By Rotimi Fasan
When Adam’s Oshiomhole, erstwhile Labour leader and governor of Edo State, took over as chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, party few months ago, he was in dead earnest. He made clear that he was a new broom that would not only clean the mess that the party he was heading had become but was determined to break with the past and make a change. He told anyone who cared to listen that he was different from everyone that had had the fortune or misfortune of holding any leadership position in the APC.
He said it loud and proclaimed clearly that he was not even a Muhammadu Buhari, who as president, had become so lame duck and in equal terms unaware and impervious to activities in the party he purportedly led. In a word, Adams Oshiomhole would neither tolerate the nonsense that manifested itself as disregard of party rules and indifference to the position of the party on major issues. For him, the party was supreme and only those ready to abide by the new ground rules would remain in the party.
He galvanized the party and moved from one part of the country to another in a bid to ensure party cohesion by trying to bring together contending members of the party. He even did his best to broker peace between estranged members of the APC-led national legislature and the executive, led by President Buhari.
His effort in this regard had little effect. He placated those who could be placated and those who could no longer accept the situation in the party, the lack of internal democracy and mutual trust, were, in palpable sour grape fashion, told to seek their fortune in the political wilderness where degenerate outcasts belong. While those who chose to remain were labelled consensus candidates and sopped up with free tickets to re-contest their preferred office, the recalcitrant ones were called names and angrily dismissed as worthless. All told, the battle-scarred chairman appeared to have succeeded in putting his party on the path of rectitude and readiness for the 2019 elections.
But there was one thing he, in hindsight, appeared not to have taken into reckoning. These were the party primaries or, more appropriately stated, the vaulting ambition of party bigwigs and powerhouses including outgoing and second term governors, bent on planting or replacing themselves with their clones.
State governors across the two major parties in the country have over time acquired much political and social capital. Their control of the vast resources in their domains has given them such power and influence as tend to undermine the supremacy of their party, the very principle the Oshiomhole leadership had vowed to restore, where it had been lost, or retain where it still existed. Where they come together, the governors could constitute a formidable opponent and obstacle to any leader, including the president that tries to stand in their way.
But it is this group of powerful power brokers that has now ranged itself against Adams Oshiomhole. The bone of contention are the primaries that featured cloned candidates of the governors, people whose success at the polls was more or less a foregone deal courtesy of their governor-godfathers. It was at these highly contentious and fractious primaries where favourite candidates were doomed that Oshiomhole earned the odium of the governors.
Be it with Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State or Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, Adams Oshiomhole is right now in deep trouble and is set for the severest test of his survival as party chair. Whether he succeeds in retaining his seat depends very much on how much force he could muster and how well he could push back against the governors who have been joined by ministers and other party stalwarts in the Oshiomhole-must-go campaign.
Things were always bound to end like this. There are too many contending interests in the APC and there was no way any party chair could satisfy one interest group without offending another. It was in a bid to satisfy one group at the expense of another that the former chair of the APC, John Odigie Oyegun, was made to bite the dust and pave way for Oshiomhole. If Oshiomhole would retain his position, it would not only be with the support of those who have him in their good book but how much stronger that support is than that of the governors’ group. In a sense, therefore, the battle between Oshiomhole and the governors is a proxy war between Bola Tinubu and the governors opposed to his position in the APC. Oyegun lost his position mainly because he lost Tinubu’s trust. Oshiomhole restored that trust but has in the process displeased others.
In all of this, President Buhari has been further sidelined and his lame duck position is further contoured against the background of his ongoing re-election plans. No doubt, his success at the polls is greatly imperiled by the internal wrangling in the APC. It makes defeat by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate, Atiku Abubakar, a very probable proposition. While the different forces ranged against one another in the APC would and could win in their different zones and areas of control, the party could lose the bigger prize that is the presidential election.
The ultimate loser would be President Muhammadu Buhari who brought this all upon himself, many would say rightly, by his contrived aloofness from activities within his party, positioning himself as not a little above the fray he imagined suited the ‘politicians’ in the APC fold. Now he has a price to pay as he is being made a mere onlooker at what should be his own pre-victory party. After all, he is the proud recipient of some 12 million votes in the APC, one-man, presidential primaries. All that pretence to political saintliness is all coming to nothing and will indeed come to nothing by the time the different forces self-destruct.
Like a decomposing flesh, the APC seems poised to implode from the bowels, and nothing makes that clearer than the corruption investigation for alleged financial impropriety being levelled against Adams Oshiomhole. This is an insider job that proves just how sinister politicians could be. They know where the rot lies and how to point to where to look when needs be.
Neither the Department of State Services, DSS, nor the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, would have much to do. The ground is very much cleared for them, should they choose to act. The APC primaries have come and gone. But after the governors cried wolf, after their witch howled across the spine-chilling silence of the night, nobody needs a dibia to tell them that it was the witch that cried the night before that killed the child.