By Tinnie Iredia
Last week Saturday, I had the privilege of serving as guest speaker at the installation of the President of the Rotary Club of Port Harcourt Airfield where I drew attention to the need for Nigerian politicians to emulate Rotarians while seeking elective office.
This is because in Rotary, there is hardly any form of bitterness among the members contesting any office whereas politicians do exactly the opposite to get into office. The main difference is that whereas Rotarians seeking elective offices are eager to serve humanity, politicians scheme for humanity to serve them.
Whereas Rotary service entails sacrifice, political office quite often entails self enrichment. To be able to achieve his goal, a typical politician seeks to manipulate everyone using brute force to intimidate some people while he buys over opinion moulders and election personnel to unduly influence the process. Against this backdrop this piece takes a look at common trends in Nigerian elections with a focus on Edo State where an election is due in a matter of days..
During the electioneering period of the last governorship elections held in the state in 2012 commercialized endorsements of candidates was in vogue. It was a shame that an enlightened state like Edo was allowed to be so teleguided making the election process a victim of undue influence. Under the circumstance, what happened was far from being free and fair, as “one man one vote” the official slogan of the ruling party was bastardized.
The development turned out not to be a one-off, as it recurred when the government set up its own electoral body to conduct local government elections in the state. Like the notorious FEDECO of old, the Edo State Electoral Commission produced election results even in locations where voting did not hold.
With another election by the corner, must we, in spite of the comparatively enviable height of our human capital be so turned into second class citizens this time around?
This columnist has always loudly answered the poser in the negative. Our premise is that political right being the highest human right; people must be allowed to associate freely and vote for the candidate of their choice in an election. It is the best way to elect a credible candidate who can handle governance like a people’s enterprise.
For instance, nothing stops the largely unemployed edo voters from voting for Thompson Osadolor of a rather small KOWA party who plans to create 300,000 jobs in 2 years
Unfortunately, those who think they have power and might always appropriate the common will of the people. They regard themselves as opinion leaders who know what is best for the people and who are supposedly well positioned to forcibly direct public opinion but who do so only for their personal gains.
The most painful of these bogus opinion moulders are traditional rulers and chiefs who now form cartels for extorting money from candidates with an assurance that they and their people would support the investors. The Benin Oracle- a kind of myth designed by its operator to tell the Benin people who the gods prefer among the candidates is at it again. In 2012, the Oracle endorsed the current governor,
Adams Oshiomhole and he won. For this reason, many had looked forward to its prediction for the September 10, 2016 elections until a few days ago when it was revealed that it was the APC candidate that found favour with the Oracle. Why did the endorsement take so long to come compared to 2012 when the Oracle was more or less the unofficial campaign manager of Oshiomhole all through the contest? Was it a hard nut to crack this time around? With the revelation by Simon Ebegbulem who reports for this newspaper from Benin City that “the Esogban of Benin Kingdom and the Odionwere of the Kingdom, Chief David Edebiri is the oracle of the Kingdom” Edebiri has to give us more details. First, till date, the allegation that the Oracle got a Prado jeep gift in 2012 is yet to be refuted.
If so, are there plans for a second jeep or is the allegation baseless? Third, does the oracle commune with the dead? Was the current Esogban of Benin able to have a chat with his predecessor, the late Chief R. O. Ize-Iyamu who incidentally was the biological father of the PDP candidate that the oracle’s prediction did not favour?
However, we suspect that the Oracle is taking us back to the dark days when everything was explained with the prism of superstition. Election, the democratic game of choosing citizens that would help society grow and develop is a game for the living and not for spirits and Edebiri’s acclaimed witches and wizards. So, our people must be allowed to do what is done elsewhere, voting by people for those who convince them that they can best represent their interests in government.
As Barrister Abubakar Yesufu a former President, of the Students Union of the University of Benin once appropriately canvassed, “candidates must be given an opportunity to sell their ideas.
The best way to win an argument is to present a better argument. No undue use of instrumentality of government to leverage any candidate. No deployment of unbridled cash to cajole or to “overpower the delegates’ volition without convincing their judgment.” If this caution is ignored, our state will not grow. Instead, we shall continue to have greedy opinion moulders who for materialism, change elections from voting to purchased endorsements.
Indeed, the trend would invariably derogate drastically from the dignity and integrity of the opinion leaders themselves as many followers will be forced to rationalize the standpoints of such leaders.
Of course, the endorsement of Ize-Iyamu by traditional rulers in Esan land the other day followed by denials and counter claims leading to the request by one of the traditional rulers for a replay of the video tape to validate the claim left much to be desired. Similarly, the alleged endorsement of Obaseki by Etsako traditional rulers looked like a television comedy when the latter who are ordinarily poorly paid claimed to have donated to the campaign funds of the candidate. It is surely time to stop compromised endorsements.