The crumbling politics of Oshiomhole
By John Ainofenokhai
After five years in the saddle, Governor Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole's romance with the people of Edo State may be heading for the rocks. A large number of members of his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the State have turned their back on the diminutive Comrade Governor, and thrown their lot with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It is of considerable interest that those who have waved good-bye to the Comrade Governor are not ordinary foot soldiers. Rather, they belong to the strategic political elite, including some of the personalities under whom Oshiomhole served his political apprenticeship.
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who leads the pack of defectors from the APC is an evangelical and political stronghold. Apart from heading a thriving Church, the Pastor was among former Governor Lucky Igbinedion's pioneering kitchen cabinet. Ize-Iyamu also served as Secretary to the State Government (SSG) under Igbinedion. During Oshiomhole's period of wandering in the political wilderness, when he was gripped by desperation to find a safe political haven, it was Ize-Iyamu, among others, who smoothened the path for him to procure the governorship candidacy of the defunct Action Congress (AC) in 2007.
Also in Pastor Ize-Iyamu's departing train are: Chief Tony Omoaghe, former State Chairman of the PDP in Edo State (who also chaired the ACN); Chief Amos Osunbor, a former Senatorial leader in Edo South, and Alhaji Usman Shagadi who was the Deputy Chairman of the party and leader of the party in Governor Oshiomhole's own Senatorial District. Others are Rt. Hon. Bright Omokhodion, a former Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Hon. West Idahosa, a three-time member of the House of Representatives and, at least, four serving members of the Edo State House of Assembly.
The current exodus from the APC followed the defection, in April 2014, by other prominent members of the party, including Senator Ehigie Uzamere and his supporters, who felt that they could no longer live with Oshiomhole's politics of deceit. Political watchers who earlier had the vague impression that the APC house was on fire, are sure today that the inferno is now unstoppable. You may deceive the people for some time, but you cannot deceive them forever.
The defectors have, in common, accused Oshiomhole of being dictatorial and the APC as a party incapable of upholding internal democracy. Thanks to Oshiomhole's demagoguery, which he inherited from his long years as a trade unionist and as President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC). That was when he acquired what has turned out to be dirty and manipulative politics, characterised mainly by the habit of procuring political loyalty at any cost; in cash, inducement, threats, blackmail, intimidation or a combination of all.
It was, indeed, common knowledge that as NLC President, Oshiomhole's tenure was marked by opportunistic series of labour unrest and dubious compromises, without any residue of moral conscience. He was, and remains crafty, duplicitous and pretentious. More dangerously, Oshiomhole is a sweet talker capable of swaying any man, no matter how wise.
This was the character unleashed on the vulnerable people of Edo State by a Court of Appeal judgement of 11th November, 2008, which overturned the governorship election of Professor Oserheimen Osunbor. Through a combination of inducement and populist propaganda, Oshiomhole mesmerized and cajoled the people of Edo State and implanted a Government that has been raping the citizens and their resources with reckless abandon. Naturally, a number of the political elite in the State fell prey to Oshiomhole's scams and propaganda, and were persuaded to join his APC Government.
Many other citizens of Edo State could not differentiate between his propaganda and the reality on ground, especially in terms of the Government's acclaimed achievements. Now, the people are beginning to see through the crafty pretentions and dishonesty of Oshiomhole. Some of the Governor's so-called achievements were wrapped in grandiose and overstated projects.
The ancient city of Benin, for example, has had important challenges of infrastructure decay since it became a state capital in 1963. Among them were the problems of drainage, erosion, flooding and the limitless land area, which seemed to demand greater opening up, even as new roads and highways were constructed. The absence of a proper drainage and sewage system also meant that each time it rained, Benin was covered in ravaging floods and, at times, the city looked like a location by the Atlantic Ocean.
From the welter of problems, Oshiomhole, out of vanity, picked on a seven-kilometer stretch of the Airport Road to reconstruct. Over N7 billion has been spent on this project which remains an uncompleted money guzzler, hawked from one contractor to another, at the Governor's whim and caprices. While more deserving settlements, with significant population such as Evuotubu, Ugbiyiko and Upper Sakponba, have been neglected, Oshiomhole has shown concern mainly for the city centre. Sadly, Oshiomhole's APC Government has done virtually nothing for other parts of Edo State.
Beyond infrastructure, Oshiomhole's personality and psychology are a major disaster in governance. As a man who picked his education along the road and mostly in an eclectic manner, Oshiomhole presents an all-knowing facade. He claims to know everything and would take no lessons from any quarters or individuals. The result is a highâ€'pitched level of arrogance such that there is now no difference between Oshiomhole's will and the mind of Government.
Not only has Oshiomhole privatized Government in Edo State, this man who claims to fight against godfatherism in politics has become the 'God', the 'Father' and the Holy Spirit of the ruling APC in Edo State. That was why he dictated the last ward, local government and state congresses of the party, rather than conduct normal elections, guided by rules and regulations.
There is even a greater irony. One of those who has now abandoned Oshiomhole's APC, Chief Frank Erewele, made his name as one of the prominent leaders of the so-called Grace Group, a cluster of politicians dedicated to fighting godfatherism, which was seen at the time as the main evil of politics in Edo State. 'No man is God', was the dictum of the Grace Group. Today, the obvious target of their revulsion is Oshiomhole who has configured himself as the new deity of Edo politics.
Oshiomhole's APC in Edo State has obviously lost a lot of political blood. What is happening represents a seismic shift in Edo politics. The Comrade will continue to pretend that it is of no significance; he may be examining a number of options, which include seeking a haven in the Senate or flexing his political muscle to get the nod for a national assignment in Abuja. He knows very well the hazards involved, as neither of the options is easy.
However, as Oshiomhole plots his next move, he will see devastation, not solidarity; he will be faced with more supporters departing and none arriving. Already, he must be feeling lonely, as the masses of Edo people are deserting him and the APC in droves. Someone quipped the other day that Oshiomhole may already be considering the final option of defecting to the PDP himself. Whichever way it plays out in the end, the political environment in Edo State has changed dramatically, and it is the PDP that is now dancing.
Ainofenokhai contributed this piece from Abuja.