Fellow Nigerians, please, let me start this epistle with a tale I’m not sure I have ever told. On Sunday, November 9, 2008, I was at the Lagos Marina with some friends when my phone rang. And who was on the line? No other than the one and only Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, a man I call Uncle Adams for various reasons.
He is about eight years older than me. We both come from the same Afenmai tribe of Edo State, though I’m much more affiliated and associated with the Yoruba people because of my birth in Ile-Ife, the cradle of civilisation, and the fact that my Mum is from Gbongan, a dozy town just a few kilometres from Ile-Ife. I have told the story of my Dad’s migration from Ihievbe, now in Owan East Local GovGovernment of Edo State, to finally settle in Ile-Ife, Osun State, possibly around 1944,
like many restless men of his time. His decision to make his sojourn in Ile-Ife permanent, probably en route the greener pastures of alluring Lagos, was because he met the naturally beautiful, slim and elegant Gladys who swept him off his feet and they married after a period of courtship. I am the only child of their union.
Comrade Adams had risen to become one of the more prominent sons of Afenmailand and I had tremendous respect for him as a scion of the society and a big Brother. I had followed his amazing trajectory, especially as a Labour leader, with very keen interest.
I believe he had a meteoric rise to become Labour leader based on his fantastic managerial, organisational and persuasive skills. I always admire, and appreciate, those with humble beginnings, who struggle hard and manage to break free from the shackles of oppression and manacles of poverty.
Comrade is a veritable example of such a person. He has done so with agilagility and tenacity. I must add that he also possesses not only nerves of steel but a steely and unbending resolve which for me has lately been harmful and injurious to him. More on this later.
I think we first met physically on a flight to South Africa about 16 years ago, when he had already become head of the Nigerian Labour Congress.
We both recognised each other and exchanged pleasantries and contacts. We struck an instant acquaintance and friendship which has since blossomed into Brotherliness. He became an avuncular figure to me, and he had my blessings when he threw his hat in the ring of politics.
His pedigree as President of the Nigeria Labour Congress clearly, and readily, endeared him to many people.
Theoretically, he was expected to be a friend of the masses, and the workers of Edo State were considered lucky to have such a man coming to liberate them from capitalists and oppressors.
Anyway, back to the call, prior to which, both of us had met in Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s home where we had lunch with the former Governor of Lagos State. I knew Chief Tinubu was supporting him heavily and staked a lot on Comrade Oshiomole becoming the Governor of Edo State which has always been considered one of the crown jewels of the Yoruba nation and was indeed a part of Western Nigeria before it became Mid-Western Region of Nigeria in 1963 following a vote by the people of the region. Mid-Western Region became Mid-West State in 1967, Bendel State in 1976 and finally Edo State in 1991 when Bendel State was divided into Edo and Delta States.
During this auspicious call in November 2008, Comrade sounded worried and I asked what the matter was. He said he was anxious about the Court of Appeal judgment regarding his governorship election, which was slated for November 11, 2008, in two days time. I told him not to panic, that all shall be well, and I prayed for him.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008, came, in a jiffy, and Comrade was declared winner of the Edo State Gubernatorial elections. Prayer answered and I was greatly elated. He was sworn in as Governor immediately afterwards on 12 November 2008 and would later govern the State for two terms of eight years in total. As usual with me, I never visited the Edo State Government House during that period, although Comrade and I remained close and regularly called each other and met at various functions. I watched his inimitable style of governance from afar and prayed fervently for his success. He would call me sometimes, usually on Saturdays, after reading my column.
On one such occasions, I recall, I was in Orlando, Florida, and he said he would want me to come to commission some projects in Edo State as a true son of the State.