By Erasmus Ikhide
What seems like fairy tale in folklore or some imaginative supposition has become an issue to be discussed, that the former governor of Edo State, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, is indeed scheming to displace Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as the chairman of the All Progressives Congress, (APC). Doubters and quibblers can now be content that Oshiomhole might soon be saddled with the responsibility of piloting the affairs of the ruling party in Nigeria.
The repulsive news broke at the weekend that Mr. Oshiomhole is currently favoured by 17 APC governors in a plot to remove Odigie -Oyegun as the APC national chairman.
In the report, a source was quoted thus: “Ahead of the NEC meeting of APC next week, there is tension in the party. About 17 of the 24 governors are unhappy with the national chairman. They are plotting to withdraw their support for him, unless he carries all of them along”.
The Governors are reportedly angry that Odigie-Oyegun has been running the party with only seven of their colleagues. The news posits that the dissatisfied governors are expected to table their grievances at the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on October 31 and pass a vote of no confidence on Odigie-Oyegun.
The report went ahead to say that the governors are believed to have spoken to President Muhammadu Buhari on their decision to reject Odigie-Oyegun’s leadership, while the chairman’s supporters have fingered former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s backers as part of the plot.
It also hinted that the 17 governors believe that the chairman is romancing their seven colleagues because the APC National Chairman is of the opinion that they are close to the President. Those purportedly on the side of Chief Odigie-Oyegun are Governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna); Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano); Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi); Rochas Okorocha (Imo); Solomon Lalong (Plateau); Yahaya Bello (Kogi) and Samuel Ortom (Benue).
The report also quoted an APC NEC member thus: “…the issues the 17 governors are raising are part of the conspiracy against the National Chairman. “And what you are likely to see is the direction where things will go at the NEC session. As regards Oyegun’s preference for some governors, I do not think it is true. If the chairman has personal relationship with some governors, I think it is by virtue of their position or performance”.
Interestingly, Oyegun and Oshiomhole are both from Edo State and are former governors of the state. While Chief Oyegun retired as a Federal Permanent Secretary, Mr. Oshiomhole had his days at the helm of affairs of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). However, there are lots of questions begging for answers as Oyegun’s four-year of APC leadership draw to a close.
Nigerians would like to know whether Oyegun demonstrated the desired leadership at the saddle all through the four years as the chairman of the APC? Has there been stability in the party and the polity? Was there any conscious effort by Chief Oyegun at developing party policy that will differentiate the APC from the PDP in the eyes of the general public? You’re wont to ask also, what might Oshiomhole bring aboard the leadership of APC, different to what Chief Oyegun has been offering the ruling party presently? Is Oshiomhole’s ambition about fulfilling all righteousness? What is Oshiomhole’s contribution to the APC before now?
The problem with political party development in Nigeria arises from the ruling elite’s unwritten rule/law that whoever is the president or governor, even local government chairman automatically becomes the leader of the political party in their domain. This primitive and/or backward-looking winner-takes-all disposition is the albatross of political party growth in the country’s democratic evolution. Political parties which ought to be vehicles for formulating and propagating national economic development has been reduced to mere praise singing platforms for elected government officials, regardless of their woeful performance in office. This, apart from Oyegun’s personal weaknesses, may have accounted for Oyegun’s languid performance in the last four-years.
Looking at Chief Oyegun’s past as the first executive governor of Edo State for less than two years, it is evident he demonstrated copious leadership endowment by ensuring that everyone, including non-indigenes of the state benefited from his free education programme. Accountability and astute leadership were enthroned, ditto every other aspects of governance. Edo would have been better for it but for the rude military incursion that brought the administration to an abrupt end.
The story of the APC as a political party would not be complete without the previous alliance between the defunct ACN and CPC. In 2011 when Acton Congrass of Nigeria, ACN, and the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, made futile efforts at merging into an alliance, Mr. Oshiomhole was the first to truncate that alliance by preventing President Muhammadu Buhari from entering Edo State to campaign for his (Oshiomhole’s) reelection bid in 2012. Then, Oshiomhole issued debilitating press statements against then GMB’s planned visit to campaign for his reelection at the time.
The same Oshiomhole is currently clowning as President Buhari’s Man-friday! Oshiomhole, against the ethics of political party development, canvassed vigorously for President Goodluck Jonathan’s election in 2011, while Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was a candidate in Oshiomhole’s political party, after collecting billions of naira from President Jonathan. Members of his cabinet then reported that Oshiomhole gave them money to ensure the defeat of Nuhu Ribadu and instructed them to work for the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan.
Record has it that Mr. Oshiomhole was never a member of the APC until Muhammadu Buhari became President in 2015. All through the struggle to wrestle power from the PDP, while the progressive governors were holding meetings at the Rivers State Government Lodge on the auspices of Governor Chibuike Amaechi in Abuja, strategising to win the 2015 presidential election, Oshiomhole was always seen addressing separate press conferences with President Goodluck Jonathan in Aso Rock, different to the one issued by the Progressive Governors’ Forum.
Video clips are abound where Oshiomhole adumbrated the APC’s stance on national issues. He even boasted that he will never fly the APC flag in his official vehicle. He only started doing so after President Buhari won the 2015 presidential election. Mr. Oshiomhole has been laying claims to President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency, even though the APC lost the 2015 Presidential election in the state. Before we forget, the Peoples Democratic Party won the 2015 presidential election with 52% of total vote cast in Edo State. Events that led to that election will give credence to the fact that the diminutive ex-labour leader walked on both sides of road to 2015.
