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Oshiomhole: A ‘Coronation’ Foretold! By SOC Okenwa

Former President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and ex-Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is a small man of big ideas. He is intrepid, determined in whatever he sets out to achieve and resolute in achieving same. As the NLC President Oshiomhole brought labour grievances to the fore-front of national politics refusing to…”
June 27, 2018 11:11 am

Former President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and ex-Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is a small man of big ideas. He is intrepid, determined in whatever he sets out to achieve and resolute in achieving same. As the NLC President Oshiomhole brought labour grievances to the fore-front of national politics refusing to compromise in what he believed was right in terms of better wages for workers or decrying their worsening living conditions in a nation where the minimum wage remains till this day a shame and scandal compared to best practices elsewhere around the world. Through sheer hardwork and commitment to the best ideals he managed to lead the Congress with rigour coming out unscathed in the years he presided over its affairs.

Blessed with a combination of brain and brawn Oshiomhole has the grit required to succeed in almost every venture he chose to accomplish. Perhaps his major staying power remains his lion-heartedness and capacity to stand for the truth without blinking an eye.

We remember how this khaki-wearing short man with huge ego waged ‘war’ after ‘war’ against the richest family in Edo State — Igbinedion. At one point in their battle for superiority or supremacy the then Edo state Governor had threathened publicly to run the Igbinedion patriarch, Gabriel Osawaru, out of town if he failed to respect the constituted authorty in the state known as the “heart-beat of the nation’. Gabriel Igbinedion was used to defying the state authority (even playing the Oba abroad!) in the past but with Oshiomhole at the helm such acts of haughtiness were never allowed to stand unchallenged. Between money and power the latter often prevails in any struggle for influence.

Some detractors looked down on him because of his size but he had demonstrated severally that it was not size that mattered but strenght of character; not height that mattered but the heart to soldier on amids odds and challenges. Brimming with confidence the ex-Governor is proud of his overseas academic accomplishments. And achievements in Benin city in particular and Edo State in general when he served as Chief Executive for eight eventful years.

He succeeded in transforming the mid-western state in general and the hitherto neglected “developing village” in particular in his years at the Dennis Osadabey government house in Benin city. Before his triumphant gubernatorial arrival on the stage Benin city was dubbed a town where witchcraft was rife but he worked hard to break the taboo of underdevelopment creating an enabling environment for Edo sons and daughters to see the need to invest resources at home. Roads were constructed or rebuilt, schools were built or renovated, hospitals were built, people were empowered and Benin city was transformed into a modern city worth its cultural and academic greatness!

I remember vividly encountering him at work years back as I visited home. Driving towards Mission Road by Dawson Road junction I had noticed a small crowd milling around a diminutive man in khaki uniform inspecting a road rehabilitation in progress. I parked the car and alighted sensing that the Comrade must be there since some security personnel were at hand to control the cheering supporters. Coming close I saw the man — surrounded by taller well-dressed men and women —as he was taking notes and giving directives to the foreign contractor executing the project. Again driving towards Ikpoba Hill by Ramat Park days later to keep an appointment with the immigration service I overtook the executive car of the former executive Governor moving slowly with little or no security and siren!

As one made academically in Benin City I still see the ancient city as my second home. What happens there interests me more than whatever happens in my ancestral home of Ihiala in Anambra state.
Last weekend the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) held its two-day national convention at the Eagles Square in Abuja. One of the official positions that was supposed to be contested for was that of the national party chairmanship. The former Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, former Governor of Edo State, was literally forced to accept the fact that he was no longer needed as Chairman given the hardened positions of the Tinubuists who had all along insisted on change of leadership. At the convention there was a ‘consensus’ candidate, Adams Oshiomhole, who emerged expectedly as the new party Chairman.

