By: Israel Umoh
His first name- Adams- resonates in the labour and political circles. But in the ecumenical circle, Eric meaning a brave ruler, autocrat, ever-powerful is being esteemed by the Muslim-turned Christian. Yet, Eric of Germanic origin appears like a talisman that elicits courage and obstinacy in him to dare the highs and the lows in the society to being loved by some and hated by others. What a name!
Adams Oshiomhole, the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, is a firebrand trade unionist and a daring politician. When he worked with the Arewa Textiles Company, he contested and won as the union’s secretary in 1975.
Oshiomhole’s long romance with trade unionism propelled his appointment as the General Secretary of the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria in 1982. After the restoration of the country’s democracy in 1999, he rose to the zenith as the president of Nigeria Labour Congress.
His exploits in the labour arena spurred Oshiomhole to have tested the political waters. With the alliance of the defunct Action Congress Party and Labour Party, he ran for Edo State governorship in April 2007. Known for struggle and agitation, he drew out his labour knife and ousted Oserheimen Osunbor of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who won the election. On March 20, 2008, an Edo State election tribunal nullified the election of Osunbor and declared Oshiomhole the winner. The Federal Appeal Court in Benin City subsequently affirmed the Tribunal’s ruling on November 11, 2008, declaring Oshiomole as Edo State governor.
As soon as he mounted the exalted political throne, he could not draw a line between activism and governance, between fanaticism and leadership, between reason and emotion, and between garrulousness and taciturnity. This is Oshiomhole’s sin, weakness, which is seen more of decades-old union activism than a character flaw. In a typical Nigerian political setting, a political gladiator must learn to know when to make concessions, must know when to fight and when to retreat, must know how to dodge banana peels, must learn to keep a studied silence on controversial matters. He must learn to play a political tortoise and be evasive on burning domestic and national issues. He must not allow emotions to becloud his sense of reasons and occasionally he ought to know when to go into political hibernation.
But Oshiohmole is known not to possess such affable traits. He is made of sterner stuff. Unlike such past radical trade unionist as the late Pa Michael Imoudu and Paschal Bafyau, among others, Oshiohmole is luckier because, after his exit from labour movement, has shot himself to the secular political limelight. He has not forgotten threats and intimidations used for agitation for better welfare packages of workers. But in politics seen as dynamic, a player must learn to be canny for survival. He says one thing and the body language tells a different story. Yet, his aides look at his eyes contacts and perhaps gesticulations to be able to flow with Oga on the same page of decision or action.
Oshiohmole’s albatross may be in his Christian name- Eric. Perhaps, the reverend father who got the auction to nam him foresaw that such would launch him into prominence and at the same time plunge him into controversies. Oshiohmole likes to tread where knee-jerking dread. As a labour chief, he dared Olusegun Obasanjo- a retired army general and Nigerian President. For instance, he turned his fang against Baba on the neglect of local oil refineries led to a reliance on imported gasoline, followed by rises in the price of fuel. Oshiomhole led strikes and demonstrations against the increase. By so doing, he courted the anger of Obasanjo. He faced arrests, tear gas and temporary blockades of union offices. Obasanjo introduced legislation to make it more difficult for the NLC to strike in addition to registering Trade Union Congress alongside NLC.
As a governor, he launched verbal assaults and hauled vitriolic insults on some known political heavyweights in Edo. The late Tony Anenih, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion and other known figures who disagreed with his programmes were his punch bags. At a stage, he boasted that he had laid to rest godfatherism factor in the state. When he did that in addition to committing other gaffes, his political godson and successor, Godwin Obaseki, like a piglet watching its mother, was learning the rope of his political strategies.
Governor Obaseki castigated Oshiomhole thus “He said godfatherism is not good but today he is saying godfatherism is good. He said let the people lead but today he wants to lead the people against their interest.” Later, he took him to the cleaners and announced his suspension from the party in addition to sponsoring some APC state executive officers and a few governors to impeach Oshiohmole.
So, Obaseki’s bashings and harassment of Oshiohmole are karmic. Like the biblical Rehoboam stubbornly replied his elders My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges. Obaseki has done more against him. He has succeeded in whittling down his influence by stalling the swearing-in of the 14 members of Edo State House of Assembly on the suspicion that they are loyal to Oshiomhole. So, Obaseki is his greatest political nemesis and image nightmare.
As APC Chairman, he has stepped on many toes. He quarrelled with Rochas Okorocha, then Imo Governor; he had a constant altercation with the immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki; he fell apart with Zamfara Governor, Alhaji Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari and APC leadership, among others. This led to a gale of defections of some members to PDP both at the state and national levels. He is alleged to have led to a reduction in the number of the APC states controlled from 24 to 18.
At times, he talks before he thinks, which looks like a complex. In each case, he attracts many political enemies to himself. Supreme Court voided the votes of David Lyon, governor-elect of Bayelsa State over the fake certificate of his deputy and ordered Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a Certificate of Return to the next person who scored the highest votes. Realising that Senator Douye Diri was the next governor of the state, he thundered “Diri would not be sworn in.” Many took offence to such a raucous reaction.
For example, Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike took him to tatters. “Oshiomhole became governor through questionable means. The questionable emergence of Oshiomhole led to the constitutional amendment for Governorship Matters to terminate at the Supreme Court.
“Nigerians know one matter that led to the amendment of the electoral act where Governorship election has to go to the Supreme Court is because of the Oshiomhole matter. So he cannot come out and say he was clean in terms of the electoral process. That will be very bad. Oshiomhole said he fought godfatherism and the same time he wants to install himself as a godfather in Edo state. Why is he fighting Obaseki, because the man doesn’t take instruction from him? He preaches what he doesn’t practice,” Wike declared.
He added: “Oshiomhole lacks the powers to challenge the pronouncement of the Supreme Court. “I will not be a member of their party, I have always been a member of PDP and they know that. Oshiomhole knows that his party does not even score up to 25 percent in my state.”
Like him or not, Oshiomhole is seen to be a progressive politician. He is known to be firm, disciplined, dependable, intelligent and loyal to his boss. He is endowed with oratorical prowess to match his athletic frame. In short, he is a team player in politics. This is why he finds it difficult to part way with Bola Tinubu, the APC National leader, who gave him a shoulder at the national platform to stand for many to see.
The bitter lesson from Oshiomhole’s travails is that whatever a man sows is what he will reap. He sowed the seed of discord among his party in Edo and he is paying the price of such action. One day, Obaseki will leave the coveted seat, but the scourge he is using on his political estranged godfather will be meted on him in greater measure ditto with other political gladiators.
In his political pilgrimage, Oshiohmole should covet the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin, an American polymath and one of the founding fathers of the United States, who advises The heart of a fool is in his mouth, but the mouth of a wise man is in his heart.