Obasanjo’s Arrest Alarm: Oshiomhole Having a Good Laugh

  •  ​Recalls how Gani Fawehinmi, Falana saved him from OBJ

Tunde Oyelola

Leading national chairmanship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has faulted the alarm raised by former president Olusegun on a purported plot by the Federal Government to arrest and silence him for expressing critical views against the Muhammadu Buhari administration. To Oshiomhole, the recent alarm by Obasanjo is absurd and laughable.

Obasanjo had alleged in a statement issued by his media aide that the government was planning to seize his travel passport and clamp him into detention indefinitely or to instigate the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to re-open investigation into the activities of his administration using false witnesses and documents.

But Oshiomhole countered that Obasanjo had no immunity against arrest as he arrested him and many others for criticising his anti-people policies while in power.

Oshiomhole spoke last Monday night, at a ceremony organized by friends of Chief Gani Fawehinmi in honour of families of the late renowned lawyer and human rights activist, and Bashorun MKO Abiola, the winner of the June 12,1993 presidential election.
The event, held at Sheraton Hotels, Abuja, was attended by Femi Falana (SAN); the first son of the late Gani, Mohammed Fawehinmi; Chief Frank Kokori; the late MKO Abiola’s daughter, Hafsat Abiola-Costello; human rights activists; National Assembly members and many others.

The former Edo State governor commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the posthumous national honours given to the late MKO Abiola and Chief Gani Fawehinmi, calling on him to arrest former Obasanjo if found culpable. “He should be arrested if found guilty of any offence. He arrested many of us while he was president.” Oshiomhole went down the memory lane, recalling how Obasanjo allegedly plotted to proscribe the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and send him to jail while he (Oshiomhole) was president of the labour movement, but for the efforts of the late Fawehinmi and Femi Falana, who defended him and others in the law courts.

The APC chairmanship candidate said, “We have every reason to celebrate Gani and thank God he used our president, Buhari to bring smiles on the faces of Nigerians. When I see people like Obasanjo lamenting, I laugh because we can see how things can change. While I was in the NLC, there was a particular strike we wanted to call and 24 hours before the planned strike, we got a court injunction restraining us from going to court. We decided to call Gani Fawehinmi to seek his opinion. We called him and said strike is due to resume from tomorrow but there is an injunction now stopping us from proceeding. To my shock Gani said some of these judges give orders that are always funny, but that what we will do is that he will do everything to ensure that the order is vacated, but that we should obey the order.

“I was very angry, because my problem is how do to explain to Nigerians that the strike will be put on hold without being accused of selling out. On that basis I reluctantly issued a statement suspending the strike but we needed to beg Gani to issue the statement to say that he advised us to suspend the strike, if he does so, the public will not blame us. Because we will lose public trust they will never trust us anymore. Gani of blessed memory issued the statement and said he advised us to shelve the strike. However, we had a caucus meeting and said, based on our previous interactions, we have disobeyed court orders before and Gani defended us. So we said from now on we will not seek legal opinion and if we are charged with contempt, we will bring Gani to defend us.

“We had a couple of general strikes then because we had a president, Obasanjo who did not want to do the right thing.
“The next time we had cause to go on strike and this time we faced Babalakin. He was legal adviser to Obasanjo and he went to court to seek injunction to restrain NLC from going on strike. He decided to fly to Lagos to look for a popular judge that will issue an injunction restraining us and got one who works for the Lagos High Court, who was attending a conference at the University of Lagos Law Faculty. From our own intelligence, the judge decided to go to his chambers to oblige President Obasanjo the injunction he wanted, to stop us from going on strike.

“He restrained the NLC, Adams Oshiomhole from embarking on that strike. I said well, we will not call Gani, we will not call Femi Falana or any lawyer, if a judge issues an order that I should stop a moving train the judge ought to know that it is not possible. For us we chose to be our own lawyers in this matter and said the order was issued by a corrupt judge and we will not obey. We were saying all these because we had lawyers like Gani and Falana who would always come to our rescue.

“So we embarked on the strike and it was total. So Babalakin filed contempt charge against us at the Lagos High Court and I was accused of contempt as a person and not as NLC president. They said they wanted to isolate me as an individual so that I will now be isolated and dealt with. That is why when I see them writing letters these days, advising people not to run for election, I said time has changed. But they oppressed us and he was determined to jail us because we questioned public policy choices of the government. I appeared as a person and Femi Falana was sent by Gani to go and defend us. I went into the court room all by myself. While we were in court, some of our colleagues were threatening lawyers who represented the Federal Government, that ‘you will die’ from the background. Babalakin stood up and said, My Lord, ‘we cannot be intimidated. You have to order Oshiomhole to tell his people to stop threatening us.’ And the judge said, ‘Oshiomhole tell them to keep quiet.’ But I said, My Lord, I am here alone, on my own, I was charged alone and I came alone so I have no hand in what happens around me. And our people continued to threaten them and they said Adams, ‘ask them to leave,’ I said, My Lord, I don’t know them, I am here by myself and for myself and I have no control over the people outside. The judge now said, ‘we shall rise’ and that was the end of the matter​.​

“Again Obasanjo introduced what was called fuel tax and the next thing he ordered overnight, that all toll gates should be abolished even though those toll gates were established through an act of parliament and no Nigerian president has the right to destroy what was established by parliament without passing through the same parliament. So we told him that that tax is illegal because as president you cannot declare such tax without the National Assembly. We went to court and the judge said Oshiomhole’s seat as NLC president was unknown to law. But we insisted on the strike because it was better the court dealt with me than calling off the strike and be described as a coward or a sell-out, such that next time when I call for an action nobody would listen. The media took the headline the next day that Oshiomhole’s seat is unknown to law. But I said this matter would be resolved within 24 hours since my office, according to them, is unknown to law. So on the day of the strike, it was total.

–Oyelola is an educationist and policy consultant in Sokoto
Even the judge obeyed my orders because he could not go to work. And at the end of the day, the matter was argued by Gani and the matter was resolved in our favour after several threats. And thanks to Gani.
Listening to Adams Oshiomhole that day, you could feel his emotions.

And not done yet with Obasanjo in his glowing tribute to the Gani Fewehinmi, Oshiomhole said, “Gani is not here now but Femi is here, I am standing. All those judges used against me by Obasanjo have retired. Even the former president himself has retired and he is now complaining that he is being harassed but he harassed me and if I am President Buhari, I will arrest him. I remember one day I told him, I said President Obasanjo we made you president, but you did not make me a Nigerian.

He accused me of behaving like an alternative president and running NLC like a parallel government, that I wanted to overthrow his government. And I was completely powerless he harassed me with teargas and everything. So when I hear him talking about arrest, he arrested many of us and if he is arrested today there is nothing wrong in that. So if we are celebrating Gani today, we have every reason to do so. In all these we paid no kobo to Gani and Femi Falana. If I am not a convict today it was Gani. I am a beneficiary of Gani’s kind heartedness.”

–Oyelola is an educationist and policy consultant in Sokoto