The paradox in Edo state: The very first Governor since the days of retired General Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia of the defunct Bendel State, who has given Edo State a bunch of visible, quantifiable and palpable uplift, is now faced with the grim reality of possibly losing his bid for re-election. Governor Adams Oshiomole came into office on the heels of people’s expectations and had to tread the thorny path of armchair brigandry, stolen mandate, tribunals, godfatherism etc. before being finally manipulated into his rightful position. His facilitators and collaborators then were no other than those who fought running battles in the camp of his opponent, to assert their supremacy.
As time went on though, things fell apart and the rest is history. Today, Governor Adams Oshiomole is undisputedly, a very successful governor in terms of achievements and people’s expectations. Under normal circumstances, his re-election should have been a slam dunk case. The electoral reality on the ground in Edo state today is the clearest hallmark of a dysfunctional political system and process. Running for re-election as President of the United States of America in the year 1984, Ronald Reagan asked the voters just one question: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” This consequently became the bellwether magical question that defines the electoral chances of any incumbent contender whenever an office is up for grabs again. It has set a democratic benchmark that persists till today, several years after.
The basic question that should be serving the electoral interest of the political process in Edo State today should be “Is Edo state better off today than it was four years ago?” Even with the question unasked, the answer is heard everywhere from Benin City through the streets of Berlin down to the streets of Washington DC. This is the sole determinant factor that should have been beating the drums and blowing the trumpets of political realities in Edo state today.
Unfortunately, it is not.
When I wrote in my last analysis on the Edo State’s gubernatorial election that the odds were strongly against Governor Oshiomole in the strongly exacerbated state of negative political emotions in that state, many of my readers accused me of doing the bidding of the PDP. I wrote in that analysis that a PDP victory more “by crook than by hook” was getting increasingly likely. Very few people understood what that expression meant.
Today in political Nigeria, we live in an age of massive destructive positioning. Everyone seeks to take a clear position on issues in the manner of pitching one camp against another. The foremost and outstanding victim of this practice is usually the truth. When Olusegun Obasanjo was the civilian President of Nigeria, Nigerians massively sought to take a distinctive stance on political matters. Those who pitched their tents with the anti-Obasanjo camp felt obligated to defend the views of that camp with their last blood. Nothing good could or should be seen in the opponent and in fact, it was not permitted at all, to see beyond the scope of what the camp of favor ordained.
Pitiably, this tradition has taken a stronghold on public reasoning and general psyche in our present day. It has so degenerated to the basics and elemental qualification of reasoning that the concept of occupying the middle ground on matters of public debate is treated today, with contempt and almost as a taboo and an insult on the intelligence of the discerning public.
Now that the governorship seat of Edo state is at stake, whoever dares to talk about the weaknesses of Adams Oshiomole can only be a hostile propagandist on the payroll of the PDP. That is the view of Oshiomole loyalists. On the other hand, one prominent PDP leader in Edo state left a comment on my website ostentatiously praising the objectivity and neutrality of my analysis. In fact, not until someone called me to tell me that the man was not an ordinary reader I had no clue who this high-profile commentator was. It was to me like any other reader’s comment. It struck me so clearly that neither this PDP leader nor critics who branded me as a hostile propagandist had a clear grasp of what the expression meant that a PDP victory more “by crook than by hook” was getting increasingly likely.
A few days ago, I was least surprised to read in a Nigerian newspaper that a public opinion poll conducted by a private group of pollsters was giving the lesser known PDP candidate, retired General Airhiavbere a clear lead over the incumbent Governor Oshiomole. Ethnic considerations were said to be playing the paramount role. Even less surprising was the release one day after, in a nationwide circulating ACN newspaper, of another poll result to counter what appeared one day earlier. This time, the second poll was predicting a resounding victory for the incumbent Governor even in the home of his strongest adversary Mr. Fix-It. The lesser known, unpublicized and neutral polls conducted by a group of academic journalists that are closely affiliated with me however report a clear trend towards Adams Oshiomole. My sources declared unflinchingly that they did not poll for views and opinions. They polled registered voters that were likely to vote with the most practical scientific method at their disposal.
Today, the House of Representatives in Abuja is split along party lines. Assemblymen are reportedly trading vitriolic languages over the decision of the President of the country to deploy 3,500 soldiers to Edo State even though the state is not a troubled spot like Jos. On the other hand, people are however not oblivious of the presence of Niger Delta militants in Edo state in the services of the incumbent Governor. Eyewitness accounts have confirmed to me in private, the arrival of busloads of such thugs in campaign rallies and other political functions.
In other words, the stage is set in Edo state, for some anticipatory violence and electoral bloodshed. A strongly aggrieved leadership of the opposition party centered around elder Tony Anennih – an erstwhile facilitator of Oshiomole’s political shot to success – is hell-bent on seeing Oshiomole’s departure from government house. By hook or by crook! If in the traditional way of fishery, the fish becomes too smart to be caught by the ‘hook’ with some luring bonbons, modern fishery devised the ‘crooked’ fishing net to grab an entire population of fishes in a form of maritime genocide. With empirical indications now shedding light on the possible direction of the outcome of the elections in a level playing field, it will be safe to assume that only a miracle or the crooked option will put a smile on PDP’s face when the final toll is taken of all the valid votes cast.
The desperation and seriousness on the part of the PDP became clear to the incumbent Governor in the run-up to July 14th. He was reported to have arrogantly declared in conceitedness that he would go into the election without campaigning hoping that his achievements would speak for him. His narrow escape from death however seemed to have sounded a wake-up call! In the end, the incumbent Governor campaigned well in excess of what he had initially bargained for.
Learning their lessons from past by-elections and the last National Assembly elections however, the opposition PDP is leaving nothing to chance and seeks to match the Governor’s superior thuggery power in securing convincing and overwhelming victories. A trend that has served to legitimize the unnecessary use of fire-power in elections no matter the level of necessity! Adams Oshiomole is one politician in Edo state who has never had any real necessity to subscribe to the use of thugs during elections but had always done so all the same to avoid leaving anything to chance. The other party would have done and actually did so too anyway. Having taken inductive lessons from his mentor and predecessor Lucky Igbinedion, Governor Oshiomole had perfected the game and beaten the PDP to its own game and with its own weapon in several elections since his inception as Governor.
Having observed all developments from the sideline, the PDP is now desperate and has sealed its loopholes in one last ditch attempt to wrest power from Adams Oshiomole to teach him the lesson that those who installed him can as well unseat him. The response is the recruitment of more superior firepower replacing thugs with Niger Delta militants. It therefore remains to be seen, what role the huge number of soldiers deployed to Edo state will play in the final game plan.
All indications seem to point to an electoral process characterized by rigging on both sides with Oshiomole having the least need for any such practice. He will do it all the same because he will be driven by the urge to leave nothing to chance.
In what may be one of the last big acts for the aging Tony Anennih, the stakes could not be higher for the opposition PDP. An eventual PDP victory more by “crook” than by “hook” bears the huge potential of unleashing unspeakable bloodshed since a largely satisfied citizenry will express brutal disappointment at the departure of the achievement-prone Governor. Quelling such unrest will be a daunting task. This potential outcome may perhaps, persuade leading actors in the PDP to tread very cautiously and perhaps stop one step short of stealing victory.
In the end, Adams Oshiomole, who deserves to continue and bring to a logical conclusion, a project that he has started intelligently albeit with loads of flaws in process and method, will have learned the unenviable lesson that achievements alone does not give any man the opportunity and right to wallow in complacency and undue arrogance. In the end, this will turn out to have been the beauty of democracy only if the predators and desperate forces will let it be.
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