Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has known struggle all his life. Whether in the textile industry where he challenged the status quo as a mere factory hand, as the national leader of the labour movement in Nigeria who became so influential that former president Obansanjo accused him of forming an alternative government, or as a politician in his home state, Edo, where he confronted and successfully ‘liquidated’ Godfatherism, his has been a life of struggle.
The Interview was on his trail long before he left office as the Edo State governor. But being a state governor and also a vocal member of the ruling party didn’t leave him with much room for the kind of time we asked of him.
At the time, if he was not at dagger’s drawn with former Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the government’s lukewarm attitude to the pillaging of the Nigerian economy, he was shaming the PDP for wanting to continue in office after 16 wasted years.
Our request also came towards the end of his second term, when he was consumed by the desire to hand over to a successor that will build on his legacy.
We were after him for a number of reasons and therefore, couldn’t have given up. Just after a supposedly mega strike action against President Muhammadu Buhari’s fuel price increase flopped, we thought he was in the best position to provide the much needed insight as to what could have gone wrong with the vibrant NLC he left behind before joining partisan politics.
He was also a strong voice on the need for his fellow members of the elite club to curb their appetite for foreign products in order to save the economy. And of course, who wouldn’t want a front row account of his epic battle in Edo State and how he emerged and also remained the only non-PDP governor in the PDP stronghold of South-South?
And so, on that fateful day when he opened the doors of his Maitama home to the team at about noon, we were ready to get all we could. Expectedly, the comrade gave as much he got. He’s well-known for his oratorical skills all right but nothing prepared us for the energy and passion the 65-year-old brought to the table during this encounter. For almost seven hours, it was a back and forth exercise that revealed a man not yet battle weary.
He is also angry. One of the things irking him is the ghost workers syndrome in the nation’s civil service. “What we should actually be saying is that there is huge fraud in the public sector in name of salary. And it is not perpetuated by the labourers; it is perpetuated by people who are lamenting. Because I cannot accept the fact that about we keep discovering thousands of ghost workers and nobody has been taken to court. These days that salaries are paid to banks, do we also have fake bank customers? I haven’t seen anyone sent to prison because he manipulated the pay roll.”
It’s also obvious that he hasn’t forgiven the PDP for its 16 years of misadventures in governance with emphasis on what he believes is a fraudulent power privatisation exercise. “I believe that PDP fraudulently privatised the power system in a way that it will never deliver light to Nigerians. The earlier this government realises that it cannot manage it the better. At a point, as a manager you arrive at a conclusion that I need to begin to cut my cost – my losses… I think if this government has any fault, it’s that it is sticking to managing these DISCOs.”
It’s an interview that also explored his eight-year tenure as the Edo State governor among other things.