Within the next three hundred days, the political experiment that resulted in the formation of the All Progressives Congress will face decisive tests over its future. Struggle on or splinter.
Already there is an ultimatum on the party’s further existence with the report by The Cable that former members of the PDP who defected to form the present ruling party in 2014 have demanded an urgent meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari within seven days. Since its formation in 2014, the APC has not been without crises featuring clashes of personalities in Kano and Kaduna, In Rivers, recently in Ekiti and, most significantly, between the party’s leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and chairman John Odigie-Oyegun. President Buhari, despite initial fervor for continuity, lost confidence in the latter to manage the party into the 2019 elections, opening the gates for a new leadership to emerge in the coming months.
This Thursday, Adams Oshiomhole, the former labour leader and former Governor of Edo state, officially declared his intention to be the APC’s next chairman, after long rumors that he was among the favorites to replace the increasingly unpopular Oyegun.
For his antecedents, it is a move that should excite members of the troubled party. At the same time, it has raised certain questions on the nature of relationships between the leaders of the party. By declaring to run for the position, Oshiomhole will be seeking the job of his elder and predecessor (in the Edo state governorship reckoning).
When Seun Okinbaloye put it this way to him on Wednesday evening’s edition of Politics Today, Oshiomhole, while acknowledging the seniority, made the necessary point that it was not Oyegun’s job he was seeking, but that it was time “to inject new blood” into the party. In his declaration speech, Oshiomhole, referencing Barack Obama, noted that he was not running because things are bad but that at any time, “anything and everything can be better”. It was the subtle and polite way to tell the party that its reputation was in need of repair from the factitious exertions that have threatened its existence since 2014. For one, the party’s identity can certainly be better as after four years, there remains no marked departure from the violence and disorder associated with the PDP when it was in power; whether in picking its leaders (as the recent ward congresses showed) or in picking candidates in the Ekiti governorship primaries showed.
How well he goes about his campaign to emerge as the party’s candidate will be of interest to see. Should Oyegun seek a second term as the party’s constitution allows, there will be particular attention to any semblance of a war of words, something Oshiomhole has apparently began early to avoid by making due mention of his opponent in an appreciative tone during his declaration.
But beyond that, the catch for observers will be to gauge any significant points of policy with which Oshiomhole will seek to identify the APC with going into the elections. “Change” from four years ago has become redundant, even as the promises to bring back the abducted Chibok girls and to stop Boko Haram have failed to materialize. What does the APC’s broom signify to Oshiomhole? Is it still sweeping out corruption, a theme countered by the present administration’s broad failure to land any convictions or even properly address accused persons within its own ranks.
After leaving Abuja for the Benin City government House in November 2008, this will be Oshiomhole’s re-entry into unionism and politics on a national scale. He is now much more a politician than unionist which will not make him as interesting to the public as in his NLC days. But those whose interests are in the survival of the APC will certainly be happy to have him contesting; beside the Jagaban of Lagos, there will hardly be a more vocal arrowhead in the quest to have their presidential candidate returned by next February.