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OPINION: Battling with the People’s Consciousness in Edo

By Sufuyan Ojeifo, Abuja

Edo people have become very politically enlightened and there is no amount of shenanigans and sweet talks that will mitigate their consciousness and readiness to effect a change of government in the State on September 28, or any other date that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may be corralled to fix for the governorship election.  The current realities of poverty and hunger, aggravated by an economic recession into which the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government has plunged the nation, have made the case for continuity by the APC in Edo State spurious, puerile, despicable and indefensible.

The continuity mantra by Governor Adams Oshiomhole and his APC choir members has been sounding like a broken record in the ears.  Oshiomhole was aware of this long before the imposition of his crony, Godwin Obaseki, on the party as its governorship candidate.  He also singlehanded chose a man from his Uzairue clan, Hon Phillip Shaibu, as Obaseki’s running mate at the expense of better qualified and more politically astute persons from Owan and Akoko-Edo axis of Edo North Senatorial zone.  It was the height of impudence and condescending haughtiness by the comrade governor, having been in office for close to eight years, to take the rather impolitic decision to cede the deputy governorship position to his local government.  

In this entire charade, the governor, in exercise of his “imperial” power as the new godfather of his party, still wanted those shortchanged by his squeaky meddlesomeness in the primary, to applaud his gambit.  Those persons, some of who are the finest political leaders from Edo South and Edo Central zones, would not kowtow and have quietly withdrawn from the APC electioneering.  Thus, Oshiomhole’s  long and frenzied speeches at political rallies, as if he is the governorship candidate, stemmed from the gulf of hopelessness created by his brutal act of muscling aside persons whose candidatures could have inspired and sustained people’s confidence in whatever is left of his heavily tele-guided and manipulated APC structure.

From all indications, Oshiomhole seems destined for the prize of APC’s ultimate undertaker in Edo.  He has lost the goodwill he enjoyed in his first term in office.  To be sure, that goodwill accounted for his re-election in 2012.  But the scenario, this time, is different.  The people, who are victims of Oshiomhole’s bad governance, harsh tax regime and multiple levies, no longer see in him the fatherly figure that made them, during his first term, to coin the moniker: Oshio Baba!   That moniker has been variously bastardised to deride the once-acclaimed performer.  It became so bad that political pundits have concluded that Oshiomhole is Obaseki’s albatross; that rather than enhance Obaseki’s candidature, he has actually substantially subtracted from it.

That was the mindset with which Edo people were going for the September 10 governorship election before it was postponed.  The Police and the Department of State Security came to the temporary rescue of Oshiomhole and APC by forcing a security advice on the INEC to shift the poll.  INEC, itself, was not convinced by the security advice.  The PDP and Election Monitoring/Observation groups were also not convinced.  They, therefore, criticised the security advice and the eventual postponement of the election.  For me, I can understand, to some extent, the intrigues that Oshiomhole and the APC have introduced into the entire electoral process.  It has been a question of exploring all the plans and options to salvage a hopeless situation.

Now see what I mean: I was availed of a report that a prominent businessman who has interest to invest in Edo was primed by the APC to sponsor its governorship election.  But unknown to the APC leadership, the businessman had quietly commissioned a South African company to do an independent survey/opinion on the direction Edo people would go in the governorship election.  At the end of the exercise, the PDP candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, was said to be favoured by over 79.1 percent of the 23,000 respondents sampled statewide while the APC candidate, Mr Godwin Obaseki, made do with 20.9 percent.  When the businessman confronted the APC leadership with this development , he was told that the survey outcome was concocted, unknown to them that it was a foreign company commissioned by the businessman that embarked on it.   The businessman was said to have refused to pump his billions into the campaign and the APC had to look elsewhere-of course, the state coffers, contrary to its earlier funding plan.

There are possibly other surveys/opinions, which might have evidently favoured the PDP and its candidate, known perhaps, also, to the APC.  Besides, there is the consciousness among the people for liberation, occasioned by the pains inflicted by the bad governance in the State and current recession in the nation.   Oshiomhole knew the chances of the APC and Obaseki were slim and had calculated that a mega rally at which President Muhammadu Buhari would address Edo people, would bolster the chances of the APC.  Buhari came and left Edo people with a promise that the nation would soon come out of the economic recession.  Yet another promise of “soon” was infuriating to the people who can no longer bear the burden of hunger and other social deprivations.  Edo people were certainly not impressed.  The PDP capitalised on the matter by warning the people not to hand over the destiny of the State again to a “Recession Team.”

Rather than getting a boost, the APC suffered a serious setback.  It quickly activated the other plan/option: the Police-DSS security advice to INEC to postpone the election on account of security intelligence that Boko Haram extremists were planning to attack soft and dense populations during the Sallah celebrations on September 12 and 13 and that Edo was one of the States so-targeted.  And, since election in Edo was September 10, it was advisable not to go ahead with the election that would bring together clusters of people in defined locations for election purpose.  But I thought the Federal Government said that Boko Haram had been technically defeated. Besides, were the 25,000 Police personnel deployed to Edo State and other paramilitary agencies together with soldiers going to Edo for a tea party?  What will be different on September 28 from this initially deployment in terms of security infrastructure and readiness?

But it was indeed curious that it was after APC’s mega rally that held without any hitch at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin that the security agencies would issue the advice.  The INEC has been forced to shift the election to September 28, a Wednesday.  Why not September 24, a Saturday, to allow the people to fully mobilise themselves?  Someone said to me that it was part of APC’s grand plan to disenfranchise Edo voters and deal with the numbers with a view to rigging the poll.  To convince me that this is not so, the State Government should declare September 26 and 27 as public holidays to enable voters travel to their villages or places where they were registered to vote.

In conclusion, I am also not too comfortable with the election almost clashing with the coronation of the Oba of Benin which comes up on September 26.  I hope the one will not gravely impact or affect the mobilisation for the other, especially in Benin City, the epicenter of Edo South Senatorial zone, where the candidates of the two leading political parties-PDP and APC-come from.   But one thing that I am sure of is that the consciousness of Edo people is very high.  It is beyond the PDP and its candidate, Ize-Iyamu.  It is about liberation.  This is what Oshiomhole and the APC are battling with.  But Edo people know that the best time to liberate themselves from the shackles of their taskmasters which Oshiomhole and the APC typify is now.  And, indeed, the future is now!

 Mr Ojeifo, Editor-in-Chief of The Congresswatch magazine, sent this piece via ojwonderngr@yahoo.com




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