Adams Oshiomhole, national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC is caught in a web of crisis over his style of leadership, his management of the rancorous reactions to party primaries and legal tango over
He wears the crown as national chairman of Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress. Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, immediate past governor of Edo State, indeed coveted the crown hitherto worn by his kinsman, John Odigie-Oyegun, also a former governor, and got it amidst intense high-wire politicking and intrigues. But barely five months in the saddle, the diminutive but vociferous former labour activist began to feel the burden and agony of what has become a crown of thorns. Never in both his labour activism and political adventure has he been so buffeted by such multifaceted problems that he is fighting hard to keep his job. Not even in his eight years as governor of Edo State during which he established himself as the enfant terrible of Edo politics, upstaging the erstwhile political godfather of Edo politics, Tony Anenih,now late, to become the real godfather, was he this embattled. Suddenly, the euphoria that heralded Oshiomhole to the highest office in the party appears to have fizzled out and replaced with utter disappointment, frustration, anger and resentment. Some of the Alleluia men of yesterday are now calling for the head of their celebrated ‘messiah’ in whom much hope had been invested to reposition a party that they claimed had been badly mismanaged by his “incompetent” predecessor.
Interestingly, leading the Oshiomole-must-go campaigners are some of the governors who had in the military tradition of esprit-de-corps, routed for him and ensured his emergence as national chairman being one of their own. These are Rochas Anayo Okorocha of Imo State, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, and Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State. Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State is also known to have an axe to grind with the national chairman. Like many members of the party, they are up in arms against Oshiomhole over the outcome of the party’s primary elections for various positions ahead of the 2019 general elections. The threat to his continued stay in office is not, however, the only headache Oshiomhole is contending with.
For the former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, it not only rains, it pours as his afflictions seem to be in multitudes. While grappling with intense pressure and several protests in Abuja by aggrieved and implacable party men over the rancorous primary elections, the situation in his home state offers no solace. Apart from a crack in the party in the state over the same issue of unsatisfactory conduct of the primary elections consequent upon which a group of female members of the party led by its women leader, passed a no-confidence vote on him, accusing him of impunity, imposition and marginalization, Oshiomhole is also enmeshed in corruption scandal which is now a subject of litigation at an Abuja High Court as his accuser sought the order of the court to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to invite and investigate a petition which had been gathering dust on its shelf for over two years. Even within the APC family, allegations of graft and extortion have also been levelled against him such that the media was inundated with reports that he was grilled by officials of the Department of State Security Service, DSS, ostensibly on the strength of petitions against him.
Oshiomhole’s travails have set the ruling party in a panic mode with the president, Muhammadu Buhari, a national leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and other friends of the governor, stepping in to trouble-shoot and douse the raging political conflagration threatening to consume the party. The overall objective is to stem the growing discontent and tension in the party, save the national chairman’s job and image, as well as rescue the party from likely disintegration by checkmating further defections which had hit the party. It is for this reason that the president who had given the party chairman a marching order to clear the mess he created, had to step in to personally take charge as aggrieved aspirants and governors took their cases to him. Not even the peace and reconciliation committees set up a few weeks ago to pacify the angry party faithful had been able to halt the train of defections especially at the National and state Houses of Assembly.[expander_maker id=”1″ more=”Read more” less=”Read less”]
The seed of discord between Oshiomhole, the governors and other aggrieved party members was sown when the national chairman announced the mode of primary election to be adopted. While the party settled for a direct primary election in picking its presidential candidate, it gave the state chapters the liberty to pick whichever method they preferred – direct, indirect, and consensus- on the condition, however, that everybody was carried along.
