though many neutral observers attributed the fatal incident to the
characteristic lawless driving patterns of government convoys in road
traffic, the circumstances surrounding the crash seemed nonetheless
bizarre to say the least. The Governor’s life was saved by a whisker.
Rather than being chauffeured in his official vehicle, he was reported
to have driven himself in a nondescript and unmarked car in the middle
of the convoy. There were good reasons to believe that a political
motive was not improbable even if it was not a compelling necessity.
The alarm was blown again a few weeks later. This time, a close aide
and confidant of the Governor was killed in the middle of the night by
assailants. The Governor wasted no time pointing accusing fingers at
the PDP and even claimed to have received report about the venue, time
and participants of the clandestine PDP meeting, in which the
nefarious assassination plan was hatched.
Governor did not tell Nigerians however that he had other compelling
reasons, which made the death of Olaitan Oyerinde particularly painful
to him. Subsequent media reports uncovered that Mr. Oyerinde had been
strategically positioned to take over a leadership position in the
country’s umbrella labor union Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC). It is
this revelation that is exposing a can of worms in political
machinations involving the Governor. It marks the Governor's personal
betrayal of public trust and his own involvement in manipulative
restructuring. Adams Oshiomole as a man of the grassroots rode
favorably on his tenacious commitment to the interest of workers in
his capacity as a former labor leader. This factor single-handedly
shot him into the hearts and minds of ordinary people before he became
an action Governor counting on visible achievements.
Nigeria’s recent encounter with a major socioeconomic dispute
bothering on welfare and corruption however showed a reversed attitude
on the part of a man who moved from being a comrade to becoming
a GOVERNOR. The fuel subsidy dispute showed Oshiomole’s
overnight transformation in a virtual psychological sense. He became a
vocal advocate of the removal of fuel subsidy in clear disregard for
the pains it meant to ordinary people and in clear negation of all
that he had stood for all the years of his leadership in the labor
union. He sought to perform a delicate balancing act that was not
supposed to place his sympathies in Public Square for all to see.
Insiders and experts knew however, where his sympathies lie. This was
partly evident, not the least, in his guarded admonishment at a point
in time, of a cabinet colleague who expressed unreserved sympathy for
protests against subsidy removal. In the end however, the subsidy
removal project was defeated and Oshiomole’s glamour image suffered a
Being sympathetic to the cause of a federal government that was bent
against all odds, on removing the subsidy, Oshiomole is reported to
have worked for the restructuring of the country's umbrella labor
body, which was the arrowhead of the mass uprising in January 2012.
The plot sought to work quietly to replace the leadership of the NLC
with characters that are more sympathetic to the government’s cause of
removing the oil subsidy without any meaningful public resistance. The
adverse effects of the move do not seem to matter. Olaitan Oyerinde
was one person that was reportedly designated for one of the top
positions in the NLC. The swapping of positions was said to be a
matter of time. A very short time!
Oshiomole was therefore in no hurry to point out this aspect of
developments surrounding the political résumé of late Oyerinde.
Pointing fingers at the opposition party had more political expediency
even though the option of opposition’s involvement cannot be
discounted. It is at this point however that several critics began
asking aloud if the Governor is not just getting a little too
desperate. Indeed, he has reasons for desperation too.
prospect of losing the forthcoming gubernatorial election more likely
by crook than by hook is looking increasingly realistic. It is not the
desperation of the opposition PDP alone that is likely to unseat
Governor Oshiomole with the federal might but critical fingers are now
also beginning to flash the light of improprieties his awesome way.
Quite lately, pictures emerged, of mansions and several other
structures that he is building in his private estate at Iyamho, for
which his salary and other emoluments cannot readily account. Several
Journalists do not hide their complaints and grudges these days that
the Governor is peccably following the familiar footsteps of his
predecessor in office Mr. Lucky Igbinedion. Aside from working too
closely with and often employing the services of the university cult,
the “Black Ax” movement, for political intimidation and other vices,
excessive orgies of womanizing is the least of all worries. Like his
predecessor too, Gov. Oshiomole is said to be advancing construction
works on his private Iyamho site with the services of South African
Often reportedly taking advantage of his annual N2 billion budgetary
vote on security as is granted to all Governors, Adams Oshiomole –
people say – has no difficulties dishing out millions for unexplained
purposes and from unexplained budgetary sources these days. I remember
the days of the subsidy protest when violence spilled into Benin City.
