By Sufuyan Ojeifo
The Deputy National Chairman (North) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Lawali Shuaibu, recently orchestrated a storm in a tea cup when he went public with his one year-old animosity against the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. He did that through an insidious “personal” letter, which was essentially designed to sensationally demonize Oshiomhole.
But Shuaibu’s intended mischief could not be concealed despite the ‘stakeholder’s altruism’ which he celebrated as a basis for penning his warped narratives and about which he waxed sanctimonious. A copious reference to the role he played in the formation and registration of the APC smacks of misplaced self-importance in the collective effort that birthed the legacy party and achieved its historic victory in the 2015 general election.
Granted the historical excursion was to conjure a locus from which to activate his grouse about Oshiomhole in the media, Shuaibu’s entire narratives were premised on quicksand. The specifics, in this instance, were his claims that meetings of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC under the chair of Oshiomhole were periodically held outside the National Secretariat of the party in contravention of the party’s constitution.
I sought to identify where the rains began to beat Shuaibu and the APC’s NWC and what the grapevine revealed was quite interesting. The episodic meetings of NWC outside the National Secretariat, and sometimes incognito, were spawned by the crisis between the leadership of the National Assembly and the party (read the Presidency), which specifically pitted the out-going Senate President, Bukola Saraki, against the Party/Presidency.
The claim was that Saraki was always steps ahead of the party’s plans to oust him because he always got detailed information of decisions taken at the NWC meetings through a mole. In fact, fingers were said to have been pointed at Shuaibu. Consequently, to ensure that Shuaibu was outwitted, the majority of the loyal NWC members, with presidential approbation, devised the strategy of convening meetings in some extra-ordinary mode.
It was thus understandable that Shuaibu misconceived the mode during the period under reference and listed it as one of the many “sins” that Oshiomhole allegedly committed and for which he must resign. In fact, that remains Oshiomhole’s “original sin”. It had fed a cold relationship between them since last year. There was a quiet rumbling within the leadership of the APC at the time but Shuaibu could not give fillip to it to justifiably become a single cause of reasonable action.
Shuaibu’s letter, which he circulated in the media about the eve of the second-term inauguration of the APC-led Federal Government, apparently contains other sins allegedly committed by Oshiomhole. Perusing the letter, my summative conclusion is that the “agitated letter writer” has become a willing “fight-back” tool in the hands of some former and incumbent governors whose plans to transmute into pseudo-emperors and political godfathers, Oshiomhole’s reforms truncated.
The sweeping reforms Oshiomhole embarked on to ensure that party discipline and supremacy subsumed vested interests of governors in particular, were significantly unusual political stories of derring-do; of looking straight into the eyes of the storm in an uncommon flight of the eagle. I doubt if any leadership of successive ruling parties, since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1999, had been able to take that pragmatic action. Oshiomhole, with the support of President Muhammadu Buhari, cut the overbearing tribe of APC governors to the bone.
To change the mind-set of political leadership and membership in the scramble for power is not a joyride. Having been burnished in the fiery furnace of labour activism and the tempestuous cloak-and-dagger politics in Edo where he gallantly fought political godfathers and enthroned a successor after eight years in the saddle as governor, Oshiomhole was adequately prepped for the task of providing the administrative savoir-faire, with Buhari’s bulwark, for a renaissance in the APC.
The president’s support motivated Oshiomhole from the outset. Knowing he enjoyed presidential approbation that still approximates to a critical nexus between his and Buhari’s political outlook, the comrade chairman, in his characteristic ebullience, has been rambunctious in pushing through his people-centric reform agenda. There is therefore an exigent sense in which he shares in Buhari’s contempt for political elitism in Nigeria.
In reinforcing a significant template for dealing with political elite and opportunistic leaders who ride and rule roughshod over the people, Buhari submitted himself to direct primary election to emerge as APC’s presidential candidate. It was a test of popularity and acceptance by party members. The same method was to be applied countrywide in the choice of candidates for all elective positions.
But some “powerful governors” and “leaders” bent on foisting their goons on the party in their respective states, in defiance of the party’s resolve to allow the people to determine their candidates, almost torpedoed the party until they secured a concession to adopt indirect primary election. Some of them lost in the general election. To be sure, in Imo and Ogun states, direct primary election was conducted; in Rivers, indirect primary election was approved while in Zamfara, it was supposed to be direct primary election.
The topsy-turvy scramble for party tickets divided the leaders and members in the above states such that except in Ogun, where despite the insistence by the then Governor Ibikunle Amosun to push through Adekunle Akinlade, Dapo Abiodun secured the APC ticket and went ahead to win the governorship election; in Imo, the then Governor Rochas Okorocha who fielded his son-in-law as candidate on the platform of Action Alliance (AA), divided the votes that would have gone to the APC, thus allowing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to win the governorship election by default.
Intractable intra-party contentions about the mode of primary election and whose was the right group to conduct the exercise led to judicial intercessions that invalidated the process in Rivers and confirmed non-conduct of primary election in Zamfara as asserted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and eventually affirmed by the Supreme Court. Two scenarios emerged: in Rivers, APC was not on the ballot for the National Assembly and State elections while in Zamfara where it was on the ballot and won in the said elections, the Supreme Court judgment invalidated the party’s victory and awarded it to any party that scored the second highest votes in each of the elections.
Undoubtably, these are great losses, but there is a limit to which Oshiomhole can be entirely blamed for the setback. Oshiomhole played his part as a firm leader in the implementation of his reforms in the context of subsisting resolution to ensure fairness in the accommodation and promotion of the wishes of party members. He is not from Zamfara, Imo, Rivers or Ogun state. He represents a majordomo of the APC family countrywide and tried to serve the interest of party members to the best of his ability.
Unfortunately, desperate political leaders in the affected states, not Oshiomhole, who wanted to have their cake and eat it, had caused the APC a collateral damage. It is thus an unconscionable attempt by Shuaibu, acting as a tool in the hands of those who were dislodged by the wind of change/reform, to shift the blame for the loss entirely on Oshiomhole. The losses suffered by the APC are products of collective decisions, actions and inactions of the NWC and leaders in the party.
It’s about time the party discountenanced Shuaibu’s twisted narratives and embarked on aggressive reconciliation and healing of elements – former and incumbent governors, former ministers and former and serving NWC members – who are queuing up behind Shuaibu to unsettle the party. What the party needs most is focus on defence of electoral mandates and good governance towards consolidation in 2023.
▪ Ojeifo contributed this piece from Abuja via firstname.lastname@example.org