Oshiomhole: Angry Governors And Weaponization Of Dissent – By Abba Adakole

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Except in Utopia, the chairmanship of a national party in any democracy on earth, let alone that of a governing party, is certainly not a picnic. The unfolding scenario in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) sharply dramatises this as losers in her recent primary elections appear to be shifting into overdrive to diminish the party’s superiority over an out-gunned opposition that is carefully watching from the wings.

Some angry governors who have lost out in the battle to impose their anointed successors as governorship candidates on the party have thrown caution to the winds, engaging in a macabre dance in direct affront to the leadership of the party, which approximates presidential authority. This is because essential validation continues to flow from President Muhammadu Buhari, the leader of the APC, in tacit approbation of the party’s handling of the primary elections.

However, regardless of the several interventions by Buhari, the embittered governors have refused to be pacified. They have continued to treat the party’s rule-governed processes, discipline and supremacy with disdain. To be clear, some of the APC “rebels without rational and genuine causes” who have been heating up the system include Governor of Ogun, Ibikunle Amosun; Governor of Imo, Rochas Okorocha; and that of Zamfara, Abdul-Aziz Yari. They are angry with Oshiomhole over the outcomes of the governorship primary elections in their respective States.

It is possible some more governors may be unhappy either with the conduct of the primary elections in their States or the refusal by Oshiomhole to acquiesce in the moves by their colleague-governors in other States to foist their cronies as governorship candidates through some compromised processes. The failure of Okorocha’s “incestuous efforts” to install his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as successor, has clearly turned him into a dissenter, whose dissidence has been weaponized, to harass, harangue and pummel the party and its leadership.

In fact, as both the governor and leader of the APC in Imo State, this ringing failure to have his way has pushed Okorocha into initiating open warfare with both the APC and Oshiomhole. Understandably, Senator Hope Uzodinma’s emergence as the governorship flag-bearer in the state has clearly dashed Okorocha’s plot of midwifing a political dynasty in a milieu that has grown to rue both his persona and administration.  

The emerging consensus among informed observers is that the behind-the-scene shenanigans to embarrass Oshiomhole flow from desperate plots by the Imo emperor, acting in cahoots with his co-travelers in Ogun and Zamfara States, to reopen a closed book. The party’s new national publicity secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, succinctly captured the situation when he said the grievances and outburst of some of its leaders, including some of its governors, who lost out at the recent primaries, was a result of their inability to accept their “losses”.

The losers have constituted themselves into an orchestra of seeming transient opposition to Oshiomhole. In fact, much of the forgoing scenario largely defines the shape, form and content of the so-called opposition that allegedly wants to unseat the national chairman in the context of the ramifications of their failed bids to put their cronies in the line of governorship succession. But Oshiomhole, according to a grapevine, enjoys the solid backing of President Buhari in the task of deepening internal democracy and strengthening the party.

Significantly, all these “rebel” scenarios are undergirded by a common denominator that leans largely on personal interest with pretty little or no connection to party interest and, ultimately, national interest. These elemental personal agenda unfortunately form the conceptual basis of politicking in Nigeria. This is the narrative that Oshiomhole wants to deploy the instrumentality of his leadership to re-write: the moderating influence of members must be capacitated in deciding who the party’s standard bearers would be, and not anymore the prerogative or unilateral decisions of incumbent executive heads in the states.

In the corollary of the scenario supra, the call by Senate President Bukola Saraki for Oshiomhole’s resignation, coming from outside the APC, is quite significant. It keys into the tantrums by the three aggrieved APC governors who are believed to have masterminded the failed plot to pass a no-confidence vote  by the National Executive Committee in Oshiomhole and the latest propaganda that he took bribe to influence the outcomes of the primary elections in some States.  

Perhaps, Saraki sees the current internal outbursts by the governors against Oshiomhole as a good time to grab a pound of flesh from him, especially as the latter had told the Senate President severally to resign on the grounds that the position belongs to the APC, which is the majority party in the Senate.  But Saraki apparently underestimated the measure of Oshiomhole. He was perhaps of the erroneous belief that he could subdue or dislodge the former labour leader from the public space in a haze of perceived or contrived moral crisis, which was anchored on unsubstantiated allegations of financial inducement or bribe-taking in the recent primary elections.   

But Oshiomhole has asked Saraki to provide evidence of alleged financial malfeasance he is proclaiming against him or be sued. Indeed, Oshiomhole’s choice to lead the ruling party by its top hierarchs was not accidental. It is essentially to help rebuild and strengthen the party through a corpus of new governance models and reforms. He has taken this responsibility very seriously. He has moved for the enforcement of party supremacy and party discipline. His position is that members of the APC must submit to orderly, disciplined conduct and use prescribed channels to seek redress of any grievances.

In the face of resistance, Oshiomhole remains unwavering. He is reinforcing the supremacy of the party and the embittered governors, who lost out in the battle to foist their preferred candidates on the party, are finding it difficult to come to terms with the ramifications of the processes that took place in their domains. The outcomes of the processes have fractured essential validation of their leadership positions in their respective states. For the first time, some governors cannot have their way in its compromised and flawed form.  

For Oshiomhole, it is not about the leadership of the governors over the party structures, but about the magnitude of the decision of the vast majority of party members to determine who they want as their candidates for all elective positions and the purity of the process; which was why the Oshiomhole leadership endorsed and encouraged as many state chapters of the party to adopt the direct primary election in the choice of their candidates.

A good student of history, Oshiomhole knows that the undoing of the now opposition Peoples Democratic Party stemmed from its culture of uncouth imposition of unpopular candidates during the 2015 general election. His decision to return the party to the members must have been well thought-out. Indeed, it was expected from the outset that he would be resisted and that he would be assailed by a series of irresponsible propaganda and blackmail in the process, as he currently does, in the hands of aggrieved party men and their hirelings.   

In all, apart from his agitated response when his credibility and character came under vicious attack on the grounds of unsubstantiated bribe-taking, Oshiomhole has been calmly and philosophically reacting to and taking the weaponized dissent from so-called party-men in his strides as he focuses on the core objectives of his chairmanship, which are to strengthen the party and ensure the reelection of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC to power in the 2019 general election.

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