The former Governor of Edo State and current National Chairman of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, is a dimunitive man of considerable intellectual staying power. He is as eloquent and provocative as any political animal in Nigeria desperate to make name for themselves by staying glued to the system that allows them unfettered access to the pinnacle of power and state resources. Oshiomhole, despite the occasional hubris that trails his leadership style, remains a small man with big heart, one who knows what he wants in his political career and how to get same by hook or by crook.
As the celebrated President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) decades ago during successive military dictatorships the Comrade in khaki made name for himself by fearlessly and vociferously defending the interest of workers. He clashed with the primitive dictators at the helm of our national affairs at different epochs. He was as uncompromising as he was relentless in his dogged campaign for better wages and working conditions for the Nigerian workers.
From labour unionism Oshiomhole ‘graduated’ to gubernatorial politics by seeking and obtaining governorship of his state of Edo. Having won the guber poll against all odds Oshiomhole was confronted with godfatherism as epitomised by the late Anthony Anenih. Without any fear but resolutely determined to leave a footprint on the sand of time he had battled the veteran politician defeating him and retiring him from active politics.
As executive Governor Oshiomhole waged another war with the Igbinedion wealthy family in Benin City refusing to be intimidated by money. In the end the Igbinedions were reminded that power commanded money and not otherwise. During his 8-year eventful reign I once encountered him at work one hot afternoon in Benin City. Visiting home on vacation I was driving along Mission Road by Dawson Road junction when I noticed a large crowd gathered around the popular Governor as he inspected a road rehabilitation project.
Indeed, Oshiomhole transformed Benin city infrastructurally and brought democracy dividends to the people. Overall, he performed creditably well even though his detractors (including his ex-Commissioners and Special Assistants) pointed to his high-handedness and corruption.
When the Comrade left the Edo State capital city upon the completion of his second mandate he was in sort of political limbo. Seeking surreptitiously to supplant the then unpopular ineffective APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, himself a former Governor of Edo state, Oshiomhole presented the positive image of a strong-willed leader, one capable of uniting the opposing forces within the ruling party and repositioning it for more electoral victories. But upon mounting the saddle he became more controversial than Oyegun he had sought spiritedly to displace.
He made enemies everywhere by his impetuous methods and tactics; he oversaw the grand manipulation that saw to the triumph of the APC in the presidential poll of last year. Managing the unmerited success, however, has since become problematic. The centre could no longer hold. Attacks were coming from different familiar and unfamiliar quarters.
Today Comrade Oshiomhole is embattled on all fronts– from Benin city to Abuja. He is, for all intents and purposes, a marked man. While his position of National Chairman of the APC is becoming more and more threatened with protesters calling for his resignation or deposition he made it clear after his recent meeting with President Buhari that only God could determine his fate. Last week in Abuja there were pro and anti-Oshiomhole demonstrations. The first group voiced out their opposition to his continuation as Chairman citing intra-party squabbles and post-electoral losses suffered thus far by the APC.
On the other hand, however, the next day, another group (obviously sponsored) staged a counter demonstration in support of the Comrade. Under his leadership, they had argued, the ruling party had made some electoral progress nationwide. Changing a ‘winning’ team, for the protesters, was counter-productive.
Besides, the battle to ease out Oshiomhole took another turn as litigations mounted. In one breath an FCT High Court in Jabi, Abuja ruled that the Comrade was hereby suspended asking him to stop parading himself as the party Chairman pending the final determination of the suit. But in another breath, hours after the verdict that ousted him, another court, a Federal High Court in Kano, set aside the earlier ruling from the FCT rehabilitating him and paving the way for him to continue in office.
Following the contradicting judicial pronouncements emanating from Abuja and Kano heavily-armed security forces are reportedly positioned at the APC national Secretariat preventing everyone from entering the premises. A notice of the emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting convened by the party’s Deputy National Secretary, Chief Victor Giadom, to resolve its ongoing intra-party leadership crisis had been denounced by other executive members describing same as a “mischief”. In a statement released recently some notable members dissociated themselves from the said “illegal and unauthorized Notice of Meeting” arguing strongly that Giadom had no powers to convene any NEC Meeting.
Back home in Edo State ‘Oshio-Baba’ is seeing ‘red’ everywhere! His attempts to play Anenih has hit the wall with the glorified ‘godson’ asserting his independent-mindedness and manifesting scorn for godfatherism. Governor Godwin Obaseki, given his pedigree, does not appear like a weakling to be ordered around or pushed aside. His gubernatorial swagger gives him away as a man in control of his inner elements and environment.
For the uninitiated Governor Obaseki is fighting the man that ‘made’ him. He could therefore be accused of betrayal or disloyalty. But no one was party to the gentlemen agreement the two must have signed prior to Oshiomhole throwing his weight behind the Obaseki guber ambition hence no one could say for sure what led to the ‘rofo-rofo’ fight. Suffice to say that we could hazard a guess by blaming ego or ‘ego’ (money in Igbo language) for their simmering irreconciliable differences.
However, all things considered, it appears that doing the right thing ought to take precedence over and above all considerations — material or financial. Let the right thing be done no matter whose ox is gored! If being on the side of the people is considered a ‘crime’ by the godfathers then ignoring their antics and/or disgracing them remains the only viable option preferable.
The major problem with Oshiomhole resides mainly in his impetuosity and hubris. The Comrade we knew as a fiery intrepid labour leader changed the moment he became Governor tasting the filthy lucre or the allures of power. Power corrupts good manners and in Oshiomhole we have seen how power could transform one into a monster! He could not be counted as among those for whom gold holds no allure.
He had claimed that he had defeated godfatherism in his home state yet he positioned himself as a replacement of what he fought and conquered gloriously. That could pass easily as the height of hypocrisy.
The political immolation of Adams Oshiomhole could be said to have started in Benin city the moment he handed over power to his anointed successor believing childishly that he had Edo treasury in his pocket. And it could attain its epilogue sooner or later in Abuja whenever he falls from the APC national chairmanship perch.
When that eventually happens the 68-year old man from Iyamho would come to the realisation, nay conclusion, that in Nigeria politics is played differently — with little or no decorum, little or no rules of engagement. All is fair! Political low-blow, betrayal, back-stabbing etc. Then, in the event of his ouster rehabilitation could take a whole lot of courage, determination and above all, servile submission to the Buharian giddy order.
By SOC Okenwa…
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