In the affairs of men, history has a way of repeating itself in ways indicative of a divinely ordained karmic cycle of events that should easily serve as a proper guide in the activities of humankind. Sadly, if history has taught anything consistently, it is that the humankind hardly ever learns anything from the repetitive cycle of events in their own world. Blinded by the pettiness of bile, selfishness and greed for primitive acquisition, many great men have fallen from Olympian heights with such a great thud that left their empires, nations or city states in ruinous devastation.
The current happenings in Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party has revealed its recently sacked national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, as one of the many great men that history will record as having failed to learn from the past. Rising from little beginnings as an artisan and textile worker to achieve great things in life, Oshiomhole reached the pinnacle of his lifelong career of trade unionism when he emerged the president of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in 1999. As democracy almost always births capitalism, Oshiomhole’s ascendancy to the leadership of Nigeria’s largest and most powerful trade union organisation coincided with Nigeria’s transition from military to civil democratic rule in 1999, with accompanying shift from its mixed economy system to a market-driven economy.
Buoyed by the new atmosphere of political freedom in the new democratic Nigeria, Comrade Oshiomhole emerged a pseudo opposition figure to the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration for its rapid economic reforms towards entrepreneurial capitalism without adequate social safeguards for Nigeria’s rural poor and urban working class people. Endowed with the gift of oratory, Oshiomhole’s eloquent elucidation of the welfare and general interests of Nigerian workers and his fearless confrontations with government over some of its pro-business, anti-people policies endeared him to many Nigerians. His fame as an uncompromising champion of the masses was easily converted to huge political capital when he successfully ran for and won the governorship of his home state of Edo in 2008.
Comrade Oshiomhole, an outsider to the ruling political establishment of Edo State, rose to political prominence through a combination of the grace of divine providence and the will of Edo people to emerge governor without the help of a godfather. Rather than sustain and deepen the progressive democratic culture among the Edo people that allowed for an outsider to the political establishment, whose only helper was the Almighty God the Father, to be elected governor, Adams Aliu Oshiomhole decided to establish his own political hegemony over Edo State with him as the all-powerful godfather.
Upon the completion of his second term as governor in 2016, Oshiomhole made it very clear that he, and not the people of Edo State, would decide who their next governor would be. And so it happened that Oshiomhole plucked Godwin Obaseki from political oblivion, anointed him as his chosen successor, foisted him on his APC party and bulldozed his way into Dennis Osadebey House by every means of democratic subterfuge possible, practically imposing him as governor of Edo State. By that mafia-like political brinkmanship of anointing and imposing his preferred candidate as his successor, Oshiomhole had hoped to retire into a life of a former governor godfather to whom Obaseki, his successor, must pay obeisance as a grateful godson.
However, the expected was not to be. Oshiomhole’s mafia-like political brinkmanship of anointing and imposing his preferred successor on the people of Edo followed a familiar pattern since 2007 by the first set of outgoing governors elected in 1999 in their various states, just as Obeseki’s rebellion against him had almost always been the certain end result of godfather-godson arrangements.
Since 1999, Nigeria’s democratic political leadership recruitment process has steadily degenerated into a criminal franchise of power grab for self-service. With patronage from the public treasury as the only source of reward for partisan political participation, in the absence of good governance for the generality of the Nigerian people, outgoing governors have devised a means of holding on to power through anointed proxies in order for them and their cronies to continue benefitting from the spoils of their political conquest through state patronage. Interestingly, in the political underworld of Nigeria’s kleptocratic rulers, where debauchery, greed, selfishness and treachery reign supreme, there is no honour among this set of thieves and survival is only for the fittest. Consequently, godsons with the power of the purse easily rebel against godfathers and even go the extra mile to totally destroy them politically while also obliterating every space of their spheres of influence.
From Abia to Enugu, Lagos to Kano and Borno states, the stories of Orji Uzor Kalu and Theodore Orji, Chimaroke Nnamani and Sullivan Chime, Bola Tinubu and Raji Fashola, Bola Tinubu and Akinwumi Ambode, Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso and Umar Abdullahi Ganduje, and Alli Modu Sherrif and Kashim Shettima, respectively, the history of the Fouth Republic is replete with instances of political fatalities between godfathers and godsons. If Oshiomhole had learnt any lesson from this karmic cycle of Nigeria’s ugly godfather-godson relationships, he would have avoided travelling the futile road to godfatherism.
If Oshiomhole can be excused for failing to learn from the experiences of other godfathers before him, his failure to learn from his own personal Obaseki experience is unpardonable attraction to fatalistic political self-immolation. If Oshiomhole learnt any lesson at all from his Obaseki experience, he would not have embarked on another futile journey to wrest power from his estranged godson by personally propping up the candidacy of Osagie Ize-Iyamu, his friend turned foe and friend again as his preferred candidate this time around.
Oshiomhole does not need a soothsayer to tell him that Ize-Iyamu, like Obaseki before him, will rebel against him as soon as he settles down in Dennis Osadebey House, in line with the rules of Nigeria’s political jungle. Willing to be bitten twice, Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole, who until recently was the national chairman of the ruling APC, was going to invest his powers, influence, time, energy and resources in another fruitless, loss-grossing venture of godfatherism in his attempt to impose Ize-Iyamu on the people of Edo State. And what makes Oshiomhole’s case very pathetic in this instance is that, by going back to his vomit of four years ago, he was going to eat his harsh, hateful and derogatory words spewed on the person of Ize-Iyamu, against whom he supported Obaseki in the last election. Unfortunately, for Oshiomhole, Obaseki, his estranged godson whom he imposed on Edo people in 2016, engineered his suspension from the APC, which eventually culminated in his sack from his position as the party’s national chairman. Oshiomhole fell from his Olympian heights as the national chairman of the ruling party, pulling the APC national leadership structure down with him.
The main lesson Oshiomhole failed to learn from his Obaseki experience is that the most sustainably rewarding and profitable political investment that former governors can reap bountifully from is not the imposition of candidates by democratic subterfuge but their legacies of good governance and deepened democratic culture that empowers the people to determine their political leadership at every election cycle. The greatest favour Oshiomhole should have done for himself as the national chairman of the APC was not use his powers to influence the disqualification of Obaseki but to arrange for a very free, fair and transparent gubernatorial primary election that would empower members of the Edo State chapter of the party to choose their preferred candidate with undue influence from Abuja. With Obaseki’s enormous incumbency disadvantage arising from his failure to significantly improve the lot of the Edo people in the last four years, chances were that the APC members would have rejected his second term candidacy. However, Ize-Iyamu, who is a stranger to the APC as a recent returnee from the PDP, would not have stood a chance to get the party’s nomination. This arrangement would have led to the emergence of a genuinely popular candidate who would not need federal might to rig him to power.