By Sufuyan Ojeifo
An opportunity of an informal meeting with the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, recently in Abuja, in company with some politician friends was quite instructive. The intellectual engagement that ensued illuminated the ideas of the comrade chairman about the party’s governance model that will soon become a reality.
As he pontificated on the gestational model with an apostolic zeal, he brought to mind in much bolder relief the eternal words of the brilliant Arab strategist and lawyer, Sheikh Zaki Yamani that “The Stone Age did not end for lack of stones and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil.”
To be sure, Yamani, who delivered this compelling verdict some three decades ago, was one-time Saudi Arabian minister of petroleum and mineral resources from 1962-1986. But beyond the fact that geology granted two-thirds of the world’s proven oil reserves to Saudi Arabia and four of its neighbours, undoubtedly, Yamani’s vision was a key factor in transforming that country’s petroleum industry governance model, guiding the kingdom’s compelling economic trajectory and readying it for a post-hydrocarbon energy era.
Back home, even against unproven allegations of being impetuous and adversarial, the emergence of the former governor of Edo state, Comrade Oshiomhole, barely three months ago, as national chairman of the governing party, together with glimmerings of his party governance vision, evokes the era of Yamani and his notable impact in a very conservative milieu.
Though Yamani lived and operated in a different arena from Oshiomhole’s progressive community, a common foresight, panache and focus link both folks. There is more. Any observant analyst tracking pronouncements and actions of Oshiomhole since he assumed office would probably take home some novel game-plan elements that suggest a different approach to traditional party governance.
Remarkably, before now, membership of a political party in Nigeria simply meant going through some hazily defined motions and smiling home with a ‘membership card.’ Even being a member of an English premiership league football club is a much stricter affair.
In APC, the comrade chairman has indicated the party leadership’s commitment to producing a much more comprehensive, computerised membership register and data-base that would make it much easier to know real members and keep track of their fidelity to party membership obligations.
Ultimately, this may be synced with members’ permanent voter cards’ (PVC) data, a really unprecedented course. Will there be some resistance to new ideas like this? Certainly, yes! But Oshiomhole would quickly remind you that the dinosaurs died out because they could not work smart and adapt quickly to critical changes in their environments. One would probably expect such scientific insight from an evolutionary biologist.
Another key and very testy issue he confronted head-on, in close consultation with the party’s NEC, is the template or mode of party primary elections to pick standard-bearers. Flowing from deliberations reached at a meeting in Abuja, the Oshiomhole-led NEC settled for the direct primary election mode for the presidential candidate. A distinguishing feature of this mode is its inclusivity. All registered members of the party would participate in the process of determining who their standard-bearers would be.
Perhaps, not surprisingly, many governors had pushed for indirect primary election (the delegates system). This generated some friction until Thursday, September 20, when the party leadership decided to allow the governors, angling for indirect primary election, to adopt the option. To be clear, the indirect primary election is not illegal because the party constitution provides for it as an alternative to the direct primary election. It is also circumscribed in the INEC regulations.
In the indirect primary election (delegates’ option), numbers are quite small and much more manageable. But the down side is that it is easily manipulated, especially by governors who usually have the edge on delegates’ control. About seventeen states would adopt the direct primary election mode while about nineteen states would adopt the indirect primary election mode.
But, the party’s rules also provide for consensus option, which is efficacious where only one person indicates interest and procures form for a particular office. Even at that, the aspirant will still be ratified at the congress or convention by party members or delegates as the case may be.
However, governors who requested for indirect primary election were required by the party constitution to strictly adhere to certain spelt-out procedures. Any state chapter of the party that wanted to adopt the indirect mode of primary election had to write to the national working committee, NWC, conveying the resolution by a majority of the state executive committee, SEC, in that regard. The about nineteen states adopting it had already met the conditions precedent.
Another take away from the encounter is Oshiomhole’s verbalized commitment to enforcing party supremacy, a feature that has curiously gone downhill since the wistful days of Chief Meredith Adisa Akinloye, then national chairman of the ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN, who reportedly had champagne branded in his name. Linked to this is also the enforcement of party discipline without which a political journey becomes an unduly hazardous enterprise.
Oshiomhole made it clear that the era of anti-party intrigues to achieve personal interests is over. Members of the APC must submit to orderly, disciplined conduct and use prescribed channels to seek redress of any grievances. He was reminded that management of human beings, especially politicians, is not that easy. He was nevertheless sure-footed in his expectations of desired positive results from that leadership exertion.
The prognoses of success were brilliantly articulated. Clearly, the position of national chairman of a governing party, especially at a challenging period, requires leadership of a certain stature. There is no doubt that the ascendancy and party leadership of Oshiomhole have begun to provide disciplined, focused guidance for the APC, going forward, in the realisation of its new governance model.
- Ojeifo writes from Abuja via firstname.lastname@example.org