By Emmanuel Aziken
Only few persons have been able to make a success of the difficult transition from the working class to the club of the bourgeoisie without committing class suicide. Comrade Adams Eric Aliyu Oshiomhole, arguably Nigeria’s most renowned labour leader in a generation did not just make the transition seamless, but carved the niche for flawlessly shuttling between the two classes; yet without committing class suicide.
The gifted union organiser even after transiting from a worker to a ruler, has shockingly managed to remain a poster boy for Nigeria’s working class. That is perhaps a mark of his gift of persuasion or the trust the working class has in him.
When he became governor of Edo State it was remarkable that organised labour despite the fact that he jettisoned their political platform, Labour Party, was quick to rally round him. Trusted associates from the labour movement including the media supported him and continue to support him.
So, it has been comfortable for the comrade to continue to project himself as a labour activist. As governor of Edo State, the sight of the comrade donning the khaki attire common with union organisers helped to sustain that image of a working class person.
Indeed, the story is told of how Oshiomhole, perhaps in an attempt to BELONG put on a suit for a dinner governors had with President Muhammadu Buhari sometime in 2016. Buhari it is said, mockingly chided him for putting on a strange attire and then charged him not to change his ways.
Successful labour leaders had in the past used a combination of two schemes, infiltration and confrontation to secure benefits for themselves and the workers they represent. Political players in Edo State guess that the policy of infiltration may have been the strategy adopted by the comrade in first collaborating with the Igbinedions on his way to political ascendancy and then, famously banishing the family and other political godfathers in the state.
It has been a refrain by the comrade that the retirement of the godfathers was to advance the cause of the proletariat.
He once said in an interview that the principle he adopted in the governance of Edo State was to mobilise the available resources in a way to benefit the greater proportion of the populace. That code he said, was reflective in his decision to focus his urban renewal efforts as governor in the densely populated areas of Benin City and not in the GRA as the elites demanded of him.
However, despite plaudits from here and there and echoes of adulation, his politics has sometimes steered towards controversial paths. Why the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP appears to be the most vibrant state chapter among APC controlled states is either because of the opportunities given it by Oshiomhole’s weaknesses, or the vibrancy of the leadership of the Edo State chapter or a combination of the two.
The former textile worker, labour organiser, governor and next chairman of Nigeria’s ruling party has indeed, come a long way. Today’s landmark would be of great significance if the new chairman is able to steer the party to victory in next year’s presidential election.
If Oshiomhole is able to return Buhari to power who else could be trusted by the Northern political power bloc from the South for the 2023 ticket than the man who has an Hausa name, house in Kaduna, friends everywhere in the north and was even a Muslim?
His coronation today as chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC will undoubtedly cause him to apply the greatest tact in adjudicating political discourse.
He would also need to know that only few persons have made a success of the office of national chairman of a ruling party. Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the outgoing national chairman of the APC is leaving under a cloud that he was forced out.
The man who gave him the elbow is a retired general, with a not-too-comfortable reputation as a friend of the working class. It is that man’s political agenda that the former union organiser now has to advance! And maybe, in five years time it could be the turn of Nigeria’s most renowned unionist in a generation!