APC crisis: Takeaways from Buhari’s intervention
• Edo, Origin Of Crisis Still Far From Resolution
Immediately the embattled national chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, received a lifeline from the Court of Appeal and regained his seat, the first step he took was to convoke a meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. It was a masterstroke, full of optics.
Coming same day as the much talked about controversial National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting that was to bury his hopes of resuming the office of national chairman, Oshiomhole succeeded in driving home the point that he was back and in charge. It was also an opportunity for him to implement the directives of his ‘superiors’ as part of the fence-mending measures to wean the ruling party away from internal bickering.
But removed from those winks of the eyelashes, most Nigerians continued to search for what could be described as the major takeaways from the third round of skirmishes in the national headquarters of APC after it produced the Federal Government.
The first was the demand for the replacement of former chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, followed by the disagreements after the election culminating in the notable letter from the Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Lawal Shuaibu, which sought Oshiomhole’s immediate resignation from office.
Within its about seven years lifespan as an amalgam of former opposition parties, APC has not failed to show that it is being haunted by its self-made ancient demons. That could be why in the most recent macabre dance involving the national chairman, state governors elected on the party’s platform and other critical stakeholders, the question remains as to whether the peace deal brokered by President Muhammadu Buhari is bankable.
Could it be that the parties to the squabble are merely buying time? How far could the issues at the epicenter of the supremacy battle in Edo State be said to be close to a resolution? And recalling how the Ahmed Tinubu ad hoc reconciliation committee announced by President Buhari tottered between Sokoto and Kaduna States before packing up, after accusing the former national chairman of frustrating its efforts, how reliable could the Bisi Akande intervention team be in hammering out issues that could birth sustainable peace in the party?
Courts, Constitution Versus Akande Committee
WITHIN a space of one month the leadership of APC at various levels are entangled in multiple court cases, even as it secured several court rulings without addressing the essential ingredients of the rifts within the party.
It all boils down to one crucial fact: There are many things that are not very tidy about the ruling party and most of them are fundamental.
Apart from the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which undertook a meticulous membership registration process, the other legacy political parties that merged to form the party never had a credible membership database.
Being a political party that was welded together in a hurry to wrest political power from an otiose power Octopus, APC promoters’ inability to define the party’s philosophy of functions and organisation structure does not only come back to haunt it, but also threaten its continued corporate existence.
President Buhari, who is considered as the leader of the party, had to order a cessation of hostilities after a string of court rulings that would have factionalised the party if the emergency NEC meeting had held.
In anticipation of the NEC meeting, the party’s national vice chairman, Northeast, Mustapha Salihu, had gone to an FCT High Court presided over by Justice Samira Bature, to obtain an order preventing an attempt to stop Chief Victor Giadom from serving as the acting national chairman and therefore presiding over the emergency meeting.
On his part, the embattled national chairman, Oshiomhole, had to rush in an ex parte motion for a stay of execution of another FCT High Court ruling that upheld his suspension and barred him from parading himself as national chairman pending the determination of the substantive suit.
It was obvious that Oshiomhole, through his counsel, Wole Olanipekun SAN, obtained the order in a bid to ensure that he (Oshiomhole) presided over the botched NEC meeting. The fact that that desperate move took place shortly after President Buhari had intervened showed how tardy the party’s processes are because the President reportedly gave his blessing to the emergency meeting.
What was even more intriguing was that the President decided to take a stand after a former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, wrote a well-publicized petition against the attempt by some ambitious leaders to shunt aside Oshiomhole.
Apart from the subdued complaints from party bigwigs that the President leaves the impression of undue partiality towards Tinubu, one question which Buhari’s belated intervention left hanging was why he waited for things to get so bad before calling for an armistice or even endorsing emergency meeting, which agenda was to seal Oshiomhole’s fate?
How genuine the truce ordered by Buhari would be actually seen in Edo State, where the real battle began. Oshiomhole had, during the NWC meeting last Tuesday, declared that he has learned his lesson, stressing that even though he is not a perfect national chairman, his passion could not be doubted. He added that his big take away from the hostilities was that he should blend his style with those of others to move the party forward.
Going by his avowals, the real test for him lies in Edo State, especially regarding what his attitude would be concerning the 4 plus 4 movements engineered around a second term ticket for Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shuaibu, whose combined attack on godfatherism exposed the national chairman to national denunciation.
Was Obaseki a central feature in the reconciliation mandate? That is the key question which answer would define the stature of the peace efforts, especially given that the national chairman wasted no time in leading the NWC to recall the Deputy National Chairman (North), Lawal Shuaibu, whose letter exposed the chairman’s awkward leadership style, as well as the National Vice Chairman (North), Inuwa Abdulkadir, who like the national chairman, was suspended by at his ward.
