By CHIOMA GABRIEL
FOR the second time, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has indicated interest to contest the presidential election; the first being in 2006 after retiring as Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) president and joining partisan politics.
Oshiomhole recently submitted a letter of intent to the national leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC, to signify interest in the 2015 presidential race. He has also intensified consultations with stakeholders across the country, including former presidents to drive home his point.
Born on April 4, 1953, Oshiomhole rose from being a factory worker to a long career in trade unionism which eventually led to his election as the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in January 1999.
His profile rose rapidly after he studied labour, economics and industrial relations at Ruskin College in Oxford, United Kingdom and later attending Nigeria’s prestigious National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) in Kuru.
As the president of NLC, he fought the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to a standstill over the government’s policy on arbitrary removal of oil subsidies and imposing high cost of petroleum products on the people.
Several times, he was arrested and detained by the government of the day for mobilising workers to down tools to protest hike in fuel prices. He recalled going out on several occasions and not returning home, ending up in detention camps and having his wife Clara (now late) searching for him from one police station to the other.
Oshiomhole is known to have strengthened the labour movement and uniting the unions that had previously worked at cross-purposes.
Naturally, his foray into politics was a welcome development as his labour profile and rapport with the ordinary people paved the way for him despite attempt by the government of the day to frustrate him. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared his PDP opponent as the winner of the 2007 governorship election. He challenged the decision at the law courts and won. In 2012 he sought for and got re-elected.
Even while many welcomed his foray into politics in 2006, others took it with a pinch of salt, believing his troublesome inclinations would not take him far. His critics thought that having spent his life fighting the perceived enemies of the people and known to be used to complaining and grumbling, he must have lost the capacity for doing any constructive work.
But they were wrong.
Initially, Oshiomhole was perceived to be angling for the presidency but later trimmed ambition and elected to go for Edo governorship to the chagrin of late Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) who accused him of stooping low instead of going for the presidential election he was best suited for. Gani was eminently opposed to Oshiomhole’s adventure into the governorship race and in his usual way said so publicly.
He had preferred that Oshiomhole ran for the presidency. According to Gani, Oshiomole was bringing down his worth by leaving the presidency to some lesser men to which Oshiomhole had declared that he preferred to start from somewhere and gather valuable experience before contesting for the nation’s number one position. But in spite of Gani’s confidence in him, those opposed to his presidential ambition then believed Oshiomhole would have ended up with a similar experience in politics like Fawehinmi when the latter ventured into the presidential race.
Has he gathered enough experience now? Is he now strong enough to politically defeat the incumbent president?
As the Labour leader, Oshiomhole had a niche for always taking on people-oriented fights and had the advantage of working with organised groups. He equally understood the deceptions, betrayals and internal survival politics within unions and had through the years relied on the people while making sure that they did not fail him. He also put Nigeria on the spot as the Labour president, repeatedly organising strikes and mass action across the nation in his bid to bring the government of the day to order.
Will his pro-people and anti-government tendencies work for or against his presidential ambition?
Now, the Edo governor is serving his second term in office and is set to abandon it half-way to vie for the highest office in the land. Oshiomhole is on the march again to become Nigeria’s number one citizen and he has drawn up a time table for his nationwide consultation with APC governors, former presidents, opening campaign headquarters in Abuja and Edo State and setting up committees.
It is believed by many that a majority of the APC governors may endorse him as their candidate due to the belief that his popularity cuts across the country, an attribute they intend to explore to stop President Goodluck Jonathan’s second term bid. As Labour president, he was perceived to be more popular than the president of the country.
Oshiomhole believes that even in Bayelsa State, the President’s home state, he would defeat President Jonathan at the polls.
The Edo governor has confidence that he could bring positive changes in the Nigerian society and the only way to do so is to go for the highest office in the land. According to him, he decided to team up with the progressives because there is need for a clean break from the sordid past.
“We need a complete break from the past; we are out to set Nigerians free and so, we need a completely new machinery to actualise that dream,” he said.
Oshiomhole ventured into politics on the platform of the Labour Party but later joined the Action Congress (AC), which morphed into Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and recently, merged into the APC.
Will he emerge the standard-bearer of APC at the primaries to challenge President Jonathan at the polls? Will he defeat Abubakar Atiku, Muhammadu Buhari and other APC top-shots eyeing the presidential seat?
The answer is blowing in the wind.