Both Oshiomhole and Okorocha have taken divergent views about different candidates who emerged victorious at different APC primaries in the state.
There is something of a political drama currently being staged in some states controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC). At the head of the mobile theatre are grumpy state governors who are furious that their plans to install candidates who will succeed them in office have been disrupted by the national leadership of their party. Controversies surrounding the outcomes of primaries conducted to elect governorship candidates who will fly the party’s flag in next year’s elections in states such as Imo, Ogun, and Zamfara are still raging. These three states now serve as political flashpoints that could explode if the disputed results are not resolved soon.
READ ALSO: APC crisis deepens in Imo, Ogun, Zamfara
Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha has openly expressed his disappointment over how the party chairperson Adams Oshiomhole has handled the situation. Both Oshiomhole and Okorocha have taken divergent views about different candidates who emerged victorious at different APC primaries in the state. The situation is as sensitive and difficult as separating a Siamese twin.
The confusion has baffled many people even more, owing to different court judgments and contradictory news reports in mainstream and online media. The courts have ruled both in support of Okorocha’s preferred candidate and also in support of the candidate recognised by party chair Oshiomhole. It’s all very confusing because the courts seem unable to decide on the authentic APC candidate to contest the governorship election. Media reports are equally puzzling. In one moment, there are reports suggesting Okorocha has won the battle to have the name of his preferred candidate recognised by the party. In the next moment, other reports suggest that Oshiomhole has recognised and endorsed another candidate and has moved quickly to submit the name to INEC.
The embarrassing political situation in Imo State shows neither Okorocha nor Oshiomhole has been able to carve out a clear path to resolve the issue. Neither the media nor the courts have also provided a definitive answer to the puzzling question: Who is the APC governorship candidate in Imo State?
The situation is so serious it has dominated discussion in the public sphere. Everyone is talking about Imo State and the inability of the APC leaders to resolve the governorship primary predicament. There must be a way to resolve the knotty problem. The closer we get to the governorship election date, the closer we will get to finding out the authentic governorship candidate. For now, it is safe to advance the view that, in light of the bitterness, the acrimony, and the inability of the national and state leadership of the APC in Imo State to reach a resolution on the matter, the highest court in the country might be asked to make a final ruling. When that happens, no one can appeal the judgment of the Supreme Court.
It is not only in Imo State that unresolved outcomes of governorship primaries are threatening to destroy the future of the APC. In Ogun State, Governor Ibikunle Amosu is upset that the APC national leadership has not assented to his choice of a governorship candidate. In Zamfara State, Governor Abdulaziz Yari is equally enraged. In Lagos, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode tried but failed to nominate himself for a second term. His ambition was cut short by state party leaders who had endorsed another candidate to contest the state governorship election in 2019.
On trial in all these APC states experiencing political tremor is the management expertise of the national leaders of the party. I would argue that a party that cannot organise free, fair, and hitch-free primaries at the state level might experience greater challenges governing and providing efficient leadership at the national level. Oshiomhole has described the squabbles in some of the states as a normal family misunderstanding that would be resolved amicably in the spirit of all family disputes. Everyone is watching.
Sooner than later, we shall find out whether the outcomes of the contentious governorship primaries organised by the APC in some states have pulled the party together or created huge cracks within the party. The loyalty of some of the governors will be tested in the coming weeks and months, depending on how the disputed governorship primaries are resolved. Okorocha has already threatened to quit the party along with his supporters if his preferred governorship candidate is not recognised by the APC leadership and approved by INEC. You could say that might be sour grapes.
There is a lot at stake in these APC states. While some governors are adamant their choice candidates will eventually be endorsed by the party, the national leadership does not want to encourage a culture of entitlement that would allow the governors to freely appoint and impose candidates that would succeed them, a practice that could go wrong in many ways. One consequence could be mass exodus from the party by disenchanted supporters. APC leaders are facing a delicate challenge with the potential to destroy party unity. Resolving the issues would require a touch of deftness.
No party with a strong grassroots base would like to lose its supporters in favour of a minority led by governors, their cabinet members, and a few supporters. A party that is constructed on the principles of democracy, freedom of choice, the rule of law, and freedom of expression would find value in being consistent in promoting the ideals of democracy. When governors impose their own candidates over candidates selected by voters, the implications could be dire. In genuine democracies across the world, a candidate who wins majority votes in a primary enjoys the goodwill and support of citizens and the party. Substituting a governorship candidate selected by voters with a candidate handpicked undemocratically by a governor is the first sign of dictatorship. Such a practice will not persist.
Another challenge confronting APC leaders is how to grow and inculcate a culture of inclusiveness that recognises and respects the views of all party members. It is a culture that discourages elitism or superiority in political decision-making. It is a culture that carries all members along in every decision made at local government, state, and national levels. It is a culture that abhors distinctively different laws for different party members. It is a practice that recognises equal rights of all members. Within this system, state governors can no longer strut around as masters who enjoy the unquestioned loyalty of citizens. It is a system in which governors are meant to operate as servants of the people rather than masters of the people.
There is fire on the mountain in APC states with unresolved governorship primaries. As tensions grow and as anger rises and falls, Oshiomhole might find that his position as party chair would appear increasingly untenable. The insistence by governors that they must select candidates to succeed them is provocative and offensive. Similarly, governors who have reserved senatorial seats for themselves must be informed they do not have the power to decide for voters. State governors do not have the divine right to elect themselves as senators.