By Fred Ohwahwa
It was President Olusegun Obasanjo who, during the 2007 electioneering campaigns, told us that the elections were a “do or die affair”. He was determined to install his own successor and nothing was going to stand in his way. The beneficiary of that electoral heist, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, did acknowledge the tainted nature of his mandate during his inauguration. He proceeded to set up the Justice Uwais electoral reform committee that was charged with the responsibility of bequeathing on the nation a better electoral system.
President Yar’Adua was hobbled by illness and we couldn’t profit from his good intentions. Since then, elections in Nigeria have become more intense and can be likened to a war situation. It is now truly a “do or die” affair. The primary reason for this state of affair is not far-fetched: electoral victory in Nigeria confers on the victors unimaginable wealth and privileges without accountability. They collect salaries and allowances that cannot be justified. They award or get contracts that the costs are inflated and are hardly executed. They go about in starched clothes, are driven in SUVs and with a retinue of security personnel.
And as long as this is the case, we are going to continue to have mini wars in our hands whenever there are going to be elections. Forget about the campaign promises. Elections are not about the people. It is about the political class.
This is why the forthcoming governorship election in Edo state is akin to a war situation. The campaigns have been anything but civil. Skulls have been broken. Limbs have given way. The roof of the state House of Assembly complex became a veritable tool in the fight for electoral supremacy.
Can we say all these are in the quest to serve the people? Most unlikely. The big egos of so-called big men are at play. And in a situation like this, the welfare of the poor and downtrodden takes the back seat.
The story of how Edo state got to this point is pretty familiar to many political observers in the country. It is the case of the godfather and the godson going their separate ways. In all the fight, never was it mentioned that there was disagreement on how to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people. There has been no talk on policy differences. Nothing of such. It is purely a case of who should CONTROL the resources of the state. Who should CONTROL and ALLOCATE.
Since the beginning of the 4th Republic, many godfathers and godsons have parted ways. Whoever prevailed usually depended on who was closer to the people. Most times, such victories were procured in a very costly manner.
A lot of energy and resources are deployed to gain or maintain power. And it is the people’s money that is frittered away to achieve that.
One of the lessons the godfathers have refused to learn is that no matter the role you played in making somebody a governor or President, you must be wise enough to refrain from controlling him or her. You will be resisted. It is as simple as that. There is hardly anybody anywhere in the world who is in a position of authority who will not exercise the power vested in him or her.
Some of us have more than a passing interest in the politics of Edo State. If you are from the old Bendel State, it cannot but be so. Time there was when the then Bendel State excelled in various fields of human endeavor. The state was spectacularly successful in sports. The shining lights in this regard were Bendel Insurance Football Club and New Nigeria Football Club. Both teams made exemplary contributions to the national team. They made us proud.
The foundation of their success was laid by Brigadier General Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia when he was military governor of the old Midwest State. Like most things in Nigeria, there has been great decline in this regard. Restoring the old glory has become a herculean task.
I was in Benin some three weeks ago and tried in my own little way to gauge the political temperature of the state. There is no question that there is a lot of tension in the state. With government as the only viable industry in the state, this is not surprising.
The likelihood of violence erupting in some parts of the state on Saturday during and after the election is very high. The two main parties contesting the election are fully prepared with thugs, money and what have you to ensure that they win.
We have been told by the Police that so many of their men have been deployed to the state to keep the peace. I won’t be surprised if the military are drafted to Edo State for this election. The militarization of our elections started during the Babangida era when the country was shut down whenever any election was taking place, including local government elections. That unfortunate practice has continued. I don’t know how many countries where such nonsense takes place.
On Saturday, there will be no vehicular movements until later in the day in Edo State. People from other states who want to go through the state to their destinations will not be able to do so. This unwholesome practice has become so entrenched we now think it is the normal way of doing things. It is not!
The false choice before the people of the state is pretty clear from the fact that between the APC and PDP, there are no distinct ideological differences. In fact, the man on the street does not know what they stand for. Which is why the contest has been reduced to a fight between Governor Godwin Obaseki and Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Interestingly, both men contested the last election, but they have now swapped parties. No further evidence is needed that in Nigeria, political parties are seen by politicians as mere vehicles for the attainment of political power. They can be discarded as the slightest excuse.
It is our hope and prayers that the gladiators in Saturday’s election will recognise that seeking power with the blood of anyone is not worth the trouble.
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