For Oshio Baba @ 65 - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Friday, 6 April 2018

For Oshio Baba @ 65

While paying homage to then Benin monarch, Oba Erediuwa, as new Edo governor soon after the historic Appeal Verdict of November 11, 2008, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was greeted with a jovial but nonetheless weighty question.

“I heard that you prefer to be addressed as Comrade Governor,” began Oba Erediuwa in his accustomed measured tone dripping humor and wit “Now that you’ve become governor, how are we going to be sure that as a career labour activist you will not carry the entire treasury of the state and be giving it to only members of the labour movement?”

Of course, the comment threw the palace court sitting top chiefs and community leaders that day into rapturous laughter. 

When silence returned, Oshiomhole, clad in his trademark Khaki suit, replied that even though he remained beholden to the labor movement as his primary constituency, he would be governor to all residents of Edo, irrespective of class or creed.

Eight years after that solemn pledge, whereas the ruling party and the opposition were inclined to differ on the political epitaph for Oshiomhole as his two-term tenure was ending, what still cannot be denied till date is that the veteran labour activist succeeded in enshrining a new populism in statecraft.

I happened to be part of the administration at some point.
Precisely 65 years old today, Oshiomhole’s life is undoubtedly a study in tenacity and a certain dare-devilry. The story of his rise from the lowly plains of rustic Iyahmo (once un-captured on Edo map, according to him in self-deprecating humour) to the lowest rung of the textile factory’s ladder in Kaduna, to the headship of the labour movement in 1999 and the Edo White House in 2008, is indeed the stuff fairy tales are made of. 

While he has his own shortcomings and contradictions like every mortal, Oshio Baba (as Oshiomohle is fondly called), as could already be inferred from his involvement with the labor over the years, is a tireless mobilizer, a compelling orator and an instinctive crusader for those left with the short end of the stick by the socio-political order.

With government polices and programmes unapologetically driven by welfarist values and localization of developmental projects often informed by a clear bias for the hitherto “forgotten”, no one was left in doubt as to whose cause was being championed while Oshiomhole called the shots.

The Government House and indeed the Governor’s Office became easily accessible to ordinary folks. 

If  Oshio Baba chose to remain unabashedly abrasive in rhetoric then, it was probably because it was the only weapon he could marshal as governor of “opposition” state against the cartel of “political godfathers” displaced by his ascendancy only to be rehabilitated and armed by ruling PDP at the federal level.

In Edo, he undoubtedly proved it is never impossible to mobilize a people against any order, however powerful, for change. 
Happy birthday, Oshio Baba. 

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