The initial title suggested for this piece is “The Metamorphosis of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole”, but I dropped it because it sounded so judgmental
Last Wednesday, he was booed and jeered at by Labour leaders and activists who had gathered in Abuja at a colloquium to discuss the issue of restructuring the Nigerian federation. He drew the ire of the people when in his presentation, he claimed that those who were calling for the restructuring of the polity are those who lost out in the 2015 general election. The rejection of this declaration was instantaneous with the yell of “No, No No”. It took the intervention of the NLC president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba for Oshiomhole to regain the attention of the audience, many of whom had asked him to drop the microphone and “gerrrout”.
The loudness of the protests against Oshiomhole is even more significant because it seemed ironical that a man who made a career out of agitation for the masses, is suddenly sounding like an oppressor.
Who would have thought that Oshiomhole, given the ideological identity he has and seemingly pursues, will make such a fallacious and wild claim: that the new buzz word among those who lost the 2015 election is restructuring? Pray, when the All Progressives Congress (APC) eventually set up a committee to examine the agitation for restructuring, is it also because APC lost the 2015 election?
Here is a left-wing democrat, whose folks men and ideological background support the call for the restructuring of the Nigerian federation, suddenly declaring that it is the cry of the 2015 election losers.
He even went ahead to argue that the modern trends in federalism is to crave for a stronger centre.
Hear him: “The trend in most federal systems is towards a stronger central government that guarantees minimum standard for the constituent parts and capable of making intervention that promotes the welfare of citizens.”
Really? In which country Mr Comrade? The truth is that there is a strong craving for a weaker centre and stronger constituent parts. That is the whole talk about devolution of power and fiscal federalism. But our Comrade is obviously not on the same page with the rest of us.
As president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Oshiomhole was verily involved in the strong agitation for not only resource control as championed by the South South governors at the time (1999-2003), he supported and craved for even more than 14 per cent derivation benefit to oil-producing states.
He was also loud and visible in the campaign for the abolition of the onshore-offshore dichotomy, not forgetting the pro-masses campaign against oppressive government policies especially on increase in the cost of petroleum products. His arguments at the time, marshaled intelligently, with heavy Bini accent, made a lot of sense and drew applauses from the people. Those were the “micro-chips” that helped to build the Oshiomhole brand.
Many of us did not think he was merely playing to the gallery. We believed that he believed and meant his arguments, because they were logical, convincing and popular.
That brand became the password to winning the Edo governorship election, despite the initial hitch he had with Professor Osunbor usurping his mandate. And that was why his final ascendance of the governorship seat was not only celebrated by the Edo people, civil society groups across board, but by the entire progressive stock in the country.
Oshiomhole was seen as one political leader who will dare to be different, having carried, for so long, the cross of the masses.
He stepped down last November after serving eight full years in office. I visit Edo State pretty often. I am not disappointed that a comrade governor was in the Osadebey house for eight years. The signposts of his works in the state are emphatically on display, perhaps for a long time to come.
But Oshiomhole who hitherto earned the reputation of a frank and fearless speaker on national issues, has shown tendencies to be shifty and inconsistent.
The booing he got last Wednesday was certainly not the first.
In December 2011, he was also booed and jeered at when he crossed the “redline” of public expectation. The occasion was the symposium organised by Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) to discuss “Removal of Fuel Subsidy, In Whose Interest?”
Against all expectations, then Governor Oshiomhole who had had a long history of opposing increase in the price of petroleum products, suddenly made a detour by declaring that the removal of the subsidy will be in the overall interest and benefit of Nigerians.
It was not clear if he was trying to please the establishment at the time or whether indeed, the scale had fallen off his eyes and he now realises that many of those hardline agitations by labour leaders are borne out of “ignorance”. He was then in the saddle. He knew the content of the till and the arithmetic of financial inflows. And his reasoning changed.
But if his U-turn at the time is financially motivated, it is to be understood as governmental exigency. But what can be said to be behind the opposition to restructuring of the polity?
Is Oshiomhole satisfied that the warped Nigerian federation has refused to really grow and develop because of the socio-political imbalances in the country?
I am not convinced that Oshiomhole is opposing restructuring simply because he wants to be in the good books of the ruling Fulani hegemony from whom he hopes to get a ministerial or executive appointment. I do not think so!
But why is Oshiomhole opposed to restructuring suddenly when both his state, region and even political party are baying for it? Whose voice is he echoing? At least, in principle, the APC has set up a committee to review the agitation for restructuring of the polity. That was before President Buhari returned last week. It is not certain if he will override that committee and oppose restructuring.
Does supporting the wise demand for restructuring offend the political aspiration and career of Oshiomhole?
