Adams Oshiomohole: One Victory For The People

July 12, 2014
8 mins read

I shouted myself hoarse last Thursday, as I watched the live telecast of the electoral panel  of Edo state, give their verdict. What most Nigerians knew since April 2007 was confirmed last week; Adams Oshiomhole was winner of the governorship election held last year. But as was done around most of Nigeria, the PDP, in connivance with the Independent Electoral Commission of Professor Maurice Iwu, stole the election, subverted the mandate of the Edo people. But Comrade Adams was not daunted in the search for justice, and that was earned last week, Thursday!


Edo state has by all accounts, been one of the most unlucky state in Nigeria, since 1999. It had the ill luck of being governed by one of the most incompetent and kleptocratic governors of the new dispensation in Nigeria, Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion. With apologies, but I think there must be something absolutely wrong with the Nigerian political elite to have thrown up a governor like Lucky Igbinedion: a face stamped upon with the bushy mustache which gives the classic appearance of a Mafiosi; a bulging mid-section like an over-fed African toad, betrays the tell-tale signs of over-indulgence in food and wine. But Lucky Igbinedion seemed to be far worse than his appearance conveyed.


Lucky Igbinedion ran Edo state back into the Stone Age, presiding over the systematic spoliation of a state that used to be a pace setter in so many things in Nigeria’s golden past; from construction to sporting excellence. By the end of 2002, it was already clear to all, that a disaster had been visited upon Edo State, by the choice of Lucky  as governor, in 1999; a young man whose only distinguishing factor, was that he was the son of a maverick millionaire with delusions of grandeur of his own. So fed up were the people with Lucky’s incompetence, buffoonery and kleptocratic ways, that if a genuinely democratic system had been in place, he would not have even been given a look-in, for a second term. That was when his father was said to have come with the sickening tale of a student who failed an examination and needed a repeat to achieve the requisite pass. Lucky Igbinedion got a second term, after the massive rigging that characterized the 2003 elections!


Over the next four years, 2003 to 2007, that man consolidated the underdevelopment of Edo state; the roads within Benin City, were a study in the shape of pot holes; he “privatized” the account of the state to indulge in the vulgar taste for all manners of luxury: Edo was the heart of trafficking of young women into prostitution; Lucky sold state firms to himself and cronies and made Edo a typical Hobbersian jungle for all its people.


Another distinct feature of Edo’s political landscape was the stranglehold on its politics by the political godfathers; from Tony Anenih through to Samuel Ogbemudia. These political dinosaurs instituted a spoils and boss system, which hacked back to the cult traditions of the traditional political system of the area, with the difference that, unlike the traditional system which is located within the cultural legitimacy of the community, the Anenihs, Ogbemudias, Igbinedions, had no legitimacy to speak of, because there was no organic link between the control they wielded and the genuine aspiration of the people. Of course, as a classic study in prebendal politics, in its most crude incarnation, the strongest tendencies were violence, treachery, manipulation of the poverty of the mass of the people and open-ended banditry. In Edo stat, under the PDP regime of Lucky Igbinedion, we saw the worst betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of the people of Nigeria, in one of its component states!


There is no honour amongst thieves, especially those in Edo state. The flight for control of state power, the spoils system and the control of the levers of manipulation of the contradictions inherent within the politics of the state pitted one group of political nomination of candidates for the PDP in 2007. On the other hand, there was the groundswell of feeling for change amongst the mass of the people in Edo State. They saw how the bandit elite led by an absolutely incompetent governor, worsened their conditions of existence, on an incremental basis for eight years. They were determined that their vote was going to count and would be counted in 2007. However, this feeling was discountenanced by the PDP elite, who felt that they can continue to rely on the time-tested practices of stealing ballot boxes; over-voting; change of results; substitution of authentic with the fake; using the security forces and thugs to intimidate the electorate and getting Iwu’s INEC to declare a fake result and then wait for whatever back lash to peter out as they retreat into the smoke-filled recesses of power to share the loot, to the detriment of the people for another four year!


This is the point that Adams Oshiomohole entered the picture; the historical moment found its corresponding historical personality, able to convey the aspirations of the mass of the people. There was something fateful about the emergence of Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomohole on the national scene. He emerged as President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, at a point when the Nigerian working-class movement was renewing itself, in the context of the transition to democracy, after undergoing the severe repression it suffered under military dictatorship. It became clear, that the new civilian regime of President, Olusegun Obasanjo, was sworn to the implementation of economic policies, whose fine details attack the economic positions of the working people and the poor. The working class provided the best platform to build resistance to the neoliberal policies of the Obasanjo regime. Many people don’t seem to understand basic issues about the working class movement; it is the most national and its doctrines of struggle cut across boundaries of ethnic geography or the spiritual space of religion. Where neo-colonial policies thrive on division and manipulation and the fanning of the embers of hatred, the trade unions unite and provide a national platform of struggle for all the working people.


