Editorial: Edo APC Crisis and the Demystification of Oshiomhole

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It had all the hallmarks of a well-orchestrated ambush and few saw it coming; yet it was a master stroke that caught handlers of the national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole napping and left the chairman himself stunned and humiliated. In the full view of the world; Oshiomhole arrived his home state capital city of Benin and was greeted with burning tires and bonfires and had to be whisked out of the airport through a secret exit. He then watched helplessly, as a much-hyped mega rally organized by the APC faction loyal to the national chairman to receive some prominent defectors from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flopped; and the rally had to be shifted to a private residence after the state government threatened to revoke the authorization for the mega rally. No former governor party in the history of Nigeria, let alone the national chairman of the ruling has been this embarrassed, publicly. Predictably, the crisis provoked a public shouting match between Oshiomhole and incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki, who traded tirades against each other.
This is disgraceful and totally condemnable, and served neither the interest of the Edo people or the cause of Nigerian democracy.

The rancorous and highly distracting crisis has exposed the failure of the APC to deepen and expand the frontiers of democracy in the country. For a party that claims to embody change to the next level, this speaks directly to the embarrassingly low level of political maturity, and is a damaging commentary on the abysmal failure of the ruling party to meet the very basic requirements of discipline, unity of thought and action. Contrary to the desire of Nigerians or the demands of these trying times, the Edo APC crisis has become one more source of disturbance and distraction, turning its internal troubles, fueled by ego, vanity and self-aggrandizement, into the trouble of Nigeria and its people. This is evidently a betrayal of trust. It is unpatriotic and unacceptable. The good people of Edo and Nigerians deserve better.

The crisis in Edo APC that has pitted Obaseki, against Oshiomhole, degenerated after the failed mega rally, with the duo engaged in a public shouting match, casting banal vituperative aspersions against each other. Oshiomhole fired the first salvo, saying Obaseki lost his ward, local government and senatorial district in the last general election. But the governor, through his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, mockingly advised Oshiomhole to concentrate on winning elections by the performance of the party and not relying on thugs and violence for electoral victory. He accused the APC chairman of trying hard to cover up his inordinate ambition to be the ultimate political godfather in Edo state and by so doing; usurp the will of the majority of the Edo people.

As the battle for political supremacy between Governor Obaseki and Oshiomhole, escalates, emerging indicators presage the APC might end up with a parallel governorship primaries and two rival candidates for the 2020 gubernatorial elections next year. Oshiomhole is said to have vowed to consign Obaseki to the political dustbins, saying the incumbent governor will not contest re-election on the APC platform. To which end, Oshiomhole is said to have drafted his political nemesis, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to return to APC ahead of covert plans to hand him the APC gubernatorial election ticket. This obviously will be a great disservice to the people of Edo state and begs the first question: why would Oshiomhole shop for someone to replace Obaseki, if he indeed means well for the development of Edo state? Given Obaseki’s performance, shouldn’t the matter be about mending fences and working to consolidate on the gains being recorded by Obaseki?

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In point of fact though, Oshiomhole has been an enigma, in and out of office, and he seems to cherish that role. His insatiable quest for political relevance in Edo state speaks directly to his anti-democratic credentials. His modus operandi is to bite and blow. Through a combination of deviousness, guile and opportunism, he has managed to remain relevant to the Nigerian political equation, despite opposition from key stakeholders like the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), who want him out as APC chairman. Oshiomhole is the quintessential example that when you put a man in high office far above the capacity of his intellect and the integrity of his character, you create a vicious, power-mongering, and psychologically unstable ruler. All he knows how to do is abuse his position and power to aggrandize himself. But the more pertinent question is: what does Oshiomhole really want? What is his endgame?

The impetuous, abrasive and talkative former governor and trade unionist has missed no opportunity to publicly embarrass or humiliate Obaseki; who remained graceful under fire; confronting crisis after crisis  all manufactured by Oshiomhole - from pitting a faction of the state legislature against the governor to encouraging insubordination and disrespect for Obaseki; something he himself never tolerated as governor. Having personally hand-picked Obaseki whom he foisted on Edo people after one of the most grotesque and shameless electoral heist in modern history, Oshiomhole cannot help but see Obaseki as a political client, whose abiding mantra in politics should be to remain servile, self-abasing and loyal to him, under the hegemonic oligarchy perfected and installed with his do-or-die politics as the political godfather of Edo state. But Obaseki has proven that he can be his own man and the Edo people are not impressed, let alone fooled by Oshiomhole’s antics, because he cannot be Esau’s hand and Jacob’s voice at the same time.