Long before the convention took place Oshiomhole was ‘elected’ by the top hierarchy of the ruling party including the President himself. So it was not unexpected that the Comrade from Edo State would carry the day. Weeks and days prior to the convention a couple of ‘opponents’ aspiring for the chairmanship post had started withdrawing from the race one after the other — having seen obviously the clear handwriting of power forces on the wall! Comrade Adams was therefore ‘coronated’ at the Eagles Square to the surprise of no one!

And now that the ‘coronation’ long foretold had taken place officially with the swearing-in held last Monday the APC apparatchiks would be looking up for a new era with a strong man of moral force in charge of political proceedings at 40 Blantyre Street, Wuse II, Abuja. Oshiomhole’s choice could go a long way in strenghtening the electoral fortunes of the ruling party ahead of the crucial general elections slated for early next year. But while his selection was good for the struggling party in power how he goes about resolving the problems of leadership and followership trailing the party that unseated the PDP and the then incumbent President Jonathan three odd years ago remains to be seen.

The presidenrtial poll of February 2019 announces itself in the horizon as a make or mar electoral ‘war’ given the strong opposition from different quarters — opposition to both Buharism and inherent failures in the system. Talk about the ebbing anti-graft war, the issues of insecurity, economic acrobatic dance, violation of human rights, de-marketing of our nation, increasing unemployment, instigating of disunity among the people as well as the acute hunger and poverty in the land.

Comrade Oshiomhole has got a hard task ahead of him. And we know he appreciates what awaits him in a party unable to manage itself and share among members the ‘spoils’ of office! The former Chairman Oyegun was shown the way out because of his divisive politics and apparent incompetence. His inability to reconcile various factions and differences and foster unity in the party must have been his greatest undoing. But with Adams in command APC could still find its political rhythm and confound its many critics. The descent to fascism must be halted and empty sloganeering avoided!

While Comrade Oshiomhole could be said to have succeeded in Edo state as Governor for eight memorable years there is a lot of difference between executive power and the powers of party chairmanship. Between Abuja and Benin city, therefore, there is a whole lot of differences in terms of federal presence, infrastructural development and fiscal revenue. While the Edo state capîtal city is proud of her cultural heritage dating back centuries the federal capital territory could boast of its glamour, modernity and presence of the federal executive, legislative and judicial authorities. Benin city could as well brandish its academic and traditional greatness with historic monuments. Oshiomhole must have since appreciated since relocating to Abuja the two different worlds as he navigates the uncharted waters of politics Nigeriana.
Indeed, all things being equal, Oshiomhole could make a good Chairman given his political pedigree. Yet, there is bound to be challenges. While we wish him hard luck as he engages the opposition within and without the ruling party the renegades and other outside forces working hard to see President Buhari eased out of office next February would be watching very closely his moves and decisions; how he plays the politics of survival for the ruling party. Positioning or re-positioning the APC coalition for more power conquest countrywide would not be a tea party but many are convinced that  Oshiomhole has what it takes to make it happen.

Comrade Oshiomhole’s earnest quest for national recognition and higher service must have paid dividends with his recent ‘promotion’. He would expectedly deploy his sharp tongue, experience and no-nonsense attitude towards a better and winning ruling party but with the general elections months away he would have a tough task challenging the odds and conquering same! While his bluntless and fearlessness could be an advantage his stewardship in Edo state spoke volume of his determination to make a difference in the lives of the poor masses.

The newly-minted APC national Chairman was not loved by every Edo son and daughter during his mini-revolution in Edo state. His critics (including some of his disgruntled former aides) had accused him of high-handedness, arrogance and Solomonic demonstration of omniscience! Rather than diminish his stature however the criticisms seemed to have emboldened him to seek for higher responsibility at the centre. He made name for himself in Edo state as an excellent Governor but as party Chairman he is bound to control more forces and yield to certain rigid decisions.

Conclusively we can offer an unsolicited advice to the new Chairman: for you to succeed in your new position of powr and influence you must be wary of the antics of a failed Governor like Owelle Rochas Okorocha and the meddlesome godfather like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

SOC Okenwa
[email protected]

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