Initially, the embattled national chairman had preferred a direct primary. The objective, he explained, was to avoid the pitfall of the past whereby impunity reigned, and candidates were brazenly imposed on members. Oshiomhole had in May this year while declaring his intention to run for the chairmanship of the party, vowed to end impunity in the party and ensure the enthronement of internal democracy given the party’s previous ugly experience. But curiously when it was time to walk the talk, Oshiomhole back-tracked. Political watchers saw this as a recipe for chaos believing that Oshiomhole may have unwittingly shot himself in the foot and set the stage for the confusion that eventually followed. Predictably, many of the governors who had been known to prefer indirect primary which would enable them to decide who got what after compromising the delegates, settled for it and the consequence is the monumental crises that have now engulfed the party and threatening its victory at the polls. The sorry state of the party today is such that Oshiomhole and aggrieved governors and aspirants have thrown decency to the dogs to dance naked in the market place, openly trading insults and vitriolic attacks.
The first sign of trouble for the party emerged when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, announced that Zamfara State would not be fielding candidates for the various positions in the next general elections, because it failed to conduct a primary election before the October 7, 2018 deadline stipulated in its time-table. The ruling party has however dragged the election umpire to court over the issue. The party’s case is not helped by the discordant tunes coming from key political actors in the state over whether there was indeed a primary election in the state or not. Though Oshiomhole and the governor insisted that a primary election took place, there was however divergent views on how it was conducted. While the national chairman stated that candidates emerged through consensus arrangement, the governor posited that they emerged through direct primary election. But a governorship aspirant and serving senator representing Zamfara Central, Kabiru Marafa was to endorse the action of INEC, insisting that neither was an election held, nor did candidates emerge through consensus arrangement.
Marafa leads a faction of the party opposed to the governor, Abdul’Aziz Yari whom they accused of planning to impose candidates on the party. Disagreeing with Oshiomhole, Marafa believed he must have been misled by the committee sent to conduct the primary. According to him, “The primary election committee really tried to bring about consensus, but the two factions of the state chapter of the APC could not agree”. For the senator, it’s a case of what the fowl would not eat, it scatters. Issuing a stern warning to the leadership of the party, Marafa asserted that “What I am saying is that if you force any consensus or say there was one, there is going to be a revolt”.
To prove that it was not merely grandstanding, when the INEC released its list of candidates for the 2019 election, no candidate from the state made the list. As it stands, only the courts can resolve the matter. Zamfara State is not however the only state not likely to field candidates. In the same quagmire are Delta and Rivers States where the courts had restrained the party from presenting any list to INEC. Curiously, INEC was to publish names of candidates of factions of the parties in the two states. Giving judgment December 4 in a suit filed by an aggrieved governorship aspirant in Delta State, Victor Ochei, an engineer and former speaker of the state House of Assembly against the candidacy of Great Ogboru, a serial contestant for the topmost job in the state, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of a Federal High Court, Abuja refused the prayers of INEC, the APC and Ogboru to strike out the suit challenging the outcome of the September 30 primary election on the ground that a different delegates list was used to conduct the primary which produced Ogboru, stressing that a subsisting consent judgment given by Justice Anwuli Chikere of a Federal High Court, Abuja on June 19 had contemplated that the list of delegates brought before the court was the one to be used in the governorship primaries. The court adjourned the matter until January 23, 2019 for further hearing to allow all parties file pleadings and claims within the stipulated time.
Similarly, in Rivers State where parallel primary elections were held, the situation is dicey for the APC. While the leadership of the party had gone ahead to submit the name of Tonye Dele-Cole, who emerged the governorship candidate in the indirect primary election organized by the Rotimi Amaechi-led faction, the Senator Magnus Abe-led faction went to court on the ground that the NWC acted in brazen violation of a subsisting court order which nullified all the party congresses as well as the primary election held in the state. As far as Abe was concerned, the party has no candidates for any of the positions. Last Wednesday, the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt division upheld Abe’s position, foreclosing the possibility of the party fielding candidates. The appellate court chaired by Justice Abubakar Yahaya dismissed two of the three appeals filed by Dele-Cole and the sacked factional chairman of the party, Ojukaye Flag Amachree for lacking in merit. It also confirmed the judgment of Justice Chinwendu Nwogu of October 10 nullifying the candidacy of Dele-Cole having held that the state had no ward, local government and state executives.
