Blazing former labour leader and proselyte politician, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, is no doubt a man of destiny, who is up with his “Ehi”, his Edo native’s meaning for “Guidance Angel” or “Destiny”. Oshiomhole is economical in bodily size. I am not the only one who has said so. Even then, Sufuyan Ojeifo, the cerebral and prolific journalist and writer, in one of his recent widespread newspaper’s depositions, did allude to him as “Dynamite comes in little pieces’. And Oshiomhole, himself, who is always with a good sense of humour making and dazzling of his listeners or viewers, would readily tell his onlookers that he is, in fact, a man who is verily small in size, and that he belongs to the tribe of Chris Ngige, a tempestuous former governor and presently the Nigeria’s Minister of Labour and “Malam El Rufai, a talk-some intrepid, who currently has a fistic reign in northern Nigeria’s hub of Kaduna State.
Without mincing words, the two men were or are usually known to jeopardize their own “tribesmen” and other public members into utter helplessness, just as their spiteful attacks once tried to put down their own “kinsman”, Oshiomhole, who also has fire in his tongue. But, take it or not, Ngige and El Rufai are two great Nigerians and nation’s builders. Only that they are further dwarfed in patriotism and individual colourfulness by Oshiomhole, who is shoulder and head higher, in these realms.
For Oshiomhole, the son of a peasant, from Iyamho village in Uzairue Clan of Etsako Local Government Area of Edo State, “Mother Nature”, who sees the seed of the future; of good and evil and other life’s competing opposites, sure beckoned on him to an eventful life he was destined to lead. From obscurity to visibility!
He who mocks God’s own creation also mocks God and their own existence, since they too were made by the same Supreme Being. And the lessons of the Oshiomhole’s metamorphosis can’t be lost on multitudes who are discerning that God Almighty is for real and rules in the affairs of men.
“Eke nana maa ere agbon ghi beghe”, is an Edo idiom. Its English translation; “The strange world only sees and says nothing else about the life’s vagaries, which a man had passed through to become prominent. Many mock Oshiomhole’s person for having been lowly in the societal strata for getting to do menial jobs, instead of acquiring a western education, which he barely got in his early formation. But, that which he got on the slippery steps of the ladder of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the country’s foremost organised workers union, to be its president, in a momentous double tenure of eight years. It was a great achievement which no individual had probably achieved in the country’s history.
Undoubtedly, Oshiomhole, who started menial jobs in the factories in Kaduna city, in simple literary terminology, had grabbed and continues to grab the elusive and flirtatious garment of passing opportunities, so much so that he traversed the turfs of labour movement and civil society coordination and mobilization, in helping to reshape the country.
When the children of the poor are exceptionally gifted, it angers the evil of the well-to-do. And a gifted-child has so many enemies. Whatever Oshiomhole lacked in thorough early western education, he tried hard to make up in his adult years, which earned him the rare MNI managerial title and other scholarly qualifications. Seeing that he missed the juvenile privileges, for the obvious reasons, the NLC’s logo of the “wheels of progress” had galvanized him into hard work and diligence, to such enviable status. Also, his solid societal achievement has made him taller and visible amongst the men of Nigeria’s history. Nevertheless that is not to say, like humans, Oshiomhole does not have his failings.
Oshiomhole may be ugly in mere physical looks, but where men would see the ugliness of others God would see their minds. Oshiomhole, with a superb thought process and a great oration of persuasive and usually for a public gains, is like the colourful bird of multi feathers, who avoids flying to the ground level, where its beautiful plums are valuable. And so he is an edible tree which passersby pester with the sticks, because of its fruits
Sometimes, it was said that he could beat the silver-tongued Barrack Obama, the first ever Black American to become that country’s president, in speech making debate. But his detractors would begrudge him that a man who could possess such word-smiting wizardry must be relying on “Edo insurance”, where one could easily hypnotize his listeners with “Ewase”, a concoction made with the head of the king of the Parrot bird and other items. They would also rumour that there is a talisman bequeathed to him by his late grandfather, with which he could sway his audiences like the oscillating wipers of a car, to the extent that they would obey him without resistance. Oshiomhole, they would argue, wouldn’t have a headache even though he talks nonstop for a week so long there is alligator pepper concoction blended with that of the head of the Woodpecker bird, that chisels the Iroko tree the way a motor saw couldn’t do.
Following his glorious exit as a labour leader, Oshiomhole, moved into party politics in Edo, his home-state. Interestingly no one gave him any hope to succeed as his detractors wrongly forecasted that he was bound to fail, because labour activism is not the same as party politics, whose paths are loaded with dynamites. And he proved those pundits wrong by not only winning the elections and having two straight tenures of eight years, but was elected as National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which he left recently, not mostly because a sitting governor in his state, who he helped to power, stabbing him at the back. But that it was God’s doing for him to quit. Anyway, it would have been a curse if he remained in that office forever.
Oshiomhole truly deserves kudos for turning around the Edo and Nigeria’s political rhythm and giving them better directions. Like Anthony Joshua, the Nigerian British-trained boxer, who takes less of punches than the solid one he gives, Osho Baba would be back. Of course, Patrick Obayagbon, (aka Igodomigodo) was apt in his recent cryptic article that “It is not yet a Requiem for Oshiomhole”
▪︎Tony Erha, a journalist and pro-democratic activist, writes from Benin City, Edo State.