Oshiomhole’s battles: Who’s to blame?

Though, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has succeeded in dominating the leadership of the 9th National Assembly, the party’s national chairman, Comrade Oshiomhole, prior to this new feat was engulfed in many battles from both his members and the opposition. In this report, BODE OLAGOKE and TOPE SUNDAY trace the genesis of his ordeal.

The 2019 general elections have come and vanished away but for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), its dust is yet to settle in the cloud. Almost three months after the election was held, the party is still nursing the wounds of its pre-election activities like the nomination of the candidates for the election in some states. However, the man at the centre of the bashing and criticisms is the national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to the extent that people are calling for his sack.

The man Oshiomhole

On June 23, 2018, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past governor of Edo state, took over from his fellow Edo indigene and indeed former governor, John Odigie-Oyegun, as the second substantive national chairman of the ruling APC.

The Iyamho-born labour leader-turned politician who was born on April 4, 1952, was appointed general secretary of the National Union of Textile Garments and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, in 1982; a union with over 75,000 workers.

After democracy was restored in 1999, he became president of the NLC. The textile union elected Oshiomhole for a second term as general secretary, while he continued as president of the NLC.

He represented African workers for two terms on the governing body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), serving on the committee on freedom of association. He was also a member of the Executive Board of the International Confederation of Tree Trade Unions.

At the National Convention of the APC held in June 2018 in Abuja, Comrade Oshiomhole emerged the national chairman of the APC after an affirmative vote by the party’s delegates from the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Oshiomhole became the sole chairmanship candidate before the convention after his opponents, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor and Chief Clement Ebri, both former governors of Edo and Cross River states, respectively, withdrew from the race.

To become sole candidate for APC chairmanship, President Muhammadu Buhari alongside the governors elected on the party’s platform, queued behind him to clinch the coveted party’s seat. He was said to have enjoyed the support of the national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, who had in 2017 asked the then party national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, to throw in the towel.

His ‘many sins’ 

In the build-up to the 2019, four governors of the party accused Oshiomhole of highhandedness in his handling of the primaries held to elect their successors.

The immediate past governors of Zamfara state, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari; Imo state, Chief Rochas Okorocha; Ogun state, Ibikunle Amosun; and Ondo state, Rotimi Akeredolu, were among the bigwigs of the party whose wrath Comrade Oshiomole incurred.

For Yari, who was the immediate past chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, his battle with Oshiomhole was over the mode of conduct of governorship primary and the “politics” that played out afterwards.

The misunderstanding between the duo prompted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare that Zamfara APC did not submit the names of its candidates before the deadline given by the commission. The development later spelt doom for the party in the state as the Supreme Court ruled that the party did not conduct valid primary elections for its candidates, and pronounced that candidates with the second highest votes should be sworn as winners of all elective positions in the state. The APC consequently lost all won seats to the Peoples Democracy Party (PDP) in the state.

Also, the fight between the former Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha, and Oshiomhole was unconnected with the conduct of the governorship primaries in the state.

Even before the primaries, Imo APC was divided into two, one led by Okorocha and the other by his deputy, Eze Madumere.

 Okorocha was plotting for the emergence of his son-in-law, Henry Nwosu, to succeed him, while a senator, Hope Uzodinma, was the leading aspirant from the other group, which has the support of most of the key members of the party in the state.

The National Working Committee (NWC) meddled into the crisis and conducted the primary election that was handled by a former presidential aide, Ali Gulak. The election was won by Uzodinma with 423,895 votes, beating the deputy governor, Madumere, who came second. This did not go down well with Okorocha, thus his battle with Oshiomhole.

Like in other states, the relationship between Oshiomhole and form Ogun state governor, Ibikunle Amosun, degenerated after the party’s governorship primary. The state held two separate primaries, producing two candidates.

While the state chairman of the party, Derin Adebiyi, declared a member of the House of Representatives, Adekunle Akinlade, the winner, the panel set up by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party declared oil businessman, Dapo Abiodun, the winner.

But all attempts to overturn the outcome of the election failed, Mr Akinlade suddenly announced his defection to the Allied Peoples Movement (APM).

The main grouse that Akeredolu, the Ondo state governor, has with Oshiomhole is his alleged manipulation of the Ondo state legislative primaries in favour of those seen to be the “arch enemies” of the governor.

Apart from his running battles with some governors belonging to his party, the APC national chairman was also engaged in a war of words with the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who left the party for the PDP.

The criticisms

Aside from the current hostility between Comrade Oshiomhole and his former economic adviser, who is now the governor of Edo state, over the second term bid, the APC national chairman appears to be fighting many battles at a time.

Following the fallout of the Zamfara APC primaries, which had cost the party the governorship and all the National Assembly seats in the state, his deputy (North), Lawal Shuaibu, has called for his resignation.

Shuaibu said the electoral fortunes of the APC had dwindled because of the leadership style of Oshiomhole, whom he accused of conducting the NWC meetings at a private residence instead of the party’s national secretariat.

 “We had 23 states in 2015, but after the 2019 elections we lost seven states! We also had 60 senators in 2015 at the end of the elections; we now end up with 57 senators in 2019. You were not brought in to lose elections. It is absolutely unacceptable.

