By Ojo Maduekwe
The national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, is rattled by the crisis rocking the party. Of course, the former trade unionist with a history of confronting military governments will feign indifference. Perhaps even raise a clenched fist and chant: Aluta continua!
But, don’t be deceived by all that “I will not miss a sleep” gibberish he’s been telling the media at every turn of event. He appears very rattled. Even more worried than the leader of his party, President Muhammadu Buhari.
Barely a week after Oshiomhole pleaded with the Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom not to defect, referring to him as a “man of honour”, he would make a volte-face and call him a failure, claiming relief that the governor left.
“I am relieved as national chairman, and I believe that the leadership of the party in Benue is also relieved that Ortom has left the party,” Oshiomhole said during a press conference he called after the governor’s defection.
If you are surprised by the sudden u-turn, an incident that happened while Oshiomhole was governor will give you a glimpse into the nature of the man members of the APC, including Buhari, are hoping will reconcile aggrieved members and reposition the party ahead of next year’s elections.
Sometime in November 2013, a visibly angry Oshiomhole (then Edo state governor) was caught on video publicly telling a widow who had flouted the state’s sanitation law for illegal hawking to “go and die”.
Following a nationwide backlash the incident generated, Oshiomhole invited the widow to “apologise” over a cup of tea. To sweeten the apology he offered her two million naira, and an employment with the state. As they both drank their tea, he still couldn’t help but justify her public humiliation. “But sometimes you get angry when people compromise your efforts,” he added.
That was five years ago but, if you want to understand the rejection recently slammed on Ortom, that part of his apology will prove very instructive.
For a quick-tempered man with an unbridled tongue who assumed leadership of the APC only to have members of the party he was hoping to reconcile defect to the opposition in one fell swoop, even before his peace efforts were given the chance to yield results, this must be hard to swallow.
But then let’s join him to act like we’re unbothered. And don’t forget to raise a clenched fist as well. A luta continua!
If Oshiomhole had this reservation about Ortom but still begged him not to defect, who knows how many other aggrieved members he views the same way he now sees the governor? And why should these aggrieved members still in APC go ahead and trust in his effort to reconcile them to the party?
Maduekwe is editor at Discussing Africa. He tweets @Ojo_Maduekwe