Analysis: Oshiomhole and the Crisis of Public Morality


By Sunny Awhefeada

The greatest tragedy to befall Nigeria is the lack of public morality that has become the hallmark of those who aspire to leadership.

The ongoing political brouhaha in Edo State with Adams Oshiomhole as the prima donna manifests the apparent absence of public morality in Nigeria’s national life. When critically evaluated, the ongoing show of shame embarked upon by Oshiomhole is worse that the allegations of graft and heist for which the henchmen of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) boss have been flayed for weeks now.

At the very core of corruption is the lack of propriety which is an index of the absence of morality. Oshiomhole has become the crass manifestation of the etymology of the word “politician” which inheres in lies, deceit and dishonesty.

For Oshiomhole to turn around to adopt the man he called a thief a few years ago as the best person to be governor of Edo State now in 2020 is incomprehensible.

There was no derogatory adjective that Oshiomhole did not use to debase Osagie Ize-Iyamu in 2016! Today, the same Oshiomhole reframes the narrative by re-presenting Ize-Iyamu as the messiah Edo people need. To Oshiomhole, this is all politics. But in truth, it is political mountebankery!
The combined genius of Shakespeare and Soyinka could not have contrived the kind of absurdist drama going on in Edo State.

The fall or shame for the former Comrade, former Governor, former party Chairman is inconceivable.

Oshiomhole invaded public consciousness at the dawn of the present millennium as the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). Not a few hailed his emergence as timeous to combat the festering civilian dictatorship of Kabiyesi Olusegun Obasanjo the prisoner turned president that ruled Nigeria then. Oshiomhole was diminutive, but very obtrusive.

He had the gift of the garb and he swayed the masses. The nefarious policies and maladministration that typified the Obasanjo era gave Oshiomhole ample opportunity to become popular as he donned the garb of the People’s General. His name was on the lips of every Nigerian; young and old, male and female, literate and illiterate. Obasanjo was in perpetual pains not knowing what to do to him. Had Oshiomhole attempted to run for the presidency against Obasanjo in 2003, he would have won, but for the rigging machinery at the disposal of the latter.

After his memorable tenure as NLC President, he ran for the governorship of Edo State and recorded phenomenal victory. Despite, the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) attempt to steal his victory, the courts affirmed him as the duly elected governor of Edo State and the people erupted in joy. Compared to other governors of his time, Oshiomhole ran Edo State well. He not only upgraded the state’s infrastructural profile, he turned around a lot of things including retiring the state’s many political godfathers from active politics. As the Comrade-Governor, he identified with the hoi-polloi and tenaciously worked for their good.

He ruled Edo State to laudable acclaim for two terms of eight years. His next port of call was as Chairman of the nation’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It was as Chairman of the APC that the disaster Oshiomhole turned out to be manifested. His temperament as a Stone Age despot was put on display. What followed was one disaster after another for the APC.

From Zamfara to Rivers, the APC suffered the kind of rupture that shook the party to its foundation. Party stalwarts, the real denizens of cloak and dagger politics, fought back to reclaim their party. Truculent Oshiomhole was forced to eat the humble pie and sued for peace. Many political commentators compared the tenure of Oshiomhole as Chairman of the APC with those of two venerable gentlemen, Chiefs Bisi Akande and John Odigie-Oyegun, and reached the conclusion that he destroyed the dainty legacy they built and took the party to the gutters.

Oshiomhole declared that any thief who joined the APC would be forgiven of his transgression and also derided “those who could not bear the pain of rigging”.

The final fall of Oshiomhole was woven around the sordid contradictions of what he embodied. He who fought godfathers to a standstill turned around to install himself as a de facto godfather. He knelt on the incumbent governor’s neck to the extent that the former couldn’t breathe. The Governor had to fight back in order not to die of political asphyxiation. What followed was a series of political roforofo which ended in a kung fu that left Oshiomhole badly bruised. He not only got expelled by his Ward, the court upheld the expulsion and President Muhammadu Buhari who had tolerated him all this while kicked him in the mouth and had him fired. Thus began a grace to grass narrative for Oshiomhole.

Many had thought that he would learn ennobling lessons from his crash, but not Oshiomhole. After a moment of hibernation, he returned to Edo State at night to join Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s campaign train. When he should have retreated to a farm in Iyamo and make restitution, he is gamboling all over Edo State. He recanted all the terrible things he said about Ize-Iyamu less than four years ago. The man he called a thief with substantiation has became a saint on joining the APC.

Oshiomhole is now going about town making speeches, singing, dancing and kneeling down to beg that Edo people should vote for Ize-Iyamu, the same man he called a thief yesterday. This is not politics. It is moral bankruptcy that is worse than armed robbery and looting!

It is left for the people of Edo State to evaluate the situation and make the right judgment. Oshiomhole is insulting their intelligence and should they let him get away with it, then they would be in for catastrophe. The state should be gripped by moral panic as to what the future holds for them with the likes of Oshiomhole who are bent to hold down Nigeria in monistic depravity.

Worse still is the need to interrogate the intention of “progressives” and “comrades” now and in future. When Oshiomhole ran the NLC wearing his trademark khaki, he was hailed as the champion of the people’s cause. But the same cannot be said of him today. It is case of The Beautyful Ones are not yet Born as the Ghanaian novelist, Ayi Kwei Armah once proclaimed. So, what happened? What went wrong? Did Nigerians not interrogate him and his essence then? Why didn’t they see through him that he was not a comrade, but a “come-raid”? Have Nigerians learnt anything from the Oshiomhole tragedy? If another Oshiomhole were to mount the soapbox tomorrow can they ask him if he is a true comrade or a “come-raid”? Oshiomhole has created a credibility problem for the comrade and progressive cadre. Henceforth, Nigerians would be wary of khaki wearing messiahs. But we must remember that not all comrades derailed and sold out.

We should not forget Michael Imoudu, Wahab Goodluck, Tai Soalrin, Hassan Sumonu and others who truly identified with the Nigerian dream. Our people need education, the right kind of political education that will enable them to recognize future Oshiomholes when they come and haul stones at them. We have stumbled on too many occasions.

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