As Edo State 2020 governorship election draws nearer, stakeholders in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state and across the country have continued to express worry over the chances of their party retaining power. One of their major concerns is the dimension to which the ongoing face-off between the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole and the incumbent, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has gone.

With Bayelsa State already lost to the opposition due to the party’s inability to handle its affairs well under the watch of Oshiomhole, stakeholders’ fears for Edo have become palpable. Some stakeholders have called what happened in Bayelsa as an unforgivable act of impunity on the part of the party’s leadership led by Oshiomhole. This is more so after a similar incident cost the party Taraba State only last year.

In Edo State, members blame the present imbroglio in APC on the excesses of Oshiomhole who they accuse of gross mismanagement of the national chairmanship’s office, while others liken the various crises in the ruling party, not limited to Edo, on the fact that there is lack of input of elders to the challenges confronting APC since Oshiomhole took over. In other words, Oshiomhole has been running the party in a solo fashion unlike what should happen in a democratic party, where everybody makes input for the party’s growth.

Nevertheless, the contrary opinion also faults the incumbent, accusing him of arrogance and a lack of appreciation towards Oshiomhole, who singlehandedly brought him from his private-sector business and installed him governor against all odds.

But beyond the Edo crises, some elders have also taken Oshiomhole to the cleaners over what happened in Rivers, Taraba, and Zamfara States where APC lost out in the 2019 elections. They also pointed at the recent sack of David Lyon, the governor-elect of Bayelsa State a day to his inauguration by the Supreme Court, saying, “These are consequences of the fact that APC does not have a Board of Trustees (BoT) to mediate in critical issues. The Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NEC) is like a ship without supervisors and or advisers.”

“The sack of Lyon by the apex court is now etched in annals of Nigeria’s political history and will remain a reference point for years on how a party should never conduct its affairs in an election,” another elder who did not want his name on print stated. “What makes APC/Lyon’s calamity very unfortunate is the fact that the debacle could not only have been easily avoided, but there have been recent experiences that could have guided the leadership of the party on what to do.

“There was a similar case in Taraba State, where a candidate’s infractions cost the party dearly. In Zamfara State, the party’s apparatus is currently in shambles due to the highhandedness of the leadership under the guidance of Oshiomhole. The Rivers episode is even more heartbreaking as the party could not even present a candidate in the 2019 governorship elections. Something similar played out in Oyo State where the party also lost to the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) just as it happened in Ogun where APC managed to retain power, which was made possible because of the infractions in the major opposition PDP.”

Sadly, the misfortunes of the party in all the states mentioned above are placed on the doorsteps of the national chairman, who some members also accused of having not learned anything or behaved with dignity to further justify his continuous leadership of APC.

But as the Edo and Ondo States’ chapters are heading for another gubernatorial election, APC stakeholders in he two states and pundits are already gripped with fears what may likely happen in both states, with especially Edo already boiling over with self-inflicted crisis.

The national chairman has been accused of continuously and intentionally promoting disaffection in the state to spite Obaseki. This assertion is against the backdrop that despite the incumbent’s developmental strides, Oshiomhole is still bent on removing him in his bid to play godfather in the state. Oshiomhole is allegedly fueling the crisis to destabilise both the party and the state government.

But Oshiomhole’s loyalist would sharply disagree with that notion and would rather blamed the current situation on Obaseki, who they also accused of not running the party and the state in accordance with the manifesto of APC. One of the frontrunners of Oshiomhole’s campaign to unseat Obaseki is the former governorship candidate of PDP, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who allegedly has an ongoing corruption case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Miffed by the way and manner the national chairman railroaded Ize-Iyanmu, aggrieved members of Edo APC wonder why a party that preaches against corruption is bent on using a candidate who is under the crime commission’s radar for investigation.

What is noteworthy is that other aspirants being projected by Oshiomhole are people he had said damning things about in the past. According to sources,  “Oshiomhole, for instance, had allegedly accused his erstwhile deputy governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, of being a thief and an herbalist. The same trend can be traced to other aspirants he is now fronting.”

Just as the fight between the national chairman and Obaseki is causing disaffection in the party, a big challenge also awaits it in Ondo State with rumours that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu would likely be going to be ambushed the way former Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, was ambushed.

These erratic leadership styles are blamed on APC national chairman whose party members claim to lack the aptitude and temperament to occupy that delicate office.

“He does not have the disposition and attitude,” lamented a member. “If nothing is done urgently, the ruling party will pay the ultimate price. It is therefore imperative of the party to urgently constitute a BoT to help Oshiomhole out in his job at least in advisory capacity.”

Most party members are already losing faith in what they describe as ‘mercenary leadership method’ of Oshiomhole, saying it looks like essentially a one-man-show, claiming, “The approach of operating like a bull in a China shop has not gotten us anywhere. At best, it has set the party further on the path of perdition.”

PDP’s fall pre-2014 
DESPITE several appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to use his office to interve­ne in the party’s crises before they got out of control like what happened in Bayelsa and Oyo States, some concerned members told The Guardian, “What led to the downfall of PDP in 2015 is playing out actively in APC with the way Oshiomhole is handling the affairs of the party. Once members lose confidence in the leadership of the party, they either become inert or go elsewhere. Our party promised change; now, it cannot even manage its own affairs because of the actions and inactions of one man.”

On the unfortunate episode in Bayelsa State, they also said, “It must be pointed out that it is unforgivable to adopt an individual who presented five certificates with different names and when it was spotted, the party hierarchy failed to take advantage of the window to substitute the candidate.

“All these flaws flow from the dysfunctional leadership, which exalts might over right and has absolute disregard for due process and the law, which is the hallmark of Oshiomhole’s leadership style.

“The damage done by Oshiomhole to the APC is incalculable. It happened in Taraba, in Zamfara, and in Rivers because of the same recourse to subverting established norms for personal interest.”

While lamenting the absence of BoT, one of the founding members of APC said even if there are no group of elders to tailor how things run in the party, “President Buhari should not stay completely aloof; after all, he eventually got to where he is on APC’s platform after many failed trials,” just as he accused the national leader of hiding under the shadow of the NWC to carry out infractions against the party. “He has been conducting the party’s affairs from his castle in Aso Rock in Abuja, alienating all else and leaving the national secretariat desolate.”

Although after the loss in the governorship election in Taraba State on the basis of age falsification by the party’s candidate, Oshiomhole had promised he would constitute committees to screen candidates so the party would guide against fielding candidates with questionable dates of birth, educational qualifications and various errors which the opposition party could latch on to snatch victory after losing at the polls.

However, the chairman’s actions have betrayed this promise, as the party still lost out because of inconsistencies in a candidate’s certificates in the Bayelsa election. With this, it has been established that what Oshiomhole says is different from what he does, with members fuming that failure to act now would result in the rapid disintegration of the party.

Anger in the party might not be totally directed against Oshiomhole but the circumstances that were at the formation of APC. In fact, Oshiomhole’s best may mean nothing if the leader of the party, President Buhari, consistently fails to take responsibility for the party’s health as he has shown in the past. Buhari’s silence in the face of the simmering crises has not helped in dousing tension in the party. It is clear Buhari can no longer afford to keep silent otherwise whatever gains his presidency made would be eroded by the antics of the chairman of the party he leads.The leader of Nigeria’s Governors’ Forum and Ekiti State governor, Dr. Fayemi Kayode, had predicted the likelihood of the disintegration of APC post-Buhari. Oshiohmole’s continuing stranglehold on the party might just be the beginning of that disintegration except for something urgent is done to ease him and stabilize the party’s structure.