Vanessa Obioha writes that the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress Adams Oshiomhole pulls no punches as he goes about his new assignment with an accustomed gusto
Call him garrulous or obnoxious, one thing is certain, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has a combative personality. He is not the type that mounts the stage without a showdown or put his gloves down when he enters the ring. He throws everything he’s got and always gives the spectators a dramatic performance.
Since he assumed the office of National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) almost two months ago, his name is on the lips of many, particularly members of the opposition party who have constantly pelted him with pellets of unprintable names. In fact, some accuse him of adopting orgulous airs and are quick to remind him that politics is a different ball game from unionism.
Really what should be expected from a man who once was a factory worker and now at the top of the political affairs of the country? He certainly deserves some accolades for being the first unionist to become a governor and national chairman of a ruling party. So, if he chooses to walk with customised khaki shoulder pads, let him be.
However, fame was not readily handed to Oshiomhole. He had to fight his way through, earning a reputation for his confrontational style of leadership. His diminutive stature perhaps is responsible for this trait
Having experienced firsthand the unjust treatment meted out to employees by their employers as a young lad working at Arewa Textiles, Oshiomhole made up his mind to fight for the rights of workers. He served the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers as the General Secretary during the military era and was appointed the President of the umbrella body of labour unions, Nigerian Labour Congress in 1999.
During his tenure, Oshiomhole proved to his allies and detractors that he was a skilled pugilist,armed with the gift of the gab. His fearlessness and valiance in attacking persons in power endeared him to the people who considered him a saviour to rescue them from the hands of corrupt leaders.
His fame grew when he faced the former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo squarely. It was Oshiomhole- the people’s hero who led strikes and demonstrations in the country when the former president increased fuel price. Despite threats and arrests, the Edo state-born unionist refused to be intimidated. His constant feature in the media was a delight to the public as they were eager to read about his latest verbal assault on the president. With newspapers splashing his names on their pages and cameramen zooming on him each time he briefed the press, he became the unofficial people’s president.
Having secured the love of the masses, Oshiomhole was convinced that he was fully equipped to run the political affairs in his state of provenance.
He knew the possibility of him winning the governorship seat under his party, Labour Party was slim as Edo state was ruled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). His best option was to join forces with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) now APC to displace the incumbent Governor Lucky Igbinedion, against the PDP’s candidate Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor. His victory in the 2008 election came after a fierce court battle to contest the initial declaration of the PDP candidate as the winner. Again, he proved his detractors wrong in their estimation of his character. Another victory lap was recorded when he diminished the revered status of Chief Tony Anenih, by wrestling his acclaimed hold on the state from his hands. This was evident in the landslide win he enjoyed in his second term election where he penetrated councils that formerly operated on the dictates of Anenih. He never shied away from calling his detractors out in the public, showing his resoluteness. To fully grasp the hearts of many, he won the heart of the Benin monarch, Oba Ewuare II, by remitting due payments owed by the former governor to the palace.
Apart from the political war he encountered, Oshiomhole also monitored the happenings in other sectors of the state. Who would easily forget the way he dealt with teachers in the state? An action that was met with applause for exposing the rot in the educational system. But he over-reached the limits of his popularity when he was caught on camera telling a widow who was eking a living on the roadside “to go and die”. It was a moment of weakness that his political opponents capitalised on to portray him as a heartless ruler. Though he apologized and made amend, but the damage was done. The incident remains an inexplicable blight on his character.
Oshiomole was not immune to the political charade of two-term governors. While his first term saw a great infrastructural transformation, his second term was a great disappointment. Suddenly, his name began to wane. Notwithstanding, he still recorded another victory by winning the election as an outgoing governor for his candidate, Godwin Obaseki.
To further display his ability to rise above his limitations, the former governor who is not a sore sight to the eyes married a beautiful damsel from Cape Verde, Iara Fortes in 2015.
His popularity with the masses and his military style of confronting issues headlong must have endeared him to the National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu as well as President Muhammadu Buhari. He was no doubt the right man to regain the party’s supremacy and dominate the media space since the ruling party’s spokesman, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed had ran out of lies to keep the party’s buzz. Also, the seeming fallout between Tinubu and the former national chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun cemented Oshiomhole’s victory.
