Just like the All Progressive Congress (APC) which was driven by very poor judgment to ask him to pilot its affairs, there is no doubt that having Mr. Adams Oshiomhole as the national chairman of the ruling party was a horrendous mistake, which, by the way, should surprise no one, given that there is hardly anything the APC has got right since 2015 when Nigerians naively (or, more appropriately, blindly) stampeded themselves into inflicting the malformed party on themselves.
But Mr. Oshiomhole has not always been like that – a huge liability to the people he is leading. As the president of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), he was admired by many Nigerians, including this writer. He had the facts and eloquence as he confronted the government about the plight of the masses. He was often unbeatable and it was such a delight to listen to him. I would recall that I sometimes quoted him in my column, especially, during the Obasanjo regime. When then he indicated interest to go to the Edo State Government House to function as governor, he easily won the support of people, even beyond the state.
As governor, Comrade Oshiomhole had for quite some time managed to put up a very impressive appearance, a people-friendly mien, until, perhaps, his memorable encounter with a poor widow who had displayed her wares at an “unapproved” place by the roadside to eke out a living for her family (apparently, because she was unable to afford a stall at an “approved” place) helped him to unravel. As the woman tried to appeal to the supposed champion of the masses to be compassionate towards her because she was a poor widow, the “people’s comrade” screamed with all the rage, disgust and strength he could muster: “You are a widow!! Go and die!!
Nigerians were shocked beyond description when the video of the egregious incident hit the social media. The national uproar it provoked must have got Mr. Oshiomhole so terribly panicked. His well cultivated image was on the verge going up in flames before his very eyes. With fierce haste, he got his aides to hit the streets to frantically search for the woman. Soon, they found her, probably, at one small corner, bemoaning her fate. They hastened (some might say, dragged) her and her son to Mr. Oshiomole’s office and before long, pictures of her and the governor sharing very steaming tea in oversize mugs in the hot afternoon flooded the country. The comrade also tried to placate her with a gift of N2 million – to enable her to hire a shop instead of selling on the roadside again. It could also have been a compensation for her seized (and, probably, damaged wares). Oshiomhole equally promised to offer her an employment (even after he had given her money to hire a shop to continue her business!).
After the flurry of gestures, the comrade must have gone home that day so highly relieved that the poorly scripted farce was a very good and effective damage control. We never heard about the woman again.
Now, nobody is against any measures undertaken to instill orderliness in the conduct of private businesses in the state. But such measures must be implemented with a human face, not like some kind of vendetta. And like Oshiomhole himself even admitted, “…even in anger, one could still achieve the same result [one] set out to without provocative outbursts.”
Mr. Oshiomhole had flown the flag of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to become governor. Soon the ACN merged with other political groups to become the APC, which came into office as the ruling party as Oshiomhole’s tenure as governor was ending.
Sadly, the APC came into office without any preparations, with no blueprint and without the slightest idea of what it wanted to do with the power that had suddenly and surprisingly fallen on its lap. Having unduly raised the hopes of Nigerians with tantalizing promises that freely dropped from their mouths like overripe fruits during the campaigns, especially, from their presidential candidate, General Buhari, loud concerns about their ability to govern began to rapidly increase.
And as Nigerians continued to express grave disappointments about the incredibly slow pace of the newly installed Buhari regime, especially, how a president declared winner in March was yet to make up his mind about whom to appoint into very critical positions even by August, someone must have whispered into the president’s ears about the urgent need to deftly administer an “opium” to the populace to immediately instigate a mob hysteria that would automatically change the dominant narrative about his howling unpreparedness and steer the national discourse to his favour even when he was yet to kick-start any form of governance.
And before anyone knew what was happening, pronouncements about massive corruption (not necessarily fight against it) began to drop on Nigerians like a hailstorm. Soon, Governor Oshiomhole stepped into the arena with his carefully executed media trials in which he promptly accused, prosecuted, sentenced and verbally lynched selected officials of the previous regime, a development that soon gripped everyone’s imagination and virtually overshadowed every other concern about an administration that appeared totally blank and lost in the middle of nowhere several months after it was declared “winner” of an election. His performance almost helped him to overshadow even the more garrulous Information Minister.
