It is clear by now that Adams Oshiomhole’s suspension may not put Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the path to peace.
Many Nigerians, rightly or wrongly, see Mr Oshiomhole as a major obstacle to stability in APC, even though the party’s crisis appears deep-rooted and beyond the suspended chairman. But he is a part of the problem, nonetheless.
It is about four months to two crucial governorship elections – the Edo election in September and Ondo, October.
The events that happened in less than 24 hours after the Court of Appeal ruling on Mr Oshiomhole is an indication that the APC crisis has just moved on to the next level.
Shortly after the court ruling, the APC announced the Deputy National Chairman (South), Abiola Ajimobi, as the acting chairman of the party.
The next day, the deputy national secretary of the party, Victor Giadom, backed by a court order, declared himself acting national chairman of the party.
And then, like a game of ping-pong, majority of the members of the APC National Working Committee (NWC) came out to ratify Mr Ajimobi’s appointment as acting chairman.
But since Mr Ajimobi, a former governor of Oyo State, has been very ill and hospitalised, the NWC asked the party’s National Vice Chairman (South-South), Hilliard Eta to stand in for him, because he (Eta) is from the same geo-political zone with the suspended national chairman.
Meanwhile, a group of APC members from the South-West has come out to disown Mr Ajimobi.
The group said the position of the APC deputy national chairman (South) is “vacant”, with a pending court case on it and, therefore, Mr Ajimobi was not eligible for the appointment as acting national chairman.
With the way things are right now, Mr Giadom is really some bad news for Mr Oshiomhole and some other leaders of the party, including Bola Tinubu, a man highly regarded as the national leader of APC.
Who is Giadom?
Mr Giadom, 56, is a close political ally of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. He once served as Mr Amaechi’s commissioner for works when the latter was Rivers State governor.
Mr Giadom, handpicked by Mr Amaechi, was Tonye Cole’s running mate in the 2019 governorship election in Rivers.
Both men, however, could not contest in the general election because of a court judgment which declared that their party, APC, did not have a candidate for the election, thereby paving the way for Nyesom Wike of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to easily win re-election as Rivers governor.
The court judgment against the APC in the Rivers election was a consequence of an intra-party dispute between Mr Amaechi and a former senator from Rivers, Magnus Abe, over Mr Abe’s governorship ambition which Mr Amaechi disapproved of.
Victor Giadom [PHOTO: Tori.ng]Mr Amaechi and his allies, including Mr Giadom, believe that Mr Oshiomhole and other APC national leaders backed Mr Abe in the Rivers APC crisis in order to cut down the minister’s political influence in the party because of the 2023 presidential election.
Chris Finebone, a former spokesperson of APC in Rivers and Mr Amaechi’s loyalist, told PREMIUM TIMES Mr Oshiomhole and other APC leaders gave covert support to Mr Abe against the minister.
“Adams (Oshiomhole) has shown too much ambivalence to issues pertaining to Rivers state,” Mr Finebone said. “If Adams, for example, wanted to show leadership and discipline in Rivers state, would Magnus Abe go and set up an alternative state secretariat of APC?”
The plan has been to weaken APC in Rivers State because of Mr Amaechi, he said.
Mr Finebone said he did not know if Mr Amaechi was in support of Mr Giadom’s moves to take over the APC national leadership. He, however, said the minister has been betrayed by many people.
“People thought that by now Victor (Giadom) would have been swept away, that is not how these things happen in politics,” Mr Finebone said of Mr Giadom current fight in the APC.
Mr Abe’s appointment into the board of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation could be viewed as a way of re-building the APC in Rivers around the former senator ahead of 2023 presidential election.
“Abe was appointed by Timipre Sylva (the minister of state for petroleum), and not APC,” Mr Finebone said. “We know the reason he gave him the appointment was to spite Amaechi.”
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
Mr Amaechi lost out again recently in the APC crisis in Rivers when a high court in the state declared Igo Aguma of Mr Abe’s faction the chairman of the party in the state, thereby taking the party off the minister’s control, for now.
The APC national vice-chairman (South-South), Mr Eta, whom Mr Finebone said is pro-Tinubu, said the party has accepted the court ruling on the Rivers APC crisis.
Mr Eta, to the consternation of Mr Amaechi faction, barred members of the party in Rivers from appealing the court ruling.
Mr Amaechi’s faction, however, disregarded Mr Eta’s injunction and has appealed the court ruling.
Although Mr Giadom left Abuja in 2018 for the 2019 Rivers elections, Mr Oshiomhole had granted him a waiver to “continue to discharge your official duties the Deputy National Secretary while pursuing your political/campaign activities.
The waiver was in line with Article 31 of the APC Constitution, Mr Oshiomhole said in a September 14, 2018 letter to Mr Giadom.
In May 2019, the APC did not only accede to Mr Giadom’s request to resume office, but had asked him to act as the party national secretary after the former secretary, Mai Mala Buni got elected as Yobe State Governor.
The March ‘conspiracy’
A power struggle within the APC has been going on quietly between MessrsTinubu and Oshiomhole on one side and Mr Amaechi and others – including allegedly Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna – on the other side. The Oshiomhole-Obaseki rift was just a small part of it until it became the epicentre in March this year when a Federal High Court in Abuja suspended the party chairman.
Here are four things to take note of in the crisis:
The court order against Mr Oshiomhole was based on his earlier suspension by the APC leadership in his ward in Edo State, which apparently was instigated by Governor Obaseki.
Mr Amaechi and Co. anticipated Mr Oshiomhole’s suspension and had prepared Mr Giadom to take over the party leadership.
