Oshiomhole: Beyond the song and dance
Former governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, was destined to be national chairman of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) at this intersection in the nation’s political evolution. His emergence approximates a part of the philosophy in the muses of H.L. Detridge that we are all victims of our actions; our destinies are controlled by the cosmic rolls of the dice, the whims of the stars and the vagrant breeze of fortune that blows from the windmills of the gods.
Divine elements, apparently working in harmony with existential considerations as well as the avuncular disposition and approbation by President Muhammadu Buhari, had culminated in the consensual coronation of Oshiomhole at the party’s June 23 national convention in Abuja. The magnitude of the strategic political concession that produced the Oshiomhole consensus also bore the obligatory imprimatur of the party’s 24 state governors who provided the essential validation that resolved the previously contentious issue in his favour.
From the initial audacious notices of intention to vie for the position of national chairman by no fewer than five persons and the acrimonious outlooks that the scramble for the position had assumed, huge pressure had been piled on the party under the leadership of Buhari who had to act expeditiously and sagaciously by making two down-to-earth and back-to-back interventions. The first was to overrule the decision by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party to extend its tenure by a year by calling for congresses and convention, thus obviating a legal conundrum.
The second and, perhaps, more strategic intervention was the expression of his preference for Oshiomhole to take over from Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as the new navigator of the APC ahead of and beyond the 2019 general election. Significantly, Buhari did not impose Oshiomhole by presidential fiat. His candidature merely and justifiably enjoyed lofty presidential recommendation. That recommendation was shorn of political shenanigans. There was no need for Buhari to dissimulate and vacillate on the issue, having been convinced that the party needed the Oshiomhole persona at this time.
The president had placed the issue on the table for interrogation and critical reflections by other influential stakeholders. The fact that all the contentious issues eventually resolved themselves in Oshiomhole’s favour derived from the stakeholders objective considerations; whereas, a potential flash point could be located in Oyegun and Oshiomhole’s aspirational exertions. There was no doubt that Oyegun had party apparatchiks who could have provided the rampart for his possible re-election. But having provided the leadership compass to the APC from 2014, the shape and texture of his leadership capacity could not escape critical appraisal in the circumstance of the contemporary governance issues and the vagaries of the 2019 burgeoning political nuances.
The question would then arise: did Oyegun’s leadership style, as exemplified in Buhari’s first term, bear great and appropriate relevance in the planned prosecution of the 2019 general election and the concomitant political gerrymandering? The answer must have informed the final gravitation by some state governors, who were initially insisting on Oyegun, to embrace the political correctness of Oshiomhole’s candidature as a presidential fait accompli. Concurring with Buhari’s judgment was political wisdom. Dismounting their ego horse was in pari materia with the constructive and productive ramifications of the president’s preference.
In fact, respect for Buhari’s preference remains quite significant in the post-convention political interactions and party administration. For a governing party with a president who is revered and sure-footed in the exercise of power, it would have been foolhardy for party operatives and their back-end sponsors in government to dig in their feet in their go-getting bid to upstage the president’s strategic applecart. Besides, the president, as the poster child of the administration, receives the approbation and disapprobation for both actions and inactions. It is within the context of this cosmopolitan reality that Buhari seeks to guarantee his date with history.
As the unofficial candidate of his party, Buhari is already on the cusp of history and he would not want the electoral tragedy that consumed the former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to happen to him. Disloyal antics of the leadership of Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had largely contributed to his defeat and his becoming the first incumbent to be so demystified in the annals of presidential elections in Nigeria. Buhari knows that it would be farcical if that happens to him. This perception underpinned the choice of a restless, can-do and surefooted Oshiomhole and will continue to validate his appropriateness for the position.
By and large is the fact that Oshiomhole understands the magnitude of the task ahead. Even before the national convention, he had fixed his eyes on the bigger picture of consolidating the Buhari legacies and appropriating the people’s buy-in for massive electoral advantage in 2019. While the atmospherics of victory around him were titillating his followers, he was not only clear-headed but also in serious dialogue with himself and in a series of across-the-board conversations with prolific minds on how to grow support for the party and the president. Indeed, he knew from the outset that the chosen enterprise would not be a tea party.
Therefore, beyond the song and dance of his ultimate coronation, Oshiomhole’s concern is how to lock in the vast majority of votes required in renewing Buhari’s mandate in the 2019 presidential election. That is how to prove that the confidence reposed in him by the president and the party was not misplaced. That is the burden that Oshiomhole bears. There is a mission to accomplish. Even though the objective conditions that produced Buhari’s presidency under Oyegun’s chairmanship in 2014 differ from the conditions that obtain now, there is a sense in which Oshiomhole would be inclined to want to surpass Oyegun’s accomplishments. That is the spirit: to build incrementally and purposively on his predecessor’s legacies.
Indeed, having consummated the ultimate leadership deal, Oshiomhole’s immediate task is to chart a trajectory towards a renewed, vibrant and robust political configuration in the APC. He is expected to deploy his persuasive powers and negotiating skills in the execution of his responsibilities and the initial chore is to resolve the problematic issue of the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) that stares the APC in the face like a veritable bugaboo. He is obligated to build a united political family in strategic counterpoises to the dialectics of oppositional politics.
Oshiomhole is also expected to espouse and expound socio-political and economic issues within the context of APC’s manifestoes and governance philosophies. In driving pro-people national conversations, he will be defining and giving bites to the party’s electioneering onslaught against the opposition ahead of, during and after the 2019 presidential election. With a massive capacity for oration, he is expected to persuasively sell Buhari’s re-election campaign promises to Nigerians by energizing and sustaining narratives that are essentially pro-Buhari and anti the leading opposition party and its presidential candidate.
However, his post-election exertions, once he delivers Buhari, will centre fundamentally on deploying the platform of his position as national chairman to elucidate government’s policies on both national and global platforms. He will provide necessary defence to the actions and inactions of the Buhari administration within the contexts of prevailing conditions that have given rise to them. The president and the party can rest assured in Oshiomhole’s capacity to prolifically promote the issues involved in governance for citizens clear understanding. On that score, Oshiomhole, who has already put his nose to the grindstone in both frontline and rearguard tasks that will conduce to utilitarian benefits of the Buhari administration, will not disappoint.
Ojeifo, editor-in-chief of The Congresswatch magazine.