Chairman Oshiomhole and the future of APC
In one of his early statements after his election, or rather selection, he took on Obasanjo.
He asked the former president to account for the $16 billion he allegedly spent on power.
He probably served notice that he is prepared to take the fight to the enemies of the government and his political party in the tradition of politics of fire and fury.
To understand how the new chairman might rule the roost, we need look only briefly into his antecedents.
What sticks out is that Oshiomhole is a fiercely combative man. He was a combative labour leader.
He would probably find his match in Uche Secondus, the national chairman of PDP. There might be interesting times ahead with verbal missiles flying over our heads.
I recall that each time Oshiomhole faced government officials in a public debate on the then raging war over fuel subsidy, he combatively made them look inept and stupid.
He did his home work; they did not do their home work. He wisely parlayed his leadership of the NLC into politics and was a two-term governor of his state, Edo.
Thanks to his labour leadership, his political sun is on a steady rise. And that is a good thing; a very good thing, I tell you.
I welcome Oshiomhole to his new exalted political position.
I do so in the fervent hope that he appreciates the enormity of the political burden he has taken on. It is no use pretending about this. The party he now leads stands on a rickety ant-infested platform.
To start with, Oshiomhole emerged as chairman through a flawed selective process called consensus; or in the PDP parlance, unity list.
The men who were forced out to pave the way for his consensus selection are not exactly clicking champaign glasses over their being shunted aside.
If you are looking for raw or frayed nerves, look no further than those men who were denied the right to compete for a job they believed they could do better than Chief John Oyegun.
Thus, Oshiomhole’s number one problem is to bind the wounds and take urgent steps to restore what is missing in our political parties, to wit, internal democracy.
I have written at length about this in this column because it is critical to the health of our democracy.
Internal democracy in the political parties is all about justice, fairness and a level playing field that respects the right of every party member to aspire to elective offices of their choice.
If these are lacking in a political party, the obvious consequence is that it lacks unity and cohesion.
Let me also repeat this: democracy is a competitive form of government.
To take competition out of it, as our political leaders have done, is to make nonsense of its basic principles as the most cherished form of competitive political system known to man.
I wonder if Oshiomhole can use his combativeness to force his party men to respect and encourage competition in order to expand the frontiers of personal ambitions and make it possible for an Obama or a Macron to rise in our country.
The point, and it is an important one, is that we are saddled with the periodic gathering of politicians into new camps masquerading as political parties.
Since the return to civil rule in 1999, we have systematically failed to grow our political parties.
Our best effort so far, if you take into consideration the 16 years of PDP rule, unravelled in 2014/2015. PDP imploded.
Its leaders and members drifted into and embraced APC. And now, APC is facing the same crises that PDP faced.
It is not, whatever might be the impression to the contrary, sitting pretty.
It is a patch work of compromises that may or may not, melt when, to borrow from the immortal words of the late Mbadiwe, the come comes to become.
I am worried that we still define our politics in such blindingly narrow terms, to wit, the capturing of power at all costs.
Political parties play a much more fundamental role in a democracy than the capturing of power.
It may not occur to some of us but the fact is this: national stability itself is a function of the stability in its political parties.
Cast your mind back, if you will, to the shame in the Western State House of Assembly in 1954.
The late Professor Chinua Achebe regarded it as the beginning of our political instability because it introduced a brand of politics infused with the dangerous virus of tribe and tribalism.
We are still walking around the virus. We have done nothing to kill it.
Every political compromise, every path-patch in the formation or sustenance of our political parties, owes something to that virus.
The strength and the stability of political parties derives from the commitment of its members to remain true and faithful to them.
Just think of how many political parties this country has had since independence. They came, they saw and they died.
The period of military rule in which the generals ordered us to form new political parties to distance the country from its past political failures, was the most productive in terms of political party formation and unimaginative party names.
Did you hear of the political association called Trumbatism? Or You Chop I Chop?
This last one was my favourite because it was the only political association that defined our national politics then and now.
We regard politics as a means for gaining access to the feeding trough. To chop, of course.
It makes sense that one of our 68 political parties is called Justice Must Prevail – in the sharing of booties, obviously.
It is no use trying to put this less harshly. It is a shame, and a big one at that, that Nigeria, the giant of Africa, is the only African country on the continent that has proved incapable of growing its political parties.
It is a shame that we do not have even a single stable political party in the country.
How can we expect things to go right if we cynically refuse to put them right?
Can Oshiomhole provide a different kind of leadership in APC such that the party would begin the critical process of turning itself into a stable political party committed to fairness and justice?
I wish I could say yes to that but something gnaws at me. The man has been a great beneficiary of the flawed political party system in our country.
It is usually difficult for such men to see anything wrong with the system that did more than buttered their bread.
It is a big problem for him. And it is a big problem for our country and its party politics.
His combativeness would only serve to corral the rest of us into a system that continues to benefit a few at the expense of the many.
This is actually standing the principles of party politics on its head.
A political party system that sacrifices the interests of the majority for those of the minority is strange to democracy.
I am worried that the leaders of APC and PDP do not seem anxious to grow a political system that stabilises our political parties, and therefore, our democracy.
Selection, by whatever fanciful title it is called, is not the way of party politics.
It is an aberration devised by the party leaders to stifle competition, keep them in power and give justice and fairness bad names.
But believe me, I wish Oshiomhole well. If he translates his combativeness into fire and fury, he might succeed in melting the wax of mediocrity in which our political party system is encrusted. And that would be no mean achievement, believe me.