By Simon Ebegbulem
Immediate past governor of Edo State and aspirant for the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, in this interview with Vanguard outlined how he will use his negotiating prowess as a unionist to bring harmony to the party. Excerpts:
Why do you think you are the best man for the job when the party is in crisis?
I am very familiar with the dreams, missions and visions of the founders of this party because I was one of them.
And I am convinced that I have what it takes to provide leadership and build on the foundation laid by the first chairman, Chief Bisi Akande who did a marvellous job.
So I think for a political party that is determined to be in power, you need a solid structure to achieve it and God used Bisi Akande and other leaders such as President Buhari, Asiwaju, and others to achieve that.
Chief Oyegun came in to contribute his quota to build on that foundation and four years later, we have the opportunity to contest for that office believing that we can help to reinvent and refocus the party in a way that it will be a strong pillar to support governments elected on its platform at the local, state and federal levels.
My hope then, is that my task will be to try to begin to help everyone not only to understand the essence of progressive politics, the ideology that it represents, but start the process of building a party that in the very nearest future, Nigerians should be able to stop the debate about whether or not there is a difference between one party and the other.
And to be honest, it is a huge challenge to try to make the distinction, which is why people say they don’t know the difference between one party and the other. And of course, the ease with which people cross carpet also raises the issue of whether there are fundamental ideological differences.
I think the danger of not having ideology-based political parties is that party contestation is then driven by religion and ethnicity which is very, very dysfunctional as long as managing the affairs of a state is concerned.
Unless we act proactively, to get serious and organise parties based on ideology, these other forces will crowd out the political class and politics will be very injurious, and national unity will be weakened, and that will be a danger to our future. So I am clear as to what my task will be.
Are you not worried you are gunning for the position at a time when people are threatening to leave your party, and some have even left?
It is also important to say that we have even expanded the house of APC. Many, many people have decamped from PDP to APC after the formation of the party in 2014 and even after the last elections. So I think we have lost few, we have gained more, and I believe there are many who will come maybe after I assume office, God willing, if I win.
At least based on my conversations with people, PDP is happy with some of the problems, but that party will collapse completely when I come in by God’s grace. However, that does not mean that we don’t have a problem.
How do you react to the crises in the party?
I think what has happened is that we had expected what one described as a chemical reaction but what we got was a physical reaction. Chemical reaction would have led to the bonding of all the various elements into one organic whole.
But unfortunately, the physical reaction where the various parts are dangling and trying to hang on, the center is not clear, and it is that reaction that you observed and described as huge challenges. It is real. By holding meetings of organs of a party, the various people that formed APC should have been bonded.
People were supposed to form progressive alliances. I think this is the area we have not done too well in holding regular meetings of organs of APC across the 774 Local Governments to meet and know one another. Once we institutionalise regular meetings and encourage debates and contestations, when we begin to do that, that chemical reaction will take place, and the party will bond. Secondly, we must also develop skills to manage conflicts. In all of those states where we have crises, you will find out that those conflicts were not indeed inevitable, they were just a reflection of a free people who think it is normal to have different points of view in a matter.
But let me tell you, in the real world, nobody gets what he wants, you get what you can negotiate. As a trade unionist, I know that I was never able to get all that I demanded from my employer.
But my employer was never also able to escape with his desire to maximize profit even at the expense of my life. Dialogue is central to serving a free society and a free organisation. So we will bring all of these to bear in dealing with these issues.
The founders of our presidential system rightly settled for separation of powers and the parliament is the symbol of democracy. It is therefore not unexpected that the parliament may have a position on an issue that may be different from that of the executive.
That is why in every democracy, the word, lobby, comes in, the process of persuading each other is about communication, persuasion, negotiation and that is what we see in America. But I think again that we have not been too successful as a party in intervening to build viable bridges between the executive and the legislature using the instrument of the party.
When there is party decision, everybody abides by it, and you need this to happen by holding meetings. The truth is that even when we resolve matters today, it does not mean that another one will not rear its head tomorrow, therefore, the capacity to intervene has to be constant. It is not once, and for all, it is a process and unless you can deal with the issues as they arise, you should not have been there to lead the party.
Why APC stakeholders are supporting me
If I have prominent people from the North, prominent people from the South, East and West, it means I will at the centre. No one will say if not for my support you would not have been there. If you are a product of one section, then you might remain detained by that section if you feel that to return to that office you must service that section because it is your support base. But when you have the privilege of a broad support, from many leaders, then no one leader will say I put you there you must listen to me.
I am not a dictator
You see, one of the things I learnt in the labour union is negotiation and never dictatorial because even though I was the President of the NLC, I cannot even control my deputy because he was voted in the same manner I was elected.
In the NLC, you must listen to everybody unlike in government where as an executive you can dictate decisions. So what my background prepared me for is to be able to listen and that is why in every forum, I keep saying contestation, disputes are not dysfunctional.
I have never exercised dictatorial powers, I have always exercised persuasive powers, negotiating skills and those are my skills. And when I negotiate with you and persuade you, and you accept, you will feel obliged to do what you have to do. But if I dictate to you, when I am not watching, you will do your heart. So I am not capable of being a dictator by the very nature of my background.