By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Last year, in a tribute I penned, titled: “Dynamite comes in small packages” to celebrate Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole’s 67th anniversary on April 4, I had posited that the truth of that statement, whose author was unidentified, was a matter for public contemplation.
But, without wasting time, and by a sheer extrapolation, I had quickly moved into the public space and reached a verdict by approximating artist, hobbyist and literati, Jonathan Magistad’s perceptive response to the epistemic interrogation in his famous tack: “Amen to that! We little people are little balls of power!”
The surmisal by glasses-wearing Magistad, without a doubt, continues to mirror the vast peculiarities of his global community of men and women of little statures but whose intellectual power is quite distinctive and defining.
They belong in the genre that Magistad exemplifies, in that what members lack in physical stature, they make up for with the magnitude of their brilliant interventions and their characteristic fecundity to boot. Appropriately described as little balls of power, Magistad eternally nails it.
As I put it last year and it remains an all time truth, “it is not Magistad’s stature or the attire that he puts on that defines his quintessential personality. What defines him is far more transcendental than the ridiculous, the ephemeral and the mundane. What defines him is his mesmeric intellectual firepower, which he deploys in its vast flourish to address and interrogate existential issues.”
In my writ-large voyage to locate some specific peculiarities, I established a nexus between Magistad and Comrade Oshiomhole as amplified by Oshiomhole’s response to the issue of his diminutive stature, which was implicitly a ricochet of Magistad’s “we little people are little balls of power”. Read Oshiomhole: “Some people say that I am short but fail to tell the world what I am short of.”
In a piece I wrote in June 2018 titled: “APC and Oshiomhole’s legerdemain” to capture the atmospherics and nuances of our encounter at the Ladi Kwali Hall of Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja, where he hosted a dinner in celebration of the posthumous national honours conferred by President Muhammadu Buhari on the winner of the annulled June 12 1993 presidential election, Chief M.K.O. Abiola and human rights lawyer, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, I had weighed in with the virtues that Oshiomhole was( and is) not short of, to wit: brilliance, eloquence, wits, logic, patriotism, commitment and conviction, among others.
Oshiomhole’s mojo remains the same in spite of obvious moves to clutter and diminish it by forces within the precincts of the nation’s cloak-and-dagger politics. His gravitas is unassailable. Fortunately for the Iyamho-born political leader, he continues to enjoy critical support that has consolidated his position as the captain of APC’s ship.
Indeed, Oshiomhole’s sense of personal knowledge and appreciation of the assessment or measurement of his individuality by the significant others discounts, to all intents and purposes, whatever their motives are. The force of his oration and intelligent ripostes continue to deflate their essences.
They had severely been put off by his expressiveness which they relate with as “talking too much” and thus “irritating”. Nevertheless, they cannot arrest and tame the restless spirit in constant engagements with and responses to existential socio-pllitical and economic questions.
The good news is that Oshiomhole had long overcome all the artificial limitations and emerged as the inimitable public space intellectual that he is. As I had written before, the comrade is an orator of the very utilitarian hue. He had, without a doubt, prepared himself ahead for engagements with issues that would later define his eon: labour unionism, governance, economy and politics. He is a member of the national institute (mni) and holder of the national honour of Commander of the Order of Niger (CON).
Burnished, from the outset, in the fiery furnace of labour unionism, Oshiomhole epitomises a mature and sharply-focused leadership, who in retrospect, navigated the turbulent trajectory of politics in Edo State where he was governor for eight years at the end of which he ensured that the APC remained the governing party in the State.
As national chair of the governing APC, a position he stepped into, unopposed, in June 2018 by the approbation and consensus of party leadership and membership, Oshiomhole has had his good and bad times in the saddle. He has achieved much more successes than his explicable failings.
His “failings” obviously stemmed from and are magnified by some interests in the party who were at the receiving end of his reforms that found anchorage in party discipline, obedience to rules and regulations as circumscribed in the Constitution of the party, and his audacious move to return the control of the party to members at the lowest rung of the ladder through the adoption of direct primary election for candidates’ selection in many of the states for the 2019 general election.
Oshiomhole had demonstrated that he was and (is still) wired like a dynamite! Yes, that dangerous innovative invention by the Swedish chemist and engineer, the late Alfred Nobel, which he patented in 1867 and which rapidly gained wide-scale use as a more powerful alternative to black powder. The Oshiomhole dynamite has been more potent than other elements either before or after him that pretended or pretend to be critical voices in national discourses and/or conversations.
Consider again my understanding of Oshiomhole in another write-up: “He had ripped through the Nigerian polity at different epochs in ramifications that were episodic: at the levels of his robust NLC presidency and governorship of Edo State. Therefore, Oshiomhole must be handled with respect even by those who may think they own him, as he cannot really be privatised. He is not a man given to political chicanery. He is however ready to go the whole hog with anybody on shared principles and trust. In public space engagements that require the deployment of facts, figures, logic and even adversarial stunts, in pushing through positions, Oshiomhole is not anyone’s run-of-the-mill opponent.
“As NLC president, he was the nemesis of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in the battle for appropriate pump prices of petroleum products and salary matters. As governor in Edo, he was a thorn in the flesh of the political godfathers. He successfully contended with their influence to enjoy a two-term governorship and went ahead to install a successor.”
Possible truth must be contemplated in the search for explanations to some political actions and reactions that defy understanding. Today, his successor that he installed at all cost is, curiously, baying for his blood and seeking to dismantle his political leadership. But for God, who ensured that Presudent Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmef Tinubu kept fidelity to the original plan to support him to guide APC through his reform voyage, the political animus against him by interests with disparate agenda would have, very recently, terminated his leadership.
Had they succeeded, what would have become of his mantras of party discipline and return of the party to the people by which he had justifiably truncated the governorship aspirations of two former ministers and stopped some imperial, now former governors from using their machinery in their states to foist their anointed successors on the people either through illegal indirect primary election or purpoetedly-manipulated processes? Ogun and Imo states remain two good examples. Both states aare now governed by APC governors in spite of shenanigans by powerful interests within the party.
Oshiomhole has continued to rambunctiously deploy his leadership mojo in the affairs of the APC post-2019 general elections, having particularly produced the president, APC-controlled National Assembly under the leadership decided through consultations and endorsements by the party.
The Comrade Chair has kept his eyes on the ball of driving the party and government architectures in synergy for a robust delivery of the electioneering promises that verge on taking Nigeria to the next level. Distractions are characteristic features in political settings where the battles for survival rage, sometimes subtly and some other times tangibly.
Although, such battles are always fluid, delicate and their consequences are a mixed bag of the good, the bad and the ugly, I can safely posit that Oshiomhole has the wits, the grits and, above all, the providence and the grace to overcome battles, especially political. Need I say more on the occasion of his anniversary? Better days are ahead to paint a lucid and exhaustive picture of his life and times, including the battles, his triumphs and defeats.
Meanwhile, this is wishing the Comrade Chair a happy 68th birthday (Saturday, April 4) amid the quietness trailing the recent botched conspiracy to upend his chairmanship and the rising ballyhoo spreading globally occasioned by the lingering monstrosity of the novel COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of the global mood, show gratitude to God for the gift of life and clink good wine glasses on your Special day, Sir!
*Ojeifo contributed this piece from Abuja via email@example.com