By Simon Ebegbulem
It was not by the whimsical arbitrariness of autocracy that the revered royalty of Auchi Kingdom in Edo State conferred on him the title of Omokpa Nabebho (one man, one nation). In reaching that significant decision, the Otaru had enjoyed sufficient approbation by his subjects and a Kingdom-wide consensus that Comrade Adams Aliyu Eric Oshiomhole was a very worthy son (and still is) who had distinguished himself as a fighter for justice, equality and liberation from the shackles of oppressive leadership.
He is very well known by his people to the extent of his evident contempt for systems and leaderships that emasculate the masses. The consistent struggle for improved human condition has been his life as labour leader, governor of Edo State and national chair of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).
In the combustible cosmos of labour unionism, he had proved his mettle. In the circumference of power in Edo, he had proved that opulence and power could be demystified by throwing open the gates of Edo State Government House to the masses, especially party members. In the saddle as APC national chair, he has been pushing through reforms that are geared towards returning the mechanics of real control, and choices of party leadership to members to the annoyance of established power centres in the state chapters of the party.
Whereas, he had left his legacies in labour unionism where he led so many pro-worker and pro-poor protests, especially the struggles for wage increment and resistance to increment in pump price of fuel; whereas, he has deployed his governorship in building massive infrastructure in Edo (the evidence is in every book and cranny of the State); he is, against stubborn opposition within the political family, immersed in the onerous task of transforming the APC into a veritable emblem of a disciplined party where rules and procedures are followed as articles of faith.
His current preoccupation is not as easy as his two previous exertions. Functioning in the office of national chair requires delicate balancing of interests, no doubt, but nevertheless, the man, popularly referred to as Oshioquake, is not one to tolerate indiscipline in the guise of over-pampered political leaderships that have transmogrified into self-serving and never-say-die emperors superintending over pseudo political empires in the states.
His focus has been on rebuilding the APC into a very cohesive behemoth with discipline as its watchword. This is in pari materia with the desires of President Muhammadu Buhari who, acting in concert with well-meaning leaders and stakeholders of the party, most importantly, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, decided in 2018 to endorse him (Oshiomhole) to step in the saddle as replacement for Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
It was instructive that the failure of the recent plot to dislodge Oshiomhole from office drew largely from the political sagacity and legerdemain of President Buhari and Asiwaju Tinubu who put down their feet in a time of tangible partisan frenzy and doubt within the polity about their ability to stave off the pockets of conspiracy and honcho a workable peace process in the party.
It is to the credit of these influential duo that peace has returned permanently, so it seems, to the governing party. Today, Comrade Oshiomhole, mni, CON, in the saddle as the authentic national chair of the APC, is being celebrated as one of the most outstanding Nigerian leaders on his birthday. To be sure, he clocks 68 on Saturday, April 4, 2020.
Like or hate him, the Comrade is resilient, dogged, committed to causes he believes in. He is God-fearing and man- caring.
“Hurricane Adams”, as he is also referred to by workers during his stewardship as the 4th president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), defined his eon by deploying the powers of his presidency in becoming the number one defender of the rights and welfare of the working people.
Permit a recall here: he provided leadership by staying in the front-line in resisting arbitrary increases in the prices of petroleum products. Some persons may indulge in the habit of trying to wish this epochal contribution away. It will always be a fruitless venture.
The NLC on Oshiomhole’s watch was a nemesis of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration especially on its harsh fuel pricing policy as well as other socio-economic policies that were injurious to the well-being of Nigerians.
Following his outstanding performance as President of the NLC, Oshiomhole had delved into politics and was, on the basis of his popularity and achievements as NLC president, elected governor of Edo State on the Platform of the Action Congress (AC) in April 2007. His mandate was stolen but after a protracted legal struggle, the Edo State Election Petition Tribunal had restored the mandate, which was re-affirmed on November 11, 2008 by the Court of Appeal. On November 12, 2008, he was formally sworn in as governor of Edo state.
To his eternal credit that as governor, Oshiomhole adopted what is now popularly referred to as participatory, people-driven and bottom-up approach to governance. This is based on his well-advertised campaign slogan, that is: “Let the People Lead.” He shunned the bogus title of “Executive Governor” and did not tolerate the pretentious appellation of “His Excellency.” To Edo people, Oshiomhole was simply and truly the comrade-governor, people’s governor or just simply, comrade.
