By Erasmus Ikhide
For the first time, Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole took my advice to contest the presidency of Nigeria instead of localising himself and further debasing his remaining reputation as a progressive. It is on that ground I hold him to task on his claims to progressivism outside politics of exclusivism, which I see as politics of ethnocentrism. For a fact, Oshiomhole’s presidential aspiration means many things to many people across Nigeria political strata, including some of us in the progressive flank who have shared common affinities with him in the past.
I supported Oshiomhole’s presidential declaration on two broad grounds: namely to advance the course of his political career, rather than lowering himself to a Senatorial District contest that merely reduces his personage as a former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), former Governor of Edo State and a former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). By his anticipated presidential declaration, he has risen over the labyrinth of retrogressive politics with the axiom that victory can only come through trying. Even if Oshiomhole loses at the poll, it would mean that no one person can win all his battles, except God gives him victory, which he reasserted when he was removed unceremoniously as APC National Chairman.
I have said repeatedly that those who have his ears are either mismanaging him or Oshiomhole is mismanaging himself. I know for a fact that Oshiomhole needs a microphone more than he needs an adviser! With just a microphone he could create problem for himself and the entire political system will be up in flames. Highly flammable stands Oshiomhole took in leadership offices in the past are usually not borne out of hatred or lack of empathy but riotous impulse and shot fuse that a leader would later regret when the deeds are done, most times.
Second, is the fact that while his peers are going for the presidency of the country, he relapsed to mere senatorial contest. It’s on record that since the Fourth Republic, South West has had the Presidency for 8 years under President Olusegun Obasanjo and they are having it now for another 8 years on the auspices of Prof Yemi Osinbajo’s Vice Presidency. If the argument is that the South East is yet to have it since 1999, even when northern politicians are also jostling for it, then nothing disqualifies an Oshiomhole of South South from taking a shot. After all, up till the moment he declared his ambition, there was no other presidential aspirant that had declared from South South on the platform of APC except Rotimi Amaechi. Even then, none of the presidential aspirants have articulated altruistic manifesto to douse the ruins they’ve collectively foisted on the country.
If Oshiomhole’s speech at his presidential declaration this week Thursday is anything to go by, therefore, the Northern oligarchs who profit from the deprivation of their people through deliberate illiteracy and poor policies foisted to perpetually hold their people down under poverty, hunger, kidnapping, Boko Haram insurgency, banditry and ISWAP dislocations and deaths would be waiting for him at the corner for a political pound of flesh. So, saying that “he would do a number of things differently to liberate Nigeria and restructure the economy in the context of APC’s change” mantra could be his personal albatross at the polls.
In his declaration speech, Oshiomhole pointed out that job, poverty and insecurity were all interrelated. He explained that ”when we talk of the huge level of poverty in Nigeria and lack of jobs, then we have issues. We must create jobs to fight insecurity and poverty.” He attempted to redirect the perception of Nigerians about the size of things, saying “I have stopped celebrating the size of my party as the largest party. I would rather want Nigeria to be described as the smartest country on the continent. We must talk of economics of scale because there are diseconomics of scale.”
He advised Nigerians to stop agonising and start engaging, conversing, organising and mobilising even as he observed that the process might not be easy. He said that “If coming to the world is not easy, the painful process of child birth, then the struggle to build up our nation cannot be an easy task.” The former governor of Edo State dwelt on the crisis in the education sector, asking how realistic it was in the modern day for Nigeria to pay N450,000 to a professor. He zeroed on the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), saying many Nigerians see ASUU as a union that creates problems.
Oshiomhole diasgreed. He said ASUU might have a challenge explaining its problems, “I used the salary of professor as a point of reference to those who work in the public sector. They are grossly underpaid. You are a director and you cannot direct your family well. There must be a linkage between work and reward.” He said: “When I become president, we will ensure that the Academic calendar of our universities is maintained.” Declaring that “we must dismantle the dynasty of the poor”, Oshiomhole said, “If we do not address this at the national level, this ship will not be able to sail well.”
He harped on the point that textile industries were created in all the regions but that those industries were killed by incoherent trade, business and industrial policies. He explained: “There must be coherence between monetary and fiscal policies,” and insisted: “We must wear what we produce. As governor, I popularised the wearing of Khaki. The khaki was well sewn and I could meet the President in a cosy villa room and the masses on the street.”
He posited that unemployment was not created by poverty but by policies that were not clearly planned and implemented. He faulted the contributory pension scheme for workers, saying that “what workers have contributed in the last 5 years is zero courtesy of the twin-evil of devaluation and double digit inflation.” Reflecting, 2023 presidency: Oshiomhole throws hat in the already crowded ring, lists measures to restructure the economy. The media screamed next day.
Beautiful ‘Presidential Speech’ any day, any time; typical, as usual, of his oratorial prowess. But in his speech, I noticed, however, that Oshiomhole tends to distinguish himself from the rest of the lots in the APC with their on-your-face-insult of “I will continue the good work of President Muhammadu Buhari from where he stops, if elected as president! Good job indeed! So, what are the good works of the Buhari administration that can compare side-by-side to its long list of evils, corruption, nepotism, bigotry, insecurity, hunger, poverty, violence, destruction and deaths? If Tinubu, Osinbajo, Amaechi, Okorocha, Akpabio and the rest of them in the APC could see the destruction of education, collapse of the nation’s security architecture, activation of composite corruption, ruination of the economy, seeking medical treatment in foreign lands as good jobs they hoped to continue with, if elected president, then the devil has no better incarnate than an APC-elected Nigerian President!
The problem with Nigeria is the veneration of political charlatans by the citizens who talk blithely and blandly about them because the so-called leaders are in possession of national stolen wealth. This poor and inept cast of leadership is the reason Nigeria has refused to congeal and coalesce into organic nationhood. From the foregoing, 2023 will be another rehearsed ritual if the citizens’ conquered heart and mind remained the same.
Erasmus Ikhide can be reached via: [email protected]