Hurray, Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole turns 71 today! He deserves pomp on this occasion. Family members, friends and political associates should, understandably, roll out the drums in celebration of a leader who continues to bestride the political landscape of Edo like a colossus, despite the shenanigans by some elements in the ecosystem of the state, whose chimera about Oshiomhole’s political dénouement has just been shattered or, if you like, upended by his emphatic victory in the February 25 National Assembly election.
That Oshiomhole is, today, senator-elect for Edo North is a testament of his tenacity of spirit and audacity to take up the gauntlet when the political conditions summoned him to act in accordance. In his characteristic volcanic movement, “Oshioquake”, he ripped through the entire Edo North, dismissing all oppositions, including the Obidient movement that morphed into the Labour Party, to clinch the Edo North Senate seat. The outcome of the poll was a validation of the cult following that Oshiomhole enjoys in the zone. It was also a mark of his approbation that finds emblematic anchorage in the quality of development and infrastructure offerings to the zone while in the saddle as governor.
Oshiomhole is not your run-off-the-mill politician. His capacity to captivate and titillate his people, followers and audiences, in spur-of-the-moment oratorical engagements and deliveries, is legendary. He aptly fits into the eternal postulation by Archimedes of Syracuse in Sicily, to wit: “Give me a place to stand, and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.” “Oshiobaba”, whether as a moniker or a slogan, is not only a genuine expression that packs with it so much gravitas, but also a mantra that sends a feeling of veritable bugaboo to the other camps.
For those who may wish to deconstruct Oshiomhole to understand how and why he is so wired, well, they may have to interrogate his diminutive stature and possibly relate it with the essential myth that short people are a load of palaver. Like Magistad once said: “we little people are little balls of power.” Oshiomhole had once referred to his characterization when he said: “Some people say that I am short but fail to tell the world what I am short of.”
In a piece I wrote in June 2018 entitled: “APC and Oshiomhole’s legerdemain” to capture the atmospherics and nuances of our encounter at the Ladi Kwali Hall of Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja, where he hosted a dinner in celebration of the posthumous national honours conferred by President Muhammadu Buhari on the winner of the annulled June 12 1993 presidential election, Chief M.K.O. Abiola and human rights lawyer, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, I had weighed in with the virtues that Oshiomhole was (and is) not short of, namely: brilliance, eloquence, wits, logic, patriotism, commitment and conviction, among others.
Indeed, I had also contended that Oshiomhole’s mojo remained the same in spite of obvious moves by forces within the precincts of the nation’s cloak-and-dagger politics, to clutter and diminish it. It remains so. His gravitas is unassailable. Oshiomhole’s sense of personal knowledge and appreciation of the assessment or measurement of his individuality by the significant others continue to discount, to all intents and purposes, whatever their motives are. The force of his oration and intelligent ripostes continue to deflate their essences.
They had always severely been put off by his expressiveness, which they related with and still do, as “talking too much” and thus “irritable”. Nevertheless, they cannot arrest and tame the restless spirit of the Comrade in constant engagements with and responses to existential socio-political and economic questions. As I said and it bears repeating: Oshiomhole had long overcome all the artificial limitations and emerged as the inimitable public space intellectual that he is. The all-time comrade is an orator of the very utilitarian hue. He had, without a doubt, prepared himself ahead for engagements with issues that would later define his aeon: labour unionism, governance, economy, and politics. He is a member of the National Institute (mni) and holder of the national honour of Commander of the Order of Niger (CON).
Burnished, from the outset, in the fiery furnace of labour unionism, Oshiomhole epitomizes a leadership that inspires and galvanizes to action, in manners that are not quixotic, but somewhat quotidian, such that people are wont to say that Oshiomhole has come again with his activism. In retrospect, the Comrade navigated the turbulent trajectory of politics in Edo State where he was governor for eight years at the end of which he ensured that the APC remained the governing party in the State, until his pick as a successor decided to spearhead an internal revolt against his benefactor.
While as national chair of the governing APC, a position he stepped into, unopposed, in June 2018 by the approbation and consensus of party leadership and membership, Oshiomhole had his good and bad times in the saddle. His “failings” obviously stemmed from and were magnified by some interests in the party who were at the receiving end of his reforms that found anchorage in party discipline, obedience to rules and regulations as circumscribed in the Constitution of the party, and his audacious move to return the control of the party to members at the lowest rung of the ladder through the adoption of direct primary election for candidates’ selection in many of the states for the 2019 general election.
Oshiomhole had then demonstrated that he was and (is still) wired like a dynamite! The Oshiomhole dynamite has been more potent than other elements either before or after him that pretended or pretend to be critical voices in national discourses and/or conversations. Consider again my understanding of Oshiomhole in another write-up: “He had ripped through the Nigerian polity at different epochs in ramifications that were episodic: at the levels of his robust NLC presidency and governorship of Edo State. Therefore, Oshiomhole must be handled with respect even by those who may think they own him, as he cannot really be privatised. He is not a man given to political chicanery. He is, however, ready to go the whole hog with anybody on shared principles and trust. In public space engagements that require the deployment of facts, figures, logic, and even adversarial stunts, in pushing through positions, Oshiomhole is not anyone’s run-of-the-mill opponent. As NLC president, he was the nemesis of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in the battle for appropriate pump prices of petroleum products and salary matters. As governor in Edo, he was a thorn in the flesh of the political godfathers. He successfully contended with their influence to enjoy a two-term governorship and went ahead to install a successor.”
Oshiomhole, without a doubt, left his imprimaturs in office as the national chair of the APC. He was rambunctious in 2019 in the electioneering that secured a second term for President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC-controlled National Assembly, thus forestalling a repeat ofBukola Saraki scenario in 2015. The Comrade Chair had actually kept his eyes on the ball of driving the party and government architectures in synergy for a robust delivery of the electioneering promises that verged on taking Nigeria to the next level, but for his sudden ouster.
Since stepping down as national chair of the APC, Oshiomhole has been involved in the political re-engineering in Edo State. It is a huge battle to reclaim Edo State for the APC after Governor Godwin Obaseki’s disruptive politics that has become characteristic even in his new party-the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Although, such battles are always fluid, delicate and their consequences are a mixed bag of the good, the bad and the ugly, I can safely posit that Oshiomhole has the wits, the grits and, above all, the providence and the grace to overcome battles, especially political. Sampler: his victory in the Senatorial election is a validation of his acceptance and popularity. He has more to offer in the next four years. Need I say more on the occasion of his natal day? This is wishing the inimitable “Comrade Senator-elect” a happy celebration. May the good Lord bless both the years in your life and the life in your years.
▪︎Ojeifo contributed this piece from Abuja via firstname.lastname@example.org