JOHN ALECHENU takes a cursory look at the task ahead of the new National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown –William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, 1597
A former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, was returned unopposed as the new National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress at the party’s convention in Abuja last week.
Last Saturday’s convention was the second since the Independent National Electoral Commission recognised the APC as a political party in 2014. The path to arriving at a consensus to hold the convention itself was stepped in controversy.
Disagreements among the various power blocks which came together to form the APC had reached a crisis point, with party leaders, such as Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande, writing open letters and making public statements casting aspersions on the former APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. Protests were also held at different times demanding Oyegun’s ouster.
From Kogi to Bauchi, Lagos to Enugu, Imo to Delta, Cross River to Taraba and Kaduna, party loyalists were at daggers drawn. Amidst the chaos, the Oyegun-led NWC set up various fact-finding and reconciliation committees which achieved very little, if anything.
At one point, Odigie-Oyegun also painted a grim picture of the situation within the party. He told a gathering of party faithful, “We have major issues in the National Assembly, we have major issues in Benue State, we have major issues in Kano State, we have major issues in Kogi…”
Faced with the grim reality of the threat such a situation could pose to his 2019 re-election bid, President Muhammadu Buhari set up the Tinubu-led APC reconciliation committee.
Tinubu’s assessment of the situation, when he took over the job, was instructive. He said, “I sympathise with us and wish we equally look at ourselves. Since we won the elections, the expectations were very high and the goodwill was extremely high too, but, where are we today?” The former Lagos State governor’s appointment came not long after he accused Odigie-Oyegun of sabotage in handling some party issues.
Odigie-Oyegun’s supporters, mostly state governors, rallied round and guided the party’s second highest decision-making body, the National Executive Committee, to pass an unprecedented resolution, extending the tenures of all elected and appointed party executives at all levels. The rest, they say, is history.
Oshiomhole’s march to the throne would not have been made possible had the initial decision of the party’s NEC, to extend the tenure of the Oyegun-led National Working Committee, not been rescinded.
The party’s National Vice-Chairman (South-South), Hilliard Eta, who was one of the most vocal voices opposed to the tenure elongation, told INKLING that the re-validation of the tenure of eligible persons, which was done at the last convention, was the only way to avert one of the greatest threats to the party’s core values.
“We have accepted democracy as the best form of government. As members of the governing party, we should not be afraid of subjecting ourselves to the dictates of our own rules. Our constitution, which is our guiding document, did not make provision for tenure elongation,” Eta stated.
He was one of the few members of the former NWC who contested and was re-elected for a new four-year term.
The new APC national chairman has taken over, but several political wounds are far from being healed.
“Oshiomhole had his job cut out for him,” says Mubarak Alabi, an Abuja-based APC chieftain.
“There are so many aggrieved party members that need to be reconciled. There are people who were aggrieved long before the congresses which produced the delegates for the convention. Right from the ward congresses, there were issues.”
Some people are of the opinion that the new party helmsman came at a time the party is facing perhaps its greatest public perception challenge yet since inception.
A public affairs commentator, Mr. Adakole Ogbole, argues that the APC as a political party has since lost the positive public appeal it enjoyed in 2014. He noted that it would take an act of “genius” on the part of the new national chairman to restore public confidence in the party.
Ogbole added, “Leadership is built on trust. In a democracy, it takes a people to trust a person enough to give him the mandate to provide leadership.
“When that trust is betrayed, it would take a lot more to restore it. I don’t envy Oshiomhole; he is taking over the helm at a time the party’s popularity rating has plummeted.
“Party members at all levels are at war with one another and within the party, the executive and the legislature are having issues against one another. Even appointees of the President don’t seem to share the President’s vision. To make matters worse, the senseless killings of the defenceless, which continued unabated under the party’s watch, do not inspire confidence.”
Without a doubt, one of the major challenges Oshiomhole will be expected to bring his skills and experience to bear on are the grievances expressed by members of the Alhaji Kawu Baraje-led defunct new Peoples Democratic Party bloc.
The nPDP members had, on several occasions, said what they desired from the APC led-government was a fair treatment and respect being an equal partner in the process that led to the installation of the Buhari’s government.
Some observers are of the view that the emergence of the new party’s helmsman, whose ascension to the throne, was a carefully crafted script that received the buy-in of most, if not all, the party’s major power brokers, should leverage on this goodwill to steer the party away from an implosion.
The APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, admitted that the party, like any human entity, had internal issues. “We have the capacity to deal with these issues and forge ahead,” Abdullahi said.
Oshiomhole inherited the fallout of several highly-contentious ward, local government and state congresses, conducted under the supervision of his predecessor.
In roughly 20 out of the 36 states of the federation, parallel APC congresses were held, including Taraba, Lagos, Imo, Delta, Rivers, Cross River, Oyo among others. These factional State Working Committees lay claim to legitimacy.
It goes without saying that a divided house cannot stand. Political pundits are of the view that it behoves on Oshiomhole and his team to commence a process of genuine reconciliation by ensuring the harmonisation of the state executive committees in order to accommodate the differing interests currently at war with one another.
The new national executive of the party equally has the responsibility of getting the federal executive and the National Assembly to be on the same page, in order to actualise the party’s manifesto and deliver on its campaign promises.
With his eyes on repackaging and selling the party to Nigerians once again, Oshiomhole will be expected to lead a united party to take over Ekiti State from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party.
One of the several campaign promises made by the APC in 2015, which is unlikely to go away soon, is the restructuring of the country.
Oshiomhole’s predecessor, Odigie-Oyegun, set up the Governor Nasir el-Rufai-led Committee on True Federalism, otherwise known as the committee on restructuring, to look into the matter. The committee has since submitted its report but very little, apart from the occasional mention at public functions, has been heard about when the party intends to implement its contents.
The task before the former Edo State governor and his team is by all means, daunting. Observers are equally of the opinion that sooner than later, the former labour leader will wake up to the reality that life in the murky waters of national political terrain is miles apart from activism.
A former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, commenting on the task before the Oshiomhole, said, “The task ahead is great. There is, however, no doubt that there is enormous goodwill both within and outside the party to draw from in securing a second term in office for President Buhari.”
How he will convince ordinary Nigerians in places like Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Zamfara, Kaduna and elsewhere that his party, the APC, can guarantee the safety of their lives and property should the party get a second term, is one herculean task that would be interesting for him to accomplish.
With only a few months to the party primaries and another convention to elect party standard bearers at the state and federal levels, he will be expected to lead the party to victory first in Ekiti before leading APC to win in other states and ultimately, the Presidency, come 2019.
An APC chieftain from Enugu State, Osita Okechukwu, is optimistic that the new party leader has all it takes to weather the storm.
He said, “Comrade Oshiomhole’s tenure will be dynamic, purposeful and successful. Going by his pedigree as a veteran, he will surmount challenges because he has the capacity to sieve the difference between real progressive leaders and narcissistic leaders.
“The greatest challenge is to expose those who pretend to be true progressives and are not.”
Beyond rhetoric, the quality that he will bring to bear on leading his party to respect its own rules and ultimately the laws of the land, will be a good starting point in winning over supporters they’ve lost over the last three year.
The Executive Director, Friends in the Gap Initiative, an Abuja-based Non-Governmental Organisation, Mr. George Orji, said, “It is sad that the value of Nigerian lives has become cheap. This administration must proffer solutions rather than make excuses in order to be taken seriously going forward.”