Right from the handover proceedings, Oshiomhole showed his true colours, attacking his long-time rival, President Olusegun Obasanjo. During his speech, he alluded to the alleged expenditure of $16 billion made by the former president during his rule and lauded Buhari for calling him out. He didn’t stop there. He went on to urge the president to probe and if possible arrest Obasanjo if he failed to provide the required information.
On assuming office, Oshiomhole once again went about his task to instill discipline in the party, calling on Ministers of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige and that of Aviation, Sen.Hadi Sirika, to do the needful by inaugurating all boards under their ministries within one week or face sanctions from the party. He suffered his first rebuttal when Ngige- another diminutive man- proved to him that they were made of the same leather and he couldn’t be bullied by his leadership.
However, it is his latest chant on the impeachment of Senate President Bukola Saraki since the latter defected from the APC that has sent vitriolic comments rolling his way. Oshiomhole in his distinctive manner mounted the stage and called on Senate President to either resign or be impeached because the Senate could not be superintended by one from minority party. The orator quickly forgot that he had said that he had no intention to beg anybody who wanted to leave the party. Why then was the Senate President’s departure a cause of worry? Oshiomhole has appointed himself the new disciplinarian in the party, even to the point of referring to the president metaphorically as too weak to handle the affairs of the party.
The bickering regarding the Saraki’s defection has left pundits examining the Oshiomhole’s character, in an attempt to understand his political strategy.
While some are positive that he was playing the right cards, others believe that he might actually nail the party’s coffin with his commandeering ways. Perhaps, Oshiomhole should revisit his strategy and figure out the best way to regain his party’s supremacy as his incessant chants are unlikely to elicit loyalty from the people.
- ‘GO and DIE’: “Let me apologise to you for the way I spoke to you, I am very sorry about the statement. When I said ‘go and die’, that one was said in a fit of anger. And I am really sorry. I want you to join us. We would employ you and pay you salary. You would help us to campaign to other women not to trade on road sides. We should not use poverty as a yardstick.”
Oshiomhole, appealing to a widow, Mrs. Joy Ifije for uncomplimentary and injurious remark to her.
- ‘OLD MASTER THIEF’: “It is only in Nigeria that old thieves will be regrouping; they are being organised by an old master thief who spent 16 billion… the more dollars he spent on light, the more darkness you suffered.” Oshiomhole at APC’s welcome rally for Senator Godswill Akpabio, casting aspersion on the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo though he did not mention him for spending that amount on power without matching result.
- ‘SARAKI WILL BE LAWFULLY IMPEACHED’: “We have 56 senators and they have 49 senators. I insist that 49 senators cannot preside over the affairs of a house in which the APC has 56 senators. Tell us anywhere in the world where the minority rules over the majority. Once you lose the majority, without further ado, you step down. We cannot be subjected to minority rule in the Nigerian Senate. Whether it is convenient for Distinguished Senator Saraki or not, the truth is whether by morality or by law or by convention, Senator Saraki can only avoid impeachment by toeing the path of honour, step down so that the APC can take over the leadership of the House. Saraki as President of the Senate will be lawfully and democratically impeached. It will not be illegally done. It will be done according to law and tradition.”
Oshiomhole insisting that Senate President Bukola Saraki vacate the office following his defection from the APC to the PDP
- ‘NOBODY IS ABOVE THE PARTY: “If the minister refuses, we will suspend him from the party. We must return to internal discipline. You cannot purport to be a honourable minister and act dishonourably. Nobody is greater than the party. If the president condones disrespect for his office, I will not condone disrespect for the party. When we expel the minister, we will prevail on the president that he can’t keep in his cabinet people who have neither respect for his own decisions nor have respect for the party, without which they would not have been ministers. Nobody, no minister is above the party.”
Oshiomhole vowing to expel Minister of Labour and Productivity Chris Ngige and Minister of State for Aviation Hadi Sirika from the party for failing to inaugurate the boards of agencies under their ministries.