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Lessons Oshiomhole did not learn from his Obaseki experience

By Majeed Dahiru

In the affairs of men, history has a way of repeating itself in ways indicative of a divinely ordained karmic cycle of events that should easily serve as a proper guide in the activities of humankind. Sadly, if history has thought anything consistently, it is that the humankind hardly ever learns anything from the repetitive cycle of events in their own world. Blinded by the pettiness of bile, selfishness and greed for primitive acquisitions, many a great men have fallen from Olympian heights with such a great thud that left their Empires, nations or city states in ruinous devastation.

The current happenings in Nigeria’s ruling APC party has revealed its recently sacked national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as one of the many great men that history will record as having failed to learn from history. Rising from little beginnings as an artisan and textile worker who will go on to achieve great things in life, Oshiomhole will reach the pinnacle of his lifelong career of trade unionism when he emerged the president of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC in 1999. As democracy almost always births capitalism, Oshiomhole’s ascendancy to the leadership of Nigeria’s largest and most powerful trade union organization had coincided with Nigeria’s transition from military to civil democratic rule in 1999 with accompanying shift in its mixed economic system to a market driven economy.

 Buoyed by the new atmosphere of political freedom in the new democratic Nigeria, Comrade Oshiomhole will emerge a pseudo opposition figure to the Olusegun Obasanjo administration for its rapid economic reforms towards entrepreneurial capitalism without adequate social safeguards for Nigeria’s rural poor and urban working class people. Endowed with the gift of oratory, Oshiomhole’s eloquent elucidation of the welfare and general interests of Nigerian workers and fearless confrontations with the government over some of its pro-business but anti-people policies endeared him to many Nigerians. His fame as an uncompromising champion of the interests of the masses was easily converted to a huge political capital when he emerged the governor of his home state of Edo in 2008.

 Comrade Oshiomhole, an outsider to the ruling political establishment of Edo state rose to political prominence through a combination of the grace of divine providence and the will of the Edo people to emerge governor without the help of a godfather. Rather than sustain and deepen the progressive democratic culture among the people of Edo state that allowed for an outsider to the political establishment like him, and whose only helper was the Almighty God the Father, to be elected governor, Adams Aliu Oshiomhole decided to establish his own political hegemony over Edo state with him as the all-powerful godfather.

Upon the completion of his second term as governor in 2016, Oshiomhole made it very clear that it was he and not the people of Edo state will decide who their next governor will be. And so it happened that Oshiomhole plucked Godwin Obaseki from political oblivion, anointed him as his chosen successor, foisted him on his APC party and bulldozed him into Denis Osadebe House by every means of democratic subterfuge possible and practically imposed him as the governor of Edo state. By this mafia like political brinkmanship of anointing and imposing his preferred candidate as his successor, Oshiomhole had hoped to retire into a life of a godfather former governor to whom Obaseki, his successor must pay obeisance as a grateful godson.

However, the expected was not to be. If Oshiomhole’s mafia like political brinkmanship of anointing and imposing his preferred successor on the people of Edo state follows a familiar pattern since 2007 by the first set of outgoing governors elected in 1999 in their various states then Obaseki’s rebellion against him has been the consistent end result of the godfather/godson arrangement throughout the 21 year history of the 4th republic. 

 Since 1999, Nigeria’s democratic political leadership recruitment process has steadily degenerated into a criminal franchise of power grab for self service. With patronage from the public treasury as the only source of reward for partisan political participation, in the absence of a sustainable good governance structure for the generality of the Nigerian people, outgoing governors have devised a means of holding on to power through anointed proxies in order for them and their cronies to continue to benefit from the spoils of their political conquest through state patronage. Interestingly, in the political underworld of Nigeria’s kleptocratic rulers where debauchery, greed, selfishness and treachery reign supreme, there is no honour among these set of thieves and survival is only for the fittest. In a polity devoid of principles of morality, strength of character and fidelity to any ideals of good governance, godsons with the power of the purse easily rebel against godfathers with the full support of the army of professional politicians whose loyalties are only to their pockets. And to obliterate any trace of political influence of the godfather, a godson will usually go the extra mile to totally destroy and bury them politically.

