with Oke Epia
Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, Governor of Edo State is a star of some sorts. He shone so bright in the labour movement leaving impressions in the minds of many as a populist proletariat, mass mobiliser and an unbent fighter for the common cause. Put simply, Comrade Oshiomhole rode high on the skies of fame during his days as president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). But he also pranced prettily on plains littered with filthy lucre as whispers told of sizzling romance between him and a section of the bourgeois class he often confronted. By becoming governor, he switched flanks to join those he loved to lock horns with during the day but hated to be seen with at night. Although he has sustained his khaki-wearing deceitful facade, perceptible minds are not unmindful of his tendentious cravings for the luxuries of life which are now at his beck and call as Lord of the Edo State manor. His recent society wedding to a foreign damsel of salacious beauty is a testimony to the comrade’s taste for the best things of life. But I digress.
The comrade governor is still a star. A shooting star who has lately deployed his otherwise exciting energies, compelling sense of mobilisation, and fleeting eloquence to betray the admiration with which much of the public hitherto held him. He has chosen to be the enfant terrible, the ghost hunter of the ancien regime who is self-ordained to unravel the gargantuan rot of our immediate past. He shoots from the hip without contemplative focus often ending in hype and a concomitant nose dive of his public rating. But he appears to care less. It would have been just fine if it ends with him and his targets. No. Adam’s antics are gnawing at the nation’s garment and peeling off its star fabrics in the loom of international politics. Nigeria’s global champions are being de-robed without trial.
I need to quickly make a caveat here. I do not and will never subscribe to the sacred cow doctrine in the much vaunted fight against corruption by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. Those who put their hands in the cookie jar should be made to face the heat of the crucibles.
But this heat must be generated through due process and the rule of law and in a transparent manner. Certainly not the mob-driven and arm-twisting promptings being employed by the Edo State Governor who once infamously told a struggling widow to ‘go home and die’ and later shamelessly pulled a public relations stunt from that indecorous conduct. I also need to say very clearly that I do not hold brief for any of the accused as they are well capable to defend themselves against allegations of graft and malfeasance in office. Oshiomhole has mounted a media war of calumny against immediate past president Goodluck Jonathan and leading lights of his administration especially Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who served as Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, in almost what appears as a mission of personal vendetta against these individuals. The governor’s verbal acerbic outburst reveals a calculated motive to steer a mob attack on them as revealed in an interview published by Vanguard newspaper last Monday.
A large portion of the interview dwelt on Okonjo-Iweala. The governor attacked her tenure in office, questioned her pedigree and past work experience and cast a huge aspersion on her morality and celebrated status. For full effect, l will simply quote some excerpts: “Because she worked in the World Bank does not mean angels work in the World Bank. Monumental stealing went on under her watch and supervision. Would she claim she didn’t know? Would she claim she didn’t participate? Everybody knows who her agents are; who were the consultants who were handling all kinds of financial transactions in the Ministry of Finance? Who is Mr. Chi Chi? What is Chi Chi’s relationship with her? I think she does not know people know much more than she thinks. Now the umbrella covering her has been removed and the broom is now sweeping all the dirt they are trying to cover up. We have a duty that those who want to be celebrated must be honest with their jobs.
For me it is up to our people to choose to keep quiet or speak out but Okonjo-Iweala is a failure there is no question about that. She cannot withstand rigorous public scrutiny and those she was having these transactions with they are alive and they are all talking, some of them are even singing.” Very serious allegations have been thrown up and it would be unfair to her hard-earned reputation for Dr. Okonjo-Iweala to keep quiet. And as I said earlier, she is very capable of defending herself and Nigerians are eager to hear from her. Nigerians are also eager to juxtapose the sustained attacks on her with the positives she recorded during her service to the motherland. Nigerians are also able to appreciate that despite being the butt of attacks by Oshiomhole and his likes, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has continued to soar higher in global reckoning. Her tenure under the Jonathan administration controversial as it seems has continued to earn her accolades and global acclaim. From Fortune Magazine which named her one of the 50 greatest leaders in the world; to Time Magazine which has placed her among 100 of the most influential people in the world; and even to Forbes Magazine which has ranked her as the 48th most powerful woman in the world, Okonjo-Iweala has been recognised alongside towering individuals and global influencers like Pope Francis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bill and Melinda Gates, Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, US Presidential Candidate, Hillary Clinton, America’s First Lady, Michelle Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, Oprah Winfrey, Actress Angelina Jolie, footballer Christiano Ronaldo, Singer Taylor Swift, among a host of others, including President Barack Obama with whom the comrade governor had a photo-op in July when he accompanied President Buhari on a state visit to the United States. Several world class academic institutions have also given Okonjo-Iweala recognition and awards. While the former Managing Director of the World Bank may not be flawless like her accusers, the fact is that her pedigree commands undeniable global respect that has attracted (and can still attract) dividends for Nigeria’s corporate image and quest for fair treatment in the global development community.
