Oshiomhole: The failure of grandstanding
On Thursday, June 24, 2020, the All Progressives Congress’ (APC) titans pushed overboard its captain to avert imminent catastrophe reminiscent of its forebear. In a way, as a political party, APC was like the famous Titanic ship: assembled like no other.
Some reflections on the party platform would help explain what happened to the docked captain: at its creation, APC was intended as a special purpose vessel to capture political power. And in the flurry of activities and frenzy to achieve that purpose, no thought was spared for what becomes of the vessel when it reaches the quay.
So, because the political grouping was programmed for a power grab, politics of who gets what has continued to define its modus operandi. That could explain why in 2018, two years after he served out his two constitutional terms as Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Aliu Eric Oshiomhole, was conscripted to replace his kinsman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, as captain of the cruise ship.
Oyegun was accused of being too dovish and incapable of tongue-lashing or frightening those on the opposition platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). If, as national chairman, Oyegun was seen as a lamb, some party leaders said they wanted, not a ram but a he-goat that could foul the political atmosphere for the opposition and give them double trouble.
As such, in apparent disdain for basic democratic principles that guarantee the freedom to ‘vote and be voted for,’ Oyegun was denied a second opportunity to pave the way for the eventual emergence of Oshiomhole as his successor.
Midway into the processes leading to the elective convention, other aspirants, including Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, who like the other two was a former Edo governor, were asked to opt-out of the chairmanship race. With that and other intrigues that surrounded his eventual emergence as national chairman, it was obvious that Oshiomhole was being imposed on the platform for strict power grab intentions, rather than genuine leadership for the amalgamated union of former opposition parties.
He laid credence to that fact recently when he was forced to accept the undemocratic circumstances that led to his fall from power and presidential grace.
Recalling the events that led to his participation in the race to succeed Oyegun, Oshiomhole stated: “Mr. President graciously invited me to run for the office of the chairmanship of the party in 2018, precisely about two years ago. The president told me that if we did not reform the All Progressives Congress (APC), we could as well forget about 2019.”
That was not the first time the former national chairman would allude to the fact that virtually every consideration in the governing party revolves around political power and how to grab, without necessarily discussing what to do with such power.
Earlier in March this year, shortly after an FCT High Court presided over by Justice Senchi upheld his suspension by his ward in Etsako West Local Government of Edo State, Oshiomhole alleged that party chieftains angling for the 2023 presidential ticket were plotting his removal.
Speaking to State House Correspondents shortly after meeting with President Buhari, Oshiomhole declared: ”It is all about 2023. They want a pliant person as chairman, someone they can manipulate. That is why they want Oshiomhole out. They want to hijack the APC for selfish reasons.”
Americans say that whatever begins by division will continue to divide and what goes around, comes around. The blame for Oshiomhole´s mighty fall could not be entirely his alone, because the platform seems programmed for such acrobatic excision of its captains.
While it was being coupled together, many progressives who were enthusiastically involved got thrown overboard along the way. The tumbling and tossing out continued to such an extent that at the exit of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the platform was seen as belonging to two leaders: President Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a former Lagos State governor.
Having emerged national chairman with the grace and support of the two big men, the former Edo State governor saw himself as the third leg of a powerful tripod upon which APC sits in power and glory. That notion, albeit erroneous, buoyed his swagger and imbued in him the false confidence that he could say anything, anyhow and do as he pleased without consequences.
But, as a retired soldier, President Buhari, knowing that two captains cannot man the same vessel, kept his eyes and ears open, refusing to talk or act, until the fullness of time. That fullness of time came last Thursday and support from the Lagos garrison could not see him through while Abuja had been taken over by the powerful state governors.
He tried to entrench party supremacy and internal democracy through direct method of candidate selection, but the summary of the move against him was that all those were self-serving as his detractors held that every good deed he did was to serve, not the general good, but a parochial purpose.
That fact was made apparent when, at the height of the mass movement for ‘Oshiomhole Must Go,’ the former chairman cried out: Governor Kayode Fayemi is one of those seeking to remove me. I favoured him with the party´s ticket in Ekiti State, at the expense of my friend Babafemi Ojodu.
By his admission, the former labour leader breached the oath of allegiance and pledge to do good to all men, without affection or ill-will, fear or favour.