From Abia to Enugu, Lagos to Kano and Borno states, the stories of Orji Uzor Kalu and Theodore Orji, Chimaroke Nnamani and Sulivan Chime, Bola Tinubu and Raji Fashola, Bola Tinubu and Akinwumi Ambode, Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso and Umar Abdullahi Ganduje and Alli Modu Sherrif and Kashim Shettima respectively, the history of the 4th republic is replete with instances of political fatalities between godfathers and godsons. If Oshiomhole had learnt any lesson from this karmic cycle of Nigeria’s ugly history of godfather/godson relationships, he would have avoided travelling the futile road to godfatherism.

If Oshiomhole can be excused for failing to learn from the experiences of other godfathers before him, his failure to learn from his own personal Obaseki experience is an unpardonable attraction to fatalistic political self-immolation. If Oshiomhole learnt any lesson at all from his Obaseki experience he would not have embarked upon another futile journey to wrestle power from his estranged godson by personally propping up the candidacy of Osagie Ize-Iyamu, his friend turned foe and friend again as his preferred candidate this time around.

Oshiomhole does not need a soothsayer to tell him that Ize-Iyamu like Obaseki before him will rebel against him as soon as he settles down in Dennis Osadebe House in line with the rules engagements in Nigeria’s political jungle. Willing to be bitten twice without being shy even for once, Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole who until recently was the national chairman of the ruling APC was going to invest his powers, influence, time, energy and resources in another fruitless and loss grossing venture of godfatherism in his attempt to impose Ize-Iyamu on the people of Edo state once again. And what makes Oshiomhole’s case very pathetic in this instance is that by going back to his vomits of four years ago he was ready to eat his harsh, hateful and derogatory words spewed on the person of Ize Iyamu, against whom he supported Obaseki in the last election. Unfortunately for Oshiomhole, Obaseki, his estranged godson whom he imposed on Edo people in 2016 engineered his suspension from the APC, which eventually culminated into his sack from his position as the national party chairman. As was always the case, Oshiomhole fell from his Olympian heights as the national chairman of the ruling party, pulling the entire APC national leadership structure down with him.

The lessons Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole failed to learn from his Obaseki experience is that the most sustainably rewarding and profitable political investment that former governors can reap bountifully from is not the imposition of candidates by democratic subterfuge but their legacies of good governance and deepened democratic culture that empowers the people to determine their political leadership at every election cycle. Former governors will always be beneficiaries of their own legacies of physical infrastructure, security, social welfare and other forms of sustainable structures of democratic good governance they bequeath to the people. However, they will equally be victims of the effects of their misrule and the culture of democratic subterfuge they instituted while in power.  Today, Oshiomhole is a victim of the misrule and democratic subterfuge he perpetuated as the governor of Edo state.   

 The greatest favour Oshiomhole should have done for himself as the national chairman of the APC was not use his powers to influence the disqualification of Obaseki to pave the way for Ize-Iyamu his anointed candidate, but to facilitate a very free, fair and transparent gubernatorial primary elections, in line with the rule books of his party, which will empower members of its Edo state chapter to choose their preferred candidate without undue influence from either Abuja or Denis Osadebe House. With Obaseki’s enormous incumbency disadvantage arising from his failure to significantly improve the lot of the Edo people in the last four years, chances were that the APC members would have rejected his second term candidacy. However, Ize-Iyamu who is a stranger to the APC as a recent returnee from the PDP would not have stood a chance to get the party nomination also. This arrangement would have led to the emergence of a genuinely popular candidate who would not need a godfather to deploy the almighty federal might to rig him to power and whom the people of Edo state will hold fully accountable for their good governance.  

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