Oshiomhole may have a cogent case against those he considers plunderers of our collective wealth, but he has to allow the law to take its course instead of promoting jungle justice. In any case, the governor has also shown himself to be driven by other less altruistic motives. More than once, he has over-reached himself and brought disdain on himself. Bubbling with fresh gusto and imaginary bristles gathered from the America trip, Oshiomhole told a bewildered nation that a senior official of the host country revealed how a minister under Jonathan stole six billion US dollars from the public treasury.
Embarrassed by Oshiomhole’s theatrics and hollow politicisation of rather serious matters, the Americans denied the claim and challenged him to name the official who disclosed the mind-boggling sleaze. “As far as I know, nobody from this office mentioned any name or names to the delegation. We will respond to this very serious allegation once the governor mentions all the names of the official of this office that told him exactly what he said in the press” an official in the US State Department said as quoted by Leadership newspaper recently. Our comrade governor is yet to take the challenge posed to him by the Americans.
He is yet to rejoin the issue even if indirectly. He is thus yet unable to redeem his name and the high integrity of the office he occupies as governor and which he now shamelessly drags in the mud of political chicanery. In the Vanguard interview under reference, Oshiomhole took a swipe at his easy targets on profits accruing from investments in the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Project (NLNG). Incidentally, the LNG funds controversy for which the Edo governor has called for the heads of Jonathan and Okonjo-Iweala was set off by none other than former president Olusegun Obasanjo, the navigator-in-chief of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in which Oshiomhole maintains a frontline leadership position.
THISDAY newspaper reported in its August 24, 2015 edition that it was Obasanjo who directed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to retain its 49 per cent share of dividends accruing from the profits of NLNG. Whether this revelation exonerates the Jonathan team or not is not the issue but the fact that a governor who should know or truly knows but prefers to obscure facts in crusading for transparency is showing his hand as a mischief maker and a disingenuous public commentator.
In much the same way he revealed the contradictions of his new found crusade when he chose an unlikely target, the former Minister of Agriculture and president-designate of the African Development Bank (ADB), Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, to prey on. Oshiomhole sought to destroy an evidently successful flank of the preceding administration when he described the Agriculture Transformation Agenda (ATA) supervised by Adesina as a sham. He got a robust reply. In a statement signed by his aide, Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye, the former minister speaking with facts and statistics to back up his claim that the ATA was a superlative success, took the Oshiomhole to the cleaners describing his outburst as a “bad public relations stunt not expected from the governor.” A quote from Adesina’s response will suffice here: ”For reasons of safeguarding the economy and strengthening the confidence of the international community in Nigeria, genuine efforts towards ensuring food security and diversifying the economy away from oil should not be subjected to cheap politics as the negative impact that follows such public comments could be to the nation’s detriment. As the chief executive of a state so blessed with natural resources so highly favourable to productive agriculture, Governor Oshiomhole ought to think rather on how to make Edo more enterprising.
In doing so, an area he is expected to be more interested in, should be agriculture. For that reason, Governor Oshiomhole ought rather to be keen on how the intervention that brought agriculture from policy oblivion to a sector that is now widely embraced could be replicated in Edo State within the remaining number of months he has to spend as a governor. If Governor Oshiomhole knows how to play politics well, he should be thinking of how to leverage on the former minister’s growing relevance at the continental level as the new head of the biggest development financial institution in Africa.” Bruised badly by Adesina’s response the governor scurried into a deafening silence with his tail between his legs.
Oshiomhole’s antics readily bring to mind, an admonition by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, His Grace, Revd Father Mathew Kukah who said in an interview in the Punch of Sunday August 23, 2015 that “we must learn to treasure what we have, but the sad thing is that for us in Nigeria, no one deserves respect except those who have money and influence or are in office.” What more can I add?
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