As the unfolding saga continues, amid frantic efforts to reconcile the warring Edo APC factions; President Muhammadu Buhari must read the riot act and tell Oshiomhole that enough is enough! The president can no longer tolerate the insidious machinations of Oshiomhole by continuously looking the other way while Oshiomhole is having a field day undermining his authority and the machinery of the ruling party. Contrary to the vaunted expectation that Obaseki will easily win re-election because of his record of performance during his first term; the sustained effort by Oshiomhole to undermine him is just another incremental and rapacious devaluation of internal democracy. This is very disappointing. Many expected the APC leadership would use Obaseki as the poster child to showcase its potential and for that matter, the party’s capacity to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people. This opportunity has been squandered in ways that have left the APC in a huge democratic deficit. The fallout is a sickening reflection of the despicable depth of politicking in the APC and testifies to the incapacity of the governing party to even self-govern.

The sermon of some APC leaders about the principle of fairness, justice and rule of law is preposterous when indeed the actions of Oshiomhole has made those principles its principal casualties; displaying only contempt and absolute disregard for decency, order and indeed constituted authority. To say that APC lacks discipline may well be the least that could be said of the party that fought to win power before thinking about what to do with the power. The contraption of strange political bedfellows has ruled Nigeria for the last five years, with very little to show for it. Poverty in the land is acute and widespread, corruption is endemic, critical infrastructure decrepit and insecurity of lives and property prevail in a huge magnitude. The APC-led government has also not found any solution to the problem of epileptic power supply. The situation deteriorates by the day without much hope of a respite.

The invidious animalism displayed by the APC national chairman negates all that law and morals stand for; and it is a telling lesson to the Nigerian people. The current corps of APC politicians have unabashedly demonstrated to Nigerians that they cannot change anything, let alone change Nigeria. They can’t even change themselves! The APC’s soul is ravaged by corruption, its structure weakened by cronyism occasioned by subversion of the democratic principle of rational choice by the whims and caprices of the party’s leadership. The nation’s salvation, it would seem, cannot be entrusted in the hands of this band of mendacious self-seekers led by Oshiomhole. No index of positive continuity, let alone a transformation agenda, can emanate from such political immaturity and vindictiveness as exemplified by Oshiomhole. Going forward, Nigerians should be watchful over the quality of persons who seek their votes at all levels of government. They should be wary of sinecurists without demonstrable leadership capacity; self-seeking pests whose only quest is to feast on the commonwealth; little minds in high places who have no patience or respect for democracy.

Given the prevalence of anti-democratic violence within Nigerian politics, the greatest lesson that can be learned from the Edo APC crisis is that it marks another unwholesome reflection of the collapse of internal democracy within political parties. The abysmal degeneration of political morality and rascally comportment displayed by persons, who, by authority and common trust are supposed to lead by example, is hugely disturbing. This feeling is heightened by the culture of impunity, which gives vent to incessant high level official rascality culminating in the inbreeding of mediocre politicians, who, willfully or ignorantly, lack the requisite knowledge, capacity or temperament for governance. The inability, so far, to handle their internal disagreements in a civilized manner is a pointer to the abysmal rating of APC political leadership under Oshiomhole.

What is required for the APC leadership is to end the desperation over 2023 and concentrate on governance and service delivery. Nigerians now perceive every action of this government however well intentioned, only in the light of 2023, which inevitably erode credibility. This is not only bad for the APC; it may actually cause the ruling party outright loss of goodwill and electoral value in 2023. Politicians owe themselves the duty of being wary of the verdicts of posterity. Without reversing this negative politics, the judgment of history will be harsh on Oshiomhole and the APC. Nigeria needs peace and all leaders, from the President downwards, owe Nigerians the important duty of ensuring this. But it can never be achieved by Machiavellian tactics that keep the people asunder in order for certain persons to remain in power. There is no better way to work one’s name into the book of infamy.