The Oshiomhole Saga and APC Survival, By Zainab Suleiman Okino
Six years after a successful merger of four political parties—ACN, ANPP, CPC and a faction of APGA, to form the ruling APC; two consecutive presidential victories and even with the federal government in its kitty, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has, been unable to build on its successes, unite the nation and its members for a common purpose.
Instead, the party is so fragmented down the line and incapable of ruling well and speaking with one voice, such that there are palpable fears it might disintegrate after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure expires in 2023. However, instead of worrying about the uncertain future of their party, chieftains are consumed by their selfish interest and are preparing to open a new frontier of conflict.
The latest of the chaos that has become second nature to the ruling party is the survival of its comrade chairman, Adams Aliu Oshiomhole. The booby traps and pot-shots some members throw at him are capable of further derailing the party.
Like a general, Oshiomhole had fought many battles in the Labour movement and won almost all. His crowning glory came in a court-ordered victory for him to become the governor of his home-state of Edo. Becoming the chairman of APC was the icing on the cake. The workers’ general is however currently swimming in hot soup, fighting on all fronts, to keep the party intact, and himself relevant.
Senator Kabiru Marafa and Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno state have since set the ball rolling for a heated debate about Oshiomhole. The hard-talking and fiery Senator blamed it all, APC crisis, that is, on the ambition of some serving governors on the platform of the party. The anger of the Senator, who lost out in the battle for supremacy between him and ex-governor Abdulaziz Yari, boiled over when he accused some governors of plotting to replace Oshiomhole with their lackey, Yari, to spite President Buhari.
“The fight is not against Oshiomole, it is actually against the president. It is only that they don’t have the guts to say it now, but they will when the time is ripe. It is evident that the plot to unseat Oshiomhole by a gang of President Buhari’s adversaries has thickened. This plot is merely aimed at hijacking the party structure, and hand it over to Yari – who till now is the arrow head of all the people that harbour bitterness against the president.
“The governors in concert with their cronies within and outside the party are doing everything possible to hijack the party structure to ensure that the president and his sympathisers are edged out of the power equation in 2023”, the Senator said, adding that Yari’s contempt for Buhari is not hidden. He also warned Buhari not to hand over the party structure to his enemies.
It soon emerged that these enemies, according to another report are Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa) and Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), based on a revelation by Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno state.
He was reported to have hinted the president of the plot by the quartet to shove Oshiomhole aside and make him (the president) irrelevant in the build-up to 2023, according to The Nation report last week. Zulum was said to have told the president at a meeting where all of them were present thus: “Mr president, you see, all these governors seeking the removal of Oshiomhole are doing so because they are aspiring to be president in 2023. This is why they are calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it. Must we destroy the party because of presidential ambition? I think we should be careful”
I cannot understand why Zulum and Senator Marafa are in a race to protect the president’s interest when he will not run in 2023, but behind the façade, lurks the Oshiomhole-must go-grand-scheme and those against, which again is not entirely strange in a coat-throat polytricking we play. So whoever succeeds in hijacking the party now, will be a beautiful bride in the next three years.
The Oshiomhole saga is a major crack that has the capacity to further divide the party; and yet another indication that managing victory is more difficult than winning elections. In Nigeria, all you need to win an election is well-orchestrated propaganda, a rigging strategy and compromised governmental intuitions. In any case, APC has since proved that it is not a model for credible, free and fair election. If in doubt, cast your mind back to Osun, Kano and Kogi governorship elections.
Since they are not markedly different from the much derided PDP, let’s drop all pretensions and think Nigerian, with a note of caution though. Time was when winning was the only language understood by the ruling PDP. Today winning election as opposed to building a legacy party that can stand the test of time is also the only thing that matters to the APC. If that is the case, why sack Oshiomhole who has been recording victory after victory for the party even in difficult circumstances.
Is the ambition of a few more important than the party surviving beyond 2023? The political turf is a rough terrain, not meant for the lily livered. Love or hate him, Oshiomhole’s mentality of winning by all means, fair and foul, has ‘helped’ the party, which, as it stands today, cannot afford a weak leadership at the top.
When an organisation faces an uncertain future and reputational deficit, words such as rebranding and repackaging come into play, but in politics re-engineering of a party’s core values could be costly.
If in doubt, ask the PDP. When it fell into bad times before the 2015 election, wailers called for the head of the then chairman of the party, Bamanga Tukur. Jonathan heeded the call and brought in Ahmad Muazu. They nicknamed him (Muazu) the game changer; he did change the game and the music too. It was under him as party chair that the PDP collapsed after 16 years. Those with the institutional memory of what became of PDP in 2015, are warning of dire consequences for APC, if Oshiomhole is shown the way out now.
It is therefore understandable that the party hierarchy are apprehensive. Oshiomhole may be at daggars’ drawn with his predecessor, Governor Obaseki back home, but that is not enough a standard, because even ex-president Obasanjo was originally not reckoned with and even lost election in his home state, Ogun in 1999. In any case, the proverbial adage that a prophet does not have to be honoured at home may well apply.
Although Oshiomhole has caustic mouth and can take on anybody, he has however used it to intimidate the opposition to the advantage of his party. He is combative and controversial, but only people like him can stand the heat in APC’s kitchen where fire rages 24 hours. Oshiomhole’s hard tackles through hard talks is his staying power against those who tower above him in height and other ramifications.
Therefore, as some APC governors scheme to oust Oshiomhole, they should not forget that a weakened leadership of the party at the top will make them vulnerable and make it impossible for them to realise their ambition even.