Adams Oshiomhole Could Be The Nation’s Wildcard /

Former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, is the former trade union leader who traveled the path of a few similar figures in history to make an impact on national politics. 

Close examination of the evidence shows how this man has singularly affected the fortunes of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) not only in his state, but nationally. 

In Edo, he defeated the PDP three times, once in the courtroom, as an incumbent, and finally as an outgoing governor, each with significant national repercussions.

In 2008, he became Edo State governor for the first time after the Court of Appeal upheld his challenge of the 2007 governorship contest which had been declared for the PDP candidate, Oserheimen Osunbor. 

He then won his re-election contest in 2012 by a considerable margin, serving until 2016 wgeb he was succeeded by Godwin Obaseki, the candidate of the APC into which his AC had merged.  

But it is not those victories, as significant as they are, that helped Mr. Oshiomhole forge the future of Edo State and of Nigeria. 

By the time Mr. Oshiomhole ran for governor 10 years ago, Edo State had come under the political spell of “Mr. Fix-It” Anthony Anenih, a former policeman who embodied the wily and ruthless ways of the ruling PDP. 

In pre-Oshiomhole Edo, Mr. Anenih it was who determined who lived, politically; who merely survived; and who didn’t exist.  The people voted at elections, and the candidate of “Mr. Fix-It” won.

And then entered the scene, stage left and armed with a scapel, a giant of a fighter in a deceptively small package.  But the human eye lacks the capacity to see beneath the skin, which is why the PDP’s Goliath may have failed to recognize David in 2007. 

In Scarlet Fever, one of Kenny Rogers’ most famous songs, he tells the story of a nightclub singer, Scarlet, a hardened 16-year old dancer who looked all of 25. 

All Scarlet did was dance, and the man who beheld her caught an ailment by that name. 

Rogers, like other victims, ignored the warning posted outside The Lucky Star about that condition, and took a front seat.  It was a mistake, for that was where he would come eyeball to eyeball with Scarlet’s charms. 

Once Scarlet took those ribbons out of her hair and went to work, Rogers landed in that land of no return.  For Scarlet was no ordinary dancer: hers was a hypnotic tour de force which left him entranced and paralyzed. 

“Scarlet locked another heart upon that chain,” Rogers explained. 

And his ailment was going to hurt and going to last, because while he dreamed day after day he would win Scarlet’s love, he discovered at The Lucky Star one day to find Scarlet had disappeared. 

As labour leader, Mr. Oshiomhole had often crawled up the veins of the national authorities, with President Olusegun Obasanjo exploding on one occasion that he appeared to be running a parallel government. 

That was a similar ailment that might have been labelled Adams’ Fever, but it took Mr. Oshiomhole’s arrival in the Edo governor’s seat for it to sear its way into full evidence. 

Mr. Anenih had caught Adams’ Fever, but he did not know it and could not see it, because Adams’ Fever would appear to be an ailment which assaults below the soil to kill or cure. 

Remember: the moment Mr. Oshiomhole was sworn in, he made his mission clear: he was going to end the era of godfatherism in Edo politics. 

Somewhere between Mr. Anenih’s hometown of Uromi and his federal haunts in Abuja, the old man must have laughed at the impertinence.  But it is now 2017, and Oshiomhole is the one still standing, having effectively terminated Mr. Anenih’s reputation as a factor not only in Edo, but within the PDP machine. 

Along the way, Oshiomhole caused Mr. Anenih to lose elections even in his own local government area, which was unthinkable before those contests, and three straight gubernatorial contests.

But this story is not about “Mr. Fix-It,” but about Mr. Oshiomhole, who in this month’s edition of ‘The Interview,’ commented on the controversial severance package he was offered by the state government. 

In the story, he justifies his acceptance on the grounds that when he left the Nigeria Labour Congress as its leader, he did not receive the severance compensation discussed before his departure.  He had not wanted to take a decision by which he would in effect have paid himself, telling his colleagues it would be more honourable for that decision to be made by his successors. 

In typical Nigerian fashion, that was forgotten once he was through the door.

Preparing for life after Edo governorship, he said he had also rejected the kind of decision made by some of departing governors in other states who determined their own going-away largesse, urging that any such decision to benefit him be made only when he had left.  In effect, he would be a fool not to accept the package that was then offered. 

I have never met Mr. Oshiomhole, but I am in support of his decision, as awkward as it is.  In Nigeria, I know how easy it is for the man who refuses to dip his hand into the public till to be laughed at after his departure.

There are rumours, of course, that Mr. Oshiomhole is a wealthy man.  With no substance to those rumours, the House of Assembly is right to provide for a man who worked in good conscience. 

But the ad hoc response is wrong, and dangerous.  What the Assembly should do is establish a law which would provide every departing governor and deputy with the same level of compensation, leaving no room for manipulation especially when a new party takes over.  That will encourage probity.

Better still, this is an issue that should be taken up at the federal level.  On the surface, the issue is accountability, and it is the federal government of Mr. Oshiomhole’s party which claims to be combating corruption; the states are not. 

Given that situation, people as well-positioned as Mr. Oshiomhole should work at the party level towards a bill that will address this matter, and provide harsh repercussions for former governors who are found to have fleeced their states.

Through the 2000s, in recognition of Mr. Oshiomhole’s public battles for social justice, he was routinely honoured by Nigeria’s biggest journals as Man of The Year.  He may have since then been to the mountain top of political power, but those battles have not been won.   And while he may no longer battle fatigues; he can wear his current fancy linens in the new frontlines.

Can he rise above narrow interests and fight for his country, bringing his brand of scorched-earth justice on every false tree and every withering branch?