By Patrick Obahiagbon
In meteorological lore, hurricanes – cyclone-strength winds – are usually named after females. But an exception was seemingly made on Saturday, when “Hurricane Oshiomhole” that sacked the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the maritime state of Bayelsa made landfall. This time round, elated locals gave it a man’s name, in sheer awe of the comprehensiveness and clinical finish of the change it wrought.
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, former governor of Edo State and the national chairman of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), is the choreographer who scripted the necessary, nimble political masterpiece that has considerably revamped his allegedly even though spuriously trumped up sagging standing within the party’s high command.
Further inland in Kogi State, both friends and foes who felt the hurricane’s strength would have waned discovered they misread the stern resolve of the diminutive dynamite from Edo State, in charge of proceedings. Oshiomhole’s retention of Kogi and comprehensive sacking of the PDP in Bayelsa both speak to the man’s sagacity and leadership vision. It also sends a clear message to some uppity and megalomaniacal greenhorns in his home state of Edo and elsewhere within the party who are nursing uncouth agenda – to back-off.
Perhaps, more importantly, Oshiomhole’s recent authoritative delivery of Bayelsa and Kogi States in “bruising” electoral contests would ultimately force recalculation of the national political equation ahead of the 2023 general election. Further, the revamping of the APC vanguard will compel an increasingly disorderly PDP to revise its gratuitous assumptions and ponder its future, a hitherto unaccustomed footing. What’s more, Oshiomhole has now been transformed into a genuine national political figure and equally morphed into the de-facto leader of the governing party, comparable to the tradition of national party chairmen in the Second Republic.
It’s worth recalling that on Saturday, November 16, 2019, governorship polls were conducted in both Bayelsa and Kogi States with two key contestants – APC and PDP – squaring off. Early on Monday, the APC governorship candidate in Bayelsa State, David Lyon, was declared winner of the Bayelsa State 2019 governorship election. The declaration was made by Faraday Orumwese, Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin and the returning officer in the election. He announced that Lyon polled 352,552 votes to defeat Duoye Diri of the PDP who polled 143,172 votes.
The total number of registered voters was announced as 922, 562 and the number of accredited voters was put at 517,883. Lyon’s victory makes it the first time an opposition party would win the state since the return of democracy in 1999. The state, created in 1996, has always been governed by the PDP.
Fittingly, President Muhammadu Buhari who recently returned from a private visit to the UK, has commended APC supporters and other Nigerians in the State who exercised their civic rights in a peaceful manner, “notwithstanding the pockets of unrest recorded in some locations.” He condemned the loss of lives and commiserated with the families of the victims, his spokesperson Femi Adesina said in a statement. According to him, the President said, ‘‘Violence during elections vitiates our commitment to demonstrate to the world and upcoming generation that we are a people capable of electing leaders in a peaceful and orderly manner.’’
The President also urged “Governor-elect Lyon to carry other divergent interests along in the next phase of governance, imploring those not satisfied with the outcome of the poll to seek redress through the constitutionally-established channels,” while looking forward “to working with the incoming government to improve the lives of the people in Bayelsa State, while ensuring the security of life and property of all citizens.”
Meanwhile, according to the Returning Officer for the election, Ibrahim Garba, the governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, was declared winner of the Saturday, November 16, governorship election in the state, polling 406,222 votes to defeat the PDP’s Musa Wada who scored 189,704 votes. Natasha Akpoti of the Social Democratic Party came a distant third with a score of 9,482 votes.
Bello won in 12 of the 21 local governments namely Lokoja, Ibaji, Adavi, Okehi, Okene, Kabba Bunu, Ogori Magongo, Koton Karfi , Mopa Muro, Ajaokuta, and Olamaboro. Wada won in Omala, Igalamela, Yagba East, Yagba West, Idah, Dekina, Bassa, Ofu, and Ankpa local governments. While the PDP campaign had expectedly rejected the outcome of the election, our great party, the APC has commended the polls’ conduct, saying it was a fair outing.
Recall that shortly after Oshiomhole formally took over the baton of leadership of the APC from Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, his approach to leadership had come under serious public scrutiny, especially because of what pundits described as a belligerent style he was perceived to have adopted. But much of this scrutiny has been ungoverned by good faith.
Significantly, a common thread undergirding all these scenarios leans heavily on personal interest. They have pretty little connection to party interest or ultimately national interest. These primordial agenda unfortunately form the key conceptual planks of politicking in Nigeria. Oshiomhole’s choice to lead the ruling party by its top echelon was not accidental. It is essentially to change that old, unseemly narrative, and revamp the progressives’ vanguard.
Oshiomhole has indeed taken this responsibility very seriously. The position of national chairmanship of a political party carries considerable weight, especially in charting the course of progressive engagement with the critical elements in a democratic mix. That the inherent power of the office of the national chairman, its responsibility and authority have been watered down and often caged by forces out of sync with transformative politics doesn’t mean that its occupant must jettison principled and disciplined conduct. The days of Chief Meredith Adisa Akinloye, national chairman of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, of the Second Republic come to mind here.
In the evolution of the Nigerian state, it cannot be denied that Oshiomhole has played his own role and, in the process, honed administrative, governance and political skills that help him to leverage the lot of the ruling party, especially as it has entered its second tenure of governance at the centre.
In the shark-infested waters of Nigeria’s politics, the former Edo State governor represents a powerful force feared by the opposition and false friends as well. Many of the allegations against his style fly in the face of objective analysis of the multi-hued challenges his party has successfully navigated.
This is why the current and curious concerted efforts of Governor Obaseki of Edo State to paint Oshiomhole black and undermine his authority will ultimately become a frankeinstous fiasco because of its specious premise standing on spaghetti legs. What’s more – Oshiomhole’s choice as party leader tacitly acknowledges the capacity of focused individuals to change their society for the better. For decades, he has provided clear, pragmatic leadership during periods of self-doubt by a citizenry under siege by patiently deploying the instrumentality of law to achieve what many thought were lost causes.
Today, Oshiomhole who has now been deservedly transformed into an active, circumspect and intellectually-focused national political figure, can do no less. The irrepressible politician of the very progressive hue has stepped on to the momentous big stage to hug the limelight of an unprecedented historical victory in the governorship election in Bayelsa state. And, when the Kogi scenario is added, then the outcome is celebratory of the political high octane and utilitarian legerdemain cum electoral savoir faire of “Hurricane Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole”-the essential Oshio Baba and the irrepressible “Oshioquake”! This is wishing the Comrade Chair more feathers in his political cap.
*Hon. Obahiagbon contributed this piece from Benin City.