SPOTLIGHT: Oshiomhole as emerging show stopper in Senate

Sharon EboesomiJanuary 9, 202414 min

In the 10th Senate so far, it is rare to have a plenary session where Oshiomhole does not make a significant contribution.

The most vibrant and outspoken lawmaker in the 10th Senate  - Adams Eric Oshiomhole
Adams Eric Oshiomhole

As a norm, the Senate exercises legislative authority in representation, making laws and carrying out oversight and some senators are notably making concerted efforts to close up the gaps left by their predecessors.

Presently, public confidence in legislators is very low and with the rate of increasing interest in the legislature, political observers are keenly looking out for credible representatives.

However, one Senator since his emergence in the 10th assembly, has gained widespread attention as he has significantly demonstrated and expressed his preparedness for the position.

Born on 4th April 1952, Senator Adams Eric Oshiomhole, represents Edo north senatorial district under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Rather than just pursuing a ministerial post, as his previous governor colleagues would have done, Oshiomhole opted to join the legislative arm to make impact. He initially declared for the office of president in 2022 but later withdrew in support of the current President and picked up the senatorial ticket of the APC for his home district.

Journey from unionism to politics

A labour economist, the senator from Edo north had previously run for his native state’s governorship after serving as President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) from 1999 to 2007.

Oshiomhole, who is one of the oldest lawmakers (in terms of age) in the Senat,e served as Governor of Edo State between 2008 and 2016 under the same party and then became its third national chairman from 2016 to 2018. 

READ ALSO: KARIMI: The emerging ‘humourist’ of the 10th Senate

In no time, Oshiomhole gained popularity in mainstream politics and is widely known as “OshioBaba.” And it has been a recognition and award galore for the khaki-wearing labour leader. Some of the awards he has won since his unionsim days include:

  • Best Tailor Award in 1986
  • Man of the Year by Silverbird in 2008
  • Award of Recognition by the Social Enterprise Reports and Awards (SERAs) in 2011
  • Best Governor of Edo State during Edo Day celebration in 2015
  • Governor of the Year by Vanguard Personality of the Year in 2015
  • Honorary Doctorate from Samuel Adegboyega University in 2016

Strides so far in 10th Senate

There is hardly any plenary day with Oshiomhole being present and the Senate not getting substantive contributions from him. Although serving his first term, he is known to be unafraid of political battles being very vocal, brave and determined. It would also be accurate to characterise him as a “no-nonsense person” not caring whose ox is gored event to the extent of bringing discomfort to party interests.

The most vibrant and outspoken lawmaker in the 10th Senate accuses lawmakers of vandalism - Adams Eric Oshiomhole

  • Accused lawmakers of vandalisation

Sometime in July, 2023, Oshiomhole voiced his dismay at what he considered the level of former lawmakers’ vandalism of National Assembly properties. He former senators and members of the House of Representatives of having looted television sets, rugs, and chairs despite the presence of security personnel within the precinct of the National Assembly. Oshiomhole made these damning accusations when he appeared on a live television programme, much to the chagrin of his tribe in the legislature. The ex-lawmakers, he claimed, left their offices in a state of disarray with holes in the walls saying he had to pay to have his office fixed before using it. He further stressed that the vandalisation also took place in the offices vacated by past principal officers of the National Assembly, whose names he refused to mention.

“Let me tell you one thing the National Assembly is not talking about and I don’t know why those who have a duty to speak are not speaking about it. I was shocked by the level of vandalisation of properties of the National Assembly. Televisions were carted away, carpets were carted away, Senators’ chairs were carted away. I had to use my money and someone also decided to deliver to me a printer, to give me a laptop to use in my office. I had to buy the carpet and pay the cost of fixing it. I had to pay some young people to clean the office to restore the new carpet. I had to pay to repaint my office. I will produce you the receipt.

“I can’t understand why and how a senate that sat on Sunday before we were inaugurated on the following Tuesday, and that level of vandalisation took place, and we have hundreds of security men and women in the National Assembly. I can never understand what happened. You find holes on the wall, even in the offices of principal officers of the senate, who I won’t get to mention. People told me there’s also the same level of vandalisation in the House Representatives,” he stated.

Peeved by this scathing call-out, the Senate demanded an apology from him through a motion moved by Senator Solomon Adeola (APC, Ogun West) and supported by Senator Adamu Aliero (PDP, Kebbi Central) during plenary. Senator Solomon insisted that Oshiomhole’s remark embarrassed lawmakers, especially those in the 9th Senate and that he would suffer the repercussions if an apology was not extended.

“My privilege has been abused. A Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria went on National TV and told the whole world that the lawmakers of the Ninth Assembly, which I was a part of, looted equipment from their offices. We all know that there is no way that a Senator or their aides can take a pin out of the National Assembly without being accounted for. Each of the items was checked and legally passed and those amounts are deducted from severance packages.

I hereby demand that the Senator should apologise to the House or be made to face the Ethics and Privilege Committee,” the former Lagos senator now representing Ogun State said.

