The chaos and dramatic turn of events in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) following the political sacrilege by the Screening and Appeal Committees of the Edo governorship primary which disqualified the incumbent Governor, Godwin Obaseki, is a sad commentary on the character of Nigerian politicians and underscores the bastardization of democracy to have a peculiarly Nigerian definition, that is insulting and contemptuous of the average Nigerian to whom the right to vote and be voted for, is a constitutional one. The intrigues and manipulation that shut down the Edo gubernatorial nomination process to Obaseki, was tele-guided by the embattled APC chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, whose suspension was upheld by an Appeal Court on Tuesday; precipitating an unfortunate fracas, with three members of the National Working Committee (NWC) laying claim to the party leadership. Contrary to the desire of Nigerians or the demands of these trying Covid-19 times, the APC has become one more source of turbulence and distraction, turning its internal crisis, fueled by ego, vanity, political immaturity and self-aggrandizement into the trouble of Nigeria and its people. This unpatriotic betrayal of public trust is unacceptable. Nigerians deserve better.
The rancorous and highly distracting crisis has exposed the failure of the APC to deepen and expand the frontiers of Nigerian democracy. For starters, the ridiculous assertion by the APC screening committee led by Professor Jonathan Ayuba that Obaseki was disqualified because his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate contained a typographical error with his name written as Godwin Obasek instead of Godwin Obaseki, is laughable and should attract no further comment, more so, as the incumbent is a sitting APC governor. It is just as well that Obaseki refused to appeal his disqualification and has since resigned from the APC. He will likely seek re-election under the banner of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); and face-off against Oshiomhole’s favored candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, in a reverse re-match of the 2016 election during which Obaseki (APC) defeated Ize-Iyamu (PDP).
Even as Nigerians were yet to come to terms with the implications of the APC disqualification of Obaseki, an Appeals court threw a spanner in the works by upholding the suspension of Oshiomhole. To stave off a leadership vacuum, the NWC named Sen. Abiola Ajimobi, deputy national chairman (South), as APC acting national chairman in line with Section 14 subsection 3 of the party constitution which states inter alia that: “The deputy national chairman shall act as the national chairman in the absence of the national chairman from his zone.” Ajimobi, who is reportedly receiving treatment for Covid-19 at an undisclosed location, announced through his spokesman, Bolaji Tunji that a meeting of the APC national executive committee (NEC), would soon be convened to review the situation and chart the way forward.
Another dramatic twist to the unfolding saga erupted when APC deputy national secretary, Chief Victor Giadom, declared himself as APC national chairman. Giadom told a press conference at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja on Wednesday that a subsisting order of the FCT High court delivered on March 16, 2020, by Justice SU Bature, had ordered that with the earlier suspension of Oshiomhole, he (Giadom) should act as the party’s national chairman. He claimed he could not exercise his functions because Oshiomhole obtained a temporary injunction ordering stay of execution from the court of appeal; which on Tuesday upheld Oshiomhole’s suspension. To which end, he (Giadom) was assuming office as APC national chairman in compliance with the FCT high court order. Giadom then revoked the disqualification of Obaseki, saying the APC screening committee violated due process. But in a swift reaction after another emergency NWC meeting on yesterday, Hilliard Eta, APC national vice-chairman (Southsouth), announced that 16 of the 21 NWC members had suspended Giadom and affirmed Ajimobi as acting national chairman; and in Ajimobi’s absence, he (Hilliard) was designated to act as national chairman. The NWC also constituted a committee on the Edo gubernatorial primary headed by Imo governor, Hope Uzodinma, while the appeal committee is led by Prof. Mustapha Bello.
For a party that claims to embody change to the next level, all this speaks directly to the embarrassingly low level of political maturity, and is a damaging commentary on the abysmal failure of the ruling party with commanding majorities across all levers of government, to meet the very basic requirements of discipline, unity of thought and action.
Be that as it may, it is indeed disappointing that the decision to disqualify Obaseki had the blessing and tacit support of President Muhammadu Buhari and APC national leader, Bola Tinubu. The fact that Obaseki announced his resignation after meeting with Buhari in Aso Villa was a well-orchestrated ambush and a political master stroke that exposed and diminished the president as a political wimp who has redefined the meaning of incompetent leadership in a way which makes Oshiomhole to undermine his authority and the machinery of the ruling party; manufacturing crisis after crisis and creating deep disenchantment amongst the party rank and file; who have all but lost hope that the APC will exist as a party after 2023 when Buhari leaves office. If this is not a screaming barometer reading of presidential leadership failure, one wonders what else is.
Against popular expectations that Obaseki will easily coast to re-election given his sterling record of performance during his first term, the sustained effort by the impetuous, abrasive and talkative Oshiomhole to undermine Obaseki is just another incremental and rapacious devaluation of internal democracy. This is disgraceful and totally condemnable, as it serves neither the interest of the Edo people or the cause of Nigerian democracy. Many Nigerians of goodwill 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.
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 it. The sermon of APC leaders about democracy, justice and rule of law is preposterous when indeed the actions of Oshiomhole has negated all those principles; displaying only contempt and absolute disregard for decorum, order and indeed constituted authority.
With his petulance, impudence, foul temperament, and very cantankerous nature, Oshiomhole seems addicted to garrison and confrontational politics; which is unsurprising giving his background in organized labor. The invidious animalism displayed by the beleaguered Oshiomhole is the quintessential proof 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. It is not hyperbole to say Oshiomhole is now the greatest threat to Nigerian democracy. The question is: what is his endgame?
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 leadership under Oshiomhole.
Clearly, the president seems to be the only one who is unfazed about the crisis rocking his party. But the chickens will come home to roost when the APC will lose Edo state. The Edo people are not impressed, let alone fooled by Oshiomhole’s antics; he cannot be Esau’s hand and Jacob’s voice at the same time. The people of Edo state have a bounding duty to stand up against one of the most grotesque and shameless electoral heist ever foisted on a people. Oshiomhole’s desperation to deny Obaseki a second term is not only bad for the APC; it may actually cause the party outright loss of goodwill and electoral value. The people of Edo should vote massively for Governor Obaseki in the general election no matter what party he is contesting. In that way, Oshiomhole will understand that he misread the political climate should never again take the people for granted. Oshiomhole will then have a decision to make: resign or be pushed out of the APC.
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