Adams Oshiomhole an Edo state born is a former labor leader who assumed office as the governor of Edo state on 12 November 2008 after winning an appeal. He re-contested for the sit in 2012 and won the election in a landslide victory, Adams have been involved in many political controversies ever since becoming a governor, he is arguably one of the most popular governors in Nigeria.
EARLY LIFE AND BACKGROUND
Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole was born on 4 April 1952 at Iyamoh, near Auchi in Edo State. He was born Muslim but was led to Christianity by his late wife Clara who died of cancer aged 54. He is Catholic and his Christian name is Eric. After his secondary education, he obtained a job with the Arewa Textiles Company, where he was elected union secretary. He became a full-time trade union organizer in 1975. He then studied at Ruskin College, Oxford in the United Kingdom where he majored in economics and industrial relations. He also attended the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru.
Adams Oshiomhole’s worldview became distilled and refined by his early encounters with the real world, especially the world of work. In 1969, he got himself thrown out of a factory because a manager felt Adams was too short and frail to endure the reality of factory labour. This firsthand contact with arbitrariness and cruelty shaped his perception that justice and fairness are not always on display in the world of work. This was for him a great challenge even in those early days.
However, he got a job all the same because another manager in the same factory was willing to give him a chance to earn a livelihood and prove that he could be useful. This was for Adams a reward for capacity to make his case with clarity and persistence.
From his desk at the design section of the Arewa Textile, he observed the vast evidences of criminality perpetrated by management and its agents. The pay was poor. The disciplinary regime was brutal, authoritarian and unsparing, leaving no room for fair hearing or any hearing at all.
Above all, the union leaders were considered ineffective, weak and timid by the workers who did not get value for their membership of the union. One word summed his assessment of the situation: injustice. Another word summed up his perception of what is required to make a difference: good leadership.
In the year 1971, a spontaneous uprising earned him an opportunity to prove himself as a union leader. Many of his colleagues somehow felt that the young Adams could make a difference because they found in him a certain tenacity and purpose in the way he canvassed the principles of fairness and justice and the way he expounded on the need for purposeful and responsive union power.
Admittedly, some of his colleagues considered the young Adams a noise-maker and an idealist, who still does not appreciate that the workplace is place to earn a meal ticket and not a platform to change the world. However, what came across as noise in Adams Oshiomhole was actually a fierce rejection of injustice and an outstanding resolve to stand up to it. The journey to an eventful and successful career in the trade union movement had thus begun.
In 1975, he abandoned the textile mill and became a full time unionist. He had found his calling and identified the union as an enduring platform to fight injustice and oppression.
His early career as a full time unionist was like a study in anarchism. As an organiser, he terrorised many employers in Kaduna and adjoining towns. Adams Oshiomhole as a union organiser cruised Northern Nigeria on what is today known as Okada. Then, union leaders did not enjoy the luxury of cars or jeeps. Adams was critical to establishing and sustaining union presence in many textile mills and other industries, including Peugeot Automobile, under extremely difficult circumstances.
He later studied Labour Studies at Ruskin College, Oxford, specialising in economics and industrial relations. At the end of the demanding and rigorous multi-disciplinary programme at Ruskin College, Adams emerged as the Best Foreign Student. Higher education equipped him with enhanced theoretical and intellectual acumen. He is also an alumnus of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, kuru, and the Kennedy School of Government of the Howard University.
The intellectual sophistication acquired by Adams Oshiomhole in Oxford combined well with the ethics and values of the shop-floor. This in turn combines well with Oshiomhole’s extraordinary capacity for self-education, hard work and strength of character that was rooted in his upbringing.
CAREER AND LIFE
In 1982, he was appointed the General Secretary/Chief Executive of the National Union of Textile and Garment Workers of Nigeria. It was obvious that a genius was on board. The capacities that he brought on board transformed the union fundamentally. A union that could not pay staff salaries became in less than a decade a prosperous institution. Under Adams, the union was well managed and eventually acquired investments in real estate and generated a cash reserve that is more than what many state governments can boast of.
He gave the union an institutional profile founded on efficient departmentalisation, internal democracy and a responsible officership culture. As a negotiator, Adams acquired a reputation for achieving results, which translated to enhanced fortunes for textile workers. His brilliance as a negotiator or grievance-handler is founded on his first-class capacity for articulation. He also has capacity for deep and original thinking which filters out from a mind that he has trained to be methodical and organised. He is able to absorb and process complex and diverse details, which sharpen his problem-solving skills.
It was only a matter of time before he became a major player in the politics of the NLC. He was elected deputy president of the NLC in 1988. Even as a deputy president, he established enough clout to be the flag bearer of a tendency that espoused independent and militant unionism. Those who opposed the mainstream politics of collaboration of the labour movement rallied under Adams Oshiomhole.
With the dissolution of the NLC by the military in 1995, Adams Oshiomhole and others went into the trenches. The movement became a terrain of fierce contestation between the Abacha Regime and comrades who believed that labour must be rescued. Adams Oshiomhole and a few others gave leadership to the resistance to the military at great risk to their lives. Indeed, at some point, the military government enacted a decree with the sole purpose of disqualifying him from contesting for the NLC Presidency.
With the restoration of democracy and the return of the NLC, it was time for the movement to reward tenacity, courage, brilliance and integrity. Adams Oshiomhole became president of the NLC on January 28, 1999. The rest of the story is now known to all of us.
A popular commentator once called him “Hurricane Adams” comparing him to the velocity and power of the hurricane. At other times, the press tagged him “Adamant Adams”. More recently, he is hailed as “The People’s President” by the high and mighty, in newspapers, on the campuses, in the streets and by public officials. What ever the characterisation, the reference is to the quality of his resolve in the defence of workers and the masses, and in upholding good governance, democracy and public welfare.