In his defence, Oshiomhole said he was unfairly accused and that he had simply asserted that he and the other federal lawmakers in the 10th National Assembly had used their funds to furnish their offices.

“I have huge respect for every Senator, not only in the 10th Senate but those in the previous Senate. If anybody had the impression that I accused Senators, that was not the intention and that was certainly not what I said. But for those who feel that my comment, which was meant to protect our image, was offensive then, of course, I apologise, because, I cannot leave the comfort of my home to go and accuse the House which I am a member,” he said.

The most vibrant and outspoken lawmaker in the 10th Senate tackles minister

  • Tackling minister over bloated budget line

During the 2024 budget defence, Oshiomhole, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Interior, took a hard stance against the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investments, Doris Uzoka-Anite, for proposing to spend over a billion naira on a trip to Geneva.

Although not specific about the actual amount the minister proposed for travelling to Geneva, he questioned the minister’s reason for proposing to spend so much on a trip to Geneva given the state of the economy that has pushed many Nigerians into poverty.

“I see that you intend to travel to Geneva next year and you have budgeted over one billion for that. We can’t keep going on with over-bloated teams on abroad trips. Use the experts we have in your offices in the country to save costs. Let us practise what we preach. We cannot talk about industrialisation and keep importing toothpicks and tyres. We must ensure that we have homegrown products,” he said.

When the minister was questioned by the committee on the balance of trade between Nigeria and other countries, she said that there was no record of such a balance of trade since there was no data to support it.

Oshiomhole then questioned, “what is our balance of trade, especially with China? Those countries importing things to Nigeria are expected to build factories in Nigeria. We have to take advantage of our population to grow our industries?”

In her response, Uzoka said, “Sir, I regret to say that we seem to have no record of our balance of trade. Or at least, it doesn’t exist in the ministry and that is why we initiated a new unit called Trade Intelligence Unit to ensure that such data are generated and stored. The ministry is currently implementing strategic policies, plans and programmes targeted towards economic recovery and growth for employment generation and wealth creation for the generality of Nigerians.”

Visibly offended by her responses, Oshiomhole continued to accuse the minister of consistently leaving her desk unattended on numerous visits to the Bank of Industry, insisting that she should simply sit down in her office and finish the work that had been assigned to her.

“No, Madam, I don’t agree that there is no data. Such data exists with the CBN, Customs and other agencies. Madam, sit in your office and work for Nigerians. I have gone there twice. You are always in the BOI. If you preferred the BOI, you should have declined the president’s nomination to be a minister.”

  • Disappointed over the inhumane treatment of prisoners

Additionally, on Thursday, December 7, 2023, at the 2024 budget defence meeting with the National Assembly joint committees on Interior, Oshiomhole criticised the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) for the indecent treatment of inmates under their care.

The issue arose when he asked for a breakdown of the population of inmates, including the number of convicts and security dogs, as well as the daily feeding schedule.

“I would like to see a breakdown of how you feed these inmates if you say you feed inmates 3 times a day with N250 each. How many dogs do you have and how much does it cost to feed them daily?” he asked

Mr. Haliru Nababa, the Comptroller-General of the Correctional Service, responded to these inquiries by stating, “We have 81,358 inmates of which 53,362 are awaiting trial. We feed each inmate with N750 daily and they are fed 3 times daily (N250 for each square meal). We have 900 security dogs and to feed a dog each day is N800 daily.”

Disappointed with the response, Oshiomhole warned that the committee will not “rubber stamp” or approve any financing for the correctional service until they have sufficient answers.

Your name has been changed from prison to correctional, but you are dehumanising. It’s not just your fault because the government appropriates little money for you but it is either that you don’t feed these prisoners or you feed them only once and even at that, very miserable food. This is why they have completely emaciated and some can never live a decent life again even when they did not commit an offence. It is not correct to tell us that you feed prisoners a day with N750, how?

“You all know the prices of these food items in the market, so how can you look us eye to eye and tell us that you feed a man in Nigeria awaiting trial or even committed an offence with N750 a day, how much is a bottle of water,” he questioned.

Comrade Adams Oshiomhole (@AdamOshiomhole) / X

  • “I was dragged on the floor”

In another event during plenary, while contributing to a motion of urgent public importance on the need for the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), to reconsider their stance on an ongoing industrial action sponsored by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), Oshiomhole decried how the Nigeria police manage protests and called for urgent action to address the issue.

He said, “I fought when I was in the NLC. I was dragged on the floor at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport because we had issued a notice to go on strike, and I was brutalised. I think it is legitimate for us as Senators to condemn, without any reservation, the act of brutality against protesters, including the President of the NLC,” Oshiomhole stated.

These are some of the instances that stand out the Edo senator as the emerging show stopper of the 10th Senate. Will he sustain this populist and patriotice line when the chips are down and fraternal political pressures mount? Time will tell.

Sharon Eboesomi

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