Of National Confab, Oshiomhole and DuplicityArticles/Opinion Thursday, October 31st, 2013
By John Ainofenokhai
If there is a governor in Nigeria who can honestly claim to derive his power from the people, Adams Aliu Oshiomhole, the comrade governor of Edo state could be the one. Before he was elected governor, he fought many battles with the Nigerian people against the forces of tyranny as a labour leader or so it seemed. The people also stood by him all the time he was in court to claim his mandate believing that when he emerges governor, he would be fair to all. Who can blame the Edo people for their optimism, which is now clearly playing out as misplaced?
Yes, Oshiomhole cut the image of a leader that can be trusted during the labour union days; although there are many who can bet their lives that Oshiomhole compromised too many times and, in fact, sabotaged the very strikes he called himself! As ludicrous as this might appear, there were even some allegations that on some occasions, he begged the security operatives to deal somewhat roughly with him to convince his union members and the public of his commitment and sacrifice. Whatever, in the entire contraption, Oshiomhole appeared to have got richer while defending the Nigerian workers!
Truly, given Oshiomhole’s activist background, there was this huge expectation that he would be a strong democrat, an advocate of the masses and a telling example for the other governors. Sadly, the comrade governor has turned out to be one of the worst tyrants in government. His handling of two recent events: the Local Government election in Edo State and the South-south zone meeting of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference inexorably leads to this conclusion. Oshiomhole has proven that he is not different from the other governors who clearly have become the greatest obstacle to our democracy. Indeed, in some respects, he is proving to be worse than many of his colleagues.
Yes, there has been this media blitz about how the governor is tarring many roads and building bridges. Yet democracy is more than the tarring of roads and the building of bridges (assuming this propaganda is correct) because even the worst kinds of despots have tarred more roads. Away with this tarred-road theory of democracy! The true test of democracy is in the quality of freedom and liberty enjoyed by the citizens. Even if Oshiomhole were to do all the roads and provide all the essential social infrastructure in Edo and the people are not free – whether in the choice of electing their preferred local government chairmen or in making decisions on the basis of their continued coexistence and relationship with other groups in the Nigerian state – then democracy is yet to take roots.
In the recently conducted Edo Local Government Election, the whole world saw the charade and the parody that unfolded. The whole world saw with regret how Oshiomhole used the instrumentality of his office to rob the local people of their franchise by imposing his minions as chairmen and councillors on the people against their wish. Such was the greedy appetite of the governor for illegality that he could not even allow the result of the chairmanship election in Esan North-East Local Government where the people were brave enough to defend their votes to stand.
And in the mad quest to take everything, the result of the first election on April 24, 2013 was cancelled simply because the governor’s preferred choice was clearly defeated. In the October 22, 2013 rerun election in the same Local Government Area, Oshiomhole and his party’s desperation was even more dangerous as they never allowed the people to freely choose their local government chairman. Validation: the APC manufactured a result that never in any way reflected the voting decisions of the poor people of the Local Government.
As if he has not done enough to afflict the sensibilities of the people he claims to govern, Oshiomhole has embarked on unleashing the worst kind of despotism on the people of Edo state and the entire South-south region. Or how else can the reprehensible and shameful position of the governor on the issue of the national conference be explained? The Presidential Advisory Committee headed by Senator Femi Okurounmu on nationwide consultation with the people had come to the South-south region to discuss with the people. And as a matter of respect, the Committee deemed it fit to pay a courtesy call on the Edo state governor whose state was hosting the regional consultation.
Oshiomhole, whose party had adopted the unilateral and selfish position of its leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on the national confab, chose to urinate on the decision of the president, Goodluck Jonathan, to cave in to the pressures from the Nigerian people to discuss the national question. Oshiomhole contumaciously described the decision as unwise and senseless. From television footages on the visit, it was evident that the committee struggled to tolerate the arrogant and all-knowing King Solomon of Edo.
But it was clear that Edo people and the South-south people had swallowed enough of Oshiomhole’s insults and in line with their democratic freedom decided to speak out. He could talk down on the committee after all they elected to go to his office but they could no longer stomach the governor’s anti-people stance on the conference which they are eagerly waiting for to discuss the various issues stalling our march into genuine nationhood. For several years now, since the 1966 coups, the civil war, state creations, renewed minority rights agitation, oil resource control, the annulment of June 12, 1993 election result, the Boko Haram insurgency in the North, zoning of the presidency, among other issues, there have been nationwide call to discuss Nigeria. Oshiomhole has been part of the pro-democracy groups consistently calling for the convoking of a national conference. Now, there is an opportunity and he thinks he is oratorical enough to talk people out of it or sway them against the confab.
Other members of the Advisory Committee might have been able to suffer Oshiomhole’s impertinence gladly, Col. Tony Nyiam (retd.) chose to be different. He spoke to the bad manners in the governor. And the South-south people (not thugs as skewed by the All Progressive Congress, APC, propaganda machinery) who had converged on the hall of Imaguero College in Benin aligned with him. They wanted Nigerians to come together and talk so that they could feel alright. They sang the popular Bob Marley song: “One Love” to boot.
If it is true that the Advisory Committee said Nyiam should withdraw from the committee for standing up to partisan Oshiomhole, then I consider it unfair for the committee members to succumb to the APC propaganda and single out Nyiam for censure. If anything, the retired colonel with a history of fighting injustice deserves commendation for speaking up for the people. It is outright mischief and misleading to report that thugs disrupted the consultation of the presidential advisory committee in Edo.
Is it not disrespectful to describe honest men and women sent by their communities to represent them in that forum as thugs simply because they showed courage in calling a governor of one of the states in their zone to order? Those who claim that Oshiomhole was insulted do not understand the workings of democracy. Rather it is the governor who insulted his people by talking down on them and taking a course at variance with their own interests. Lest we forget, the principle of popular sovereignty, which states that power belongs to the people, has not been revised. It is admirable that the people of Edo and the South-south zone found their voices at the right time to let their governor know that they elected him and that the only interests he must pursue are those of the electorate and not that of his godfather and benefactor pulling the strings from somewhere in the South-west.
Oshiomhole is, however, not the only governor living the lie that he is the state like the monarchical rulers of yore. Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa had earlier stated ignorantly that as long as he remains governor, no delegate from Jigawa would attend the conference as if the state is all about him alone. In Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi is decidedly working at cross purposes with his people and every day the folly of his new politics stares him in the face as he increasingly casts the image of a lone ranger in a state he was evidently a popular governor. The question then is, why have these governors chosen to betray their people?
· Ainofenokhai wrote in from Benin, Edo State.
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