APC: Internal democracy and Oshiomhole’s original sin, By Femi Ayelabowo

Ever since the All Progressives Congress (APC) held its primary elections, a number of highly-placed individuals, including three governors, have been openly attacking the national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole. Ordinarily, after the primary elections of any party where there will be victors and losers, grievances that may be expressed as personal attacks on the party leadership are not unusual.

But this time round, the major reason for the attacks on Oshiomhole is being shrouded in long-winded and often contradictory press statements purporting to be about the good of the APC. The real reason behind these attacks is what may be described as Oshiomhole’s original sin. But it is being carefully hidden to confuse the general public. This is what should concern all those who belong to or align themselves with the APC.

That the APC was in dire straits before the former labour leader took over the mantle of its leadership is a well-known fact. It is equally well known that some individuals had hijacked the party at various levels, especially in the states, to serve only their inordinate ambitions and greed. To demonstrate a prime example of an individual turning the party to a personal machine to further his inordinate ambition and greed, look no further than Senate President Bukola Saraki.

Until he defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Saraki’s stranglehold on the APC in Kwara State was such that it was alleged that only he, single-handed, decided who could contest for any elective position on the party’s platform. Indeed, this was also said to be the case in a number of states where the governors saw themselves as the party in toto, crushing any attempt at genuine internal democracy to the detriment of the party faithful.

This situation, quite naturally, led to murmurs and grumbles from party members. The discontent in the rank and file of the party was further aggravated when word filtered out that some of those governors who had hijacked the party were planning to impose their relatives as candidates for some elective positions and or even usurp the seats of popular incumbent senators for themselves or their handpicked candidates.

To checkmate this disturbing trend of events, the Oshiomhole-led national working committee of the APC came up with the concept of direct primaries. This was a strange idea to those who were used to riding roughshod over the interests of the party’s rank and file. They could not imagine allowing party members to actually choose who they want to represent them at various levels. And that was when the sponsored agitations began in some quarters.

A dogged fighter with a longstanding reputation of never giving up on a cause he believes to be just, Oshiomhole stood firm despite the agitations. He held on to the decision to hold the direct primaries and  was rightly supported in this stance by President Muhammadu Buhari who is the national leader of the party.

As could be expected, for instance, the Saraki defection had far-reaching consequences and threatened the internal cohesion of the APC. In truth, if it were not for the concerted efforts made by Oshiomhole to checkmate Saraki’s plan to decimate the APC by leaving with a substantial number of senators from the party, the resulting crisis would have occupied the APC until the 2019 general elections would have come and gone to the party’s detriment.

It is to Oshiomhole’s eternal credit that he managed the situation well and stemmed what was threatening to become a mass exodus from the party. To do so not only required strategic foresight and wisdom, but some political deal-making that is the norm in democracies all over the world. Some of those political deals did not go down well with those who had enjoyed a past of single-handed deciding everything in the party, particularly at the state level.

The idea of reaching a decision based on the interest of the party, rather than their personal interests was alien to them. And when all the issues are laid bare and examined critically without the blinding factor of emotion or personal sentiment, it is clear that every decision taken by Oshiomhole and the NWC he leads have been in the overall interest of the party. This, the world has a right to know, is Oshiomhole’s original sin.

To be clear, Oshiomhole’s original sin is that he places the interest of the APC as a party above all other considerations. To cite just one example, the interest of the party is why serving ministers could be disqualified from seeking elective office for not meeting the required criteria.

Therefore, whatever outcome may have occurred at the end of the APC primary elections in some places that some individuals, no matter how highly placed, may find unpalatable, it is unfair to pin the blame on Oshiomhole. Instead, they should blame their own inordinate ambition, greed, and desire to exclude party members from choosing their preferred candidates.

It is worth repeating that every decision that Oshiomhole has taken since becoming the APC national chairman has been in the overall interest of the party, without pandering to those who had previously hijacked the party. Again, this is Oshiomhole’s original sin, a sin that rightly makes him a saint in the eyes of the formerly oppressed rank and file members of the party who now have the genuine internal democracy they desired for so long. As such, it goes without saying that for these teeming party members, Oshiomhole’s original sin is no sin at all. Period!

Ayelabowo contributed this piece via [email protected]

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