Governors on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are at war again. They are on familiar ground: their common enemy is not the main opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP) but the Chairman of their party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. TAIWO AMODU unveils the forces and reasons for the belligerence.
Less than five months after his assumption of office as national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is about to be bullied out of the party national secretariat.
His predicament is more pathetic, unlike the fate that befell his immediate predecessor from same home state of Edo, Chief Odigie Oyegun. It is the same forces that neutralized Oyegun, and the battle is the same: who controls the party structures, in the aftermath of the primaries, ahead the general elections. But while the enemy camp, the governors were divided in the plot to remove Chief Oyegun, there is unanimity of voices in their fortuitous battle to unseat the former chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress, (NLC).
At the weekend, an embattled Comrade Oshiomhole was on top of his voices, alerting the nation of sinister move to remove him. The Save-My-Soul statement signed by his media aide, Simon Simon Ebegbulem, fingered certain stakeholders as behind the budding plot.
The statement read in part: “We must appreciate the fact that it has pleased the Almighty God to place him in the saddle of APC leadership at this time for a purpose.
“The purpose has begun to manifest in its vast flourish and ramifications: instilling discipline, ensuring party supremacy, promoting due process, dealing with impunity and executive arrogance wherever they manifest to undermine intra-party electoral processes in the states.”
Comrade Oshiomhole further noted that those not comfortable with his resolve to restore party supremacy were up in arms against his noble agenda for the ruling party.
“From the outset, we never expected that those who cherished and supported the status quo, which Comrade Oshiomhole supplanted, would cave in easily under the magnitude of the current political revival that he spearheads.
«Indeed, while the progressives are enamored of change, the conservatives find it difficult to embrace it. That is the current reality in the deliberate effort to rebrand the APC.
«Again, we were not, in the least, deluded that the process of rebranding or rewriting the narrative of the four-year old party would be easy. What we are witnessing in the APC today is Comrade Oshiomhole’s adroit management of the strains and pains that accompany the birth of a resuscitated governing party.
“The leadership provided in the recently-held primary elections and the large-scale integrity of the processes are developments that should hence serve as exemplars in the administration of governing parties.
“Indeed, the message therein is very clear that the party, and not pseudo political empires in the states, has the power to superintend the primary elections for the nomination of the party’s candidates in the general election.
“While the party will not surrender its functions, which are constitutionally circumscribed, to any other entities, it will always be ready to moderate the divergent tendencies and mediate the disparate political camps in the interest of party cohesion.
“This is one of the hardnosed truths that the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC preaches and practices with an apostolic zeal to the chagrin of some influential stakeholders in the states.
“Comrade Oshiomhole envisions an APC that is capacitated to pragmatically build a corpus of leadership and membership that do not only submit to the high ideal of party supremacy but also the credo of party discipline.
These-party supremacy and discipline- are two fundamentals that had been eroded even before the emergence of the Oshiomhole leadership. It is sad that while the national chairman is working round the clock, some stakeholders have thrown selfish political agendas into the mix to threaten the building of institutional capacity for the APC.”
“These influential stakeholders, according to grapevine, have begun to mobilise to pass a no-confidence vote in the leadership of Oshiomhole, having failed to impose their preferred candidates on the party in the nomination process.’’
While the statement was silent on the specifics, it was easy for discerning party faithful and Nigerians who have shown more than passing interest in the recent development in the APC that the innuendo, ‘’influential stakeholders’’ was targeted at the ubiquitous governors.
Oshiomhole, in his inaugural speech as chairman, said he was determined to inspire confidence-building in the party by ensuring the practice of genuine internal democracy. The man of the soap box further declared that his leadership would ensure that those holding elective offices on the party platform submit themselves to it. The party, the former leader of organised labour union, noted would be the envy of other political parties in the African continent, including the African National Congress, (ANC) of South Africa!
Those familiar with the undemocratic process that threw up Oshiomhole, a system which ensured that he was the sole candidate for the exalted office were not bemused over his zealotry.
Nigerian Tribune checks revealed that others in the race, who announced their withdrawal days before the convention that proclaimed Oshiomhole as chairman through voice votes, were Professor Oserheimen, Clement Ebri, and Chief Ibrahim Emokpaire.
The arduous task
Determined to walk his talks of taking the party structures from the governors and asserting its supremacy, his first battle was with the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige (incidentally a former governor!) over the latter’s refusal to constitute the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, (NSITF). Oshiomhole “ultimatum” to the Minister of Labour was rebuffed, leading to a media diatribe between the duo.
“For me it is the height of mischief for any minister, you cannot purport to be an honourable minister and you act dishonourably and nobody is greater than the party.
“And if the President condones disrespect for his office, I will not condone disrespect for the party. And when we expel the minister we will prevail on the president that he can’t keep him in his cabinet; people who have neither respect for his own decisions nor have respect for the party without which they would not have been ministers. No minister is above the party and they have taken undue advantage of the president’s fatherly disposition.”
Ngige in his response said he had inaugurated three boards in the ministry but would not be in a hurry to inaugurate that of Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), because of an alleged N40 billion corruption scandal by the former board.
The APC chairman gave a hint with the Osun state governorship primary that while the party constitution offered three options in selection of candidates for elective offices: consensus, direct and indirect, his mind was made up for the direct primary as the best option for the party.
The former Edo State governor submitted that the direct primary would take the party back to its ordinary faithful and ultimately, deepen internal democracy.
He said: “We have decided that in order to ensure popular participation, and to deepen democracy in Osun State, in line with the provision of our party constitution which allow for either direct or indirect primary, we have resolved that the governorship election primary in Osun State will be conducted on the basis of direct primary. What that means is that every card carrying member of our party will participate in the process of nominating the flag bearer of the party.