With this development, the ruling party may have lost four states already, with fears that there may be more, even before the first ballot is cast given the plethora of cases in court by aggrieved aspirants who accused the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party of fraudulently screening them out after picking nomination forms, or brazenly substituted their names with the names of those who either did not contest or lost the primaries. Some are also challenging the decision of INEC to accept names other than theirs. INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu announced recently that there were over 100 such cases involving it in various courts. An attempt by Oshiomhole to browbeat the litigants into withdrawing the cases with a threat of expulsion was over-ruled by the president who insisted that they had the right to seek redress if they felt short-changed.
Perhaps most embittered in the macabre drama going on in the party are the governors of Imo and Ogun States who have engaged Oshiomole in a fierce war of words and name-calling. They both lost out in the list of candidates displayed by INEC. Okorocha, chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, is at daggers-drawn with Oshiomole over the replacement of the name of his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu with that of Hope Uzodinma who was said to have emerged from a contentious primary election conducted by the Ahmed Gulag committee which was disbanded by the NWC allegedly for lack of transparency. Emerging from a meeting with President Buhari over controversies trailing the party’s primary elections in many states, Oshiomhole had told journalists that, “The case of Imo State is not too good news for today, but not surprising… They have two fake results. None of them is genuine and we will disband; we will appoint a fresh committee, an electoral panel that will conduct transparent direct primaries that will reflect the will of members of APC in Imo State regardless of the interest and the powers that were behind any of the groups”. A direct primary election was consequently done which produced Okorocha’s chief of staff and son-in-law. It is in the light of this that the governor was miffed that the national chairman could turn around to submit to INEC the name of somebody who emerged from an exercise he himself had condemned and admitted was flawed. But a seemingly unfazed Nwosu had continued to maintain his stance that his candidacy had been secured and could not be truncated by the national chairman or any other person. Expressing disappointment in Oshiomhole, Nwosu accused him of “speaking from both sides of his mouth” adding that “as a man of that age, I thought he would have been upright”. Nwosu and his father-in-law have however been forced to eat a humble pie, with the former, despite his initial bravado, opting for another platform – Action Alliance, AA – to actualize his governorship dream, while the governor chose to remain in APC as a senatorial candidate. Majority of their loyalists have also moved to their new party, which Nwosu announced, would work with the APC to deliver the state to Buhari, and by extension, his principal.
The situation in Ogun State where the party’s flag has been presented to Dapo Abiodun as governorship candidate as against Adekunle Akinlade, the preferred choice of the governor, is as contentious and messy as that of Imo. Following protests by many aspirants in the party that Amosun single-handedly picked the 40 candidates for the state House of Assembly, and National Assembly in a purported consensus arrangement, the NWC rejected his list. He had taken for himself, the ticket for Ogun Central senatorial seat at the expense of the incumbent senator, Deji Tejuoso. Abiodun had emerged from a direct primary election conducted by a committee appointed by the NWC. All entreaties by Amosun to Oshiomhole and the president to allow him to have his way had failed. The embattled governor had been vehement in his position that it was either his candidate or nobody else. And while fighting tooth and nail to get the party to accept his anointed candidate, he chose not to put all his eggs in one basket. Like Okorocha, his co-traveller, Amosun’s loyalists, including his anointed one, have moved to another party, the Allied People’s Movement, APM, where Akinlade hopes to actualise his governorship ambition.
