By Dr. Mohammed Sani Funtua (PhD)
Within the space of a week, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has sacked and restored its interim leadership chaired by the absentee Yobe Governor, Mr. Mai Mala Buni.
Days after Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State imperiously declared the end of his disastrous reign on national television, with the assurance that new actors enjoying the President’s backing will now assume control of the party’s affairs, Governor Mai Mala Buni caught a plane to London and the result was a letter signed by the President himself which effectively poured ice-cold water on El-Rufai’s confident claims.
Mai Mala Buni is going nowhere, apparently. He has become the bone hung around the dog’s neck that can neither be eaten nor shaken off. The placeholder who will not surrender command even if his stay evidently does more harm than good.
Not even the revelation that he conspired with certain elements in the party to surreptitiously obtain a court ruling against the conduct of the repeatedly postponed national convention was enough to shame him into surrender or deny him the support of those propping up his overstayed welcome.
The National Convention, slated for March 26th after a series of postponements, was meant to terminate Mai Mala Buni’s inglorious reign and replace the caretaker committee with a legitimate and properly elected leadership, so the party can commence its healing journey. It was a long-overdue process. But with Mai Mala Buni still in charge, much to the chagrin of those reeling from the President’s apparent volte-face, the outcome of the convention may in fact compound the raging conflict.
Yet it was not supposed to be like this. When in June 2020, the President was talked into sacking the Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee by some Governors who had grown tired of Oshiomhole’s insistence on the due, constitutional process and his complete refusal to aid their quest to build political fiefdoms in their states and regions through underhand wheeling and dealing, his exit was touted as the perfect antidote to troubles they started and fed.
His departure was advertised as a necessary development to close the fissures within the party and achieve harmony. Oshiomhole was the “problem”, they told everyone who cared to listen. So urgent was the task that they could not wait to secure his ouster through the means prescribed within the party constitution.
Instead, a NEC meeting was convened and the National Working Committee was purportedly ‘dissolved’. It was a move that would not have stood legal scrutiny, had Oshiomhole gone to court to enforce his rights as a duly elected party leader. His detractors knew the fact, but they counted on his loyalty to the President. The gamble paid off.
Oshiomhole, ever the loyal servant-leader who didn’t think it was necessary to hang on if the party and country’s first citizen had seemingly approved of his exit, stepped aside. After all, his primary motive and the raison d’etre of his management of the party was to help the President succeed.
President Muhammadu Buhari had a mandate, developed in line with the party’s progressive ideals, and Oshiomhole was convinced that the success of the mandate rests firmly on the soundness of the party platform.
It was why, at great personal cost, he took on the powerful but obstructionist elements who frustrated and derailed the President’s first term agenda at the National Assembly, and successfully replaced them with those loyal to the party’s cause.
It was also why he insisted on organizing the party to live up to its reputation – and the expectation of Nigerians – as a progressive party founded on the important principles of true democracy and responsible leadership. He didn’t think of his job as an avenue to service a secret ambition or massage the ego of those who believed themselves above the rules and considered party platform mere instrument to wield and retain power for nefarious goals.
He was faithful in his service and total in his commitment. He enforced discipline and compliance with the party’s defining ideals.
In 2019, as the President strained for a second term, Oshiomhole toured the nook and cranny of the country, energizing the campaign trail with his trademark electrifying speeches. He moved hearts with his candid conviction. He was the former labor leader called upon to help the mission of the leader of the talakawa. That was Oshiomhole’s understanding of the task he was called upon to do – and imperfect as he was, he carried it out with courage and full dedication.
He was loyal to his boss and the leader of the country. And perhaps, it was his loyalty that finished him off. From his detractors’ point of view and cold calculation, his loyalty made him predictable. They moved with the confidence that Oshiomhole would not do anything to hurt the party nor bring dishonor to the President. And they were right. When they hid behind the President to illegally shove him off, they knew he would not challenge the decision, even though he was in the legal and moral right.
But time has revealed their hypocrisy and foolishness. Two years on, the center cannot hold in the APC. The party has gone from a Chairman who waved his rights and sacrificed a position he won fair and square to a sit-tight caretaker Chairman who secures and hides damaging court rulings, while also allegedly negotiating personal political benefits with the position.
Perhaps those responsible for Oshiomhole’s unfair treatment and illegal exit are contrite now. Perhaps in quiet and sober reflections, they regret their role in denying the party a chance to deepen the adoption of its self-professed progressive ideals and instead facilitated the emergence of a disaster. Perhaps they are even apologetic – just as Nyesom Wike, the Rivers State Governor who recently broke character with the issuance of an apology upon coming to the truth, albeit belatedly, on the true nature of Godwin Obaseki as foretold by Oshiomhole.
Maybe they have realized that as difficult as dealing with a principled man may appear, it is a much better fate than to deal with a man who has none, except a selfish prioritization of self and power covetousness. After all, what else is there to expect from a man who so gladly abandoned the management of a state ravaged by poverty levels soaring over 70%, only to sit permanently in Abuja to negotiate political deals?
Oshiomhole has moved on but if his detractors can summon the courage, he deserves an apology. His leadership of the APC deserved a much better ending than what he got.