I worry more about my legacy, not length in office as chairman, says Oshiomhole
When the embattled former Governor of Edo State, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, emerged unopposed as national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) during the party’s national convention in 2018, hardly did he realise that those forces which opposed him, but wanted his predecessor Chief John Odie-Oyegun to continue in office simply lay low and bided for the best opportunity to strike.
One after the other, those who contested the chairmanship position with Oshiomhole withdrew from the race on or before the convention, with the last being Oserheimen Osunbor, a professor and former governor of Edo State, who said he withdrew out of respect for President Muhammadu Buhari and not for Oshiomhole.
In a similar manner, former Governor of Cross Rivers State, Mr. Clement Ebri, who also stepped down for Oshiomhole, didn’t say he did out of respect for the former Edo State governor but “in the overall interest of the party.” And since Oshiomhole had no opponent, the chairman of the Convention Committee, Badru Abubakar, simply asked the delegates to ratify the only candidate (Oshiomhole) through a voice vote, which was promptly done.
With such development, Oshiomhole perhaps felt he had secured the blessings of President Buhari and that of the National Leader of APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, probably the two most influential forces in APC to forged ahead with his repositioning agenda of the ruling party following the controversies that trailed the ouster of Odigie-Oyegun and the party’s wards, states and national congresses held in April and May 2018.
Like a bull in a China shop, Oshiomhole may have been obsessed with the determination to move the party forward with the aim of repositioning it to fulfill its electioneering promises to Nigerians both at the federal and state levels. But his good deeds appear to be the ‘hunter’ that is hunting him out of office as dexterously planned and orchestrated by those foes he helped and perhaps later underrated.
It is not out of place to say that APC, as at when the incumbent national chairman took over the saddle of leadership enjoyed a certain degree of decorum due to his (Oshiomhole) spoken nature that most corrupt members of the party were unused to. He crushed egos and promoted selflessness. Under his leadership, the party maintained its winning streak in the 2019 presidential election and would have exceeded expectations in the governorship elections, if not for the discordant voices that refused any form of harmony.
To show the magnitude of hatred for Oshiomhole, when a Federal High Court in Abuja recently under Justice Danlami Senchi ordered his suspension and asked him to step down on March 4, 2020, pending the determination of the substantive suit by Edo State chapter of the party seeking his removal as APC chairman, his detractors went to town, saying, “There will be peace in Edo State,” as one of the jubilatory comments that greeted Oshiomhole’s ordeal.
The ruling came almost a fortnight to the next National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, which Oshiomhole ordinarily should have presided over, but for his suspension. Going by the constitution of the party, which stipulates that the Deputy National Chairman, South should assume the office of chairman in an acting capacity if there is a leadership vacuum, the former Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who was approved the deputy national chairman of the party by the Southwest zone, was poised to fill in the seat but in another drama, some members of the party endorsed the National Secretary, Victor Giadom, to occupy the seat. The drama is evidence of the crisis that pervades the party, which Oshiomhole has been trying to resolve.
Since he assumed the party’s chairmanship role in June 2018, Oshiomhole has demystified members who considered themselves ‘demigods’. A good illustration of such action is his fight with the former governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha, who wanted to debase the image of the party by imposing one of his relatives as the gubernatorial candidate of APC in the state in the last governorship election. Okorocha had already proclaimed himself the messiah of Imo State and therefore sought to retain his exalted throne by parading his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, to succeed him in office. His plans, however, hit a stumbling block when Oshiomhole kicked and insisted the party must choose another contender for the seat.
If not for Oshiomhole’s combative manner that truncated Okorocha’s agenda, which was outrightly condemned as anti-party, a source told The Guardian, “APC would have been a laughing stock in the Southeast region by now.”
Similar development unfolded in Ogun State when immediate past governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, plotted to hand over the governorship baton to one of his favourites, which Oshiomhole again rebuffed.
“Such activities only speak volumes of the selfish interests of members,” claimed a member of the party.
For instance, the crisis in Zamfara State is as a result of the rift between the former governor, Abdulaziz Yari and Senator Kabir Marafa but Oshiomhole’s attempt to resolve the issue only fetched him more animosity. Little wonder that Marafa alerted the public to the alleged plot to oust Oshiomhole from office in 2019.
According to Marafa, “It is evident that the plot to unseat Oshiomole by a gang of President Buhari’s adversaries has thickened. This plot is merely aimed at hijacking the party structures and handing it over to Yari, who till now is the arrowhead of all the people that harbour a lot of bitterness against the president.”
While Yari promptly denied the allegations, several developments thereafter showed that the growing number of detractors had sworn to an oath to oust Oshiomhole. Like another source put it, “In their own estimation, APC is better off without a leader whose goal included ridding the party of selfish and corrupt members.”
While there are fears among some members that should the plot to remove the incumbent national chairman succeeds, “it will spell doom for APC, which already has image deficit before the Nigerian electorate. The midnight meetings and closed-door whispers are only a spectre of the pending disintegration. As much as the detractors who have been working tirelessly to unseat Oshiomhole since last year would like to portray their actions as a collective good for the party, there’s a certainty that it is for their personal interest.”
The source added that Oshiomhole aims at professionalism and excellence, two traits that have accompanied him since his days as a union leader are what the party needs to survive. “His ultimate objective is to ensure that the party’s structures and ideals are maintained and not used to serve selfish interests. This was clearly seen in his first public speech after the High Court ruling.”
Oshiomhole himself has said that he is more concerned about his legacy than the title, noting, “I worry more about what I will be remembered for when I was chairman rather than how long I was chairman.”
Meanwhile, to further buttress that Oshiomhole is not alone in his travail, the Lagos chapter of APC has expressed support for him over the needless and avoidable crisis in the party. A statement signed by Lagos APC spokesman, Mr. Seye OLadejo, said the members in Lagos acknowledged and appreciated the dogged and passionate leadership of the national chairman, which was mainly responsible for the party’s victories in the national elections.
“We did not only retain the presidency but also won the majority of the seats at the National Assembly. This gave birth to the progressive leadership at the two arms of the National Assembly,” the party claimed.
The Lagos chapter said it could definitely not dismiss Oshiomhole’s monumental achievements, which included breaking new grounds to the discomfort of opposition parties.