“What this entails is that for any senator to become a presiding officer he needs to go and kneel down before the PDP senators and beg for support. And to make things worse, you announced that the APC will not allow any PDP senator to be appointed as committee chairman except the committees statutorily meant for the opposition members of the Senate,” he said.

Shuaibu, while justifying his call that Comrade Oshiomhole should resign, said the maturity exhibited throughout the 2015 political rallies by the APC, together with the aura of the party’s presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, attracted massive goodwill for the party, and the value addition to that, were unquantifiable.

 “In a political party like the APC, you are expected to also introduce a new approach to strategies through committees that will work and submit recommendations to you towards improving on the current fortunes of the party. The respect the APC was commanding among its members and sympathisers has been completely eroded, while the goodwill has equally evaporated with the type of attitude of threats to members you deploy, including senior members such as governors, senators, ministers and other government officials whose functions do not fall within your jurisdiction.

“As I know, the relationship between the party and government are cooperation and collaboration to ensure that government programmes are implemented in line with the party manifesto, but not shouting and giving marching instructions to government officials on television screens or on the pages of newspapers, and more often than not, they call your bluff and make you look helplessly unimportant in the scheme of things,” he said.

Also, immediate past minister of communications, Adebayo Shittu, has thrown his weight behind the move, claiming that his resignation would be in the party’s best interest.

Shittu, who was disqualified by the party from vying for the governorship of Oyo state, declared that Oshiomhole’s resignation would be in the best interest of the party. I endorse it. The truth is, with Oshiomhole, this party would go down by the time President Muhammadu Buhari finishes his second term. Oshiomhole is full of himself. He has an ego problem and wants to dominate every environment. Democracy is not like that,” he said.

Similarly, his kinsmen under the umbrella of Edo APC Coalition for Progress at a press conference recently in Benin City, challenged Oshiomhole to “toe the path of honour,” stressing that he “is the one promoting nepotism in Edo politics” and the nation at large. 

Spokesman for the group, Dr. Peter Ologun, vowed that members of the body would soon organise a one- million march against Oshiomhole in Abuja, the nation’s seat of power, should he fail “to immediately step down” as the helmsman of the party, insisting that they “no longer have confidence in him.” 

 Ologun said they were determined to “disown him” as a son of the Heart Beat state in the oil-rich South-south geo political zone “for leading the APC as an emperor,” a development he maintained cost the fold the “shameful” defeat in Zamfara, Rivers state, Bauchi and Imo states, respectively.

 “What we have seen in recent times in Edo state is a situation where Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is the one directly promoting nepotism in Edo and National APC. Oshiomhole’s resignation will help us recover the party from imminent collapse. The only way justice can be done to those involved in anti-party activities during the 2019 general elections is for Oshiomhole to resign from the party,” he said.

Oyegun on Oshiomhole

When asked to react to the development, immediate past national chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, commended the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) and the party’s governors for their efforts to secure victory in the National Assembly leadership elections, but added that Oshiomhole’s “challenges in the party’s management are simply his abrasive style.”

Speaking through his Special Assistant on Public Affairs and a chieftain of the APC, Chief Ray Murphy, Oyegun said Oshiomhole’s utterances, reconciliation moves and his frequent presence at the party house “are a welcome development.”

“I would say that he alongside the governors handled the NASS elections splendidly. His challenges in the party’s management are simply results of his abrasive style. However, his utterances in the past few days, his conciliatory tone and his frequent presence in the APC secretariat indicate that he is having a change of style, which is a welcome development.” 

Ex-Reps member dismisses allegations

Also reacting, another chieftain of the party and former member of the House of Representatives from Edo state, Chief Barrister Davidson Oputteh, said: “The allegations of incompetence against the national chairman (of the APC) have no foundation in the party’s constitution as they cannot be situated with Article 21 which deals with offences.

 “They are essentially formulated to rubbish the image of the national chairman who has demonstrated unarguable that he is equally within his zone of competence as a the national chairman having delivered the federal government and now the leadership of the National Assembly to the All Progressives Congress (APC). 

“Thus, if the pith of the deputy national chairman’s grouse to that the national chairman is responsible for the poor performance of the party in his northern territory, then he, Shuaibu, should be asked how well he exercised the enormous constitutional powers vested in his office. If he is principled, he should accept collective responsibility for any perceived lapses and resign first. 

“As a matter of fact, the APC constitution entrenched in the party entrenches vertical territorial separation of powers among party organs under Article 10 A, which specifies seven levels of party organs from the national to the polling unit.” 

APC ex-officio’s take

In his remarks, an ex-officio of the party from the South-east, Chief Nduka Anyanwu, said Oshiomhole has tried his best, but needs to improve on the management of the ruling party.

“The outcome of National Assembly leadership election is kudos to APC because we were able to secure 100 per cent of the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate. This really shows that the leadership of the party is galvanising very well unlike what happened in 2015, but there are still rooms for improvement.”

When asked to comment on the call for the National Chairman to resign, Nyanwu said, “All those things are allowed, but for me as a national ex-officio of the party, I know that the national chairman is doing his best, but there are rooms for improvement. There are still more time for him to improve. You know we are all learning everyday,” he said.

When pressed further to say whether or not it could be said that Oshiomhole had survived impeachment, the party chieftain said so many of those calling for Oshiomhole’s impeachment “are not members of the National Executive Council (NEC).”

So, who should be blamed for Oshiomhole’s many battles?

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