If he does not want to devalue his brand, he must endeavour to stay true to his ideals and values, which over the years had defined him.
The Return of the Lion King
You have been smiling all week. You look excited and fulfilled. Tell me, did you win some lottery?
I won more than lottery my brother.
So what is it?
What else can be more than the return of Mr President? I had a bet with my colleague who swore that Mr President will not come back alive; especially after rumours filled the airwaves that he was in a coma and on life support.
But is it not true that he was on life support?
Please don’t ask me unfounded question. Were you there? Did you see him on life support? Where is the evidence? And even if he was, are you not happy that he survived, and today he is back with us in flesh and blood?
But he does not seem sufficiently strong yet, after 103 days of treatment.
Don’t join the mass hysteria of uninformed foul-mouthed critics to say graceless things about our President.
What is graceless in saying that he is not sufficiently strong yet? Or is he? Did you not listen to his broadcast last Monday? Did you not hear how weak and faint his voice was? Did you not notice that the speech was less than six minutes? That was a man who had been away for over 100 days and he couldn’t afford to read even a 10-minute long speech?
Did you not hear that the presidency announced that he’d be working from home?
Did you not hear that he even cancelled the Federal Executive Council meeting last Wednesday?
Are those the signs of someone who is healthy?
You are asking too many questions. Be wise and cautious. Look, the man told you he has been ill. His UK doctors confirmed he is strong enough to return home to do his work. But don’t forget that for a man who had gone through so much health travail, he will need to recuperate and regain his strength. Recovery process is gradual. It will be unfair to expect a recovering man to hit the ground running. Don’t forget he is not a young man.
So why don’t they say he is not yet strong enough to resume his normal official routines instead of telling us that he is working from home because rodents took over his office and so the office is going through renovation?
Point of correction: he has resumed. He is working from his residential office.
Did you not hear he met with the service chiefs during the week and gave orders to them to tackle every form of threat to the country including Boko Haram, IPOB and co? Did you not hear that he received the report on the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and the NIA DG, Ayodele Oke? How else can a man be seen to be working?
Hmmm, Baba-chir, Baba-chir, the grass cutter…Do you think the anti-corruption sword will cut him? Or will he be protected because he belongs to the sacred ruling class?
In any case, what is it about the narrative on rodents and all that wart? Is it true that it is the said renovation of the president’s office that is making him to work from home or is it that he is not yet strong enough to go through the daily grill of being in the office?
Pray, how did rodents find their way to the president’s office? Is it so dirty as to provide such a conducive habitat for rats to hibernate? Were the state house cleaners not cleaning Mr President’s office while he was away? And lest I forget, what has the presidency done with the N4, 953,184,635b appropriated for annual routine maintenance of mechanical/electrical installations, building/civil and environmental services within and around Aso-Rock villa facilities in the 2017 budget?
How can rodents chase Mr President away from office when the over four billion naira is meant to chase the rodents away? What an audacious set of rats! And do you really think Nigerians believe that story?
It is not for them to believe or doubt. There are even rats in the White House. Do you remember how they (rats) disrupted President Obama’s press conference?
Ok, so were you satisfied with the content of Mr President’s address? Many think it was shallow and staid, saying nothing new and failed to address salient burning issues.
That is your own narrow opinion. Many have commended the focus of the speech as it touched on vital issues of the land, including threats from herdsmen, terrorists, kidnappers, ethnic bigots, separatist agitators and hate speech mongers. What was missing?
If he could mention his meeting with Ojukwu, without proof, as a reason for Nigeria’s unity being settled, why did he not specifically chide the Arewa youths for giving quit notice to the Igbo in the north. And pray, what mandate did Buhari and Ojukwu who were both not in power at the time, to decide the fate of over 180 million Nigerians? And 14 years after, it cannot even be revisited? And when he said, “Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable. We shall not allow irresponsible elements to start trouble and when things get bad they run away and saddle others with the responsibility of bringing back order, if necessary with their blood”, was he not indirectly referring to the same Ojukwu who instigated the idea of a Biafra Republic which led to the Nigerian civil war?
Look, I don’t have time for these many JAMB questions you are asking me. The good thing is that the lion king is back. And all the hyenas and jackals are staying contained, not daring to cross the red line. The wild and wide jubilations nationwide on Buhari’s return is clear evidence that Nigerians are happy to have their lion king back.
Stop this your fixation with lion-king cliché. If I may ask you, in the real animal world, how will a common rodent like rat dare to harass a lion, let alone the king of the lions, out of its domain?
Well, one inalienable rights of democracy is free speech. But let me warn you that right now, even the security agencies are monitoring whatever you say. So be cautious!