The governor who is incensed with Oshiomhole, could not understand why the national chairman would accept the candidacy of Babajide Sanwo-Olu for Lagos State governorship while rejecting his own list whereas the circumstances in which they emerged, according to him, were similar given that the results of both elections were not announced by the state electoral panels. Amosun accused Oshiomhole and his “gang” of “duplicity and meddlesomeness” in the affairs of APC in Ogun State, and of a plot to hijack the government “and hand it over to a gang of rapacious expansionists in the South-West”, in a veiled reference to Tinubu and perhaps Olusegun Osoba, a former governor in the state. He boasted that the plot would fail. Adamawa State is no less acrimonious and divided. Though the incumbent governor, Jibrilla Bindow made the INEC list, there is no respite yet for the party as the battle for the APC ticket has shifted to the law court. Aggrieved are the former chairman of the EFCC, Nuhu Ribadu, and Mahmood Ahmed, brother to the wife of the president, Aisha Buhari. Mahmood had in a petition to the appeal committee called for the nullification of the election that produced Bindow. The duo of Ribadu and Mahmood alleged that the Major-General Lawrence Onoja-committee violated stipulated guidelines for the primary election and so the outcome should not stand.
With the cacophony of angry voices hollering at the national chairman of the party accusing him of sundry offences bordering on perceived incompetence, extortion and duplicity in the allegedly flawed processes, the embattled chairman, known not to suffer fools gladly, fired back, exposing the ugly side of him which hitherto had not be seen. To fire the first salvo at Oshiomhole was the president’s wife who, taking to her twitter handle, literally took the former governor to the cleaners. She wrote: “It is disheartening to note that some aspirants used their hard-earned money to purchase nomination forms, got screened, cleared and campaigned vigorously, yet found their names omitted on the election day. These forms were bought at exorbitant prices. Many others contested and yet had their result delayed. Fully knowing that automatic tickets have been given to other people. All Progressives Congress, being a party, whose cardinal principle is change and headed by a comrade/ activist whose main concern is for the common man, yet, such impunity could take place under his watch… Given this development, one will not hesitate than dissociate from such unfairness, be neutral and speak for the voiceless”. Aisha Buhari who has built a reputation for being brutally frank was apparently pained that her brother was so unfairly treated in the contest for the Adamawa governorship ticket.
Her outburst was to give way to a flood gate of attacks on the former labour leader by other aggrieved aspirants and governors who lost out in the political power game. Apart from the four governors who engaged Oshiomhole in open verbal assaults, there were others like National Assembly members who took their frustration and anger to the floor of the lower chamber, as well as the director-general of the Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu who gave vent to his anger by calling on the national chairman to resign. He also called for a probe of the embattled national chairman for alleged bribery and extortion. Political observers believe Oshiomhole failed the leadership test in his handling of the fallout of the APC primaries. His perceived confrontational, aggressive and arrogant posturing, rather than a conciliatory approach, they believe, aggravated the crises.
Oshiomhole had dismissed Amosun and Okorocha as “bad losers”. On another occasion, to the discomfiture of many Nigerians, he likened the agitated governors to “drug addicts suffering from withdrawal syndrome”. Picking on each of the governors he identified as being against him, the APC chairman said Amosun’s action amounted to abuse of power, adding that “there are no emperors in APC; if anybody tries to make himself as one, it will be an exercise in futility”. On Imo, Oshiomhole accused Okorocha of trying to establish a political dynasty in his state, asserting that “I do not have such powers to help him to create Rochas Okorocha political dynasty in Imo state in which he will be the APC Senatorial candidate and his son in-law, Uche Nwosu, the governorship candidate”.
Firing back, Okorocha accused Oshiomhole of hypocrisy and tried to educate him on how someone who lives in a glass house should not throw stones. He not only challenged the national chairman’s claims to probity in the discharge of his duties, he also impressed it on him that it was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. In a statement by his chief press secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, the governor identified four persons who are Oshiomhole’s relatives in the Edo State government, or with a ticket of the APC to contest various positions. Describing Oshiomhole as the “father of family dynasty or nepotism, Onwuemeodo argued that apart from Nwosu who his son-in-law, the only blood relation in his government is his sister, Ogechi Ololo. “So, as it stands now, Rochas is the only Okorocha running an election. But Oshiomhole is the known family dynasty builder. And Edo State is the victim… Adams Oshiomhole is the National Chairman of APC and governor for eight years. Rilwan Oshiomhole, his younger brother, is a Commissioner in Edo State Oil-Producing Development Commission, EDSOGPADEC. Seid Aliyu Oshiomhole, another younger brother, is the House of Assembly candidate for Etsako West 2 State Constituency. Yakubu Oshiomhole is the Secretary to the Local Government Service Commission; Dr. Cyril Adams Oshiomhole is vying for the House of Representatives for Etsako Federal Constituency”. Oshiomole’s reaction however was that while he was in office, there was no other Oshiomole serving in his government unlike Okorocha.
