In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the eponymous character, Julius Caesar, was warned about ‘the ides of March.’ But for the ousted national chairman of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), it was the ‘ides of June,’ as he was removed from office on June 16, seven days to his second anniversary as the party’s head, having been elected by a voice vote from delegates at a convention held on June 23, 2018. DARE ADEKANMBI looks at the travails of the former chairman.
SINCE its formation, the various political tendencies that came together under the aegis of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) have found it difficult to evolve as a compatible ideological whole. Critics of the party have levelled a charge that APC was hurriedly put together to grab power and was consequently built on quicksand.
To the extent that various blocs in APC, particularly the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which were the largest partners in the merger, still genuflect before the altars of their various political beliefs makes the theory of salad bowl a fitting metaphor to characterise the crises that have convulsed the APC and quaked its health.
In a bowl of salad, the various ingredients of the meal retain their separate identities and from mere looking at the bowl one can see cabbage, carrot, cucumber and others. This is in sharp contrast to the ideal that ought to govern the ruling party — the theory of melting pot — where all ingredients have been ground and separate identities dissolved into the whole.
It is under this yoke that the three successive national chairmen the party has had in about six years have operated. Or put differently, the burden of ideological incompatibility has consumed the last two chairmen of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and Adams Oshiomhole, both from Edo State in the South-South zone.
But the crisis that guzzled the immediate past national chair of the party and former labour leader, Oshiomhole, is as intrinsically institutional with APC and by extension, other parties, as it was self-inflicted. It is also directly related to the battle for the party’s 2023 presidential ticket.
Oshiomhole’s first fall was early in March this year when Justice Danlami Senchi of Abuja Federal High Court granted the prayer of Oluwale Afolabi who had approached the court to suspend him as national chairman, following his suspension from the party at his ward in Etsako West, a decision he did not challenge.
But like the biblical Adam, he got a redemptive help from the powerful forces in the party who conjured up the deus ex machina for the embattled chair hitherto boxed into a cul-de-sac.
He ran to the Appeal Court, Abuja division, with an application through his lawyer, Wole Olanipekun SAN, that there would be a disorder if he was not present at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the APC said to have been scheduled for mid March.
Justice Abubakar Yahaya, who read the ruling of the Appellate Court on the application, found merit in the application and granted a stay of execution of the order of the lower court which sacked Oshiomhole, saying: “We have looked at the application and we are of the view that the image of an emergency has been painted. There is information that NEC would hold a meeting tomorrow and the applicant will not be there. Justice would not have been served if the applicant is not at the meeting.”
But the meeting never held. The indefinite postponement of the NEC meeting was said to have been instigated by backers of Oshiomhole, sensing that the embattled national chairman could be axed in the meeting.
As part of moves to douse the tension building up against him, Oshiomhole set up a reconciliation committee headed by one of his predecessors and former governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande, whose terms of reference included returning peace to the Ondo and Edo state chapters of the party and other troubled states.
The Akande committee went to Ondo in a bid to resolve the schism in the party there. It is not on record if the committee visited Edo State for a similar task. Akande, in a statement in March, condemned the litigious conduct of party members, warning that going to court to shop for injunctions and counter injunctions portended danger for the future of the party.
Rather than allow the Akande committee to do its job, Oshiomhole continued his war of attrition with the governor of his state, Godwin Obaseki, leading to the setting up of a screening committee that edged out Obaseki from seeking his re-election on the platform of APC. The governor and Oshiomhole had been locked in a bitter battle over alleged attempts by the latter to call the shots over the resources of the state.
His immediate predecessor from Edo State, Odigie-Oyegun in separate statements, had condemned Oshiomhole’s conduct as national chairman of the party, warning that his actions might spell doom for the party and the ex-labour leader’s might be an undertaker that would see to the end of the party if urgent interventions were not made.
The same Abuja division of the Appeal Court that gave reprieve to Oshiomhole would later sanction Adams’ second fall in a unanimous judgment on June 16, as the court said his appeal against his sack by a lower court lacked merit. Coming to terms with the seriousness of his suspension at his ward, moves were made to lift the suspension and have the court vacate the order, but the chairman of APC in his ward insisted that the suspension remained in force, despite other members of the ward executives going to Abuja to lift same.
Thus began the factional battle for the soul of the APC as two persons — Hilliard Eta and Victor Giadom — emerged parallel acting chairmen, both armed with court orders and counter orders. Looking at the state of disorder in the party, one of its founding fathers, Odigie-Oyegun, voiced out his concern again, calling for the sack of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party and the appointment of a caretaker committee. He also called for the convocation of an extraordinary convention to smoothen all rough edges in the party.
The leader of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari, seemed to have heeded the warning and the alarm bell sounded by Odigie-Oyegun with the sanctioning of the convocation of a NEC meeting of the party where far-reaching decisions were taken on Thursday.
It was gathered that last-ditch efforts by a national leader in the party and former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Tinubu, to save Oshiomhole from being disgraced and chased away from his Edenic heights in the APC did not yield result, as he could not see the president to have a discussion with him ahead of the meeting.
Even NWC members sympathetic to Oshiomhole who had threatened to boycott the emergency NEC meeting shelved the plan and attended. Although Buhari declared support for Giadom’s faction of the NWC as the authentic in view of legal advice sought, the NWC was dissolved at Thursday’s NEC meeting, ending controversy over which is faction is genuine and which is not.
There is no information to the effect that Oshiomhole is ready to challenge his removal at the Supreme Court. In fact, he said he had accepted the judgment in good faith.
Unlike his first fall, Adam’s second fall could be likened to a Humpty Dumpty, the famous character in the English nursery rhyme who sat on the metaphoric wall and had a great fall. “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Oshiomhole together again.”
There are general feelings that Tinubu, who is Oshiomhole’s biggest supporter, has been nursing his being shut out of the NEC meeting. Oshiomhole has been serially accused of genuflecting before the fallen god of Babylon. It was said that Tinubu’s position as a national leader is unknown to the constitution of the party. Tinubu had attended all APC NEC meetings except the last one.
Buhari left no one in doubt about the decisions approved by NEC of the party, although there were reports the decisions were literally rammed down throat of those in attendance with no room for a debate on the desirability or otherwise of some of the decisions.
Oshiomhole may have been humiliated out of office as APC national chair, he probably would be consoled by the fact that he sent Obaseki, his arch enemy, out of the party. Perhaps the biggest allegation against Oshiomhole was that APC under his charge lost about six states to the opposition PDP and that if care was not taken, the party would bite the dust in the 2023 president contest.
Despite Oshiomhole’s second fall on the Eve of Edo election, the besetting sin for the ruling party remains with it. Unless APC leaders have a communion on a single ideological direction for the party, the seat of the national chair will continue to be hot for whoever mounts it.
Perhaps the reason dissatisfied APC chieftains are finding PDP alluring is that the umbrella party, which ruled the country for 16 years before it was kicked out by APC, is now enjoying some sanity all in the bid to have win more states and return to central government.
Now that 2023 battle is in the mix in the crisis tearing APC apart, who will save the APC from itself and? Will the Tinubu, whose nose appears bloodied in the events leading to the NEC meeting, support Buhari’s moves in the party? Will Tinubu be able to realise his rumoured presidential ambition in APC? Will he give the caretaker committee benefit of the doubt and wait to see the outcome of the reorganisation before deciding the next move? The questions will be answered with the passage of time.
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