It was generally believed that he saw himself as a self-made man and tried to worship his maker. Yet although he gave President Buhari some recognition in the dispensation of his (Oshiomhole´s) functions as national chairman, he forgot that whatever he said was being recorded against him. Of course, having been used to adorning the khaki, Oshiomhole failed to recognize the difference between a Labour-leader´s khaki and a soldier’s camouflage. Also, although he grew up in the same Kaduna State as President Buhari, he was and is not a member of the Nigeria Legion.
All these played out at the heat of the ‘Oshiomhole Must Go’ plots: His constant visit to President Buhari at the Villa gave him the false belief that he was on the same page with the leader of the party, a former soldier.
It is not impossible that Shakespeare had soldiers in mind when he declared that there is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.
But, events of the past few days exposed Oshiomhole´s poor appreciation of the imputations of a soldiers´ camouflage. By their orientation, like every other security personnel, they are wont to open their eyes and their ears, even as they keep their mouths shut.
A very good instance of Oshiomhole´s misjudgments was the events of last March after the FCT court ruling upholding his suspension and barring him from parading himself as the APC national chairman.
According to him, “I thought I had a duty to brief Mr. President, as the overall leader of our party, about this development. Incidentally, when I requested for the audience yesterday, I wasn’t sure what has happened today will happen.
“And I showed to the president the resolutions of my ward even though a ward executive does not have the powers to remove a national chairman, just to say that the document that we have says clearly that my ward passed a vote of confidence on me. How the court can hold a vote of confidence and twist it to mean a vote of no confidence, only that judge can explain it to himself.”
That was Oshiomhole speaking to reporters after seeing President Buhari on the very day he was axed. Only he could explain how on earth he thought the leader of the party was not privy and tactfully complicit in the ‘Oshiomhole-Must-Go‘ plot. It is also being held against the former APC national chairman that he was fond of activating his mouth before engaging his brain.
Communication experts hold that glib talkers are prone to forgetfulness, a truism that explains why Oshiomhole unwittingly maligned Mr. President as a weak and indulgent leader shortly after he mounted the saddle as national chairman.
In an interface with State House
OSHIOMHOLE, in an apparent allusion to the Minister of Labour and Employment’s failure to inaugurate the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), warned that he would discipline ministers that fail to live up to their responsibilities.
“If the minister refuses we will suspend him from the party. You know we must return to internal discipline. For me it is the height of mischief for any minister; you cannot purport to be an honourable minister and you act dishonourably and nobody is greater than the party.
“And if the president condones disrespect for his office, I will not condone disrespect for the party. And when we expel the minister we will prevail on the president that he can’t keep in his cabinet people who have neither respect for his own decisions nor have respect for the party without which they would not have been ministers.”
IF Oshiomhole dreamt high dreams of even becoming president, the manner of his fall leaves him not only with emotional trauma but also opens up for an uncertain future. As a former governor and labour leader, the governing party might reward him with either a ministerial appointment in the anticipated cabinet reshuffle or send him on political exile as an ambassador.
But, in the interim, as he regards life as an outsider to power, the sound of his strong words against his traducers would continue to echo in his mind.
Here are some samples:
* Whatever you do, those who want to fight you will fight you. But I know that my tenure will be defined by God, not by man. And I worry more about what I will be remembered for when I was chairman rather than how long I was chairman.”
* I can’t say more than that. Those who are parading themselves, holding meetings at night, my prayer to my God is that let them meet at night, what they do at night will be destroyed in the day time. I don’t go for night business; I do daily business. They know themselves, they know me and I know them.
* Those fighting me just feel that if they cannot give me orders, then they must do everything to embarrass my person, but I believe that he who God stands with no man born of a woman can bring down.
* People want strong leadership, the averaged Nigerian want to have a strong leader for Nigeria. They want to have strong leaders in various institutions; they want institutions that are strong enough that cannot be controlled by individuals.
* Unfortunately, very few sections of our elite want to weaken institutions so that they can control and if you refuse to oblige them the misuse of your institution, then they go for your jugular; that is the only thing.
* Those behind this plot, the hands you saw which include as you saw yesterday, the Edo State governor and his people jubilating, but that is the irony of life; that you will help give birth to a child and the child will look for cutlass to want to chop off your neck. It has happened in history; it has happened in this country. So, I won’t be the only person.