The suspended Chairman of the All Peoples Congress (APC) Adams Oshiomhole took a victory lap last week soon after his party announced the disqualification of incumbent governor Godwin Obaseki from contesting the July 22 governorship primaries.
The announcement date—June 12—is morbidly analogous to another June 12, of 1993, when Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida-led military government annulled probably Nigeria’s freest presidential election won by Chief Moshood Abiola.
Mr. Oshiomhole’s choreographed post-announcement television appearance drew as much attention to the turmoil he ignited as it did to his newly carved, jet-black-dyed beard that ringed his mouth and chin. And that mouth—his potent instrument of voracity—once more emitted what seemed, on the surface, to be reasonable rationalizations of Obaseki’s disqualification.
The party merely followed laid-down rules, Oshiomhole volunteered on TV, with a fiendish smirk, advising the governor to appeal the decision if he so desired. Oshiomhole was suddenly being fair to the man he’s attempted to pound to pulp.
The advice that Obaseki could appeal the decision of the party assaults our collective sensibilities because we know that Oshiomhole and APC Edo State are Siamese twins.
But it was always going to be a pyrrhic victory for the diminutive former governor of Edo State.
Let’s drill into the inner workings of Oshiomhole’s peevish mind. He idealizes power, unfettered power, the kind of power wielded by tinpot dictators in dystopian societies. And to his credit, he successfully weaponized power to install Obaseki as his successor.
It happened that Obaseki became relatively decent in the sense that, for example, he has focused on development projects such as roads in Esanland, which Oshiomhole viciously abandoned during his eight-year tenure. The APC ought to be proud of Governor Obaseki.
To be a decent administrator in Nigeria often triggers a fight with a godfather; it is for the most part a fight over how and to whom to dispense influence and government money. A governor abandoning a Faustian bargain with a godfather must prepare for war.
That is why Obasanjo pulled the rug from under Goodluck Jonathan; that is why Bola Tinubu sacked Akinwunmi Ambode in Lagos State; that is why Tony Anenih booted out Oserheimen Osunbor as Edo State governor in 2008, a move that ushered in Oshiomhole; and that is why Oshiomhole is going for Obaseki’s jugular.
Ironically, Oshiomhole’s second term campaign was anchored by the refrain “The days of godfatherism are gone.” He is now the primus inter pares of godfathers. His current hypocrisy and audacity, warts and all, will be studied for decades as an example of the corruption of absolute power within a political party.
Obaseki’s toppling from the APC will have far-reaching ramifications. Democracy’s quintessence, which is the supremacy of the people’s will, has been asphyxiated and replaced by the supremacy of an arrogant puppeteer—the pied piper of pipe dreams.
Oshiomhole has implemented his machinations with undisguised ruthlessness, tainting the APC in the process. The party now has a binary choice: resist Oshiomhole or suffer more electoral defeats.
The so-called certificate scam is a smokescreen. Let’s not even consider a purity test. The pertinent question ought to be: Has Obaseki performed well? The people ought to make that determination in the primaries and in the gubernatorial elections. Let the people decide if “Obasek” instead of “Obaseki” in a certificate is enough grounds to remove an incumbent governor. Let the courts decide if a crime has been committed.
Obaseki bit the fingers that fed him, some say. So, who owns the food? Since when have government resources become some delicious meal to be served by a generous chef?
Obaseki forgot how he became governor. This puerile viewpoint supposes that nothing else matters except absolute supplication to the lord of the manor. Nonsense!
Initially, the governor prevaricated on a line of action. A day after his disqualification, he traveled to Rivers State to meet Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, stoking rumours he could be on his way to the PDP. Then, he gave conflicting signals when he announced on Twitter that his decision on next steps would be made after consultations with supporters and President Mohammadu Buhari. He subsequently decamped to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
A meeting with Mr. President couldn’t have yielded any meaningful results for the embattled governor. A conspiratorial alliance between Bola Tinubu and Oshiomhole had cemented Obaseki’s fate. It’s all part of Tinubu’s 2023 calculations. It is easy to read the tea leaves.
Obaseki may now run on the PDP platform. He didn’t want to be another Ambode. The governor feels he has enough wind at his back to pull off a victory. Signs are he will win decisively.
APC’s loss is PDP’s gain. It’s time the APC realized that Oshiomhole is a liability. His style may be deemed helpful in the abhorrent trench warfare of realpolitik, particularly during elections. But he is out of sync in a period of governing, and when a government showcases its achievements and canvasses new policy prescriptions in order to be rehired for a second term. That period, as we are in now, requires backslapping and consensus building; it is not a time for Oshiomhole’s zero-sum game.
Nigerians must therefore not surrender to the whims and caprices of a single man nor become numb to the malfeasances of people in positions of power.
We have witnessed the abbreviation of the people’s right to choose a flagbearer for their party. The current turmoil in Edo State could metastasize to other states. The APC must curtail Oshiomhole’s shenanigans. The party must be courageous enough to abandon his brigandage politics. Oshiomhole’s ego must be deflated and incinerated.
Dr. Ighobor is a US-based leadership expert and communications practitioner.