Nigeria: Oshiomhole - Stepping On Powerful Toes Cost Me APC Chairmanship

4 August 2020

Abuja — Immediate past National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, monday gave an insight into why he lost his seat as the party's chief superintendent.

Fielding questions when he featured on the Morning Show, the flagship breakfast programme of ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, Oshiomhole said he stepped on toes of powerful forces in the party, who, in a reprisal, engineered his ouster.

He, however, expressed no regrets over actions he took as APC national chairman, adding that if given a second chance, he would fight the same forces that removed him from office.

Oshiomhole was removed on June 16 after a Court of Appeal judgment ratified the verdict of an Abuja High Court that affirmed his suspension by his ward in Edo State.

His suspension had spawned a bitter leadership contest in APC that saw the emergence of three interim national chairmen within 48 hours.

However, President Muhammadu Buhari, in conjunction with other party leaders, moved in to arrest the party's descent into the precipice by summoning a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party where the decision to dissolve the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, headed by Oshiomhole before his suspension, was reached.

Oshiomhole also listed the alleged sins of his successor as Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, to include his alleged failure to stick with the Edo Development Master Plan, the arrest of and jailing of youth leaders and awarding of contracts to non-Edo indigenes for the smallest jobs, among others.

But Obaseki's Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, dismissed the allegations against his principal and accused the former APC chairman of being a victim of his indiscretion and unholy machinations.

In addition, Oshiomhole said it was President Muhammadu Buhari who invited him to lead the party and seize it from the cabal, which tended to take major decisions, and return it to party members.

On his relationship with top APC chiefs, the former party chairman said he rescued the party from some them and he had no regrets dismantling the political structures of those who felt they were bigger than the APC.

He added that he couldn't condone the actions of an unnamed APC chieftain (then governor) because the chieftain conducted party primaries against the rules of the party even when it was clear that only the national body could do that.

He also mentioned the case of a former Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, who he accused of disrespecting Nigerians by insisting that the National Youth Service Corps ( NYSC) scheme was optional and, therefore, he could choose whether to serve or not.

The media had exposed Shittu for dodging the NYSC, a compulsory national service for university and polytechnic graduates not above 30 years as at the time of graduation.

The exposé, coming shortly after that of a former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, had triggered a national clamour for Shittu's sacking.

Oshiomhole said he was invited to cleanse the APC by the president, who he said supported him until his decision to sack the NWC of the party, which he said led to his (Oshiomhole's) removal.

He said: "I have no regrets whatsoever on the decision to sack the NWC, which of course put an end to my chairmanship. No regrets. The average Nigerian wants strong leadership; they want things to be done differently.

"You don't want a situation where a few people control our political destiny. In trying to democratise and return the party to the party members, you have powerful forces, few in number, but have access to resources. Who will resist that?

"Whether anybody appreciates it or not, between President Muhammadu Buhari and myself, we agreed that we must return APC to APC members and that's why we introduced direct primaries; we produced a membership register."

Oshiomhole stated that the president backed the decision to change the pattern of conducting party primaries to direct primaries, noting that the decision, which set him against many state governors, was not unilateral.

According to him, "And of course, there were those opposed to direct primaries, but as a compromise, this is something I couldn't really speak to, because at the end of the day, some governors said they wanted indirect and some of us, the president inclusive, said we wanted direct.

"That's why we approved direct primaries for the presidency because indirect primaries, you can't bribe everybody; but with the use of delegates, you can.

"So, if we were going to return, assuming I was going to return to APC tomorrow as chairman, I will sustain some of the radical measures which some people were not happy about.

"I do not want a tenure that is not eventful. I want to drive changes and the slogan of my party is change. If we thought things were perfect, why did we talk about change?

"We must continue to change the way we do things and continue to improve. Just try and do things better. I do not regret the fact, along with my colleagues in the NWC, to disqualify a serving minister who publicly said arrogantly that he didn't do NYSC and that being a minister is a greater service than NYSC.