During the 2015 presidential election, the APC structure was starved with funds by Oshiomhole as he only managed to release paltry sums less than eight hours before the opening of ballot. Perhaps, Oyegun may regret why he rallied the Bini political force to sway the State House of Assembly results in favour of APC after the dismal performance of the party at the presidential polls. Obviously, the PDP would have won the majority seats and gone ahead to impeach Oshiomhole in his last days in office. Chief Oyegun’s role in this regard can be testified to by savvy Binis, including Col. Paul Ogbebor (rtd), Comrade Orobosa Omo-Ojo, Comrade Godwin Erhahon and Capt. Hosa Okunbor.
As governor for eight years, Edo State was Oshiomhole’s duchy. His contagious politics of revisionism darkened the part to radical actualization of nation building and politics of national reawakening. In the days running to the nation’s struggle for democratic space, it was easy to project that the cast of his catchments are the desirable elements that will propel the nation to achieve her dream. Eight years down the lane; all the promises, all attempts, all policy thrusts, all the initial manifest hopes were merely ventilated, symbolically, through eloquent public preachment.
The state owed university, Ambrose Ali University whose fees was N25,000 per semester before Oshiomhole became governor, was increased to N250,000 before he left office. That was aside the fact that he used Edo State tax payers money to build a personal university opposite his palatial presidential home whose fees is in the neighborhood of N720,000 per semester! How else to be more anti-people, morally bankrupt and corruption personified than that?
As governor, Oshiomhole smothered the hope of rebuilding the ancient city and the entire state by placing a great ocean between himself and those lofty ideas he once espoused about governance when the shoe was in the other foot. Countless instances are replete where the rule of the thumb prevails over the rule of law. Governance in Edo under Oshiomhole was politics gone awry. The plight of the people clashed with the ostensible greed of the power monsters.
The fate of Edo people were utterly sealed by cultists, Agberos and denizens who were unleashed on the people by the former revolutionary leader turned oppressor. When the structure of democratic institution is eroded, the end is usually predictable: anarchy. That was Edo State under Oshiomhole’s governorship. Oshiomhole is today remembered as a man from the labour movement that presided over the reconstruction of a few roads; renovation of a few red roof schools, aped minimally at gully erosion control, built an empty five-star hospital for eight years, toppled the godfathers and ascended his position as the last godfather of Edo politics, among others. He was the leader of the APC as the governor of the state. After leaving office, he again cowed the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki and the leadership of the APC in the state to endorse him as the leader of the party, against his earlier battle with the former Chieftains of the party, like Chief Tom Ikimi, that whoever is the governor is the leader of the party.
At Oshiomhole’s departure moment, Concerned Edo Non-Governmental Organisations and Stakeholders petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), calling for the immediate investigation of Adams Oshiomhole, over alleged diversion and misappropriation of state funds. A part of the 11-page petition signed by Dr. Osadolor Ochei and Mr. Kola Edokpayi and addressed to Acting EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu reads thus: “On April 5, 2012, EFCC acknowledged receipt of a petition entitled: “A call to investigate Governor Adams Aliu Oshiomhole’s multi-billion naira mansion in Iyamho, Edo State,” which was signed by Matthew Edeghase Esq. “In addition to the said earlier petition, we add that the cost of the controversial mansion, that was designed and constructed by Verissimo (a South African Architect), is valued to be about N10 billion.
“The size and scope of the mansion completely negates all possible explanations for the source of Oshiomhole’s fund, which he had used for the construction. “In 2014, Oshiomhole paid N23 million, via an Access Bank cheque, to Edo State Government for a parcel of land he claimed to have seized from the Federal Government at Okoro Otun Avenue, GRA Benin City. “At present, he is erecting a multiple-floor Saddam Hussein style bunker on the land. “Our investigation also shows that Oshiomhole bought the Guinness Guest House located along Reservation Road, GRA Benin City, soon after he was sworn in as governor in 2009.
“The property was quickly converted to the office of HANI and ASSOCIATES, a consultancy firm that has supervised all civil construction works in Edo state since 2008. “We are reliably informed that Oshiomhole allegedly bought the building for over N100million. “A ship-like building is currently under construction along Golf Course Road, next door to Benin Club. Mr. Hamed Useni, the managing director of Hani and Associates, Oshiomhole’s business associate, is allegedly fronting as owner. It will interest the chairman to note that this company is the sole consultancy firm for all civil works in Edo state for which he allegedly charged over 10 percent of all contracts. “Apart from his current residence, which he built with his campaign funds in 2007 and the new Okoro Otun house, Oshiomhole is currently constructing another mansion in Abuja where he has planned to move to, after handing over on November 12, 2016…”, the petitioners wrote.
Before Mr. President would consider Oshiomhole for any Federal appointment or before the so-called 17 friendly governors would support Chief Oyegun’s replacement with a devisive character like Oshiomhole, it will please Edo people for an inquest to be conducted on the fraudulent 5-star hospital that was commissioned by Buhari 12 months ago. The Benin Central Hospital has remained under lock and key, without equipment and personnel. This is the typical example of the legacies left behind in Edo State by Mr. Adams Oshiomhole.
At a time President Muhammadu Buhari is sold for prosecuting past and present corrupt government officials who divert public funds meant for provision of social amenities for the people, Oshiomhole’s chairmanship of the APC or any federal appointment for him will amount to burial ceremony for Mr. Buhari’s anticorruption crusade efforts. Oshiomhole should have his days in court and prison, not Aso Rock.
*Erasmus, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos.
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