It is this unity across all manners of divide that offers the greatest weapon to the working people, and conversely, it is the reason that governments, such as Obasanjo’s regime, tend to try to curb the powers and activities of the working class movement on behalf of corporate employers. But it was within this movement and at its head, as president of the NLC, that Adams Oshiomhole led titanic battles against the assault on the rights of the Nigerian working people and the poor during the eight years of the anti- people, corrupt, pro-imperialist regime of the monster despot, Olusegun Obasanjo. Adams Oshiomhole became the symbol of resistance and of hope, and he became a household name around Nigeria. His popularity soared amongst the Nigerian people, because he symbolized competent response against the rapacity of a Nigerian state that was completely sworn to fulfilling an unpatriotic economic agenda, which pauperized the majority of the people of Nigeria. When his tenure ended, the NLC organised a smooth and democratic transition, at a time when the political elite was locked into the dictational antics of garrison democracy!


When Adams Oshiomhole signified his intention to run for governor of Edo state, the people saw in his candidature, the expression of their determination to effect change; to give a new lease of life to the process of governance and to entrust their mandate to an individual who has a solid track record of always fighting for the interest of the Nigeria people in general, and its working people and the poor, in particular. In a master class of political enlightenment, people across the length and breadth of Edo State voted for change, for a life away from the banditry, corruption, incompetence, and insensitivity, which the PDP elite represented, in voting for comrade Adams Oshiomhole. The Edo people knew he was from a minority ethnic background, they knew that he has a Muslim background, but those were not the issues that would make them reject him. He is seen as a symbol of the change they desired and they gave him their vote. But the PDP and INEC had different ideas.


They were determined as usual to leave the people in mourning, as they’ve done all across Nigeria. They hijacked the people’s victory and mandate freely given to Adams Oshiomhole, and in his place, they announced a colorless impostor, as governor. The people retreated to lick their wounds at first. But Adams Oshiomhole would not be who he is if he was unable to whip the people back into a state of optimism that the bare-faced-banditry and daylight robbery of the people’s mandate, would not be allowed to stand! The courthouse became a new arena of struggle in a dialectical interconnect with the mass mobilization of the people on the street. The impostors in government were consistently frightened to their bone marrow every time Adams Oshiomhole appeared in the streets of Benin City. The people’s show of support and solidarity told a fervently emotional story of where the people’s mandate and feeling truly lied! Not even the mass mobilization of armed policemen and the cordoning-off of streets would deter the people, and finally last week, the courts declared that Adams Oshiomhole was the rightfully elected governor of Edo state!


The Edo state election petitions tribunal, headed by Honourable Justice Peter Umeadi, said that “Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is hereby declared the elected governor of Edo State of Nigeria; he is the candidate who has scored the highest number of valid votes cast during the April 14, 2007 governorship election in the state, and has satisfied the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria…the election of Senator (Prof) Oserheimen Osunbor as the governor of Edo state is hereby declared null and void and nullified”. In a reaction, the NLC president, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, described the victory as “a triumph of the will of the electorate of Edo state and a major step in the democratic development of Nigerian”. What more may we add to that pithy assessment? Not much really, except to state that the return of Adams as Edo State governor, offers a breach head for the development of a more progressive tendency in the practical reality of politicking in Nigeria. If Adams can provide a different type of leadership (and I think he can!), which truly works for the people of Edo State in particular, and Nigeria in general, we can open an aperture for the replication of the progressive and more pro-people political tendency in Nigeria.


I discussed with Kayode Fayemi over the weekend, and I underlined the fact that we feel very hopeful that the tribunal would return his own mandate too, equally stolen in Ekiti State. It would certainly be a more progressive turn around for the better in a  long-suffering country that Nigeria is. Of course there are issues of experience in governance; the level of expectations; the desperacy of the political elite that has always ruled, which will lose privileges with a radical departure which Adams will represent; there is also the problem of raising a team able to work with the dedication and sincerity which a pro-people project will require: the delicate balance of the contradictions within Edo society, which might not appear clearly until the levers of power have been worn, the personal idiosyncrasies of Adams himself, such as translating from agitator to administrator and politician plus other unforeseen or enforceable issues! These are not idle questions, and they must be frontally attacked. I expect that Adams Oshiomhole will build on alliance and traditions he was cultured within in the trade union movement to work for the people of Edo State; he must also work out an elaborate project of governance to help root out the elaborate edifice of theft, corruption and poverty which is the legacy of the PDP regime. What Adams Oshiomhole makes of his four-year tenure will have a far-reaching implication into the future.


Comrade Adams Oshiomhole will quickly learn that the cloak-and-dagger world of politics can often derail very lofty principles, as you are obliged by often merciless circumstances, to make compromises which might have serious consequences for your actions. It is also very important to think through and hit the ground running in respect of the expectations of the mass of the people who would expect quick fixes for their multi-dimensional problems. It is the disappointment which trails in the wake of a slow rhythm of work which often alienates the electorate from individuals that they revere and see as symbols of hope. This has been the problem of liberation politics in Africa, from Angola, Guinea Bissau through to Zimbabwe. It is therefore important, that no matter what alliance he builds, no matter the nature of compromises that circumstances force upon Adams in the process of governance, he must never lose touch with the people. That is the only strength he can claim.


May be I am looking too far ahead into the future, but Adams Oshiomhole just cannot afford to fail; it is as simple as that! In the meantime though, we can at least afford to celebrate with the people of Edo State, for recording their stolen good from armed robbers! That is one significant victory.


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