But it would seem that Oshiomhole’s acting soon got into his head and badly overwhelmed him and he went into a frightening overdrive. He brazenly announced to Nigerians that when he accompanied President Buhari to Washington, some White House officials had named to them a key member of the Jonathan regime who had stolen $6 million from the country’s treasury. He insisted that the person must be brought to book for that horrendous heist. But till now, neither Oshiomhole nor any official of the Buhari regime has told Nigerians the name of the very government official that made away with this humongous sum, despite the fact Oshiomhole had gone ahead to repeat this allegation several times.
Although, it is being speculated that Mr. Oshiomhole emerged as the APC national chairman because of the backing of a powerful APC leader, there is no doubt that his running mouth (which had in no small measure helped the APC during its desperate period) might have helped to favourably project him for the plum job.
But soon, it became clear that the same mouth that had aided his ascendancy had become his undoing, having been over-deployed and put to very unedifying uses. As the APC national chairman, he appeared to have conceived an exaggerated notion of his role as the party’s sole administrator, a kind of headmaster, a parallel president with sweeping, limitless powers, with a mandate to always beat all APC officials and government functionaries into line.
And soon, he began to indiscriminately issue orders to ministers and to publicly rebuke them. He warned that he was not like Buhari who tolerated their excesses that if any of them misbehaved, he would deal with him. Unknown to him, he was indirectly indicting Buhari for inaction and crying inability to maintain discipline in his government and exercise control over his appointees.
Oshiomhole’s serious attitudinal issues soon began to grow out of proportion and create problems here and there, causing him to clash with government functionaries who felt he was overstretching his powers.
Given this background, therefore, it was not surprising that he would soon start having issues with Godwin Obaseki, the governor of his home state of Edo whom he had vigorously campaigned for. Obviously, the governor was in no mood to accept his overbearing attitude and penchant to order around people he wrongly or rightly perceived as subordinates. As their disagreement lingered, degenerated and festered, it increased the impatience and disaffection of his party members and that of even many other Nigerians towards him.
Several APC leaders have blamed his disagreeable and divisive personality for the loss of some key states by the party.
And while he was at the national scene flaunting what soon began to be viewed by many as his nuisance value, some fellows went to his ward and pulled the rug from under his feet.
Some little known party members who functioned as the executives of the APC at the ward level announced his suspension from the party. He must have thought that as a “whole” national chairman, he would easily be able to bludgeon his way out of the tiny fire burning under his feet, but he was to eventually discover that it was small fires like that that humbled elephants and tamed lions.
Shortly after an APC screening committee ensured that Gov Obaseki was disqualified from participating in the primary contest, Oshiomhole fell from his high horse as both the courts and his party top echelon affirmed his suspension, which seems to have now translated to his removal from the exalted position of power.
But at the same time, Gov Obaseki was heralded into the waiting arms of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under whose platform he will contest the September 19 governorship election. And if Obaseki goes ahead to win the contest (as is being widely predicted), that might be the end of the APC giving Mr. Oshiomhole any further opportunity to play the role of a disastrous liability for the party.
Interestingly, Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the same man Oshiomhole had gone all out to badly damage and trash as a brand while campaigning for Gov Obaseki in the previous election is now the APC governorship candidate. All the horrible things Oshiomhole had said about Ize-Iyamu and the beautiful and wonderful ones he said about Obaseki while campaigning for him are all still on tape and in print. These are now what the PDP is now using to project Obaseki after a court had refused to grant the prayers made to it to stop the PDP from using those tapes. What it means is that whereas Oshiomhole is a member of APC Campaign Council for Edo State Governorship election, he is in effect (through his recorded previous utterances) campaigning for the PDP and horribly maligning the APC candidate. What a most awkward position a man can find himself in.
Only a few days ago, (Tuesday, July 14, 2020), Mr. Ize-Iyamu appeared in court to face an eight-count charge of money laundering involving about N700 million which he allegedly used to run the 2015 elections. The case was filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). That would also be another campaign weapon for the PDP.
Even though Prof Mahmood Yakubu’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has a reputation for conducting weird elections and announcing strange and inexplicable results, if on September 19, Ize-Iyamu is trounced by Obaseki, most people in the APC will once again blame Oshiomhole for it. They will now finally let him know that they have realized that he was a huge mistake made by the party.
But to discerning people, it is the APC that should hasten to realize that it was a very costly mistake made by the Nigerian people in 2015 when they were blinded and bamboozled by vacuous but overwhelming propaganda to give power to it, which it then used its power of incumbency to hold on to in 2019.