Mr Amaechi, three other ministers from the South-South (Osagie Ehanire, minister for health, Festus Keyamo, minister of state, labour, and Goddy Agba, minister of state, power) had closed in on Mr Oshiomhole and almost removed him from office, but for Mr Tinubu’s intervention.
And finally, the APC National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting which would have decided Mr Oshiomhole’s fate was adjourned indefinitely on March 16 by President Muhammadu Buhari after Mr Tinubu issued a public statement, reprimanding those pushing for the chairman’s removal.
Mr Tinubu said those who were plotting Mr Oshiomhole’s removal saw the national chairman as the obstacle to their 2023 political ambition.
Other members of the APC NWC who are working with Mr Giadom are Mustapha Salihu, the National Vice Chairman (North-East) of the party, and Lawali Shuaibu, the Deputy National Chairman (North).
After Mr Oshiomhole survived the plot to remove him in March, he recalled Mr Shuaibu from a controversial suspension as part of a reconciliatory effort.
But when Mr Shuaibu, a former senator, resumed at the APC national secretariat, he declared support for Mr Obaseki’s re-election ambition, apparently to send a signal to Mr Oshiomhole that the fight was far from over.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
At least, 15 of the NWC members, out of 20, are said to be loyal to Mr Tinubu and Mr Oshiomhole.
After declaring himself acting national chairman of the APC, Mr Giadom was ‘sacked’ from the NWC by the majority members who said he is to be replaced with Worgu Boms, a former attorney general of Rivers state.
To underscore how rattled Mr Oshiomhole has been lately, the suspended chairman in an interview with Channels TV appealed to Mr Giadom to “put God first and put our national party’s interest second”.
That was before Mr Giadom was ‘sacked’ from the NWC.
It is instructive that immediately Governor Obaseki perfected his plan to defect from APC to PDP, the Edo Government House published a flier with the inscription, “Did we not tell them? #EDOIsNotLagos”, apparently mocking Mr Tinubu who has almost absolute control over who becomes governor of the state.
Edo as battleground
Mr Tinubu is still effectively in control of the APC at the national level, but the political battle would play out in days to come in courtrooms and in the Edo governorship election.
Governor Obaseki has defected to PDP where he is likely to become the party flag bearer in the election, but he has strategically left behind some of his loyalists to control the APC structures in Edo where they would take up a spoiler role against Mr Oshiomhole and Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the man that the suspended APC chairman is backing in the election.
For a start, the APC in Edo said they have rejected Governor Hope Uzodinma-led committee which is to conduct the party primary in the state.
Again, as soon as news filtered out on Saturday that the APC leadership in Mr Oshiomhole’s ward, Etsako Ward 10, have lifted the suspension on the party national chairman, the APC faction loyal to Governor Obaseki issued a counter-statement, saying Mr Oshiomhole was still on suspension. The counter-statement was pushed into the media by the Edo State Government.
Because of 2023 presidential election, the stakes are high in the Edo election for many politicians within and outside the state. People are worried that the situation could degenerate to violence during the election if not properly managed.
What’s Buhari saying?
Many APC officials have quietly expressed their disappointment with President Buhari’s style of looking the other way, while the party is falling apart. They said the APC, perhaps, would not have lost some states to PDP in the 2019 general elections if the president had intervened in the party’s internal crises.
But Mr Buhari’s spokesperson, Femi Adesina, in response to such criticism, said the president is a democrat who would rather prefer to allow the “process to run its course”.
“One thing about the president is that he likes to be fair to everybody,” Mr Adesina said in a video interview he had on Facebook recently with a UK-based Nigerian citizen, Ata Ikiddeh, on the Edo APC crisis.
President Muhammadu Buhari [PHOTO CREDIT: Bashir Ahmad]”So those who are complaining he has not done this, he has not done that, they don’t know what he has done.
“What he has done is to meet with the parties separately. And he has been doing this for more than a year since the crisis in Edo began. So if the people are in entrenched positions and refuse to shift ground, what would the president do as a democrat? You allow the process to run its course.
“What people expect the president to do is to legislate things, to order Obaseki ‘No, step down’ or order Oshiomhole ‘No, give him the ticket’. That is not democracy. When you begin to order and legislate things like that you would be unfair to one party,” the presidential spokesperson said.
“But before Edo, there was Rivers, there was Zamfara and of course, you know many other states were the governing party lost because of internal issues. What may not be apparent to the public is what the president did in all those states and he has done in Edo,” Mr Adesina said
“For me, that is a perverted interpretation of the word democrat,” the former APC spokesperson in Rivers, Mr Finebone said of Mr Adesina’s defence of President Buhari.
“Do you think that if the president (had) said ‘What is even happening in this Rivers State? Amaechi come, come. I need to see you! What’s the name of the other young man? Okay, senator come. Do you think he wouldn’t have solved it (the APC crisis in Rivers)?” Mr Finebone said..
There have been calls for the president to summon an emergency NEC meeting to address the crisis in the party, but no one can tell if he would do that and how soon.
“Have you ever heard Buhari say ‘thank you’ to anyone? Has he ever separated a fight?” Buba Galadima, an estranged political associate of President Buhari said in a 2019 interview with the Independent newspaper
When asked in the interview if he foresees an implosion in APC before 2023, Mr Galadima said, “I know for a fact that APC is divided into three factions. There is the Tinubu group, the El-Rufai group and the Aso Villa group. The Aso Villa group itself is also divided into three.
“So, it is in our interest that they continue to disagree and fight. That is our freedom. We have nothing to lose except our chains.”