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One Man, One Vote: Gospel according to Oshiomhole

By Amakhu Okojie
“ONE Man, One Vote” or “One Person, One Vote” is one of the gospels according to Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole whose launching has been shifted for God-knows reasons. The  campaign is long awaited and for us in the daispora, we are in a hurry for the rally and to key into the gospel. One Man, One Vote is a slogan that has been used in many parts of the world where campaigns have arisen for universal suffrage.

It became particularly prevalent in the less developed countries, during the period of decolonisation and the struggles for national sovereignty from the late nineteen_forties onward. It played a decisive role in an important legal case in the United States, the United States Supreme Court majority opinion of Reynolds v. Sims, issued in 1964.

This phrase was traditionally used in the context of demands for suffrage reform. Historically, the emphasis within the House of Commons was on representing areas: counties, boroughs and, later on, universities.

Rejecting the one-person-one-vote principle would be an unpopular and unradical position. For Oshiomhole, like in democracy in America, this gospel is one which makes it far uneasy for powerful special political interests to get a stranglehold on government or the processes that would install any government and that is the beginning of good governance or the fight against corruption.

Oshiomhole

Oshiomhole is one of our proud sons anytime, anywhere especially whenever he raises serious questions about his views on democracy, transparency, accountability, good governance, popular participation and equality. He is of diminutive stature-a big man with a small stature. Oshiomhole has become something of a legend in my country.

Everyone who follows contemporary news would know that Oshiomhole has been around for a good long while. Whenever there is something to do with the pay and conditions of workers, there would be Oshiomhole. He was an ‘irritant’ to former President Olusegun Obasanjo in all the years that he was in office. It started from the drama over the President’s aide-de-camp on an occasion when the officials of labour wanted to carry a demonstration to the president right inside Aso Rock.

The bodyguard threatened to shoot any of them who came too close. It was difficult to imagine what else the bodyguard could have done in that circumstance, but if Oshiomhole knew that, he kept mum about it. Right there, at the head of the pack, he addressed a news conference, demanding the sack of the bodyguard forthwith. In the event, nothing was done, but there was no doubt in anybody’s mind who owned the moment.

Oshiomhole! Or, to call him by his preferred description these days, ‘the Comrade Governor of Edo State, was at the Court of Appeal, where his battle for One Man, One Vote was determined. The moment the judge was making his pronouncements, Oshiomhole made the sign of the cross.

He swallowed. He was not the masterful controlled orator who was always on top of his subject, a mixture of passion and panache. He was a man watching the roll of the dice with a sick and sickening fascination, knowing his number would come up, hoping his number would come up, but knowing, as a realist, that this was Nigeria, and anything was possible.

The dice eventually rolled to a stop, and his number came up. The court simmered with excitement. The new governor tried to calm down his supporters, tried to keep the decorum of the hallowed chambers.(kulu kulu, kulu temper). The display of emotion, the sense that he could be so flustered, added a vulnerable, endearing flavour to your perception of him.

In some ways, Oshiomhole took labour unionism in Nigeria to a newer, greater heights. Before him, there were men and women who had striven in the cause of the working masses with great valour, and sometimes at great sacrifice to themselves and their families. One only needs to mention names like the great Pa Imoudu, Alhaji Hassan Sunmonu and Frank Kokori.

What Oshiomhole brought in was a command of language, and a certain suavity and style which elevated the transactions, and vastly increased the marketability of the ideas he advertised. He is the Trade Unionist who crossed over and with a new slogan of One Man, One Vote.

To fail to appreciate the significance of this is to miss the point entirely. It is to fail to understand why – apart from the small matter of opportunity, it is Oshiomhole, and not the others, who has gone on to become a governor, who has gone on, in effect, to transform from an agitator to an establishment now transforming Edo State.

He has not been dogged by a doomed cause like his famous compatriot. His eloquence and passion have made the cause of workers interesting even to people of power and property who should be enemies. His general social activism, especially against unpopular military regimes has created an alliance of sorts between labour and business professionals who would normally be antagonistic.

And, he is a smooth educated man with social graces. Anybody who has seen him in the lobby of the Hilton, hobnobbing with pompous Senators and Bank Directors would realise that he feels perfectly at ease and perfectly at home. He is fighting a class war by choice. He does not have a chip on his shoulder; this time, the political class on how to cleanse Nigerian electoral process.


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