Opinion: Oshiomhole and the slippery household terrain; By Tony Erha

  • Adams Oshiomhole

Strong-willed labour activist and former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and currently National Chair of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, has been in the eye of a raging storm. Anyway, controversy is his second nature. For eight years, Oshiomhole was a helmsman of the watchdog NLC, a diehard challenger of the oppressive and recalcitrant employers of labour, that are prone to enslaving hapless workers. With Oshiomhole on NLC’s saddle, the encounters were fiercest with payers of the pipers. It was akin to pugilism, where giving and absorbing of solid punches was keenest. And so was (is) Oshiomhole tagged a toughie and shrewd negotiator for better deals to tamed Nigerians.

How would one react now that a backyard gang of most upstart ‘political jesters’ from the Oshiomhole’s nativity of Edo State, now challenge him to a political duel? Just for the asking. Does the fish catches cold when the cold water is the home it was born into?

Whilst joining partisan politics some fourteen years ago, Oshiomhole’s mockers gave him no slightest chances that he would prosper in his then newest vocation. ”Politics’ idiosyncrasy and gelatinous turf is laden with landmines than his known labour activism”. They taunted and dismissed him as a neophyte destined to fall. But, his doomsday premonition had vanished like the dew and has proved his doubters wrong as Oshiomhole meteorically gamboled through eight years successive governorship run to the national chairmanship of the almighty APC, called Africa’s largest political party. Oddly, more banana peels are been thrown on his pathway.

A man’s calamitous political friend-enemies are those who dine and wine with him. Mr. Godwin Obaseki, incumbent governor of Edo, Oshiomhole’s Man Friday of yesterday, whom the APC boss solely assisted to succeed him, turned around to panel-beat some homegrown protégés to an encumbrance of ‘fist and fury gang, spoiling for a war with those sold to his leadership’. Could a general, who had been grilled by the bayonets and bazookas, be easily overwhelmed?

This is similar to an outlandish tell-tale of animosity between the Elephant and the Pit, where the Animal kingdom once suffered a ruthless factional jungle-fight, in which the duo shared the loyalty of its animals. The former, forgetting he was originally molded with grime excavated from the Pit, boasted it will cover up the Pit, with his monstrous body! But, the Pit only relished in the assurances that an Elephant who descends into his bowel will no more live, not to talk of boasting again. Mr. Pit would only have to endure a tentative wait for the Elephant to melt down, after which it could again swallow more animals!
Obaseki, following his launch of the factional fight, stoked the crisis by rigging the inauguration of a minority nine lawmakers of the Edo State House of Assembly, over a fifteen majority. Obaseki wants to eat his cake and still have it back, by foisting the Kangaroo house leadership and the majority members succumbing to it! He has blatantly flouted simple but uniform directives by the APC national bodies, the National Assembly and others, that he should repeat the inauguration, as a means to resolving the crisis.

In the unfolding drama, terrifying Machiavellian ferocity of ‘all is okay with any weapon of war’ and the ‘ends justify the means’ had been uncontrollably deployed by the governor, with the other faction, the butt. Weighing the matrixes of uprooting a stubborn Oshiomhole, Obaseki dragged to the ringside, three ‘experienced boxers’ (political heavyweights) from the state – Gabriel Osawaru Igbinedion, Tom Ikimi and John Odigie Oyegun, all titled chiefs, to assist him. For this fight, nothing must be left out to extract a pound of flesh from Oshiomhole!

Some years ago, as governor of the state, Oshiomhole tongue-lashed the towering ‘Esama of the Universe’, Chief Igbinedion, over an allegation of trying to railroad and undermine the state, in which his son, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, was a governor for eight years, with nothing than immaterial dividends rendered to the people.

Chief Ikimi later angrily deserted APC, as alleged that Oshiomhole and others didn’t support his aspiration for the APC national chairmanship; a position Chief John Odigie Oyegun snatched on a platter of gold, with Oshiomhole’s support. For discarding him for Oyegun; Ikimi, the cigarette-puffing former Foreign Affairs minister and ex-national chairman of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) party, still nursed a grudge and pay-back against to Oshiomhole.

Most political observers called it the “final consequences of a triangular duel” for APC national chairmanship slot by Ikimi, Oyegun and later Oshiomhole, in a roll. Oyegun is allegedly in a no-love-lost with Oshiomhole, the current APC’s aficionado, who after helping to bring him aboard, thereafter unseated him. Interestingly, Obaseki, who now finds favour in Oyegun, vice versa, was one of the straws that aggravated the overload which then knocked Oyegun out of office.

Interestingly, there are lots of Edo people who still see the ouster of Oyegun as a recompense for his underperformance in his short-lived tenure as former governor of the state. Oyegun was booted out by the Ibrahim Babangida’s military coup of Chief Oyegun, as the first civilian governor of the then newly created Edo State that started the state on poor governance.

Therefore, when three elders go to the ringside of a cruel bout, the motives are accordingly insinuated. Otherwise, the oldies are supposedly preoccupied with dispute settlement and not conflict aggravation. And as harmless grandpas or great grandfathers, a simple duty should have been to of pamper the children with biscuits, chin-chin and luring them to sleep with bed tales. But, when juveniles and the oldies are both engrossed in cricket’s hunting, where is the special place for old age?

Does a king destroy his crown in anger? Ushering dirty fighters into the Edo polygamous house, where Obaseki is the first surviving son, would have Obaseki taking the blames, as head of the household. The crisis is simmering and has weighed down the Edo masses. I was likened to the ‘Survival Series’ of a free-style American wrestling, where brawls spilled to the ring sides and into the streets.

Alas, ‘the Lion and Hyenas theory of power grab” terminology is intoned where a garrulous Rochas Okorocha and some other unsolved notable APC figures have joined the home-induced plotters gunning for Oshiomhole. The Hyenas, in their many numbers, only allow the Lion the bounciness to capture its prey before a manouvre to harass the Lion from enjoying the game, since they have no tenacity for hunting. But, when there are other Lions hanging around, the Hyenas would flee.

Oshiomhole is widely hailed as a marathoner that is hardly spent out, even beyond the finishing line. However, in partisan politics, the home front is where it is most intriguing. The APC’s imbroglio had assumed more desperation, with the alleged maneuver of Philip Shaibu, Oshiomhole’s blood relation, and Obaseki’ deputy. Also, Osarodion Ogie, Obaseki’s Secretary to State Government (SSG) and Oshiomhole’s former protégé, are also alleged to be in the frontline to ‘demystify’ Oshiomhole.

The mass media news had Shaibu shaking the table at the Uzairue clan of the state, where he and Oshiomhole came from, with the intention of cutting off the APC national chairman, who brought him from obscurity to limelight, to the angst of elders and people of the community. What manner of politics or power is it that a son moves to upstage his father?

A serio-comical drama played out recently, when Governor Obaseki and surplus of his assistants, including Shaibu and Ogie, paid a Salah-day celebration visit to Oshiomhole, who is not a Muslim, but a Christian. The visit to the APC national chairman’s residence at Iyamho-Auchi, his hometown, was regarded by most pundits as ‘stooping down to see what Oshiomhole wore under his khaki trousers’. Obaseki and his supporters thereby showered love and praises on Oshiomhole, “their leader’.

The same old song of a self-serving ‘third party’ being the cause of the needless rift between Obaseki and Oshiomhole, his benefactor rented the air. While Obaseki and his supporters ran away with the news headlines and juvenile triumph that they had finally conquered their Iyamho host, as he seemingly displayed compliance against his tough stance on the crisis, most observers had been convinced that the Obaseki’s euphoria for a purported settlement of the APC crisis was only ephemeral. A Quixotic expectation!

*Tony Erha is a journalist and activist

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