Monday Column by Emmanuel Yawe
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Oshiomhole was a fire spitting labour leader when I first knew him in the early 80s in Kaduna. We in the media all called him Comrade and made sure whatever he said made news. So popular was he among journalists that when he came back from a course from one of those countries in Eastern Europe and bought for himself a brand new Mercedes 200, there was a serious debate whether he was still a comrade.
But the man believed he was and managed to convince his comrades in the trade union movement that he was the man to trust. He was able to climb the ladder in the trade union and get to the very top as the President of Nigerian Labour Congress NLC. From there, he took a shot at politics.
As governor of Edo State, Oshiomhole preferred to be called the ‘comrade governor’ and continued to use the antics and tactics that saw him rise to the top in trade unionism. He did not only build roads in Benin, he erected big boards on such roads telling whoever cared to read that the money used in building the roads used to go to the godfathers of past leaders of the state. As far as road construction is concerned, he did well. During his first term, he took members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors round Benin City and the northern part of the state where he hails from. We could see the commendable work he was doing in opening up the rural arrears for the rural folks who were locked up in that rugged and rustic terrain.
He must have impressed the voters in the state who gave him a second chance to rule the state for a straight eight years. The race for who will take over as the governor from him was keen and intense. But in the end, the man who was his deputy governor for eight years , Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki prevailed and clinched the prized office. Since then, Edo which used to hold the record as the only South/South state to be in the APC fold and was handsomely rewarded with the office of National Chairman suddenly turned itself into a hubbub of political rascality. The comrade governor himself was promoted to the exalted office of National Chairman, easing out the more urbane and gentlemanly Chief John Oyegun, himself a former governor of the state.
What ought to have been a blessing to Oshiomhole and Edo state has finally turned everything upside down. A violent political explosion has taken place in Edo leading to a tsunami that has refused to be tamed. It pitched the former comrade governor , Adams Oshiomhole against his former comrade and successor Godwin Obaseki. At stake is the control of the soul of the party in the state and race for the second term for Obaseki. At the end of a stormy party meeting in Benin late last year, the state secretary of the party Lawrence Okah announced the suspension of Oshiomhole from the APC. He said the suspension was based on the fact that 18 Local Government chairmen of the party across the state had passed a vote of no confidence against the National Chairman.
The problems of Oshiomhole however go far beyond the borders of Edo. The National Vice Chairman of the party from the North West Barr Inuwa Abdulkadir has been up in arms against the administrative style of his National Chairman, leading to his suspension from the office. In fact by the time a Federal High Court in Jabi Abuja presided over by Danlami Sanchi announced that Oshiomhole was suspended from office as National Chairman, the nakedness of the party was thrown open for all to see. If as the judge ruled, Oshiomhole was barred from going into his office, there was to be a big vacuum in the secretariat. Controversy still surrounds who is the National Secretary of the party. Efforts to install Architect Bulama as National Secretary are sill being resisted. To assist the National Chairman, the APC has two Deputy National Chairmen: one for the South and the other for the North. However, both offices are vacant. While Deputy national Chairman South, Otunba Niyi Adebayo has become a Minister, appointed by President Buhari, the Deputy for the North Senator Lawali Shuaibu is on an indefinite suspension. The National Auditor, George Moghale has been appointed Managing Director National Maritime Waterways.
Additionally, Governors elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressive Congress are planning to ambush the National Chairman Oshiomhole. The party has scheduled a National Executive Committee NEC meeting on the March 17 where President Buhari regarded as the father of the party is expected to calm down nerves. But ahead of the meeting the governors operating under the Progressive Governors Forum PGF have written a memo widely distributed to journalists in which they argued that all the suspended men must be recalled. They contend that the suspensions were arbitrary and that the APC must be rule- based. The governors grouse with Oshiomhole has been simmering since the party lost some states like Zamfara, Adamawa, Oyo etc to the PDP in the last election.
The embattled Chairman is hoping to find some succor in the pronouncements of a Federal High Court in Kano which has set aside the ruling of FCT High Court suspending him from office. There are still contending arguments by legal experts whether the court in Kano has the powers to invalidate a decision taken by a court of coordinate jurisdiction.
Definitely we are yet to hear the last word on the on going crisis. For the Comrade, these are not the best of times.