By Dr Ugoji Egbujo
The president said the party was in jeopardy and he intervened to give it a chance to live. But did he let the sores become gangrenous? Is the party salvageable? Only time will tell.
The problems of the APC have existed from birth. Mutual suspicions and incompatible ambitions. If Buhari had lost in 2015, the party would have died then. The emergence of Buhari and the power of the center kept the party strung loosely together. After 2015, the president looked away and the party floundered. He didn’t seem bothered by the fortunes of the party .
When 2019 approached Buhari sought more cohesion. He had run into strong anti Fulani headwinds coming from the south and middle belt. He couldn’t risk going into the contest with a fractured party. He courted Tinubu who had shown signs of disaffection and tilted the party in his direction. That was how Oshiomhole came. And that was why many expected President Buhari to defend Oshiomhole more stoutly. So that he wouldn’t be seen as another opportunist. Oshiomhole was his battle axe when he needed a warrior.
But the president said he didn’t want to be meddlesome. Perhaps his meddlesomeness is seasonal.
Oshiomhole came in unwanted by those who believed he was the idea of one of the competing sides. By the time he took over in 2018 the party wasn’t in tatters, but it was riven by deep cracks . In half of the states the war between the governors and other stakeholders had become almost irreconcilable. That was Oyegun’s legacy. Oshiomhole wasn’t a saint and perhaps wasn’t the best of ‘panel beaters’. He approached the conflicts sometimes with bias and some other times with firmness equity. In a few cases he simply vacillated until one side knocked out the other.
With 2023 hovering over 2019 , everything Oshiomhole did had multiple political interpretations. He met Rivers almost on the hands of Abe. He handed it to Amaechi. The mess created by Oyegun meant that Abe’s intransigence and courts intrusion would excommunicate APC from Rivers. Amaechi wanted Oshiomhole to punish Abe. It didn’t happen. In 2020 Oshiomhole was blamed by everybody for the loss of Rivers and for being unforgiving. The president who has given Abe an NNPC board appointment didn’t offend Amaechi.
Oshiomhole was pugnacious but he had won the war for the party. It wasn’t Oshiomhole who contrived the Zamfara war between Gov Yari and Senators Yerima and Marafan; the war between adults which made the party lose Zamfara. The president watched the Governor threaten to murder Oshiomhole. Zamfara was the presidents home territory. He did nothing to salvage the confusion.
Was it Oshiomhole that staged the war between El Rufai and Shehu Sani? Who but the president could have resolved it? Some of those who wanted Oshiomhole out were more dictatorial than him. Could Amaechi or El Rufai have condoned a motor-mouthed Obaseki in their ranks?
Once 2019 was sorted, the fierce battle for the soul of the party resumed in earnest. Buhari once again had little motivation to stamp his authority. So it seemed. The party drifted again. Those who didn’t want Oshiomhole planted booby traps and laid wait. And like in the Bible an apostle was used to betray his master. When Oshiomhole was suspended by a minority in his ward in March, it seemed a joke. But when an Abuja court one late evening granted one Giadom permission to take over the party alarm bells began to ring. Such a subterfuge.
Many had expected the president to intervene and stand by his party chairman. He could have offered firm directions from behind. But he stayed aloof. Perhaps he wanted Oshiomhole to condone the activities of an Obaseki who seemed a PDP mole, judging by his utterances. Folks who took the party and its national chairman to court were let off and encouraged. Some said Oshiomhole should have made peace with Obaseki to save himself. Oshiomhole couldn’t have saved himself even if he worshipped an Obaseki who wanted to cripple him politically .
The 2023 presidential ambition of the major players in the party is the terminal illness the party is suffering from. The president has intervened at last. The party was on the brink of crumbling. The party had four days to submit Ize Iyamu’s name to INEC. The submission had to be done by a chairman whose authority couldn’t be challenged in court. The president had to act.
Some of the governors were on the verge of forming another party. The rumor that the CPC was making a comeback was everywhere. The president moved the National Executive Committee to dissolve the national working committee. A new caretaker committee could, on paper, usher in a new leadership that could unite the party
The problem, however, is that the prominent players in the party have mutually incompatible 2023 ambitions. Tinubu referred to the onslaught of anti Oshiomhole forces as a coup plot. And openly branded the move to remove Oshiomhole as a sting piece of ingratitude. He might sheath his sword, but the battle lines are clearly drawn. The president’s action is supposed to be a ‘no winner no vanquished’ temporary ceasefire. The caretaker committee is filled with Tinubu’s loyalists. That could be a smart attempt to appease him. But everyone knows things are going to be feverish.
No side seems willing to concede the presidency in 2023. If the president stays aloof in the name of observance of constitutionality, only to use the excuse of an illegal Giadom maneuver to carry out intermittent surgeries , he will have more problems to solve. He must seek to prevent and not treat. He has to be proactive.
The president must understand that he has a duty to steer the party . Mandela knew the ANC could be torn apart if he left office or died abruptly. He didn’t plead impartiality, and let the ANC’s sails be torn by violent winds of the personal political ambitions of its leaders. He helped it decide its leadership question in advance. That was proactivity.
Some ugly footprints were left by the presidential intervention. Buhari allowed many ugly precedents be set.
The APC held a party meeting in the council chambers. That is new, and even if lawful, it’s immoral, distasteful.
The second is more frightening. A PDP friend called me. He said though he wanted the APC to unravel, he couldn’t believe Buhari ,the disciplinarian ,would allow Giadom sit in the chambers with him. In the name of constitutionality, Buhari endorsed the funny idea that seven men could emerge from the bush in Daura, after a bad hunting day, and suspend the president from his party. Our politics is dying daily. Buhari might have put the party on life support , but that he left no words for Giadom was an endorsement of crude opportunism.
One more foot print. A nice piece of hypocrisy. After perhaps using Giadom and his funny court orders as excuse for intervention, the president without compunction warned that people who took the party to court would suffer severe sanctions. The same man who had condoned court actions against his party by its members as political freedom.
The party would live if the president sees himself as an intensive care physician, and show more interest in its affairs. If he chooses to continue his brand of constitutionality, his party will be dead next year. Another Giadom from one aggrieved cohort can always take out a national chairman by throwing sufficient tantrums.
Only the president matters now.