Addressing the issue of his tango with the DSS on his arrival from the United States where he had travelled to after the reported interrogation, fueling speculation that he had fled the country, the embattled former governor confirmed his meeting with the detectives, insisting however that it was a non-issue. Fielding questions from a few editors in Lagos, Oshiomhole retorted that “there is nothing strange in the DSS having a chat with me”. According to him, “Yes, I was at their office. Yes, we had a conversation on some matters arising from the primaries of our great party, the APC. Yes, they wanted me to shed some light on some issues. There is absolutely nothing wrong in that as the National Chairman of the ruling party. I’ve read so many things in the newspapers about what transpired. But I can tell you there is nothing to it”. He also denied the allegation that he collected bribes from some aspirants, particularly Okorocha. The news had been making the rounds that he collected bribes to the tune of over $55 million (USD) from various aspirants in exchange for the party’s tickets. “Let me tell you, I’ve heard some people talk about bribe and Imo State. I’ve looked round and I’m asking myself, who, in Imo State can afford to bribe me? Ordinarily, I should be protective of the person in power who should have the resources to dole out something. But I’m standing on principle, so that cannot happen; and that did not happen” he stated.
Since the news of the embattled national chairman’s interrogation by the DSS became public knowledge, the heat had been turned on him by enemies within and outside the party, with many of them calling for his arrest and resignation. Of note was a protest march to the Abuja office of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC led by one Stanley Onu, a lawyer, under the auspices of Coalition for a New Nigeria, CNN. Claiming to be members of the APC, the protesters said the exercise was in their “quest to arrest the dangers faced by our party, the governing All Progressives Congress, APC, occasioned by the integrity- challenged National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole”.
They said given the various allegations of corruption by respected chieftains and members of the APC, “we are here calling on the various anti-corruption agencies to begin a comprehensive probe of not only these allegations, but his time as the governor of Edo state”. Recalling the order of a Federal High Court presided over by Justice Anwuli Chikere to the EFCC to investigate corruption allegations against Oshiomhole during his stewardship in Edo State, the group opined that “a man that has corruption noose round his neck is not the fit and proper person to lead a party that has President Muhammadu Buhari, a man known globally for his anti-corruption stance, to remain in office”. Some of the aggrieved governors were suspected to have sponsored the protest.
Similarly, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has petitioned the EFCC and the ICPC urging them to jointly investigate allegations of corruption during the recent primaries by both the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and to collaborate with the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) in any such investigation. Expectedly, for the PDP family in Edo State, and some members of the ruling APC, Oshiomhole’s travails did not come as a surprise. The opposition saw it as Karma at work. For Godwin Erhahon, former publicity secretary of the ruling APC in the state, it’s a case of I-told-you-so. The journalist-turned-politician is a victim of Oshiomhole’s perceived high-handedness and intolerance of opposing views. The former chairman of Edo State council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, lost his position as the party’s spokesman following a very critical interview he granted TELL cautioning against replacing John Odigie-Oyegun, then national chairman of the party, with Oshiomhole, who was scheming for the position as he rounded off his tenure in Edo State. Erhahon had noted that Oshiomhole, with his temperament and dictatorial tendencies, would destroy the party. Today, the former APC spokesman appears vindicated. Given the current state of affairs in the party, Erhahon told the magazine that “It’s not for me now to claim vindication”. In his words, “the issue is not worth discussing now judging by what you and I and most Nigerians already know…Because I knew I spoke from very genuine and sincere intentions, I have no regret. It is left for the public to tell me now whether they have seen me vindicated or they still believe that what I said was wrong”. Dan Osi Orbih, Edo State chairman of the PDP has no sympathy for Oshiomhole. “It’s what he did in Edo State that he has extended outside. That is the price he’s paying. He thought that Nigeria is Edo State when he was doing one thing and saying something different to the world. Now, people have seen for themselves that the man is a direct opposite of what he says”.
