By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Democracy would lose its defining egalitarianism if it foreclosed the free expression of viewpoints by adherents and diverse stakeholders. This is a cosmopolitan truth. But the essential paradox of this truth is that the crucial element of free expression of opinions can be unjustifiably weaponised in the amoral contestations for ungodly validity of ill-gotten mandates as have been witnessed in the quest for nomination tickets of some political parties.
This scenario lucidly exemplifies the reality in some political parties, especially in the governing All Progressives Congress, APC, where the element of free expression of viewpoints has become weaponised in the hands of bad losers in the governorship primary elections in Ogun, Imo and Zamfara states. The bad losers, as they have been described by the party leadership, have desperately and sadly resorted to self-help by unleashing a free-for-all in the party.
Indeed, in a season of partisan frenzy, there is a tendency for discipline, party supremacy and rule-governed processes to become threatened. This has been the lot of the APC in recent times, particularly in the miasma of its primary elections, closely mediated by the supervening process of appeal, which unfortunately had failed to mitigate the cacophonous outcomes of the governorship primary elections in the three states indicated supra.
Expectedly, the party’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is in the eye of this largely weakened storm. To be clear, the former governor of Edo state is not new to storms. Having been toughened and burnished earlier in his public space trajectory, particularly in the burning furnace of trade unionism where he reached the peak as number one in the labour leadership hierarchy, the one-time president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, is not cowardly.
His ascendancy as national chairman in June, this year, for good reasons, had ended the reign of Chief John Odie-Oyegun, the mild-mannered politician from Edo State, who succeeded the equally sedate and urbane Chief Bisi Akande, the party’s pioneer national chairman. But the contrast that Oshiomhole brought into the pedigree is his tough and no-nonsense background, which undergirds his fundamental commitment to repositioning the party.
Not surprisingly, this has spawned some resistance, verging on odious attacks on his character and person. But to be sure, Oshiomhole is not a saint. In fact, the guidelines for electing the national chairmen of political parties in Nigeria do not specify sainthood as a key requirement. His choice simply acknowledges the capacity of focused individuals to change their societies for the better. For about two and a half decades, both as labour leader and politician, Oshiomhole has continued to provide clear, pragmatic leadership during periods of self-doubt by a citizenry under siege.
Looking back, Oshiomhole deployed the instrumentality of law to achieve what many thought were lost causes. Today, he is doing no less. He is duty bound to submit to the rule of law and due process while superintending the affairs of the APC. Those throwing tantrums are thus advised to submit themselves to the majesties of the rule of law and due process rather than populate the media with reports about plots to unseat him over frictions generated by the recent primary elections.
Oshiomhole is curiously accused of deploying the powers of the national working committee, NWC, to allegedly alienate the party’s power base. Consequently, some governors and stakeholders are allegedly up in arms against him. What is the fact? The governors are usually fingered as arrowheads of such quaint plots. True, governors are very powerful members of the ruling party, a scenario also replicated in opposition parties too. They control the grassroots for the party.
Usually, governors insist on the control of the party through indirect primary elections. But in the last APC’s primary elections, the Oshiomhole-led NWC opted for direct mode. It had, however, conceded that the state governors be allowed some latitude based on the peculiar circumstances in each state. This position is captured in both the party’s rule-book and the guidelines by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
In the process of consummating the nomination processes in the states, some state governors had taken steps to circumvent the election by foisting their preferred candidates on the majority of the party members. They had overreached themselves by conducting their own primary elections without recourse to the Electoral Panels mandated by the NWC to do so.
But the NWC, with the magnitude of Oshiomhole’s chairmanship, had resisted the governor’s shenanigans. Some of the governors had fought back, thus heating up the party. Some of the APC’s ‘rebels without genuine causes’ include Governors of Ogun, Zamfara, and Imo states, Ibikunle Amosun, Abdul-Aziz Yari and Rochas Okorocha respectively, who expressed their dissatisfaction with the national leadership of the party.
Also, the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, joined the fray when he said the APC primary elections were mismanaged. He had taken an unjustifiable swipe at Oshiomhole. Another APC leader, Osita Okechukwu, who lost out in the Enugu senatorial primary election, had called for Oshiomhole’s head. In Rivers States, there were also issues shadowing the primary elections.
But the party’s newly-appointed national publicity secretary, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, succinctly captured the emerging situation when he said the grievances and outbursts of some of its leaders who lost out at the recent primary elections were results of their inability to accept their ‘losses’. According to Issa-Onilu, “These persons were taking their losses at the polls very badly, and looking for whom to blame.”
This position is hardly disputable. A common thread tying together the opponents of the party’s primary elections is loss. This orchestra constitutes the shrill, transient opposition to Oshiomhole. For failing to impose a governorship candidate on the people, in an undemocratic way which is unacceptable to the party, Governor Amosun enthusiastically joined the folks opposing Oshiomhole. Much of the forgoing scenario defines the so-called opposition that allegedly wants to unseat Oshiomhole.
This is clearly a forlorn project. I doubt if it can stand the focus, firmness and courage of Oshiomhole and other very influential leaders of the party who believe in his current exertions to reposition the party as a truly supreme entity. Significantly, a common denominator undergirding the antagonistic reactions 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.
It is now very clear that Oshiomhole’s choice to lead the ruling party by its top echelon was not accidental. The diminutive dynamite from Edo state has, indeed, taken this responsibility very seriously. The position of national chairmanship of a political party, more especially a governing party, carries considerable weight, particularly in charting the course of progressive engagements with the critical elements in a democratic mix.
In Nigeria’s cloak-and-dagger politics, Oshiomhole represents a powerful force feared by the opposition within and outside the party. Many of the allegations against his style fly in the face of objective analyses of the challenges of repositioning the party. In all, Oshiomhole has demonstrated that where principle, discipline and integrity underlie leadership, outcomes can also be peaceful, notwithstanding the initial turbulence.
The APC could not have got a better bargain in the ascendancy of Oshiomhole as its national chairman, especially at a challenging period as today. It is in this context that the presidency and the party leadership are, perhaps, unmoved by the tantrums by some of the governors after their attempts at immorally foisting their preferred governorship candidates on the party were truncated by the Oshiomhole leadership. True, they could not be denied their freedom to blab, grandstand and even howl all at once; after all, the rich and the powerful also cry. It is the way the cookie crumbles.
*Ojeifo writes from Abuja via:firstname.lastname@example.org