"You know that NYSC is obligatory and to default on it, you cannot hold public office. I am also happy that a governor said to me he is not going to do primaries somewhere in the South-west.

"That he's going to do his own primaries even when the constitution of APC is so clear that only the NWC can conduct primaries. He went and did his own primaries, we did our own and I insisted that it's only the one we did in line with the constitution of the APC that will be upheld regardless of the powers behind the other guy."

The former party chair noted that he stepped on powerful toes, which led to his sack, adding that he will fight the same forces if he had the chance to return.

Oshiomhole said: "Of course, I am aware that when you step on powerful toes, they will fight back, but I had no intention that I was going to be a life chairman. No.

"The person who invited me to bid for that office is the president and I thank him for the support he gave me and his standing fast. I am now in history as the only chairman whom eight ward members out of 24 allegedly suspended and that was the basis for removing someone who was elected in a convention of 7,000 people.

"I decided I wasn't contesting it because of my understanding of loyalty, particularly when you hold the office of trust, whatever has happened belongs to the past and I can't do things differently.

"I have seen some analysts say, comrade ought to know that so so people are powerful, or some governors are powerful, how can I do that? Are the laws made for the powerless?

"In any case, from the age of 18, I had been fighting power. If power is abused, I have asked God to give me the power to confront and defeat power. Why do I want to survive for survival's sake?

"I put my job on the line even as a daily paid worker, to fight what I considered to be unjust. But let me assure you that I do not regret anything that we have done because you cannot change Nigeria without offending some powers."

On the problem between him and Obaseki, Oshiomhole listed the governor's failure to stick with the Edo development master plan, arrest of and jailing of youth leaders and awarding of contracts to non-Edo indigenes for the smallest jobs as part of the reasons for the fallout.

He also said Obaseki's alleged propensity for violence and his non-possession of requisite academic qualifications made him move against the governor's re-election bid.

He is Victim of His Indiscretion, Unholy Machinations, Gov Fires Back

But Obaseki dismissed Oshiomhole's allegations, saying "no amount of lies can controvert the fact that Oshiomhole's political misfortune is self-inflicted."

A statement issued yesterday by his media aide urged Oshiomhole to be courageous enough to tell Nigerians the truth about the circumstances that led to his removal, adding that bandying lies on national television will not save his drowning political image.

Osagie, who was responding to claims made by Oshiomhole on ARISE News Channel, noted that "contrary to the narrative being advanced by the sacked national chairman that he was a victim of power play, Nigerians who have followed the events that led to Oshiomhole's ouster closely can attest to the fact that he was a victim of his own indiscretion and unholy machinations.

"In fact, in Edo State, Oshiomhole was the powerful force that millions of Edo people fought against so that the governor could breathe and deliver good governance to them.

"Nigerians know that Oshiomhole was sacked for his gross abuse of power and not the narrative he has been bandying on television. His obsession with power and absolute control of the same drove the APC to a near catastrophic situation.

"He was elected to build on the achievements of his predecessor, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, but he frittered away the enormous goodwill he inherited and embarked on personal battles that cost the APC such states as Zamfara, Sokoto, Oyo and created factions within the National Working Committee of the APC. So it was only natural that the consequences of the strife, crisis and divisions that he caused would come calling someday.

"In Edo State, Oshiomhole turned against Governor Obaseki when the governor failed to yield to his subservience and his grand plot to rule by proxy. He literally invaded the Edo APC and set up parallel structures to hijack it. His predecessor, Chief Odigie-Oyegun, allowed the state's structure of the APC to carry out its activities without any interference. To Oshiomhole's immoderation, Edo State is today a PDP state and we are free from his inanities.

"The former national chairman of the APC mortgaged the internal cohesion of the party, which ought to have been his primary task, for personal interest and set the APC on a roller coaster to disaster, until the president intervened."

The statement accused Oshiomhole of revisionism by "playing the victim in an event he was the sole protagonist."

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