During the preparation for 2018 All Progressives Congress (APC) national convention where he was elected as national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole unfolded his vision for the party.
The former labour leader said he would foster party supremacy and discipline. The governors who now accuse him of high handedness apparently underrated him.
Analysts said his backers thought they could push him around as they did to his predecessor, Chief John Odigie -Oyegun. But, they forgot that while Oyegun has a civil service orientation, Oshiomhole’s approach is rugged as a unionist.
On May 21, 2018, while campaigning to become the national chairman, Oshiomhole visited former Abia State Governor Orji Kalu in his office in Abuja. It was an open event and discussions took place in the presence of reporters.
The former Edo State governor said the APC under his leadership should only admit people who share its ideology, adding that it should no longer be a party for all comers, especially those who will not add any value to it. He said the APC should be able to tell some people whose belief runs counter to the ideals to look elsewhere.
A peep into his activities so far revealed that Oshiomhole has practically lived up to his campaign promises. To his credit, the Executive/Legislative feud that existed throughout the Eighth Assembly has been nipped in the bud.
His first task was to mend the fences, holding a series of meetings with the lawmakers, with a view to smelting the relationship. He said the party cannot afford to be an onlooker in the rift between both arms of government.
His promise on party administration was to ensure that all party organs are made to function as constitutionally mandated, adding that “when party organs are not functioning, then, we are just a collection of people”.
He sent zonal leaders who were operating from the national secretariat with their full complement of staff back to the zones, telling them to set up the zonal offices. Some leaders are not at peace with this decision and have silently worked against his policies.
The need to reward those who remained loyal to the party as members of the National Assembly largely pitched him against some members who sought election into either the Senate or the House of Representatives and even the state Assemblies.
This ensured that the likes of Peter Akpatason, currently the Deputy Leader of the House of Representatives, were favoured ahead of Kabiru Adjoto, who served as Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly.
Adjoto who has since not forgiven Oshiomhole who closed his eyes to his remaining Speaker when the position should have gone to Edo Central wanted the Akoko Edo Federal Constituency seat. But, Oshiomhole stood by Akpatason, just like he did with many other lawmakers, incurring the wrath of those who sought their positions.
Oshiomhole said the responsibility of a political party goes beyond providing a platform for elections. He said a party should be monitoring the conduct of its members and how elected representatives are keeping faith with the manifesto of the party.
He said: “We are in our critical position in our country and over the next couple of months, the political environment will be heated up when all the aspirants and candidates would have emerged and our party is expected to, as the governing party to lead by example.
I believe that after the historic amalgamation of the four and half parties that now form the APC, it is enough for us to have welded into a party and provide the kind of leadership that Nigerians expected from a political party that is based on the principle of social democracy which was why we carefully choose the name Progressives.
It is not a secret that we have our own fair share of internal challenges. I believe that there is nothing wrong in parties having internal challenges, but what matters is a leadership that has the capacity to manage those challenges and encourage internal democracy and evolve a style of leadership that is based on inclusion rather than exclusion.”
Oshiomhole added: “We must strengthen the process of bottom approach to decision making so that when we talk about a party position, it will be one in which party leaders and members will say, yes, we participated in the process that led to this decision.
The organs of the party must be made to function. “When organs of the party are not functioning, then we are just a collection of individuals. It is my hope that we move beyond creating a platform that is simply there for election purpose, just like a public taxi.
It should also be a platform to continue to engage all those who are elected on the platform of the party and ensure that what they do and how they do it is in line with the manifesto and the core value that bind the party together.
“A political party ought to be governed by a set of value and unless you subscribe to those values, you are not supposed to be a member.
I think it is the duty of a political party leadership to monitor the activities of government and the various organs and where there are disagreements; you intervene in a way that will provide a solution. In the real world, you get what you are able to negotiate.
In a democracy, we must have the skills to negotiate, skills to persuade, skills to do compromise and as they say, the strength of the people in power is measured by the way they deal with those who are completely powerless.
“The gains of democracy are that promises to protect the weak. I don’t think we should be a platform for all, beginning from the extreme right to the extreme left and even fascist, if they are able to manipulate the people in their constituency.
I think over time, this must be the objective so that in the years to come, Nigerians should be able to say the APC; this is what they stand for on issues.
In opting to join or leave a party, it should be based on what you believe in or what you know that the party stands for anyone wanting to context election any level must be someone that subscribe to these core values. This is a task I believe we must work together to build.”
However, one thing he has done that was not part of his campaign promises was to practically convert his private office to an annex of the party secretariat. Apart from coming to the national secretariat for scheduled meetings, Oshiomhole has been administering the party from his personal office at Aso Drive and this has not gone down well with some party leaders.
However, it is becoming evident on a daily basis that members of the party are not abreast with the provisions of the party constitution and, therefore, act in ignorance.
Those who claimed to have suspended him may not be abreast with the provisions of the APC constitution. Article 14(1) of the APC constitution, which spelled out the functions of the National Chairman, makes him the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer of the party while giving him the power “uphold the constitution and defend the name, policies, and programmes of the party”.
It also gives him the power “to give lawful directives to all officers, organs, and members of the party at all levels”. There is no provision in the constitution that all leaders of the party at the ward, local government or state level to gather and suspend a national officer.
That responsibility is reserved for the national leadership of the party, subject to the confirmation of the National Working Committee which shall then make a recommendation to the National Executive Committee and subsequently to the Board of Trustees (BoT) to uphold a suspension or expulsion from the party.
A disciplinary committee must have been set up and its report and recommendation submitted to the leadership of the party. In the case of Oshiomhole’s suspension, which the governor of his state, Godwin Obaseki and party leaders often refer to, it is evident that there is no report of a disciplinary committee on the ground to act, which makes the suspension an exercise in futility.
Similarly, those who claimed to have suspended the governor, his deputy and those leaders loyal to him are also acting in a vacuum as there is no known document with the National Working Committee of a Disciplinary Committee report against them.
The long silence of party elders on the various crises rocking the APC and allowing the blame game on Oshiomhole to continue are not helping the party in any way. Those who laboured to bring the party together to claim power in 2015 must begin now to put their acts together and do what the PDP did when they lost power by setting up a high powered fact-finding committee to meet with all those who are aggrieved across the country and chat a way forward for reconciliation.
The agenda Oshiomhole set for himself which he is implementing may not have gone down well with many members of the party who are leaders in their own right and in their various communities.
Oshiomhole also needs to bear in mind that there are many people who will feel disappointed if he fails to bring his negotiating skills which he acquired over the years working in the labour movement to bear in addressing the problems in the party.
Wounds need to heal as the party goes into stand-alone elections in Edo, Anambra, Ondo and other bye-elections across the country. Even though the APC constitution makes him the Chief Executive Officer of the party, it is time he begin to apply diplomacy in dealing with some of the issues in the party.