As President of the NLC or as the People’s President, Adams Oshiomhole has led massive civil protests and strikes against arbitrary increases in the prices of petroleum products. Through these struggles, Nigerians have benefited from significant respites, including reversals in price increases. Now, thanks to the People’s President, Adams Oshiomhole, President Olusegun Obasanjo has announced that there will be no fuel price increase until the end of 2006, no mater what happened in the international market. But this is coming after sustained struggles led by Oshiomhole, which prompted President Obasanjo to make him the subject of a nation-wide Presidential broadcast on October 8, 2004 in which an angry Commander-in-Chief accused the labour leader of virtually constituting a parallel government.
His leadership of the NLC secured significant salary increases for all workers in the country in May 2000, including a subsequent 12.5 per cent salary increase for workers across board. Under his stewardship, NLC has become public protector number one.
The Punch newspaper declared him Man of the Year in the Year 2000, in recognition of the immensity of his contributions to popular struggles. The Guardian and Newswatch Magazine also named him Man of the Year 2005.
The reasons are fairly obvious. Adams Oshiomhole demonstrates such a profound and informed understanding of democracy and governance. His comments and writings show a deep understanding of the Nigerian condition, especially the acute deficits of humane, purposeful and progressive leadership.
A major contribution of Adams Oshiomhole to the democratic development of Nigeria is in giving leadership to a creation of a culture of radical and critical citizenship, a citizenship that can question their leaders, demand good policies and insist that public welfare must be the basis of governance. This critical and militant citizenship has been on display several times defying traditional regional, ethnic and other primordial divides. Adams Oshiomhole is at the head of a truly people’s movement, not a movement of Southern or Northern people, but a truly Pan-Nigerian movement. Therefore, Oshiomhole’s leadership of labour has been a nationally unifying factor in its effect. Herein lays one of Oshiomhole’s most profound contributions to national progress.
In this process, Adam Oshiomhole has come to exemplify the nation of the common good. Because of this, Nigerians listen to Oshiomhole when he speaks and Nigerians follow him whenever and wherever he has marched. Never in Nigeria’s history has any leader commanded such level of public trust and wide followership cutting across all barriers and so consistently.
But his most significant contribution is in teaching Nigeria and Nigerians the need to stand up to constructive and positive values, stand up to defend public welfare, the rule of law and good governance.
The culture of protest has grown as we can all see, a testimony to how much of our dignity we have come to appreciate under the inspiration of the People’s President. Nigerians now increasingly see the value of combining and acting together for their good. This culture of organised protest is today the real tonic that democracy needs; it is the vehicle for asserting human dignity and for seeking a better deal in all things. This culture was on display when Senators went on strike in early 2005 to protest a ministerial insult; it was on display when lawyers boycotted the courts; it is on display when any Nigerian decides to assert his or her dignity. The net benefit of the Oshiomhole phenomenon is the way it symbolises the defence of human dignity and the way it constructively influences us all.
Adams Oshiomhole has served the nation in various capacities. Among these are: Member, Salaries and Wages Commission, 1991-1994 Member, Vision 2010 Committee, 1996-1997 Member, National Council of Nigerian Vision [NCNV], 1997 – to date Member, Constitutional Debate Co-ordinating Committee Member, National Council on Privatisation 1999-Date Chairman, Board of Directors, Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund 2000-2004 Member, Board of Directors, Trustfund Pension PLC Chairman, National Anti-AIDS Campaign, 2001-2002
His responsibilities at international level include: President, Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa, OTUWA, 2000 to 2004 Member, Executive Board, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions [ICFTU] 2000-Date Member, Executive Board, International Confederation of Trade Unions, African Regional Organization [ICFTU-AFRO] 2001-Date Member, Governing Body, International Labour Organisation June 2002 till dat In recognition of his contributions, he was honoured with the traditional title of Omo’kpanabiewho (One man like a nation) of Auchi kingdom. He has also been honoured by organisations of Nigerians across all walks of life, including students unions, trade unions, professional bodies, humanitarian groups and religious bodies.
Oshiomhole represented African Workers for two terms on the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), serving on the committee on Freedom of Association. He was also a member of the Executive Board of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.
In April 2007, Adams Oshiomhole ran for Governor of Edo State under the Action Congress Party, with which his Labour Party had entered a strategic alliance. Oserheimen Osunbor of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was declared the winner. However, the AC contested the election on the basis of various irregularities. On 20 March 2008, an Edo State election tribunal nullified the election of Oserheimen Osunbor and declared Oshiomhole the winner. On 11 November 2008, a federal Appeal Court sitting in Benin City upheld the ruling of the state’s elections petitions tribunal, declaring Oshiomole to be the Governor of Edo State. The decision was based on several voting irregularities.
In the year 2012, Adams Oshiomhole re-contested for the same position and was elected for a second term as the Governor of Edo State. In May 2015, five years after the death of his first wife, he remarried. He wedded a young and pretty lady from Cape Verda Islands by name Lara Fortes and the wedding was well attended by the then President elect- Muhammadu Buhari and other top dignitaries in Nigeria.
In 2012 Adams was involved in a sex scandal mess after a photo came up online, it was later revealed the photo was a Photoshop.
In 2014, Adams Oshiomhole became a target for criticism after he publicly insulted a widow, Joy Ifije, who knelt before him begging for her little means of livelihood to be saved. He said the widowed woman should “go and die”. However, later he apologized to the widow, donated N2 million to her, offered her employment and promised to help her second child in getting education.