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Odigie-Oyegun’s ‘ruffian billows’

IN William Shakespeare’s historical play, Henry IV, a soliloquy from the eponymous character, King Henry, says something fundamental, something akin to a foreshadowing of the events in Nigeria’s governing All Progressives Congress, especially as they relate to the party’s head honcho, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.

Naturally, the winds that trouble a leviathan come from outside the ship. But this is not the case with the ruling party. APC is tempestuously buffeted on a high sea by internal winds, making apt the rhetorical question in the soliloquy, “And in the visitation of the winds, who take the ruffian billows by the top, curling their monstrous heads and hanging them…?” Surely, for Odigie-Oyegun, “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” as Shakespeare’s King Henry concludes in the monologue.

Recent events in APC have shown its chairman carrying a very big burden, a load big enough to ache the bearer’s head. Already, there is an obvious implosion in the party and frantic efforts are being made to prevent it from becoming an explosion.  Since the APC government came on board at the centre, it has been one trouble or the other. The party is yet to come out of some of the crises that engulfed it on arrival at the seat of power.

The first test that gave the party away as one that fits into the mould of the Theory of Salad Bowl, where all the ingredients that constitute the salad are visible, was the leadership of the National Assembly.

APC wanted to lord its preferred leadership on the legislative institution. But the federal lawmakers have artfully mastered how to resist external pressure from the immediate past government. The PDP had wanted a South-West person to be Speaker of the House of Representatives. The lawmakers, with the support of the then opposition party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and its lawmakers and leaders, plotted the emergence of Aminu Tambuwal, now Sokoto State governor.

NASS members, however, took the game a step further with the emergence of Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara as the headship of the two chambers. The party’s candidates all lost, leaving the battle line perpetually drawn between the party and leaders of the chambers.

From NASS, the theatre was shifted to Kogi State, where the death of Abubakar Audu, APC’s governorship candidate, left a vacuum that a section of the party from the South believed should automatically be filled by James Faleke who was Audu’s partner on a joint ticket. But that was not to be. Yahaya Bello, who profited from the situation, had a fierce battle that took him as far as the Supreme Court for him to enjoy the political windfall and respite from the enraged gods of expansionism.

The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the outcome of the party’s governorship primary in Ondo State. The queerly different elements in the party had backed different aspirants to clinch the ticket. As it turned out, the segment of the party which draws a humongous weight and nourishment from the Presidency carried the day.

The embers from the fire ignited by the outcome of the primary are still red hot. A national leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, in a statement entitled ‘Oyegun’s Ondo Fraud: The Violation of Democracy in APC’, not only called on Odigie-Oyegun to resign but also described the exercise as undemocratic. Specifically, he accused the APC chairman of receiving bribe to ensure the emergence of Mr Rotimi Akeredolu as the party’s candidate.

Among other things, Tinubu said: “It is an awful parent who suffocates his own child for the sake of a few naira…the party is rapidly becoming an albatross to those it was meant to help. The APC…is under critical threat by those who managed to be in the party but never of it…If the party could not justly govern itself, it would find it difficult to establish and maintain just government throughout the nation.”

To Odigie-Oyegun, the former Lagos State governor was misadvised in his acerbic comment against him, a comment he described as reckless and unfortunate. “This reckless and baseless corruption allegation levelled against me is unfortunate and an insult to my person and my hard-earned reputation… Nobody has the kind of money that can buy my conscience or make me do injury to an innocent man…approved delegates list was compiled in strict compliance with the party’s constitution…none of the aspirants or the Appeal Committee has submitted to NWC a list of delegates who were not qualified to be included in the delegates list but were listed as delegates or presumed qualified delegates who were not included in the delegates’ list used for the primary.”

Quite often in politics, the scenario of hand of Esau, voice of Jacob plays out. A leader may become a conveyor belt or channel for the transmission of a remote message. Does the fact that Oyegun had to seek clearance from the Presidency before responding to Tinubu’s invective speak volumes?

Depending on what factions they belong, various groups and leaders within the party have naturally been expressing support for and against the feuding leaders. Odigie-Oyegun’s APC is in four-fold and his predecessor, Chief Bisi Akande, has twice raised the alarm of a possible explosion in the party.

Former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, has thrown his weight behind Tinubu’s position and called for adherence to and entrenchment of the principles of rule of law in the party. Atiku emphasised that ingredients such as internal democracy and rule of law are key to the unity and stability of the party. “You cannot break your own rules without creating problems… It was wrong for the APC to have set aside a resolution it had reached aimed at resolving the crisis in our party in Ondo State. It is a recipe for acrimony and division,” he said.

The party’s governors have given Odigie-Oyegun a massive political capital with their affirmation of his leadership and declaration of support for him. In fact, they appear to be ready to “take the ruffian billows by the top” and curled their monstrous heads and hang them. However, the governors’ emphasis on the need to reposition the party and manage the 2015 electoral victory well indicate the party needs more than mere placatory rhetoric.

Odigie-Oyegun is an economist and sure knows that the basic definition of opportunity cost is alternative forgone. As a retired permanent secretary, he should know that nothing is permanent; only change, the mantra of the administration, is. As a former governor of Edo State, he has experience about the problematic of governing human beings, more so politicians.

Can the Edo State politician and former governor stitch the torn garment? Will the gladiators purge their anger without letting blood? Will the centripetal and the centrifugal forces in APC get to bed again? Like Shakespeare counsels, deep malice makes too deep incision. Will the ‘wrath-kindled’ leaders forget their differences, forgive one another, “conclude and be agreed?’ Can they heal the festering open sore in the party without future reference being made to the mark left after the sore is healed? Is the party, which was elected to solve problems, not distracted from that goal with its seemingly endless problem? Can hungry and angry Nigerians afford to be fed with a political soap opera as food?