APC, Oshiomhole and the Gordian knot

APC leader, Adams Oshiomhole

We open with a classical allusion. Gordius, a legendary peasant, whose son, Midas, rose to be king of Phrygia was said to have dedicated his chariot or ox-cart to Zeus with the yoke tied to the pole in a special knot. Anyone who discovered how to undo it was to become lord of all Asia. Alexander the Great saw this at Gordium and simply solved the problem by cutting the knot with his sword. The story was often told in antiquity and “cutting the Gordian knot” has become proverbial for finding a way out of a difficulty.

The way out of All Progressives Congress (APC) pre and post-election difficulties is suggested to be no less irksome than the riddle at Gordium – which riddle had defied solution until Alexander ingeniously simplified it. All that is required on the part of APC regarding its rich harvest of desultoriness or lack of co-ordination and of a rambling trajectory is to simplify the equation of its convoluted algebra.

A party which in 2015 rose to power on the crest of popular resentment of a “clueless” administration has no reason to fall so soon to this all-time low level of popular rejection. A reasoned explanation must be found for its electoral loss of as many as seven states across geo-political zones, for its life-threatening intra-party squabbles, for the critical lack of cohesion and sync among its statutory organs, and for its tenuous grip of affairs and events in the National Assembly where it has a fair majority. The party that set out with goodwill to remedy the situation with which it had been left has fallen into public dis-favour or opprobrium.

As if ignorant of the fact that financial realism is almost always unpopular, the party began to lose its nerve and consequently relaxed its vaunted policies even before they had time to have an effect. Embarrassing policy somersaults have inevitably followed. Being so vulnerable to purely political decisions, the party has become un-wittingly destructive of economic efficiency. Even in a fair contest where the considerations of social stability are ranged against market efficiency, the former is sure to win.

The thinly-concealed hand of party chieftains is always re-setting the clock in favour of the enforcement of party rules which most times translate to obnoxious party control or filthy personal gains. It must be recognised that just because a party is in power does not mean that it has the proper grip of things. It is merely in power and may not be in control. Throughout its 2015-2019 tenure, the APC was in power but was obviously not in control.

Whereas healthy intra-party rivalries between or among party caucuses are proper as they are positioned not only to interrogate the party’s processes and thereby strengthen its internal conflict management mechanism, they conduce to ultimate cohesion in strategy and tactics. Many examples of contests for elective offices and other positions among same-party members have been needlessly fractious.

The APC’s often self-indulgent handling of serious allegations of corruption or of other instances of malfeasance, levelled against favoured or properly projected members of the party, for example, is invidious or offensively discriminatory and has inexorably weakened the fabric of the party regarding discipline, the sanctity of the rule book and the presumption of a moral high ground.

The rules do not apply the same way across board respecting party members as there are sacred cows whose infractions may be overlooked and not visited with sanctions, reproof or reprimand. Many instances of grandstanding have tended to discredit the party’s political process. They have earned the party an obvious or objective voter disdain and contempt.

To underscore the requirement of consistency and properly-considered positions regarding any issue of policy, the present morass flowing from the volte-face of the leaders of the APC respecting political restructuring, deregulation, the removal of petroleum products subsidy or the fuel price hike, etc (by whatever name called) has exposed either an abysmal want of thoroughness, a bile-full disposition or, even, chicanery.

In 2012, the Jonathan administration announced the removal of oil subsidy and a new price per litre for PMS. So much hullabaloo orchestrated by the opposition attended the policy enunciation. That government panicked and hastily withdrew the policy before it took root. Some notable members of the present administration impudently posited that there was nothing like oil subsidy; that it was a ruse or an unmitigated scam schemed by the government of the day.

Today, the public is aghast as these self-same opponents of subsidy removal have turned full circle and are the muscular champions of its new-found necessity for stability, poverty alleviation and of a forgiveless social imperativeness. This and many more are examples of the de-legitimating credentials of a political party that ought to be avowedly steeped in policy consistency and whose loins ought to be girded in moral armament.

Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the APC leadership felt a need to change its leadership mood, attitude and tactics away from that of an austere, introspective, calculating and mischief-abjuring disposition to one that is combative, sensational, lavish in mischief and streetwise.

A juggernaut or a mighty force sweeping away or destroying everything in its trail fitted the description in view of a divined roforofo fight that was envisaged to be the defining feature of the impending elections. Odigie-Oyegun as chairman of an “old school” order needed to be replaced with one that is grimly masterful of the Nigerian political condition.

Odigie-Oyegun was too refined or gentlemanly. Enter Adams Oshiomhole, erstwhile governor of Edo State and trade union impresario as chairman, All Progressives Congress! Oshiomhole’s projected performance as chairman of Nigeria’s ruling political party is foreshadowed in his rabble-rousing, sabre-rattling and no-holds-barred abrasiveness as labour leader and champion of the labour union’s cause celebres.

Oshiomhole has come to his new posting with a range of qualifications that meets the description of his assignment or of his sponsors’ expectations. Overly aggressive, garrulous and distastefully abusive, he is projected to be vigorous, forceful, un-despairing and insensitive on the job. Further, a requirement to counter-balance a general dissatisfaction with the insipidity or lack of vigour in Buhari’s presidency augured a relentless search for a bulldozer as head of the ruling party’s operations.

Politics is, however, a game demanding the spirit of giving and take or accommodation. Oshiomhole seems incapable of the exercise of this important element of noblesse oblige even as he takes on adversaries and colleagues with the viciousness of a war criminal captor. His language each time is in-elegant, awful and sardonic. It is not befitting of the high office he occupies. The party may have realised its error in preferring one that is hard-hearted, stubborn or difficult to influence to another that is suave, civil, deliberate and restrained in conduct.

In a possible recognition of its error, it recently counteracted the breeze-in-the-wind policy position enunciated by Oshiomhole to the effect that the APC did not need the co-operation of the other parties and would not share principal offices of the National Assembly with them. The APC coolly directed its members interested in the prescribed offices to ignore Oshiomhole’s impolitic or insensate bearing and engage their colleagues constructively.

Today, the party is sorely divided over Oshiomhole’s mien and style of leadership even in his homestead – Edo State –as many are calling for his removal. Going by his rough and ready carriage, he may not be able to captain the party through its “next level.”

Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs, wrote from Abuja

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