Then Oshiomhole’s decision to draft in Senator Abiola Ajimobi, Architect Waziri Bulama and Paul Chukwuma to fill the vacant positions of Deputy National Chairman (South), National Secretary National Auditor, respectively in the NWC, implies that the war is not yet totally over.
The APC Constitution did not contemplate a situation where the NWC or even the NEC should be the authority to co-opt members into such a strategic caucus as the NWC. From the standpoint of the APC Constitution in Article 13.II only the national convention, even if midterm, which is the highest organ of the party is charged with that responsibility.
A former Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, in an interview with The Guardian, explained that the breach of constitutional provisions remains the bane of the party, adding that President Buhari should not be blamed for his command and obey approach to party administration.
Bafarawa said democracy cannot work when people, who all through their formation years were trained through the principles and practice of military are brought into partisan politics with its indiscipline, adding that the lack of an impartial and independent umpire makes the game cumbersome.
Even Oshiomhole agreed that his labour union approach of grandstanding, threats and glib talks have not helped in managing a diverse organisation like APC.
However, APC Deputy National Chairman, Senator Shuaibu, who just rejoined the NWC, expressed reservations about Oshiomhole’s preparedness to walk the talk of his contrition, adding that “all I said in that letter have come to pass…My letter to Oshiomhole was very personal to either save the party or allow it to collapse.”
Shuaibu who spoke to journalists at the party Secretariat after the NWC meeting, noted that the various structures of the party have been weakened, because “of the inability of the leadership to reposition the party from wards to the national centres and that was what I was trying to avoid.”
On the surface, it is just as if the national chairman was given a temporary reprieve to see how he could, through responsible performance prove that he is actually willing and capable of steering the ship of the ruling party, after all, the ex parte order lifting his suspension does not translate to the ultimate determination of the substantive suit.
There are indications that similar finger-pointing that attended the Akande Committee in Rivers State could be replicated in Edo State. Supporters of the Hon. Minister of Transportation, Dr. Rotimi Amaechi, through the former National Publicity Secretary of defunct new PDP (nPDP), Chief Chukwuemeka Eze, accused Senator Magnus Abe, of being a mole in Rivers APC.
Eze maintained that the Akande-led Reconciliation Committee may face some hurdles trying to reconcile the party with such group of persons who have done much harm to the party, adding that activities of persons like Igo Aguma, are inimical to the party’s cohesion.
Confronting ‘Four Plus Four’
AT the point when the Appeal Court suspended hearing on the embattled national chairman’s appeal, a group, which styled itself as Oshiomhole Must Go, Group, came up to itemize its grouse. Speaking to reporters at the court premises, leader of the group and Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu, read out a list of ten cardinal sins of the chairman.
While countering Tinubu’s claim that 2023 was the virus afflicting APC, Okechukwu observed that members from grassroots level “hitherto held Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in high esteem and had high expectations of optimum performance and quality leadership from him, it is therefore with deep regret that two years down the line, Oshiomhole now acts like a Bull in the China Shop.”
The group accused Oshiomhole of among other infringements, of providing a leeway for opposition PDP to bounce back, “flagrant breach of APC’s Constitution via elevation of crass dictatorship and deceptively masquerading sole proprietorship in the guise of party supremacy.”
“It is on record that Comrade Oshiomhole in his infinite self-survival-instinct ratified the Lagos gubernatorial primary election and which was not conducted by the APC Gubernatorial Primary Panel set up by him, but by Asiwaju’s men and did not ratify that conducted by Senator Amosu’s men at Ogun State? Is this kind of atrocity 2023 Virus or Osho-Virus?” the group demanded.
While Okechukwu spoke to reporters, a former Minister of Works and gubernatorial aspirant in Edo State, Engineer Chris Ogienwonyi, was invited by the Oshiomhole camp to counter the allegations from the OshioMust Go camp.
Ogienwonyi regretted that Okechukwu was carrying over animosity from the denial of Senatorial ticket by the party into the crisis, stressing that as national chairman, Oshiomhole has been doing his best to address the multifaceted challenges in the ruling party.
Having fought on the side of the national chairman at the thick of the campaigns to supplant him with Chief Giadom, the perception in the Oshiomhole camp is that Ogienwonyi, rather than Pastor Osaze Ize-Iyamu, should be supported as a consensus candidate to replace Governor Obaseki on the Edo2020 APC ticket.
