Oshiomhole Betrayal: Swiss Account Socialism

Oshiomhole Betrayal: Swiss Account Socialism

When the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari announced an increase in fuel price, it was steep. From N87 to N145 litre of petrol. The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) reacted. NLC president, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, did what Comrade Adams Oshiomhole would have unfailingly done in the same position. Call for a “people’s strike/protest” to curtail “excessive profiteering” favoured by capitalists and free marketeers in the country and make life fairer for the average person. Oshiomhole as NLC president had vehemently and publicly rejected the notions; (a) striking workers shall not receive their work-related incomes and (b) courts do not have a right to enforce judgments that can criminalise a strike/protest action.

Now in government and enjoying plutocratic-style governance, Oshiomhole spectacularly declared they must not pay striking workers. Moreover, he claims it is criminal for trade unions to violate court judgements that are anti-strike. An undaunted foe of government became a fearless foe of labour when he got into government. Oshiomhole has pulled off one of the most visibly pragmatic socialist-capitalist reversals in Nigeria’s history; a socialist prescribing, a capitalist self-medicating.

George Ayittey, a U.S. based Ghanaian economist, is an unrelenting critic of socialism in Africa. The more substantial part of Ayittey’s critique is that the uncritical introduction of socialism into Africa. African leaders who practised it, intended or ended up channelling money meant for “the workers” and “the people” into their private foreign accounts. Such practices were leaving the continent and its people more wretched by the day. [1] Ayittey would vigorously argue that it is mostly self-proclaimed socialists who stole and banked the money President Buhari is asking foreign nations to be returned to Nigeria. That Ayittey would likely call Oshiomhole a Swiss Bank Account Socialist.

George Mayuku postulated recently on Facebook that while Karl Marx articulated that capitalism will end up producing socialism, recent events appear to prove the opposite; socialism ends up creating capitalism. Mayuku cited Francis Fukuyama’s End of History as a point of reference [2] and the persons involved were Comrade Oshiomhole and Wole Soyinka. Exemplar “plutocratic socialists”, the wealth-loving end of the socialism spectrum in Nigeria. We see this trend all over the world. Former socialists who became neoconservatives and neoliberals in the USA. And neoliberal leaning New Labour in the U.K. But it may pertain more to individuals than the evolutionary direction of society. On the other side, the closest thing Nigeria has to socialism is manifest in trade unionism. And the hopeful socialists, those who still believe despite the odds.

Trade unionism is an integral part of socialism. Oshiomhole, now Governor of Edo State, is Nigeria’s most famous socialist in government. Oshiomhole, as the then persuasive president of the (NLC) successfully orchestrated eye-catching protests/strikes. He was the poster boy for socialism in Nigeria at the turn-of-the-century. He was a star in the “pro-democracy” era; khaki-wearing, motorbike-riding, austere-living and tough-talking. All [contrived] to make him look like he was standing up for the average person and a People’s Hero. [3] No more days like those.

Jon Elster provides an analysis by Analytical Marxism that can suggest how Oshiomhole presented dangers to Nigerians and their socialist movement. Primarily, Elster contends that [socialist] revolution (inclusive of riots, protests and strikes) is ‘dangerous business’. [4] It is dangerous because lives end, bodies bruised, limbs broken, incarceration tasted, police / military brutality taken, jobs lost. Therefore, even those who believe in the revolution would not want to risk their “lot”. Nevertheless, Oshiomhole was very skilful in making the masses forget the risks involved in supporting his actions, opium-style. Another aspect of the danger is that when the working class personality achieves significant parvenu through politics, inheritance, or winning the lottery. He or she becomes a bourgeois. Only to reject revolution because he suddenly has so much to lose and therefore betrays it.

Let us imagine how many people lost their lives, jobs, health and well-being by supporting the strikes and protests “organised” by Oshiomhole and his cohorts in the NLC. Add those arrested/detained (some tortured), those that had road accidents while organising (many fatalities). Pus, those forced out of their jobs (into hunger or Diaspora). Then add the many who betrayed the struggle (but got dealt with anyway). Then imagine how these people, their families and friends, and critics now see Oshiomhole as he wallows in plutocracy and promotes pro-plutocratic politics. Oshiomhole cannot tell them anymore with acceptable persuasion – the struggle yields its own reward. Oshiomhole had proven that he was pragmatic enough to “free ride” on the back of the socialist struggle, then betray it when he had far too much to lose. [5]

Ultimately, capitalism has won over Comrade Oshiomhole entirely; that is his lasting legacy as much as he will try to be seen otherwise. As a true socialist and a hero of the masses. Bianimikaley! Treachery mostly vitiates all [good] actions that precede it. It is not too good to want to be seen as a true socialist who started with nothing., Then becoming one of the richest men in the land when 110 million people live in abject poverty.

Grimot Nane



[1] Ayittey, George (2006), Indigenous African Institutions (2nd Ed.), Brill – Nijhoff

[2] Fukuyama, Francis (1992), The End of History and the Last Man, Free Press

[3] Imoru, Austin (2011), The Man Adams Oshiomhole and His Leadership Skills, EsteemWorld Publications: London

[4] Elster, Jon (1982), The Case for Methodological IndividualismTheory and Society, 11: 453–482.

[5] Olson, Mancur (1965), The Logic of Collective Action, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

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