The district called Hausa Quarters was reportedly stormed by
protesters who killed 5 resident Northerners. Information of the
killing reached the BBC correspondent in Lagos through informal
sources, who promptly filed his report for the next hourly news. On
calling some friends at the Press Center in Benin City to get more
information, I was told that the Governor in an attempt to suppress
the media coverage of the killings had paid 3 million Naira to
reporters covering the event not to report the killings. At the time I
told my contact on telephone however that the information was already
on BBC news that same evening and the information was passed over, I
could hear many people in the background burst into loud laughter in
amusement. The first question I asked my colleague was where the money
was taken from, if the claim was true. The answer I got was simple.
What is N3million in a security vote of N2billion? The security vote
is an area that no Governor is required to render account on. It is
the source of random spending such as the purchases of Jeeps for
friends and political sympathizers.
Today, complaints are growing louder. People complain of several
improprieties of shocking dimensions that will leave several mouths
agape if another Governor came in to expose the books. My information
uncovers that construction work on the Airport road was awarded to a
company called Servitek belonging to a man popularly known in Benin
City as “Captain Hosa” – a man who is not an unknown political
quantity – at the cost of N4billion. The total length of the road is
just 8 kilometers. For some reason however, Captain Hosa defected to
the PDP from the ACN. The contract was promptly taken away from him
and re-awarded to a company called SERTRACO belonging to one Alhaji
Inu Umoru. It did not matter that the work had been started and done
in a minimum part. It was suddenly re-awarded for N6billion – 2
billion Naira in excess of the previous amount! Till the moment, the
discrepancy remains unexplained.
People complain that indigenes of the state are hardly employed to
work in the multiple construction projects. The contract for the
construction of roads in the district called Ugbowo was said to have
been awarded to a company called Hydrek owned by one Mr. Tinubu –
don’t ask me which – who is definitely not an indigene of Edo state.
Several Lebanese and South Africans are said to be having lucrative
positions in many of the projects. In fact some sharp-tongued critics
even blamed the recent collapse of the building under construction at
the Central Hospital, on the haste to complete and commission the
project before the July election date.
has become obvious to many observers that several construction works
that were started in the early days of the Governor’s tenure were
still lingering with no prospect of completion any time soon. With so
much internally generated revenue, Edo state is said to have amassed
more cash than at any other point in the history of the state. Today
however, people suspect that the government has become cash-strapped
and that the projects may never be completed even halfway through a
second term, if Oshiomole wins a return ticket.
fact that should not be ignored however is that there are several
roads that people are proud to point at! Roads that have been
beautifully constructed and completed. Fixed drainage systems that
have rescued several districts from the cyclical agony of the rainy
season! There are several teaching and boarding facilities, schools
and other public institutions that were dilapidating and have now been
revamped and equipped for normal function the way they were conceived
of in the days of Osaigbovo Ogbemudia. In fact the repeated claim of
Governor Oshiomole’s achievements is not a mere window-dressing claim.
The man has several completed projects to show for his tenure. This
perhaps, is the reason that he is believed to be having a strong
grassroots followership that should make him win re-election easily in
a level playing field.
survive, consolidate his position and perform these feats however, it
is an indisputable fact that some form of protective and sometimes
offensive thuggery is indispensable in a Nigerian political landscape,
in which only the fittest survives. Unfortunately however, Adams
Oshiomole seems to have lacked the finesse and sophistication of
personal composure. Like Olusegun Obasanjo who achieved quite a lot
for Nigeria and ends up simply being derided and abused by seemingly
ungrateful Nigerians, Oshiomole’s personal arrogance and larger than
life attitude seems to be his undoing factor. There is hardly anyone
close to government house, who does not complain in private, about
Oshiomole’s arrogant and conceited nature. He does not seem to have
learned to tread the more psychologically productive path of humility
and bending down low. This precisely, may turn out to become his
undoing factor as the opposition now loudly and treacherously accuses
him of disrespect for elders - a trick that may stick. One fact is
certain though: ACN under Oshiomole much like PDP under Airhiavbere
will both do their part in election rigging and violence to win the
Governorship seat. They have both been bracing for the moment with
psychological and physical weapons of all sorts.
In the highly likely event of Oshiomole’s ACN being outdone in
election rigging and violence during the Governorship election, will
Oshiomole be able to muster the force of people’s power in street
protests? The same people that he so dispassionately and shamelessly
betrayed in the fuel subsidy disaster? Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic
Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria!