Adams Oshiomhole: The giant with feet of clay, By Osmund Agbo 

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Comrade Adams Oshiomhole

Who could have predicted that the enormous, dazzling statue with feet of baked clay that Daniel prophesized to the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar is indeed a 5-feet something diminutive figure from Iyamho, Edo State. This khaki wearing comrade, who was the hero of organised labour throughout my formative years, is now the poster child of Nigeria’s transactional politics.

The year 2023 is still a little farther down the road, yet the APC circus is already out in its glamour. This time, it came completely packaged with a full compliment of conviviality. One of the bullwhip crackers in this dog and pony show, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole is not a happy camper. The ruling party’s shenanigans stopped him in his track and a whole lot of us are not unhappy. 

A celebrated labour leader, a two-term governor, one of the longest surviving national chairman of a ruling political party in Nigeria. Adams even topped it all off in May 2015 by importing his trophy wife, Lara, all the way from the island of Cape Verde. For a man who once was going street to street, sewing torn clothes just to eke out a living, life didn’t turn out bad after all. The only problem is that while reveling in his new found status, Adams ditched the very people that cheerleaded him to stratospheric success. He must now incur the wrath of Edo god, Osanobua.

Adams got his big break as a union leader in 1982, when he was appointed the General Secretary of the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria. It was a 75,000-member strong workers’ union at the time. He soon became popular and rose quickly through the ranks, speaking out on behalf of a tribe of workers who were being short-changed by their companies’ chief executives. The rise of Hurricane Adams as he once referred to by a popular commentator, was meteoric.

To burnish his credentials, Adams would later leave for UK and enrolled in Ruskin College, where he majored in both economics and industrial relations. Upon his return, he attended the National Insitute of Policy and Strategic studies, Kuru and later had a brief stint at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Armed with strong credentials and a knack for effective modification , he was elected first deputy president of Nigerian Labour Congress in 1988. About a decade later, precisely on January 28, 1999 he became the substantive labour leader. One of his landmark achievement during his tenure as NLC president was the successful negotiation of a 25% wage increase for public sector workers during the Obasanjo administration. He also led labour to a couple of industrial actions meant to pressure the Nigerian government into improving public sector working conditions.
In 2009 he was rumoured to have been abducted by men of the State Security Services. For a big part of the nineties, Adams was the darling of labour movements and became the face of the Nigerian workers’ struggle. His leadership profile continued on an upward trajectory.

When in March 20th, 2008, Edo State election tribunal nullified the election of Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor and declared Oshiomhole the governor, the mood in the state that prides itself as the heartbeat of the nation was ecstatic. It was God’s answer to a festering political problem of godfatherism in the state. It was unprecedented at the time that a candidate personally handpicked by Chief Tony Anenih, ‘Mr. Fix it’ and the godfather himself could suffer such a devastating blow. Mr. Oshiomhole went on to declare the concept of Godfatherism dead in Edo State at the palace of Oba of Benin. But that was our good old Adams. The new one had undergone a complete metamorphosis and is now utterly unrecognisable.

The problem started shortly after Governor Godwin Obaseki was sworn in and Adams wished to continue to run the show in Edo State as the de factor ruler. He believed he placed the new governor in his position and so Godwin Obaseki and the people of Edo State were beholden to him. When Obaseki refused to dance to his tunes, the APC party machinery under Oshiomhole was quickly mobilised for a fight. It was such a nasty and long drawn battle that ultimately forced the exit of the sitting governor out of the party under whose platform he came into power. A pure Machiavellian politics at its crudest form. It seems like Adams Oshiomhole has become the very devil he fought as a candidate for governor of Edo State just few years earlier. He is now wishing us selective amnesia into believing that the wonderkid he sold passionately to Edo people in 2016 is now a monster.

The events of the past few weeks however, have been pretty sobering even for the Omo ‘kpanabiewho (one man like a nation) of Auchi kingdom. The same could also be said of his friend and mentor, the Jagaban himself. When you sow the wind, you sure will reap the whirlwind. Both may have learnt a lesson or two on the vanity of life and the ephemeral nature of power. Adams is now forced to heed to the wise words of Confucius: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” 

•Dr. Agbo is the President/CEO of African Centre for Transparency 


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