“This for us is the most democratic way to conduct the election and is in line with what our critical stakeholders from that part of the country want and we are quite happy to oblige. The whole idea of that the more we allow our party members to participate in the process of nominating candidates, we will remove the issue of corruption or monetizing the processes of nominating ageing candidates, in addition to the fact that party members will have a sense of ownership of the outcome of the exercise.
‘’ Our democracy has to grow and our constitution allows for this process and I am proud that the people of Osun State are ready to go through the whole hog of allowing party members rather than allowing party caucus to determine who fly our flag. I think that is more democratic.”
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Checks revealed that even when the party resolved at its NEC meeting to use only the direct primary for the nomination of its presidential candidate and allow each state to pick the option it preferred, Oshiomhole was adamant until the intervention of the Presidency.
At a meeting with governors held last month before the commencement of the primary, the APC chairman told newsmen that reason had prevailed and he was going to allow each state explore any of the option allowed by the party constitution.
He said: “I think my task and the task of the party is clear. We have a tradition as a progressive party to submit ourselves to the dictates of our party and we believe in internal democracy because we are democrats and democracy must begin from within the house before we can do it outside…
“Our task is very simple; obey the rules of the party, obey the rules of fairness, obey the rules of natural justice and that is what we mean when we talk about free and fair primaries,” he said.
Imo State Governor and Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Rochas Okorocha announced that they had agreed on indirect primaries in states.
“We met with the chairman and we have resolved that in support of the party that we are going to have free and fair primaries. Everybody will be given equal chance to participate in the primaries which will be transparent, free and fair. We have adopted both direct and indirect and most of the states are going for indirect primaries, but for the president it is going to be direct primaries.
“So, we have all resolved to assure Nigerians that we are ready for the primaries and we are ready for the main election as decided by NEC and we are sure that come 2019, APC shall have the victory. We are calling on all our supporters to support the party.’’
The final ambush
The primaries conducted across states in the country were marred by irregularities, as it turned out to be a bullying process, with aggrieved parties resorting to litigations. In Imo, Rivers, Cross Rivers, Rivers and Zamfara, Kano, amongst others, the fate of the party hangs in the balance. In Zamfara, the INEC had since written to notify the ruling party that it would not be eligible to present candidates in the forthcoming general elections.
INEC in a memo, “Failure To Conduct Party Primaries in Zamfara State Within The Stipulated Time Frame, ” signed by its acting secretary , Okechukwu Ndeche and addressed to the APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole notified the latter that his party would not be eligible to field candidates in Zamfara as the Commission, noted that the APC failed to conduct primaries.
But in its reaction, the APC NWC in a letter dated October 10, 2018 and addressed to Mr. Ndeche claimed the ruling party candidates emerged through affirmation, not primary.
Oshiomhole further claimed in his response to INEC that aspirants for elective offices on its platform in Zamfara agreed to produce candidates, through a consensus arrangement, which he said was affirmed by delegates, after what he called “intense horse trading.»
In Imo, certain aggrieved aspirants boycotted a fresh primary ordered by the APC NWC which was won by Uche Nwosu, the son-in-law to the sitting governor, Rochas Okorocha. The aggrieved aspirants insisted that the primary conducted by Ahmed Gulak which declared Senator Hope Uzodinnma as winner be upheld by the party. They have since approached the court, with a prayer that the fresh primary won by Uche Nwosu be declared a nullity.
The governors whose anointed candidates lost out in the primaries continue to squeal against the process, accusing Comrade Oshiomhole of acting a script.
On Monday, Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, whose anointed choice, Adekunle Akinlade lost the governorship ticket to Dapo Abiodun, believed to be the choice of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Aremo Olusegun Osoba, former Lagos and Ogun states governors, respectively, has pointed fingers of scorn at the trio of Oshiomhole, Tinubu and Osoba as he accused them of falsifying figures. Amosun, whose parallel primaries were not accorded recognition by the Oshiomhole led NWC dismissed the entire process as a charade.
He said: “The President already knows there was no election in Ogun State. He knows that they just went to Lagos, write all results, and that what they did is fraud. If the National Working Committee or the National Chairman said there was any election in Ogun State, It was all fraud. That is what I said.
“Mr. President already knows, there was no election in Ogun State, other than the one we held,” the governor said.
“The issue of Chief Osoba and Asiwaju and co, what we said was that there was a deafening silence from their end, and silence means consent.’’
Before Amosun’s outburst, the First Lady, Aishat Buhari, whose brother, Mahmud Halilu lost the governorship ticket to the sitting governor, Jibrilla Bindow had spoken in the same vein, as she accused the embattled Oshiomhole of impunity.
Mrs Buhari, in a tweet on her official handle @aishambuhari, restated her disdain for what she called the extortion of aspirants being perpetrated in the ruling party under the watch of comrade/ activist.
“It is disheartening to note that some aspirants used their hard earned money to purchase nomination forms, got screened, cleared and campaigned vigorously yet found their names omitted on election day, these forms were bought at exorbitant prices.
“Many others contested and yet had their result delayed. Fully knowing that AUTOMATIC tickets have been given to other people.»
«All Progressives Congress being a party whose cardinal principle is change and headed by a comrade/ activist whose main concern is for the common man, yet, such impunity could take place under its watch.”
Who blinks first?
While the governors are regrouping, smarting for a showdown with their party national chairman, the latter appears to put up a façade of a man, prepared for the war ahead of him. The camp of the governors, led by their chairman, Rochas Okorocha are not relenting; Oshiomhole emboldened by his benefactor, Bola Tinubu is not sounding apologetic. Who blinks first? The answer lies in the belly of time …