Since he resumed office on June 26 after his emergence as national chairman of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) on June 23, 2018, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has put his nose to the grindstone in practical demonstration of his avowed commitment to reposition the party, strengthen internal cohesion and promote democratic ideals that will make it exempli gratia in political party administration.
That exemplification will be reinforced through a deliberate policy of bolstering party supremacy. Oshiomhole had said while receiving a handover note from his predecessor, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, that all party stalwarts, including the president, would be bound by party decisions. And to underscore the seriousness of his declaration, he said meetings of the various organs of the party, at which decisions would be taken for the purpose of administration, would now be regular.
For a man who has clear ideas of how the governing party should be run and who enjoys the support of President Muhammadu Buhari to tend to the wellbeing and success of the party in its political and electoral voyages, his recent directive that all ministers should inaugurate the boards of agencies under their ministries had a magisterial tinge to it and could not have been misguided. He spoke with journalists in the Presidential Villa after a closed-door meeting with the president.
The import of Oshiomhole’s position is that the purpose of appointments into the boards of agencies would be defeated and could, in fact, be counterproductive if appointees are left at the mercy of supervising ministers who decide when to inaugurate them. They can even decide not to inaugurate so that superintending and approving authority of the boards is put in abeyance in furtherance of some pecuniary interests. Oshiomhole’s righteous anger is thus justified in the context of the possible scenario painted supra and against the backdrop of looming effluxion of time.
With the general elections some seven months away, it would amount to political imprudence to shut out leaders of the governing party who had been appointed simply because their boards had not been inaugurated by ministers. The appointees can resort to self help to secure their political future amid the atmosphere of uncertainty created by defections by elective office holders from the APC to the opposition parties. This is the mischief that the Oshiomhole’s leadership impatiently wants to cure.
Having just taken over the position of national chair, he must have realised that stakeholders want result and not excuses. He must have decided to go for result, no matter whose ox is gored. It is significant that his actions in the first thirty days in office are quite evident. They show that he does not want the party to liquidate under his leadership. He keeps ventilating the space with the positions of the party on issues of reconciliation of crises that arose from the congresses and national convention and the unfortunate storm of defections buffeting the party.
In just a month in the saddle, Oshiomhole’s equanimity and resilience have been stretched to their limits. Except for the culture of resistance, as typified by the unconscionable riposte by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, to Oshiomhole’s directive that all the boards of the four agencies under the ministry should be inaugurated within a week, there was no sense in which it could be rationalised that the national chairman was condescending in the manner in which he issued the directive.
I understand the direction Oshiomhole is coming from. He believes in the building of a strong party that is supreme and whose supremacy can moderate tendencies and address disparateness within its fold. For the supremacy of the party to ring true, everybody, including the president and the national chairman, will be guided by party dictates and decisions. So, it is not about Oshiomhole’s individuality, perceived arrogance of power, diktat and independent-mindedness. I do not think these are the essential motivations.
Oshiomhiole’s evangelical exertion about party supremacy is about laying the administrative infrastructural substructure of the reinforcing authority of the party so that, once the institution of the party is built and strengthened, authority will continue to flow from it as a matter of political mores and norms. The Oshiomhole paradigm draws requisite historical validation from the Second Republic where the supremacy of the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was a matter of fact.
The National Chairman, Chief Meredith Adisa Akinloye, superintended over a powerful party, which in the exercise of his functions as chairman, conferred supreme authority on him. President Shehu Shagari was answerable to the party. It was not about Akinloye. Any other person, as party chairman, would have enjoyed the same panache and authority. South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) is supreme in determining the fates of the president that its platform produces and not the other way round.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was primed to re-enact the NPN exemplar, but President Olusegun Obasanjo, whose dictatorial temperament was known to some founding leaders, ensured that it did not happen. The expected emergence of Chief Sunday Awoniyi as national chairman would have brought about a strong party that was supreme but Obasanjo had worked against his candidature and had, instead, supported a pliant Barnabas Gemade as national chairman. Obasanjo pocketed the party, moved to subjugate the legislature, tried to dominate the entire governmental sphere and, unfortunately, ensconced a culture of weak party under the PDP presidency.
Oshiomhole’s proclivity towards enthroning party supremacy in the APC is a change process that should be supported by President Buhari. Once the president buys into it, the shenanigans of other party leaders and members will be undercut. Never again will elected and appointed officials be able to hold the party to ransom or openly, and in a gangsterish manner, challenge the party’s positions, articulated by Oshiomhole, as Ngige did. The party will be able to ensure party discipline, superintend the process of internal democracy and the entrenchment of other values that strengthen internal cohesion.
That Oshiomhole has been able to take on so many issues simultaneously in the last one month that he has been in the saddle without caving under the dialectics of political goals is a measure of his strength of character and commitment to the task of taking the party to the next level. He had given Obasanjo some sideswipes in respect of the humongous $16 billion that his administration allegedly spent on power project as president without commensurate result and had called for his prosecution in accordance.
He had also, even though arguably, attacked the PDP as a rigging machine and reminded it that the era of writing election results was over.
Significantly, he called for removal of PDP members who are still enjoying appointments into positions that should be given to APC members. He said he believed that the party must now consciously work to ensure that sinners were replaced with card-carrying believers of the APC change philosophy. He argued that where it becomes necessary to appoint people outside the APC, it must be that the particular expertise is lacking in the party; and, that the experts must take the party card to demonstrate loyalty.
Besides, he had engaged with members of the Reformed APC who, according to him, were sincere in their complaints and demands, and having been pacified, decided to stay back in the party, Conversely, he said those who had other agendas which they did not bring to the table had left the party. Significantly, his reaction, which is moot, was that he would not lose sleep over their defections. Oshiomhole, in his momentous thirty days in office, had been rambunctious; and, for good reasons.
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