If we are not to sing the nunc dimitis for the party by 2019, then APC members must rally round to save their party from the attrition of Adams Oshiomhole’s mode of leadership. When a captain who is hired to guide a ‘sinking’ ship to the shore, becomes the ship’s own nemesis, commonsense dictates that the passengers take their collective destiny into their hands.
When Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole of the “go and die infamy” took over the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) late June, following a fairly successful National Convention of the party, not a few persons within the rank and file of the party, had thought that he was coming to guide the party through the rocks it was visibly headed to at the time. Coming from an impeccable background as a labour leader and two-time governor of Edo State, Oshiomhole was expected to deploy his energy, charisma and the goodwill that greeted his ascension to the headship of the party, to position it for the 2019 general elections, but only a few weeks down the line in that capacity, disillusionment seems to be the order of the day. And many analysts are of the view that we are just getting started.
Within the space of six weeks of leading the party, the APC has lost about 15 senators from its fold, including the Senate president, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who is an indisputable power arsenal; 37 lawmakers of the federal House of Representatives; a great number of members of the Kwara and Benue Houses of Assembly; at least three state governors from strongholds of the party; a deputy governor in the North West region, and the list continues to grow. But it is not necessarily in the incidence of these defections that Oshiomhole has failed to show leadership. Of course it could be contested in his favour that the stage was already set for the defections before he came upon things. It is, however, in the manner that he has reacted to what is clearly an episode in a series of political tsunami that leaves much to be desired.
If Oshiomhole met a party that was standing on the edge of a precipice, he has unwittingly pushed it off the cliff through a style of dictatorial leadership that can only annex and polarise the party faithful. If he met a house that was divided, he has succeeded, in record time, in sowing more discord within what was meant to be an amalgam of progressives. If my memory doesn’t fail me, he has been involved in at least two heated rows with senior members of the APC over what ordinarily ought to be settled within the chambers of the party. The case of Chris Ngige, the honourable minister for labour and productivity, over the non-setting up of the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) stands out in this regard. And as I write, the status of that intra-party rift that many people agree was needless is not known, as it was ill thought out from the beginning.
Oshiomhole, in a classic case of playing the ostrich, claims not to know that the mass exodus from his party has been occasioned largely by the disaffection of members as a result of what many of them have termed as not being carried along in the affairs of the APC.
Oshiomhole’s rhetoric has been anything but conciliatory, for a man saddled with the responsibility of uniting a party battling for its soul, even while many members continue to play down this notorious fact. Rather than this, what we have seen is an unprecedented thumping of chest, the giving of ultimatums, threats of sanctions and passionate use of innuendos to cajole alienated party members. A simplistic but now familiar way of explaining this away to Nigeria, according to Oshiomhole, is to tell them that those leaving the party are persons who are no longer comfortable with a system in which money is not shared. Through this warped logic, Oshiomole could be seen as making a case, albeit, a weak one, that his party is one of saints and people with aversion for the misappropriation of public funds. Never mind that this same party was seen the other day in Ekiti State compromising the integrity of an electoral process. You may also pretend that you do not know that this is a party that gave birth to the Babachir Lawals of this world.
Oshiomhole, in a classic case of playing the ostrich, claims not to know that the mass exodus from his party has been occasioned largely by the disaffection of members as a result of what many of them have termed as not being carried along in the affairs of the APC. He claims not to know of the political humiliation of the Senate president that led to his rethinking of his political address. The few conciliatory moves we have seen him embark upon have been confrontational and it is not surprising that they have yielded no result.
Oshiomhole says he’ll not beg anybody to stay within the party. He argues that all those who have left rode to power in 2015 on the popularity of President Muhammau Buhari. In his quintessential manner of resort to derogatory metaphors, he described these people as “big masquerades with no political value” and challenged them to popularity contests in their respective constituencies. He told those who are still contemplating a departure, to make hay while the sun shines, as the party under his leadership is not ready to tolerate unprogressive elements. He said that if the president was ready to tolerate rubbish, he would have none of that while he is chairman of the party. The other day at a state rally in Bauchi, speaking in smattering Hausa, he declaimed that in politics, one honest man was better than 500 dishonest men. By this strange political arithmetic, Oshiomhole was saying in essence that all those who left the fold of the APC were dishonest men who should not be taken seriously by the masses.
Oshiomhole may be a hardnosed fire eating personality – a character-trait which no doubt helped in his illustrious labour days – but the earlier he shed the toga of activism in the discharge of the duties of his current office, the better for him and the APC, which stands at the threshold of what would be a keenly contested election in 2019.
It is not known whether Oshiomhole’s problem is occasioned by the overzealousness that often characterises a person’s accession to a new office or position. But whatever it is, all sides agree that he is not going about the superintendence of the party in the way it ought to be, more especially at a time the party hangs on a balance. I shudder to note that he made no visible effort to contain the dispute that culminated in the defection of the deputy governor of Kano State, Professor Hafiz Abubakar a few days ago. Perhaps he must have written the man off, as another un-progressive element who does not belong in the party. His abrupt dissolution of the Kwara State structure of the APC the other day, and poor management of the running crisis in the Kaduna State chapter of the party, are all testaments to what has been a poor style of leadership.
If we are not to sing the nunc dimitis for the party by 2019, then APC members must rally round to save their party from the attrition of Adams Oshiomhole’s mode of leadership. When a captain who is hired to guide a ‘sinking’ ship to the shore, becomes the ship’s own nemesis, commonsense dictates that the passengers take their collective destiny into their hands. If under the more taciturn and gentlemanly Odigie Oyegun, the APC gained more grounds and managed her internal problems with greater ease, then something must be radically wrong with a leadership that has shed those grounds and risks losing more in the shortest space of time. Oshiomhole may be a hardnosed fire eating personality – a character-trait which no doubt helped in his illustrious labour days – but the earlier he shed the toga of activism in the discharge of the duties of his current office, the better for him and the APC, which stands at the threshold of what would be a keenly contested election in 2019.
Nkannebe Raymond, a public affairs analyst, wrote in from Lagos. Comments and reactions to firstname.lastname@example.org.