Analysts believe that it is at that juncture that the ongoing rapprochement would receive its stiffest test, particularly against the background of insinuations that one of the conditions handed to the embattled national chairman is the accommodation of Obaseki’s #FourPlusFour, which translates to non-infringement with his second term ticket.
Already, the camp of Governor Obaseki/Shuaibu has been making a song and dance of the sanctity of the right of first refusal, which they insist settles the fact that the incumbent is entitled to automatic ticket like other APC governors save Akinwunmi Ambode, that became a casualty of godfathers’ power play.
But, despite the anticipated return of peace, Oshiomhole’s supporters have been pushing back on the new sentiment of a possible second term for Obaseki. In fact, a former federal lawmaker, Hon. Samson Osagie denied that Obaseki’s second term ticket was part of the President Buhari’s guidelines for peace, insisting that at no point during the discussion at the Presidency did the issue crop up.
“There was no presidential directive to include Obaseki in the peace accord. There is no provision for the right of first refusal in the APC Constitution. The story of first refusal claim by Obaseki’s men is a political gimmick which would not stand the test of time,” Osagie declared.
However, while remarking that Governor Obaseki “would leverage his performance to pick the APC governorship ticket despite opposition from certain chieftains in the state,” the Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Shuaibu recalled that during the last NEC meeting President Buhari stated that any governor that has performed creditably in his first term deserves a second term.
His words: “Donald Trump has no opposition and nobody is contesting against him. It does not make sense to bring another person to contest against the governor. Governor Obaseki is the strongest candidate of the APC we have in Edo State.”
With this new dimension to the crisis, a lot depends on Oshiomhole’s dexterity in settling the many political IOUs he garnered during the insurrection against his continued stay in office as the national chairman of the party, including what becomes of Ogienwonyi and returnee Osaze Ize-Iyamu and other stakeholders’ ambitions.
Some observers wondered why the case of the absentee group of Edo State House of Assembly members-elect was not mentioned even in passing while the jaw-jaw proceeded. Will such pawns in the game end up as fresh irritations on the ruling party?
PARTIES to the political misunderstanding in Edo State, which gave rise to the national unease, seem to have signed on to the peace overtures albeit with tongue in cheek.
State APC chairman, Anselm Ojezua, who is a party in the suit at the FCT High Court that triggered the commotion at the APC national headquarters, told The Guardian that although Oshiomhole’s new lease of style is a welcome development, it is only when he cascades it down to the states that it would be meaningful.
“I think it is much like an unfolding drama, but I would not like to say more on that for now,” he remarked.
This is just as a former Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice in Edo State, Mr. Henry Idahagbon commended Oshiomhole for waving the olive branch, stressing that that is the mark of leadership.
Even the Special Adviser to Governor Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said the peace move initiated by President Buhari is welcome to his principal.
In a statement, Osagie said though some Edo politicians were still making noise, Obaseki is very much in tune with the peace movement, pointing out however that “there are various demands that the President insisted must be upheld,” including the removal of all factions.”
In his reaction to the latest development, leader of the Oshiomhole Must Go Movement, Okechukwu said: “One was impressed with Mr. President’s intervention, which is fatherly. I was also enthused when Comrade Oshimohole’s stated thus, ‘I have learnt my lesson. I have asked everyone, whatever they consider being my shortcomings, for forgiveness and they have forgiven me. ………. I was humbled yesterday at the court.’
“However, as a student of Political Science and one who devoted time to study dictatorship, I am sceptical and bidding my time to believe Oshiomhole hook, line and sinker. As a Christian, I may have forgiven him, but not all have, for history is not a witness in many instances, where a dictator has changed his colours. If he changes for good that will be an exception and we will glorify Almighty God that the virus has been cured.
“One event which will soon test Comrade’s commitment to his statement above, in the next few days or weeks, is the resolution of Edo State APC’s imbroglio. Without being cynical Pa Bisi Akande’s Committee cannot resolve it without his (Oshiomhole’s) openness. The way and manner he spearheads the reconciliation with his brethren in Edo State, before the arrival of the Akande Committee will tell us whether the Osho-Virus is receding. In Edo, he holds the peace banner and crisis flag.”
Could it be that the former labour leader, who described himself as a fighter, merely stooped to conquer? How far would the suggestions in the Edo Peoples Movement that Obaseki must drop Hon. Philip Shuaibu as his running mate, as a condition for all APC stakeholders to endorse his candidacy play in the final resolution of the Edo State portion of the puzzle?
It appears that all weights in the APC crisis would return to Edo State and unless Oshiomhole and Obaseki come to the table with sincerity of purpose, what transpired at the Presidential Villa before President Buhari could amount to a pyrrhic peace.