Anyone following the raging political crisis in Edo State would be terrified at the chameleon-like nature of Nigerian politicians when it comes to the struggle for power and its pecuniary gains. The feud between Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and his political godson, Godwin Obaseki, has again brought to the fore how our leaders easily forget their promises and even oaths, secretly or openly taken.
Oshiomhole, a former labour activist, one-time governor of Edo State and current national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is one Nigerian that the country would not be in a hurry to forget. Whether for good or bad, this former militant fighter for the people’s well being, human dignity and good remuneration for work done, has made his mark in Nigerian and the global trade unionism.
His sojourn in politics is as enthusing as his foray in labour activism.
From his days as leader of the textile workers’ union in Nigeria to his unmatched headship of the largest workers’ body in the country, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), this orator and comrade-turned politician, has fought the worst battles of his life.
Unlike his predecessors, most of these fierce battles were not entirely fought for personal gains but for the larger interest of Nigerian workers and the citizens of the country.
One Nigerian leader, who would not be in a haste to forget Oshiomhole is former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who had a penchant for inflicting hardships on the people of the country through frequent hike in the prices of petroleum products.
But for Oshiomhole’s doggedness and confrontation with Obasanjo’s anti-people’s policies and programmes, Nigerians would have witnessed the darkest moment of their lives. On several occasions, Oshiomhole successfully mobilised the citizenry irrespective of their ethnic and political leanings, the labour unions, civil society organisations, religious bodies, and the traditional institutions to check the excesses of that administration.
These antecedents largely contributed to the massive support he enjoyed when he joined politics and contested for the governorship position of Edo State under the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). His carriage, foresight and pro-people policies endeared him to the voters in the state. Even though the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) used its rigging machinery against him, the election tribunals returned Oshiomhole as governor.
Oshiomhole was admired across political divide to the extent that the late PDP national chairman, Chief Tony Anenih, adopted him as a political godson. To consolidate his hold on power in the state, he entered into a strange and short-lived alliance with Anenih. Under the deal, Anenih had four commissioners representing his interests in Oshiomhole’s cabinet.
Once Oshiomhole settled down in office and tightened his grip on power, he fired all the commissioners and parted ways with Anenih. He told Nigerians that his feud with Anenih was because he denied the then godfather of Edo politics access to the treasury and thereafter declared godfatherism dead in the state.
Anenih, then known as “Mr Fix It” because of his political prowess was so devastated from this deadly political blow, which his associates described as a betrayer by Oshiomhole that he never recovered from it till his death.
At the wake keep and commendation service for Anenih in Abuja last year, Oshiomhole as APC national chairman joined dignitaries to pay glowing tributes to Anenih. He told everyone who cared to listen that he had made peace with Anenih, who publicly forgave him his “sins” and called him “my son” at a church service in Esan land.
The comrade politician’s winning streak against Anenih also extended to federal appointments. One of such instances was when the Senate confirmed Oshiomhole’s nominee, Mr Donald Osakpolo Igiede Omorodion for the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to the chagrin of the PDP led by Anenih.
In the twin-light of his eight-year tenure and after campaigning assiduously in 2016 for his now estranged godson and successor, Godwin Obaseki, to win the governorship race, Oshiomhole at the presidential villa, Abuja, told journalists that he does not intend to be any kind of godfather to Obaseki.
He boasted that having buried godfatherism in Edo’s politics, he would not want to be identified with it.
Put succinctly, Oshiomhole said: “I am not the state; I am only one out of about four million Edo people. So his (Obaseki’s) obligation and his loyalty should be to the people of Edo State.
“The oath of office he is going to subscribe to says that he will defend the Constitution of Nigeria, he will do everything to uplift the quality of life of Edo people. Nothing in his oath of office will include ‘I shall not betray my predecessor’ because I have no interest to be betrayed.
“For me, I have presided over the Nigeria Labour Congress for eight years and I had a successor, there was no story of me having conflict with my successor because conflict only arise Oshiomhole when you refuse to accept that when your tenure is over, it is over.”
These statements were so profound that they are deliberately reproduced here to remind Oshiomhole of his promise not to interfere in Obaseki’s administration. It is my view and I think most Nigerians do that Oshiomhole by virtue of his leadership of the APC, where he controls the party’s machinery in the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is too dignified to be enmeshed in local politics in the state.
That this eminent Nigerian, who has the capacity to become Nigeria’s president complains of the governor dropping his only anointed commissioner in Obaseki’s cabinet is demeaning for his status and misplacement of priority. It is even more disturbing that Oshiomhole is interested in who becomes the speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly. What does he stands to gain from this interference in the politics of the state.
Rather than dissipating energy on such frivolities, Oshiomhole should join President Muhammadu Buhari to tackle the numerous economic and social problems facing the country.
Buhari needs Oshiomhole’s wealth of experience in labour and industry matters to address the worrisome unemployment situation in the country. The president requires Oshiomhole’s talents and expertise to resolve the numerous industrial crises that his administration contends with.
It is too late for Oshiomhole to go back to the politics of Edo State except he wants to become a local champion.
Having told the world that Obaseki is his brother, Oshiomhole should treat him as such and prepare himself for higher offices in the country. In the same way Anenih forgave his “sins”, Oshiomhole should do same to the governor. Henceforth, he must build in his subconscious that he is now a national leader and not a local leader. Those, who want to use him as a ladder to climb to political relevance in the state must leave him alone. In the same manner that Oshiomhole fought his way to political relevance, his associates and admirers in Edo, who have eyes on certain positions, should learn to pay the price.
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