Oshiomhole: Refusing to go down without a fight
By now the embattled National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole, must have come to the sudden realization that no party chairman has ever won a political battle against the governor of his home state.
If he peeps across the party divide, the former governor of Edo State would see how far a former National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, fared in his political hostilities with the then Governor Sullivan Chime, when he (Nwodo) tried to work in concert with those opposed to Chime’s second term to botch the governor’s ambition.
Had Oshiomhole beckoned on history, he would not have made the mistake of doing a local political fight with his governor, even if one he begat by his power and might, because to this day, nobody has sighted the court order granting the injunctive relief on Nwodo to stop parading himself as the national chairman of PDP.
Nwodo was eased out from the Eagles Square convention ground and stopped from further participation in a presidential primary he had put much energy and intellectual resources preparing for.
Allies and legal experts consoled Nwodo that the injunction would be vacated and he would be restored. But those who are accustomed to African traditional kingship tussles knew that in such contests, once the crown is off your head, it was over.
Only Nwodo and the PDP could explain why he did not regain his seat as national chairman, even as Alhaji Mohammed Bello from Sokoto State served out the remainder of his tenure in an acting capacity.
Can history repeat itself? The current tangle between the embattled APC national chairman and the governor of his home state, Mr. Governor Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, has some similarities with the Nwodo versus Chime variety.
SO far, Obaseki could be said to have notched up two points in the political supremacy contest between him and his estranged godfather, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
The first jab on the integrity of the embattled national chairman by Obaseki was on the issue of the proclamation of the 8th Edo State House of Assembly. Some 14 members-elect professing allegiance to the former governor, failed to show up on June 7, 2019, when the plenary was to be inaugurated.
Defying subsequent entreaties by the governor and new Speaker, the group of 14 withdrew to Abuja. The members-elect clung unto the mistaken belief that as long as Oshiomhole remained national chairman, Obaseki would be humbled or even humiliated with possible impeachment.
Although perceived as a political neophyte, Obaseki, knowing that the law rules in every democracy teamed up with his rambunctious deputy, Comrade Phillip Shaibu, and secured a favourable ruling from a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, which held that the Governor was not constitutionally empowered to proclaim the House of Assembly twice.
That masterstroke put paid to Oshiomhole’s shenanigans, including the gambit of using the National Assembly to annex the Edo State legislature. With that obvious triumph, Obaseki used the legal legroom to appoint his aides and pass the annual estimate.
Seeing that the ‘neophyte’ has secured a seeming slam dunk, Oshiomhole tried to push back on that victory by encouraging the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) to take the battle to the people’s court, hoping to whip up sentiments against the Governor and make his leadership style look bad.
The EPM operated on the script that sold the Governor as an ingrate, who was biting the hand that fed him politically, as well as a covenant breaker, who breached an unwritten agreement to continue and complete some projects inherited from his predecessor’s administration.
If nothing else, the EPM succeeded in showcasing the fact of the political hostilities between the political father and son as virtually every news report emanating from Edo State detailed physical or verbal exchanges between the two warring camps.
As the melee continued, the state chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) became a battleground. The state chairman, Anselm Ojezua, who joined other state chairmen to rally round the national chairman at the thick of the damning letter from the Deputy National Chairman, North, Senator Lawal Shuaibu in which Oshiomhole was asked to resign, turned coat.
Taking a cue from the state chairman, local government chairmen from the 18 council areas gathered, passed a vote of no confidence and suspended the national chairman. The EPM emulated the council chairmen and went ahead to suspend both Governor Obaseki and Barrister Anselm Ojezua from the party, just as they elected Col. David Imuse as their factional chairman.
While Imuse claims that Ojezua was removed from office for taking sides with the Governor and moving the party’s secretariat to the Government House, Ojezua maintains that Imuse is an interloper, stressing that Edo people know him as the chairman of APC in the state.
Ojezua had also obtained a court order restraining Imuse from parading himself as chairman of APC in Edo State, just as Imuse requested Justice V.O.A. Oviawe of the state High Court to recuse himself from further presiding over proceedings or delivering any ruling in Suit No B/177os/19 between Ojezua and Imuse.
Imuse had in a Motion on Notice filed by his counsel, accused the judge of bias against him and other defendants, claiming that the Judge had a special interest in the matter having granted an interim order on November 22, 2019, when the former Chief Judge of Edo State, Hon. Justice Ikpomwen had her retirement activities lined up.
AT a time the two factions were joining issues at the Edo State High Court, a Federal High Court sitting in Maitama threw what could be considered as a knockout punch, by granting an order restraining Oshiomhole, from parading himself or acting as national chairman of APC.
Presided over by Justice Danlami Senchi, the court ordered that Oshiomhole should remain suspended until the substantive suit, which seeks his perpetual removal is finally determined.
Remembering that Nwodo’s travails began in a similar fashion, it is not possible to hazard a guess as to when the substantive suit would be dispensed with, especially given that the plaintiffs are asking the embattled national chairman to account for over N15b realized from party transactions, including purchase of expression of interest and nomination forms by aspirants to various elective offices.
Most APC stalwarts had given hints about Oshiomhole’s imminent removal from office as national chairman, with most declaring matter-of-factly that by June 2020 the national chairman would be history.
Sources within the 40 Blantyre Street National Headquarters of the party had confided in The Guardian that the embattled national chairman’s exit was being awaited as pre-condition to receive hundreds of prospective members defecting from other political parties into APC.
On his part, the Edo State governor had also given the impression that his battle with Oshiomhole had the blessing of the Presidency, particularly when he disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has urged him to grow the party from the grassroots.
“The president has urged us to build the party from the base, so anyone who cannot comply with the party structure should leave the party,” the governor was said to have told party chairmen from the 18 local government chapters.
Governor Obaseki, who addressed party faithful in Owan East and West LGA recently, was filled with joy as he announced with glee that their tormentor in chief in Abuja was no longer a member of the party.
Governor Obaseki has always maintained that APC does not belong to the national chairman, stressing that it is the members that make the party supreme and not one individual. Now the FCT court order must have echoed his heart.
The field is now open for the governor to walk the talk of institutionalizing democracy in the party, while he works for his eventual emergence as the party’s standard-bearer for the 2020 governorship election that could usher him into a second term in office.
It would be recalled that relations between Obaseki and Oshiomhole took a dive shortly after the suspended national chairman heard from a former Lagos State governor how dangerous to one’s political relevance to support a protégé for a second term in office as governor.
Matters went from bad to worse when supporters of the governor decided to suspend major General Charles Airhiavbere (retired) from the party at the hints that the Edo governor would receive the Ambode treatment, which has become a code word among APC governors for possible denial of second term ticket by party potentates.
In a meeting with his colleague governors, Obaseki was said to have assured that since Oshiomhole wanted to be a godfather-like the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, he would prove to him (Oshiomhole) that “I am not Ambode.”
The battle is on and more voices think it’s time for Oshiomhole to step aside. But nobody expects him to go down without a fight, being the pugilist he has been. To stoke more confusion, last Thursday, a Kano High court tried to upturn his suspension, but the rank of APC governors who want him out is swelling. Only time will tell how much energy the embattled chair has in his reserves to weather these storms.