He was invited to make peace within the party and spare his pugilism for the rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). But barely two months after his enthronement as the national chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has failed to restrain himself, throwing punches to the left and right, jabbing even an uppercut at his principal.
Although he still adorns the trade mark khaki that defined his calling as activist and former President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the former governor of Edo State showed how easily he could box himself into a corner in his new delicate position of organising and marketing APC for the electoral battle ahead.
In less than one month after his election, Oshiomhole has stoked many vexations in APC than the provision of peace and reconciliation, which his emergence was expected to usher in.
Although a lot of unexpected turn of events spiraled so fast after his inauguration, the national chairman raised doubts as to his ability to contain intra-party frictions given his the combative-posture, perhaps in the erroneous belief that his new position equated to his leadership of NLC.
Voice Or Thunder
In his new office as national chairman, nothing exposed Oshiomhole’s misinterpretation of his place in the party than the sheer belligerence of his tone. Responding to the breakaway of the nebulous Reformed All Progressives Congress (rAPC), the national chairman described the leader of the movement (Alhaji Buba Galadima) as a hungry bird dancing at the middle of the road, whose drummers where inside the bush nearby.
And to know that the man being referred to as a hungry bird is a trained Engineer, a father and long term ally of the leader of the party, President Muhammadu Buhari, it became obvious that either the immediate past governor of Edo State is indeed uncouth or carries his iconoclastic labour swagger with paternalistic nonchalance
The national chairmanship of a political grouping is a position of influence and what the occupant says, as well as the way he conveys whatever meaning goes a long way to affect the public image and perception about the party.
Placed side by side with similar off-hand quip against a roadside petty trader in Benin when he was governor, whom he told to go and die, the Comrade in taking up the language of the bourgeoise tend to forget that the party he chairs was sold as the party of the poor, but with honourable people filled with integrity and compassion for the downtrodden.
As if to expose the vacuity of his style, the same national chairman that dismissed the revolt of rAPC was later to embark on nighttime visits to plead for a change of heart from the protesters. Without doubt, he must have learnt on the assignment that clean and bitter cannot flow from the same source.
Not done with the challenges thrown up by the uprising in the party, part of which was caused by the fallouts from the processes that gave birth to his regime as head of National Working Committee (NWC) of APC, Oshiomhole unwittingly added insult to injury when he threatened to not only suspend and expel a serving minister, but also recommend his sack from the cabinet.
In taking on the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, Oshiomhole seemed to forget that, not being a parliamentary system, the executive powers were circumscribed by the party’s constitution and the dictates (body language) of the leader.
Presenting himself as the undisputable champion of workers, the APC national chairman upbraided the Labour minister, ordering him to inaugurate the board of NSITF (Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund), within a specific time period or risk suspension and expulsion from the party.
He did not stop there, but unwittingly aimed an upper-cut at the party’s leader: “And if the President condones disrespect for his office, I will not condone disrespect for the party… If they did that in the past, under our leadership we will not tolerate it. They either comply or we will expel them from the party. When we expel them we will find out how a government can keep a rebel in the cabinet. There is no question about that.”
By now Oshiomhole must have seen why the national chairman of a peculiar political grouping like the APC should not be impudent in a hurry. In less than thirty minutes and few sentences, he demolished the government, which is the symbol of the party.
The statement “if the President condones disrespect for his office, I will not,” is pregnant in meaning as it is ominous. First, Nigerians recall how helpless the President sounded when he disclosed that the Inspector General of Police, Abubakar Kpotun Idris, defied his directive to relocate to the theatre of massacre by herdsmen in Benue State.
Was the APC chairman alluding to that? It is possible. What about the issue of ministers appropriating “the powers of the board in a democracy, award contracts that didn’t go through boards, abuse of office for which they are liable,” Ngige might not be the direct target of that barb.
It could be an innuendo, analogous to the spat between the Minister of State, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and Group Managing Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Maikanti Baru, over the award of contracts to the tune of $25b without recourse to the NNPC board.
Taken on its face value, although the chairman may not loose sleep over defections in the party he is ‘privileged to chair’, recollections of the various cadences and imputations of his off the cuff vituperations might deny him sleep if not now, definitely in the near future.
Did he unwittingly arm the opposition with verbal weapons to attack the administration as a bunch lacking discipline and opportunistic strange fellows? Has the chairman disposed himself as one called to pursue conciliation or taken the path of aggravating tensions in the amalgamation of political parties?
Gauging from Ngige’s response, it is an open secret that both men might need reconciling. The minister, who was also styled as a mercenary, took the chairman to the cleaners, explaining that his decision to delay inauguration of NSITF was informed by ongoing probe, “where about N62b was said to have not been accounted for by the past board.”
Why could such information not be shared behind the scene in the true sense of partisan camaraderie? Comrade Oshiomhole might have forgotten that in self-defence, things or worth, especially reputation and organisational secrets, are usually destroyed.
Defending himself from the accusation of illegally appr
opriating powers of board to award contract Ngige said: “Such a blatant falsehood is either on account of fertile ignorance or outright mischief or both by the originator, as well as the peddlers. It is therefore imperative that the provisions of the Procurement Act 2010, which is clear and unambiguous on the process for the award of contracts, be re-emphasized.
“For clarity purpose, the Ministerial Tenders Board (MTB) for the award of contracts in any Ministry is made up of the Permanent Secretary as chairman and his Directors, while in the parastatals, the Parastatals Tenders Board consists of the Chief Executive Officer (Director General or Managing Director) and his Directors.”
Joining the chairman to cast aspersions on the party and the government, which some commentators have described as clueless, the Minister of Labour added: “Those in authority should be versed in little basic issues that guide public governance so as to be properly guided in their utterances to avoid unnecessary character assassination and unfortunate misinformation of the general public.”
Has APC been misinforming Nigerians? Some people might recall how Oshiomhole announced that a staff of the United States State Department informed him that a humungous amount of $600b was stolen from Nigeria.
Where The Bucks Stops
President Buhari should by now be counting the cost of endorsing the former Edo governor as national chairman. The recent exchanges between Oshiomhole and Ngige must have brought to his knowledge the ineffectual judgment that he brings to bear in personnel quality and placement.
What if Oshiomhole had been made the Minister of Labour and Employment, a field that he understands and seem best suited for and Ngige or any other APC stalwart from Southeast made national chairman? The accusation of nepotism against the President in the area of appointments would have been solved, while rewarding his hardworking comrade after his eight years sojourn in executive office.
If Ngige makes good his alleged threat to leave APC for Oshiomhole, it would be the Comrade’s first fruit of combustive communication. Going forward, APC would be considering whether indeed the party needed a combatant or a conciliator.