As part of the build-up to the 2015 general election, all registered political parties went to the field to conduct primary elections to choose candidates to fly their flags. Something note worthy happened in Benue State. If you recall, it would come clear to you that the state of Benue was one of the worst governed states at the time. Governor Gabriel Suswam owed workers several months of unpaid salaries. Schools were closed for as many months because teachers could no longer continue to teach their pupils on empty stomach.
Yet the state governor was engaged in a deathly campaign to go to the Senate. To achieve his senatorial ambition, Suswam, against propriety, good conscience and the will of the people, insisted on grabbing the PDP Senate ticket for the Benue northeast from the incumbent, Chief Barnabas Gemade. Gemade, the popular choice was a former national chairman of PDP. He was still the popular choice in his constituency. But Governor Suswam, in spite of his unpopularity, with the conniving support of his party chairman and PDP NWC, snatched the ticket from Gemade in a sham of a primary that ab-initio was designed to humiliate Gemade.
Gemade was forced to join the APC and his people followed him and made sure they showed their anger and displeasure at the polls by electing him while disgracing the all powerful governor Suswam. Many other PDP governors, like Suswam, had their ways in perpetrating the unspeakable impunity of imposing unpopular candidates on their party, of course with the support of their party chairman, Adamu Mu’azu who was also a former governor. The PDP chairman in 2015 chose to protect the personal interests of the governors over and above party interests. Of course, the rest, as it is said, is history today. PDP was comprehensively routed at the election!
The above story is a teaser for those who still do not understand the enormity of pressures that Adams Oshiomhole, is facing as chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. Perhaps it is not wrong to assert here that some APC governors, in fact, have behaved in a more autocratic manner than the PDP governors of yore. Some of them decided that their selfish interests in the choice of candidates must override party positions. And so, for some of these people sidestepping the laid-down party rules for the conduct of primaries was a norm rather than an exception.
It was, indeed, sad and reprehensible to read reports of some governors intimidating electoral panels duly constituted by the APC National Working Committee. There was even a particular case in which a state governor, not satisfied with raining verbal abuses on the national chairman of his party, resorted to threatening the lives of innocent party men and women whose only offence was their acceptance to carry out party functions assigned to them. And in the quest for personal glory, this governor almost jeopardized the chances of the entire party in all the elections in that state in 2019 as INEC threatened that APC would not field any candidate in the state in the coming general election.
That’s the kind of damage an unbridled personal ambition and selfish interests can unleash on a party, if not checked. Thankfully, the leadership of the party took the proactive step of approaching the court for redress. As the dusts of the party primaries begin to settle nationwide and party-wide, even as different political parties submit the names of their candidates for the various elections, there are still some disgruntled voices ignorantly calling for the sack of Oshiomhole as APC chairman. You may want to ask what exactly has Oshiomhole done wrongly.
Unlike the PDP chairman in the 2015 general election, Oshiomhole is insisting on the primal nature of his party interests. He is not ready to subjugate under any condition the interest of the APC as a political party. Oshiomhole is also resolute in his position that the rules guiding the conduct of his party primaries must be respected. This explains why he cautioned state chairmen of his party to be firm in the application of the rules and guidelines of the party’s primaries, and refuse to succumb to the arbitrary pleasures of their state governors.
What Oshiomhole is simply saying to his party leaders and members is that democracy is a rule-governed system, which ceases to be democratic when the underlining rules are subverted. He is telling his party men and party women that the days of impunity, the days of imposing unpopular candidates on the electorate with the expectation of victory at the polls are well over. With the greater integrity which the use of card readers has brought to bear in the conduct of our elections by INEC, political parties had better put their houses in order.
What is more? Oshiomhole is constantly advising his party members and leaders not to fall into the same trap of looking down on the electorate as if they do not matter by foisting just anyone as a candidate on them – the way theAncien Regime, the PDP, did and paid dearly for it three years ago.
Let it be known that state governors are not the only troublers of the APC. Of course, in some states without APC governors, there are also pockets of unrest. From Delta State to Akwa Ibom, from Cross Rivers to Rivers State, and from Enugu State to Anambra State, there are uncompromising leaders and disloyal members fomenting crises here and there. The dangerous extent some of these aggrieved party members are willing to go in making their cases seems to corroborate the suggestions that some of them are indeed fifth columnists working for the opposition from within.
Or, how else can one explain away the situation in which party members engage their party in a seemingly unending litigation aimed at preventing their party from fielding candidates in certain elections? Now that the national leadership of the party has concluded the nomination process with INEC, it’s time genuine party members, party leaders, including governors, rallied behind Oshiomhole. The party chairman has done his best in trying to aggregate the pervading disparate interests within the party. This has caused him loads of hours of sleep time, attracted unwarranted personal insults and name-calling and even outright blackmail and sabotage from certain highly placed quarters.
Yet, Oshiomhole, as the APC chairman, considers all these as part of the sacrifice of leadership. And nothing will give him greater joy than seeing his party men and women join him in this historic journey of returning President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC to power in next year’s general election. In these difficult times, Oshiomhole deserves garlands, not condemnation!
Madubuike writes from Abuja through firstname.lastname@example.org
Opinion contained in this article is strictly the writer’s and not Political Stew’s.