By Victor Ahiuma-Young

COMRADE Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, on Saturday November 12, completed his eight year term as a democratically elected governor of Edo State when he handed over power to Godwin N Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

The story of Adams Eric  Oshiomhole is one   unionist, labour leader and  politician that students of industrial relations ,  government, and history will  not be able to fully comprehend for a long time to come.

•Oshiomhole, Prof Wole Soyinka and other activists during a protest

Since he ended his tenure as president of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, his reign has remained a reference point for others. Nigerians and workers,  especially still recall with nostalgia  his mass and populist activism against the then government of  Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, especially  the penchant for increases in fuel prices.

His unrivaled battle against employers over unfair labour practices especially casualisation, outsourcing and contract staffing of workers leading to what some observers termed:  “the fear of Oshiomhole and NLC was the beginning of wisdom for both public and private sectors employers.”

 Labour stickers

In 2000, there  was a governor of  one of the South- Eastern states that “ran” away from government house when he learnt that Oshiomhole and other leaders of  NLC were in the state.

Little did he know that Oshiomhole was on a meet the workers tour to  prepare  them for  the struggles ahead to change the face of labour in Nigeria.  It was later at a reception that the governor confessed that he had thought Oshiomhole came to “take over” the state. Apparently, the governor was owing workers some months of salaries.

Before he left office, most Nigerians became honourary members of NLC with labour stickers  on their vehicles. In fact, NLC logo became a visa to pass through police and other security check points across the country. Many Nigerians believed  depended on NLC more than  culminating  to situation where the then government of Obasanjo accused Oshiomhole and other leaders of NLC of running an alternative government. 

Protester turn governor

In 2008, when Oshiomhole graduated from street protester to government house,  labour movement went on trial. His tenure set as NLC president set the bar for others. Becoming a governor was unprecedented in the annals of Nigeria.

When he became governor, many  did not believe he would perform because in their own uestimation,  there was a great difference between leading a labour movement and holding an exalted political office such as a governor.  To  those who doubted his ability, they had expected him to  fail to  put a nail in the coffin of other ambitious labour leaders who were thinking of joining the political train.

One could recall in private conversation with Oshiomhole in 2007, when this writer sought to know why he did not go for the Senate where he could be elected Senate President. Ignorantly,  one had thought that based on his  popularity nationally and internationally because of his labour activism, once he got into the senate, he would not have a problem becoming the senate president.

But Oshiomhole counselled that the senate does not elect a fresher into leadership positions in its committees, talk less of its president, and explained  that even it if were possible, that would not give him the opportunity to control the resources of the state to halt the endemic and institutionalized retrogression that was going on in Edo State.

Demystifyinggovernance

He insisted that he wanted to be governor to demystify governance and let Nigerians and indeed, the people of Edo State know that like William Shakespeare would say in Julius Caesar that “the fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Today, Nigerians know the rest and the people of Edo State are better for it.  Oshiomhole did not only demystify governance in Edo State, he also ensured that the Edo people become aware that theirs  is not a failed state after all. The infrastructural development in the state speaks volumes of how the Oshiomhole revolution has restored Edo State to the path of progress.

Hear his deputy   Dr. Pius Odubu,  talk on Oshiomhole’s impact  during  the valedictory State Executive Council, SEC : ”Mr. Governor, sir, to say you have performed beyond previously established boundaries will be to state the obvious. To also say you began well and ended well will also be  to state the obvious.

Greatest good for the greatest number

Mr. Governor, sir, you have changed the Edo narrative. Before now, many of us were ashamed to identify ourselves as coming from Edo State. Today, we hold our heads high in various places to say, we are bonafide Edo indigenes.  My association with you has made me a better man. In you, Nigerians have found a man who is worthy of emulation, a man that is selfless, a man that is dedicated not only to the course of Nigerians but the cause of the common man.

You have proved that tough times don’t last, but tough people do. You have taught us to fight; you have taught us to fight well. Be rest assured of your place in history because you did the greatest good for the greatest number of people in the shortest possible time.”

Since Oshiomhole blazed the trail in partisan politics, many former labour leaders have joined the political train.  There is no doubt that a lot of labour leaders in the future will use his  performance as a basis for joining politics.

During Oshiomhole’s administration, Edo State became a rendezvous for delegates’ conferences, National Executive Council, NEC, and other meetings for many industrial unions. Not only that,  he was a willing and able  mediator between labour and the federal government in several contentious issues that would have had damaging impact on the socio-economic situations in the country.

Oshiomhole’s weakness: Make no mistake, Comrade Oshiomhole, like every mortal has his weaknesses. While some of these weaknesses have been wickedly manipulated and twisted for personal aggrandizement,  one of the greatest shortcomings one could mention here is his fear of  failure coupled with his uncompromising work ethic.

He is a workaholic and he expects those around him  to do the same.  In fact, while addressing members of SEC at their last meeting, he said: “I also know that we have had to work long hours. I recall a meeting we had, starting at 9.00 am, no adjournment and staying all the way to 7.00 am the following day. We all agreed that we would do that and we would not adjourn until we had addressed the issue of the viability of this state so that we could deliver on our promises.

Service to the nation

“I want to apologise to those I harassed, and there was hardly anyone I did not. I wanted everything to be perfect. The harder I strived towards perfection, the more I realised that it was not possible.  I am still striving. I was always afraid to fail. It has been my nature. I did not design it. Thank you for tolerating a lot of that and for appreciating that nothing was personal.”

New narrative: Many progressives and admirers who were anxious about the next phase and narrative of Oshimohole’s life were however reassured few days to the end of his tenure as governor when president Muhammadu Buhari visited Edo State and declared that the All Progressives Congress, APC,  federal government would not leave Oshiomhole to just walk away like that.

The president said the APC would find something to occupy him to continue his service to the nation and mankind. Since the president’s pronouncement, many have been speculating where best Comrade Oshiomhole could deploy his talent to serve his fatherland.  Some have suggested ministerial position and have even gone ahead to name ministries including Petroleum Resources.

 

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