A foremost apostle of “one man, one vote” and the most methodical visionary and transformer that the Edo people have seen in this generation, Oshiomhole was rewarded with a resounding victory for a second term in office in the governorship election that was held on 14 July, 2012. For the first time in Edo state, Oshiomhole won election in the entire 18 Local Government Areas. Having inherited a state with decayed infrastructure, a state that was held hostage by powerful cabal in the PDP, he did not despair but rather rose to the occasion by confronting the problems head-on. He did not complain but rather he started the battle by ensuring that his party, the then ACN got the majority in the state House of Assembly and eventually took over the leadership of the House.
To get the buy-in of the people of the State, Oshiomhole strategically embarked on massive construction of roads across the state, commenced what was referred to as the red roof revolution in both primary and secondary schools through the construction of red roof schools equipped with modern teaching facilities in all the local governments and 192 wards in the state.
In addition, he embarked on a N30-billion Benin storm water project (the amount was to be expended over the next ten years or thereabout) which had largely checked the menace of flooding in Benin City and its environs. Successive administrations were to complete the project, which unfortunately, his successor, Go
dwin Obaseki, abandoned and the floods have returned.
Oshiomhole’s administration also built a state-of-the-art Benin Central Hospital, which was geared towards bolstering the health needs of the people of the state and the South-south zone. Out of office, Oshiomhole is widely known as the father of modern Edo State. And one unique thing that endeared him to the people while he was governor was his penchant for inspecting projects even at nights. He constructed solid roads with walk-ways and street lights across the state. He provided water especially in Edo central senatorial district, an area where it was earlier believed that it was difficult to extract water from under the soil.
Oshiomhole was adored in Edo state due to his uncommon humility, service to humanity, protection of the poor and his demystification of governance. Today, elders, youths and women cast their votes for Oshiomhole’s party in every election. That was why he has become a thorn in the flesh of the PDP leaders. Many, who earlier questioned his political sagacity, have done so at their own peril. A Majority of such people have been victims of Oshiomhole’s dexterous politics.
On the 23 of June, 2018, he was unanimously elected as the national chairman of the APC and promised to embark on reforms that would shape the future of the party and he has not looked back since then. Observing that some powerful individuals within the APC had hijacked the party, Oshiomhole promised to return the party to the members who overwhelmingly voted for President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. He commenced the direct primary mode of selecting candidates for the party so that all members of the party would be part of the process of electing their leaders unlike when it was done through few delegates.
For the first time in the history of the politics of the nation, a presidential candidate of a party, in the person of President Muhammadu Buhari, emerged through direct primary election. That paid off as the president garnered overwhelming victory across the nation in the presidential election.
When he accepted the job of national chairman, Oshiomhole made it clear that the national working committee (NWC) would embark on reforms that might not be easy but that such reforms would make the party much stronger and people-oriented. He had pointedly indicated his readiness to wield the big stick where necessary.
According to him, “It will no longer be business as usual in party affairs. From membership, discipline, funding, party management and respect for party constitution to conduct of party members in the arms of government; working with the president, we shall reinvent the ability to reward positive conduct and sanction recalcitrant, anti-party conduct. My task is to work with Mr. President, governors, leaders of the party at all levels and other stakeholders to pull our members together to build a strong and united party”.
Oshiomhole has not deviated from his promises since he assumed office as National Chairman. Governors and party leaders who ran contrary to the constitution had been punished. For Oshiomhole’s NWC, supremacy of the party is paramount. Whether you like him or not, under his leadership, President Buhari was re-elected. The APC under his leadership ensured that the preferred leaders of the party emerged as National officers in the National Assembly. It has not been easy for him as National Chair because of the interest of some of the governors in the context of the forthcoming 2023 presidential election, but he has remained focused.
Unlike few leaders of the party who think of their personal interest to the detriment of the general interest of the party, Oshiomhole has remained focused in ensuring the success of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. His style may have pitched him against some powerful individuals but he does things for the utmost good of the party. Without a doubt, Oshiomhole is a good man who has the interest of his party and the nation at heart.
Little wonder, millions of Nigerians and his fans celebrate with Omokpa Nabebho (One man like one country), one of the most political tacticians of our time on the occasion of his 68th anniversary. Happy birthday, boss!
*•Ebegbulem, is the Commissioner for Special Projects in Imo State