Editorial: Oshiomhole and the crisis in the APC

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The dramatic turn of events in Bayelsa State which has fueled renewed calls for Adams Oshiomhole to step down as chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), is disgraceful and embarrassing to say the least. The rancorous and highly distracting smothering crisis has seen the APC secretariat in the capital city, Abuja, besieged by angry demonstrators calling on Oshiomhole to resign or be sacked by President Muhammadu Buhari. It matters not whether APC by-laws give the president the power to fire the party chairman; the standing view is that Oshiomhole has refused to jump; he should therefore be pushed out. For a party that sought to win power before thinking what to do with it, the rumbles within the APC is a damning commentary on the abysmal failure of a party with commanding majorities at all levers of government, to meet the very basic requirement of discipline, unity of thought and action. Contrary to the desire of Nigerians or the demands of these trying times, the APC has become one more source of turbulence and distraction, turning its internal troubles, fueled by ego, vanity, political immaturity and self-aggrandizement into the trouble of Nigeria and its people. This evidently, is a betrayal of public trust. It is unpatriotic and unacceptable. Nigerians deserve better.

The impetuous, abrasive and talkative Oshiomhole has missed no opportunity to publicly confront and confound his critics and detractors; manufacturing crisis after crisis and creating deep disenchantment amongst the party rank and file; who have all but lost hope that the APC will continue to exist as a party after 2023 when Buhari leaves office. With his petulance, impudence, foul temperament, and very cantankerous nature, Oshiomhole seems addicted to garrison and confrontational politics; which is not surprising giving his background in organized labor. Like a typical unapologetic trade unionist, he is not one to shy away from a fight; indeed, he courts them. As a principled rather than pragmatic politician, Oshiomhole never sets out to convince his political opponents with the force of his arguments; he fights instead to defeat and conquer them with the argument of force. Predictably, he’s been waging a bloody war of attrition on several fronts - from pitting the APC-controlled Edo House of Assembly against the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, encouraging insubordination and disrespect for Obaseki; something he himself never tolerated as governor. Having personally hand-picked Obaseki and his running mate, which 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 his political client, whose abiding mantra in politics is to remain servile, self-abasing and loyal to him, under the hegemonic oligarchy exemplified by his Godfatherism brand of do-or-die politics.

Oshiomhole’s insatiable quest for political relevance speaks directly to his anti-democratic credentials. His modus operandi is my way or the highway. Through a combination of deviousness, guile and intrigues, he has managed to weather the storm. 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 monster. All he knows is to abuse his position and power to aggrandize himself and his cronies. Fortunately for Oshiomhole, we have in Buhari, a wimp who has redefined the meaning of incompetent leadership in a way which makes Oshiomhole look like a messiah. It is not an irony of fate that Oshiomhole remains the greatest threat to democracy in Nigeria. The question is: what is his endgame?

Oshiomhole has been an enigma, in and out of office, and he seems to cherish that role. Clearly, the revolt he has orchestrated in the APC is the final plank of the battle for the 2023 presidential election. Even before the Bayelsa embarrassment, where the Supreme Court disqualified the APC for fielding a candidate with fake certificates, the state party primaries were turned into a battlefield, as various factions within the Zamfara and Rivers State chapters of the party exchanged blows and fought themselves out of contention as their candidates were disqualified from contesting the 2019 general elections. All the boxing and shouting matches took place in the full glare of the public. It’s a shame!

Contrary to the vaunted expectation that the contraption of strange political bedfellows that came together to form the APC would deepen the frontiers of democracy after 16 years of garrison politics by the PDP, Nigerians have been treated to another incremental and rapacious devaluation of internal democracy within the APC. This is very disappointing. Many Nigerians expected the APC leadership would use the opportunity to govern to showcase its potential and for that matter, the party’s capacity for democratic deepening particularly at the grassroots. The reason is simply that a party’s primary contest tugs at the soul of the party, and democratic equality is required to lubricate it. Holding parallel primaries and producing rival candidates who win elections only to be disqualified by the courts has been the bane of the APC under Oshiomhole; leaving the party 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. In Abuja; the city of rumors and intrigues, clearly, the president seems to be the only one who is unfazed about the crisis rocking his party.

The sermon of some APC leaders about reforms, fairness, justice and rule of law is preposterous when indeed the actions of the APC national chairman make those principles its principal casualties. To say that APC lacks discipline may well be the least that could be said of the party that has ruled Nigeria for five years, with very little to show for it. Poverty in the land is acute and widespread, corruption is endemic, power supply epileptic, 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 Boko Haram terrorists and kidnappers and marauding Fulani herdsmen amid the degenerating security situation in the country which deteriorates by the day without much hope of a respite.

The invidious animalism displayed by the APC leadership negates all that political maturity stands 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 to the next level. 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. Nigeria’s salvation, it would seem, cannot be entrusted in the hands of this band of mendacious self-seekers. No index of positive continuity, let alone a transformation agenda, can emanate from such immaturity as witnessed in the APC. 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 present APC crisis of leadership under Oshiomhole is that it marks another unwholesome reflection of the collapse of governance in the country. 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

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 party outright loss of goodwill and electoral value in 2023. Politicians owe themselves the duty of being wary of the verdict of posterity. Without reversing this negative politics, the judgment of history will be harsh on the APC. Nigeria needs peace and security 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. Clearly, in tackling the APC in 2023, Nigerians will not forget Oshiomhole as the X-factor. There is no better way to work one’s name into the book of infamy.