Kassim Sule Afegbua, a new comer to the PDP from APC, and former media aide and commissioner for information in Oshiomhole’s government, while positing that there was political inertia in the days of Oyegun, stated that the expectation was that “with Comrade Oshiomhole, he would be able to rally round all the centripetal and centrifugal forces within the party and make it whole again” stressing that events in the past five months have proven otherwise. Afegbua was happy this was happening “because it is my prayer to see that president Buhari retires to Daura in 2019”.
Chris Agbonwanegbe, a lawyer and chieftain of the PDP in Edo State, described Oshiomhole as a chameleon. “Oshiomhole, because of his loud mouth when he was governor, they thought he was working, and he was able to cage our people because of the money he was sharing. But it has turned out to be that Nigeria is too big for him to manipulate. At home, he’s at war with [Governor Godwin] Obaseki in Benin. Women in the party led by the party’s women leader staged a demonstration against him because he imposed candidates here. And about six members of the state House of Assembly, including Adjoto, the speaker, are in court with him for imposing candidates. Inevitably, if they lose, he will be the loser of the big power play”. Edoba Omoregie, professor of law, University of Benin, spoke in the same vein. He said he was not surprised at the situation Oshiomhole has found himself. According to him, “It’s a reflection of his character and I am glad it’s now manifesting at the national level. Clearly, he’s a very undemocratic fellow. If he claimed to have conducted free and fair elections, the reactions don’t show it. Democracy is about people. If, as you see, there are conflicts everywhere, it shows that obviously there was no collective decision-making process particularly as their primaries had different models; some did direct, some indirect and some were doing consensus. That is a recipe for confusion… All these are indications of poor leadership”. According to Omoregie, “those of us who have encountered him in Edo, we know him very well. People thought that because he has high capacity for oratory, that is a sign of leadership. But as we have come to see, there is a difference between oratory and ability to carry people along”.
For the haemorrhaging APC, despite the fence-mending efforts consequent upon the peace and reconciliation committees put in place to placate aggrieved members, things seem to be getting messier rather than simmering down. Indeed, for all the efforts are worth, the situation appears to be motion without movement with some embittered aspirants and governors sticking to their guns, shunning the committees. Amosun, for example, refused to honour an invitation by the South-west reconciliation committee which sat in Lagos presided over by his counterparts in Borno and Lagos States, Kassim Shetima and Akinwunmi Ambode respectively. So deep-seated is his anger at Oshiomhole that Abdul’Aziz Yari of Zamfara State severely warned him not to dare step his feet in the state in the name of reconciliation or end up in the graveyard, while Adebayo Shittu, communications minister, vowed to work against the party’s governorship candidate in Oyo State, his namesake, Adebayo Adelabu, for allegedly being screened out of the race. He said without restitution, there would not be peace in the party. Okorocha had also shunned the committee sent to the state having resolved not to work for Uzodinma.
For a party that boasts that the 2019 general elections would be a walk-over for it, it remains to be seen how it hopes to achieve that feat especially if it must go into the election which is barely two months away, with a seeming rag-tag political army that threatens revolt and anti-party activities against the system. The million-dollar question is will Oshiomole be able to weld the broken pieces of the party together ahead of the crucial election, or will he be its undertaker as taunted by the main opposition party, the PDP, when he emerged the party’s national chairman?