“Those whose palm-kernels were cracked for them by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble”
This proverb from Chinua Achebe’s famous book, ‘Things fall apart’, reminds us that a man who has found success and overcome obstacles with the help of divine intervention should display humility. The ancient wisdom is lost on the present-day politicians in Nigeria who are now playing God, prancing the landscape like colossuses. They are breaking things, causing damage and doing incalculable damage to the nation’s hard-earned democracy.
For such men, Nigeria’s democracy is not working and progressing to the throes death. Democracy ought to be work in progress but not progressing error. It has not advanced in Nigeria for the simple reason that we have no democrats to practice it. To make democracy you have to first have democrats.
The last military head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar, hurriedly bequeathed a harried civil rule and foisted on the country the unitary 1999 constitution, which creates tyrants in the president and governors. The presidents and the over 100 governors produced under the 1999 Constitution have all been tyrannical, no thanks to the unitary constitution. Adams Oshiomhole is typical, though not necessarily the worst, going by his records as Edo State governor for 8 years and now the chairman of the ruling party (All Progressives Congress (APC).
Adams Oshiomhole also typifies the tragedy our so-called democracy has become. With the ousting of internal party democracy by the 1999 Constitution, the power to select party candidates to the electoral umpire, INEC, is left with the National Working Committee of the so-called mushrooming political parties, completely removing the people from the equation. This arrangement provides the fertile ground for the emergence of elite conspiracy against the people, making accountability too far-fetched, Now, it is outright impossible.
First, let us meet the champion. Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole was born on 4th April 1952 at Iyamho, near Auchi in Edo State. He was born Muslim but was led to Christianity by his late wife Clara who died of cancer aged 54. He is Catholic and his Christian name is Eric. After his secondary education, he obtained a job with the Arewa Textiles Company, where he was elected union secretary. He became a full-time trade union organizer in 1975.
He then studied at Ruskin College, Oxford in the United Kingdom where he majored in economics and industrial relations. The certificate he obtained from Oxford is undisclosed. Probably it was one of those short executive courses. He also attended the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru. In May 2015, he married a young model called Lara Fortes.
In 1982, Adams Oshiomhole was appointed General Secretary of the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, a union with over 75,000 workers.
After democracy was restored in 1999, he became president of the Nigerian Labour Congress and was prominent as the leader of a campaign of industrial action against high oil prices in Nigeria. Early in the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, he negotiated a 25% wage increase for public sector workers. In return, he publicly supported Obasanjo and endorsed his candidacy when he was re-elected in 2003 despite the numerous anti-democratic policies of Obasanjo.
In April 2007, Adams Oshiomhole ran for Governor of Edo State under the Action Congress Party, with which his Labour Party had entered a strategic alliance. Oserheimen Osunbor of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was declared the winner. However, the AC contested the election on the basis of various irregularities. On 20 March 2008, an Edo State election tribunal nullified the election of Oserheimen Osunbor and declared Oshiomhole the winner. On 11th November 2008, a federal Appeal Court sitting in Benin City upheld the ruling of the State’s elections petitions tribunal.
In 2012, he was elected to a second term, winning the election. He ended his tenure on 12 November 2016.
By every stretch of the imagination, Oshiomhole should have what one could consider excellent democratic credentials. But is he a democrat? Let us review some of his activities to place him where he truly belongs.
When he was the governor of Edo State he inspired impeachment of the speaker, Victor Edodor, by a minority of Edo State House of Assembly. On 23 June 2018, Adams Oshiomhole emerged as the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nigeria following a voice vote by delegates at the party National convention.
As chairman of APC, he focused on the illegal removal of the leadership of the Nigerian Senate. Removal Senators Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu as senate president and deputy became such an obsession that it paralysed both the national assembly and country. As far as Oshiomhole was concerned, governance can wait. The duo served out their tenure despite his desperation and shenanigans.
His dictatorship continued without bounds and affected APC’s fortunes in the last General Election, where the party lost many States. It was such that the party could not field valid candidates in Zamfara and Rivers States governorship elections due to such wanton actions.
On November 12, 2019, Oshiomhole was suspended from APC after 18 local government chairmen of the party in his native state of Edo passed a vote of no confidence on him. He was accused of trying to disintegrate the party in Edo State. But a faction of the party loyal to him declared his suspension null and void.
Now, his pastime now is the instigation of disquiet in Edo State and unsettling his protégé Governor Godwin Obaseki. The relationship of the two went awry due to the same overbearing nature of Oshiomhole who would want to appoint his candidates to the position of choice regardless of the feelings and programmes of the incumbent governor. Federal appointments accruing to Edo State are also said to be hijacked and filled by him without any inputs from the governor. Oshiomhole insists on running the 3rd term by proxy.
The APC just concluded the screening of aspirants and disqualified the incumbent governor on account of irregularities in the spelling of his name in his NYSC discharge certificate. He was cleared by the same party with the same credentials 4 years ago but those credentials are not irregular.
Godfatherism is at play and Edo State is now an estate of Adams Oshiomhole. Of course, there is precedence in the humiliation of Ambode then governor of Lagos by the lord of Bouillon. Yet, Obaseki can win without APC which will be hoping on the rigging machinery if he borrows a leaf from the experiences and responses of men like Nweson Nwike in Rivers governorship election, Seriake Dickson in Bayelsa governorship election, Ifeanyi Ubah in Anambra South senatorial election, and some others who won despite the wishes of the powers that be.
Oshiomhole and these men are not alone in crippling Nigeria’s democracy. There are several others including senior advocates of Nigeria who have encouraged the president to bypass the constitution and run Nigeria like a military dictatorship.
What is even most troubling is that the majority of these people were not part of the fight for the enthronement of the current democratic dispensation, which they are destroying. Let us not forget, some Nigerians were martyred for our democracy.
• Dr. Law Mefor is an Abuja based Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist; Tel.: +234-905 642 4375; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org