NOW that the undisguised war in Edo State is over, this should be the right time for us to talk some sense into our head. Whoever thought the July 14 governorship poll was no war, where weird weapons were deployed during the build up to the poll, probably chose to go to Afghanistan. The gladiators had combined all forms of propaganda machinery as weapons that created fear and anxiety, that resoundingly resonated even beyond the shores of the country.
In our country, political campaigns have lost their meanings. They are no longer what they used to be, such we had in the second republic, for example, when political leaders led their candidates painstakingly to the remotest villages where more than 70 per cent of Nigerians still reside, to market themselves and their party manifesto and programmes.
Today, what we have is an excess dose of propaganda and blackmail and other violent acts. So, it did not come as a surprise that some misguided elements again used the Edo election as an opportunity to further create engender animousity and bigotry in the land. Real issues were relegated to the background. Where some leaders tried to come up with a semblance of critical issues, it was for the purpose of mischief. Unfortunately, the few ‘beautiful ones’ among the players soon joined the coterie of propagandists and congenital liars, thus the heightened and charged political climate weeks before July 14 came.
The Edo people are not insulated from the general economic malaise facing the generality of Nigerians. They are victims of the rising cost of living, the dearth of sufficient servant leaders at different levels of the Nigerian society, burgeoning army of youth unemployment, problems associated with illiteracy and abysmal neglect of rural areas, coupled with challenges arising from ‘monocotyledonous’ economy. None of these and many other major socio-economic issues were exhaustively treated and marketed by the gladiators. Instead, a lot of them resorted to abuse, threats and character assassination. In fact, the utterances of a few of the players were too extreme and volatile to have necessitated the deployment of troops to the state by the Federal Government at the thresh-hold of the election.
How long are we going to continue that way? Is it at every election that soldiers must abandon their core primary duty of protecting sovereignty of the country to assume the responsibility of the police and other agencies of government as outlined in the Constitution? When shall we learn to appreciate the fact that elections are about the people choosing their leaders, under an unfettered freedom and an atmosphere that is devoid of harassment, intimidation and assault, and not because of some narrow interest?
In Momentum: Women In American Politics Now, Ronna Romney and Beppie Harrison took readers on an excursion into part of what makes US politics intriguing and permanently challenging. One area I find very captivating is where the authors state, “One of the enduring eccentricities of politics, of course, is that tomorrow’s battle lines may lie in an entirely different direction, with a number of yesterday’s enemies enrolled as today’s allies, aiding in the relentless assault on those who were yesterday’s friends.” I do not know how much of the inherent lesson and message in this statement was displayed by the various players before the Edo poll. Almost all the key actors lost their brains and heads, except the few candidates perching on the fringe.
For some time, the Nigerian judiciary had come under acerbic attacks, owing to the uncomplimentary role of some judicial officials on the Bench and the Bar. A number of civil society groups and the media have been in the forefront of an advocacy for a thorough and proper cleaning exercise. But the battle is patently tainted in partisanship with the variegated interests diametrically opposed to the Nigerian Constitution, and even democracy. The unwarranted brazen partisanship by the Fourth Estate of the Realm was reenacted during the build up to the Edo poll, as the media largely compromised, rather than acting as platform for the true platform for cross-fertilization of ideas and what constituted the ideals of a sane democratic environment. Some columnists became paid agents and threatened Armageddon, in case the outcome of the election was not in tandem with their narrow disposition and interest.
Another challenge threw up by the election was on the integrity of the traditional institution. The main gladiators tried to drag in key traditional rulers to openly identify with their individual aspirations to govern Edo. While some of them maintained hide-and-seek, others came to openly canvass for votes for a particular candidate for the poll, whereas monarchs are required to be the father to all, regardless of political inclination or creed. Yet, such partisanship by the royal institution is coming at a time period traditional rulers have intensified lobby to have a constitutional role.
We cannot forget in a hurry some ugly events that characterised the election. Lives were lost and invaluable property destroyed in needless hostilities. The greatest tragedy was the gruesome killing of Comrade Olaitan Ojerinde, the Private Secretary to Governor Adams Oshiomhole, as well as the painful death of two journalists in an auto crash that involved the convoy of the governor.
The hero of the election is Professor Attahiru Jega. He and his men and women in INEC won the election. They deserve our garland for being gallantry and intimidated in the face of deliberate attempts to rubbish their integrity and name as professionals. We should salute Jega and his men for their courage and resilience under frequent harassment, cheap blackmail, character assassination and other murderous acts over largely unsubstantiated allegations by the gladiators and their hirelings.
At a time, it was thought if it would not have been proper for Jega, in his capacity as INEC chairman, to throw in the towel and go back to the classroom, because of the avalanche of allegations and insinuations by the various interests in the election that Jega and his men had been compromised. There was a time some thought that the man could count himself lucky if he went to Edo and was not lynched a mob or abducted and killed by the people who were yearning for development and improvement in their life instead of the acrimony, bitterness and in a few instances sorrow, tear and blood that characterised the build up to the election.
But, while we heave a sigh of relief that the drumming for war have receded in Edo has subsided, attention will now shift to Ondo State, where rival political parties will be challenging the second term bid of Governor Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party [LP]. It will be the major acid test for Jega because of the unique fact that Ondo is the only state under the control of LP. Therefore, the voters should have sufficient records of service delivery and promise-kept to either renew or revoke their mandate to Mimiko. But before then, the media, traditional rulers and other stakeholders owe the common man the duty of retrained partisanship by encouraging healthy issue-based campaigns as opposed to a riotous cacophony, infantile claims and egoistic orchestration.
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