ‘oak-cask’ of party politics. How radically-progressive he was as Governor of his home State, Edo is not the subject of this piece. But here he is, at last, presiding over the affairs of an acclaimed ‘progressive’ party, the APC -which many believe has been stuck, these past almost four years, in the mud of reactionary intra-party politics and is now in dire need of a messiah.
But sometimes troubled and tribulated man, rather than avail himself the liberating hand of angelic messiahs from above, prefers often to pull the hand of salvation with him into the quagmire of his repeated transgression. And so if Buhari’s advent was the angelic ‘hand of God’ stretched to our drowning but ‘stiff-necked and rebellious’ nation, then the coming of Oshiomhole as Chair of the ruling APC seems more like the veritable descent of God Himself in aid both of ‘angel’ and of man. Nothing can be more ‘radically progressive’ than the bolt of corrective democratic enthusiasm gushing forth from this little man called Oshiomhole as he pulls a virtual lonely furrow to revive long dead party ethos necessary to re-oxygenate a dying democracy. And in doing so Oshiomhole has brought the brinkmanship of collaborative labor activism (which wins for all) into the treacherous, self aggrandizing murky terrain of partisan politics (which wins for special interest). I think those who accuse the man of confusing labor activism with partisan politics are only being mischievous.
And the question may be asked: is Oshiomhole’s progressive activism not far in advance of the progressive inclination of his ‘progressive’ party, the APC? Or just how much of the corrective democratic knight errantry of this petit, impatient new party helmsman, does the APC have capacity -or enthusiasm- to accommodate? Since Oshiomhole replaced what many party members said was a lack-luster, kill-joy predecessor, Odigie Oyegun, he has hit the ground running in a manner that many do not know whether to worry about his ‘haste’ or about his ‘heresies’. Or both. By the way, “It is the customary fate of new truths” the British biologist T.H. Huxley said “to begin as heresies and to end as superstition”. But whether Oshiomhole’s new political innovations will stop at being heresies or “end as superstition”, only time will tell. But paradoxically, the APC, in spite of its promise for ‘swift change’ has never hidden its penchant for slow, ‘rock-change’ gradualism.
No sooner than Oshiomhole came in as the new Sherriff of a determinedly renaissant APC than both his ‘haste’ and his ‘heresy’ stormily begin to overwhelm the party’s old ways of doing things. Oshiomhole has not only radically proposed direct primaries to give a truly fresh breath of democratic air to a suffocated internal party democracy, but even as his rudely-shocked conservative-progressive members were spoiling for a debate over a newfangled political idea, the Comrade was already in Osun State implementing it as a ‘done deal’. By the way, nothing can be more radically reformative of our captive internal party democracy than the idea of direct primaries which seems like an excellent remedy against the familiar vice of a few opportunistic politicians, against the interest of the many, hijacking political parties and messing up our democracy’. Said America’s William Harrison “…the only legitimate right to govern is an EXPRESS grant of power from the governed”. And if it makes sense to suggest that ‘what concerns everyone should be resolved by everyone’, it makes even better sense to insist that all members of a political party –and not just it’s so called self-anointed ‘stakeholders’- should determine who the party throws up for contest.
Some of his compatriots in the APC who suffer a conservative-reactionary malady about politics had worried -over the plan to make Oshiomhole Chairman. But other non APC members, especially those of the leading opposition party, the PDP, had their worry also. They both wished that this grand plan by the Asiwaju to re-enervate the APC with a radical-progressive leadership did not come to pass. The conservative-reactionary wing of the APC, owing to its ideological affliction or its self-aggrandizing indulgence or both, had feared that it would be retrogressive or counter-productive, or both, for a radical-progressive in the mold of a combative labor activist to take charge of the affairs of their political party; and the opposition PDP, owing to its prodigious partisan foresightedness, saw the plan to make Oshiomhole Chairman as the APC’s resolve, at last, to trade with the PDP every ‘Roland for an Oliver’ in the new phase of PDP-initiated hostilities in the build up to another electoral Armageddon after that of 2015.
Unleashing its effusively garrulous and egregiously cantankerous ‘junkyard dog’, Oshiomhole –a ‘dog’ reputedly as ravenous in caustic and acerbic language as he is rabidly so in venomous bites- was APC’s way of telling the PDP to ‘BRING IT ON!’ ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH AND THE HELL LET’S ALL GO BLIND AND FANGLESS! Making Oshiomhole Chairman was, in fact, a way of telling Wadata Plaza that no political party has the monopoly of offensive language –nor any, the monopoly of venomous bite. It was thus preposterous and ironic in a sense, that the PDP would accuse the newly installed APC Chairman of ‘playing the role of an attack dog’, rather than that of a ‘decent’ party helmsman; because –in actual fact- ‘playing the role of an attack dog’ was the intention of, and not the deviation from, the APC’s original plan. And to drive home that point, even if with a dose of biting sarcasm, Oshiomhole himself had no qualms publicly admitting he was fielded as a utility player to play both defense and attack. And so you will be right to say that those pre-election puritanical rumblings of partisan dissent within the PDP against the candidature of Oshiomhole for the reason that he had a corruption charge against him, and then the post-election suit filed by that party challenging the propriety of his election as Chairman, were like the desperate remonstration of the ‘cowardly dog’ named ‘Courage’ protesting the selection of a particular dog as his opponent in an impending ‘dog-fight’.
But then they said that Oshiomhole’s combative, muckraking approach to partisan issues is the reason the APC is currently in such a mess –referring to the gale of defection from the party by some NASS members and a couple of governors. In fact his predecessor, Oyegun said that he had handed over a well-knit ‘broom’ to the new Chairman, but that Oshiomhole has failed to keep it in one united bunch. This is as laughable as an insistently ‘righteous’ Jonathan alleging that he had handed over a ‘sound economy’ to his successor, and that it was Buhari’s unclerkly handling of it that eventually collapsed the economy. But the irony of it is that whereas they are quick to thumb Oshiomhole down for a political mutiny (namely the gale of defections from APC to PDP) which seed had been sown long before his advent, yet they’ll not remember to credit him with some of the more momentous counter-defections too, from other parties to the APC.
But it is to be expected that every novel move by a radical-progressive leader in the midst mostly of conservative-reactionary followers will be deemed politically heretical. And as with everything he has done since coming to office, Oshiomhole’s somewhat bossy attempt to corral and to compel political appointees of the President, especially ministers, to constitute the boards of Federal agencies and parastatals under them –novel and progressive as this should be- was deemed no less heretical than his alleged ‘imposition’ of ‘direct primaries’ on the party. And although this particular ‘heresy’ of the Chairman of a ruling ‘progressive’ party bossily breathing down the necks of the President’s political appointees to do the needful in their respective offices ran into troubled waters especially with the Labor Ministry’s Chris Ngige, yet, it is no less a commendable heresy than that of ‘direct primaries’. In truth what seemed heretical to conservative-reactionaries is merely a universal democratic tradition that political parties should not only be there as vehicles for gaining elective or appointive offices, but that they should also be command observatories watching over and exhorting their elected and appointed political wards to democratic good governance. When the House Minority Leader, Gbajabamiala advised that APC legislators who refused to be enticed with automatic tickets to defect to PDP, should be ‘compensated (ironically with automatic tickets), Oshiomhole was the lone ‘heretical’ voice who objected to that anti-democratic nonsense.
Nothing can be more radically progressive especially in a decadently conservative and reactionary system than having party leaders, like Adams Oshiomhole.