By Chris O.O. Biose
Please visit www.boldtimes.com.ng
The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving. – Oliver Wendel Holmes Sr.(1809-1894)
The process and outcome of the gubernatorial election held in Edo State on Saturday, September 19, 020 must be of tremendous interest to all patriots. Weeks and days before the election, some political leaders in the state created tension by their acts and utterances, raising fears of imminent violence and bloodshed.
This made the revered Benin Monarch, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolor, Oba Ewuare ll, Oba of Benin, to call the feuding parties to order. On September 2, 2020, the Oba held a meeting with candidates and leaders of the major political parties and extracted a commitment from them, to maintain peace, decorum and follow due process before, during and after he election.
In addition to the commitment made to the Benin Monarch, the candidates and state chairmen of all political parties participating in the election were made to sign a Peace Agreement. This was facilitated by the National Peace Committee led by General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd.) and Bishop Hassan Kukah.
Due to the unenviable record of rigged elections in Nigeria, the international community took a keen interest in Edo 2020. A few days before the election, the US government announced that it had placed travel restrictions on some prominent Nigerian politicians who were notorious for rigging elections in the country. The US, EU and UK also threatened visa ban on Nigerians who rig elections. Many top politicians who stack stolen funds abroad were afraid to offend the Americans and Europeans, else they would have no place to go for their foreign jamborees or frequent medical tours for themselves and families.
Probably as a result of these pressures, unlike in the past, the authorities allowed INEC a free hand to conduct Edo 2020 without noticeable interference from above.
The declaration of result of the election on Sunday, September 20, 2020, was greeted with spontaneous jubilation in Benin City and other parts of Edo State. This is in contrast with what happened when declaration of false results in the Western Region Parliamentary Election held in April 1965, was received with violent protests, widespread arson and burning of human beings in a tragedy known in Nigerian electoral history as “Operation Wetie”.
Popular reception of result of Edo 2020 is also in contrast with what happened in Delta State in 2007 when INEC announced result of the gubernatorial election held on April 14, 2007, before collation of results. This bizarre impunity was greeted with killings and burning of houses (See Delta: Killings, arson reign, Sunday Vanguard, April 15, 2007 p 7; Elections: 3 burnt to death in Commissioner’s house, VANGUARD, April 17, 2007). Soldiers were drafted to Warri to keep peace. The sham election was later nullified in a historic verdict by the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin City, presided over by Justice Monica Dongban-Mensah. In the case cited as Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru & Anor v Dr. Emmanuel Ewetan Uduaghan & Ors – CA/B/EPT/38/10.
A key innovation in the Edo election was the introduction of a technological device popularly called Z-Pad which was used to take a picture of the result in each polling unit (Form EC8A) and upload same to a dedicated portal (INEC RESULT VIEWING – IReV). This enabled all those interested in knowing results to view it in real time. This served to reduce suspicion that results would be changed and rendered it unhelpful for hodlums to snatch result sheets at ward and local collation centres since those results were already on INEC’s result viewing portal.
Edo 2020 is auspicious for several reasons. The global Covid-19 pandemic apart, the election was held at a time when confidence in public institutions in the most populous Black Country in the world was at very low ebb. Majority of citizens were fast losing faith in their country while socio-economic conditions were becoming increasingly unbearable. Under this condition, any further assault on public sensibilities by the authorities cSould easily have ignited pent up emotions and sparked public revolt of gigantic proportions and unpredictable consequences. Happily, the election served notice of hope in the electoral body and by implication, other public institutions in the country.
For the first time since June 12, 1993 presidential election, local and international observers as well as about 70 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), were united in their conclusion that the election was free, fair and credible. All fair minded stakeholders agree that the electoral umpire, security agencies, performed well.
The peaceful process and outcome of the election shows that the masses and electorate are not the Nigerian problem. Definitely, if soldiers and police had attempted to interfere with the election as they did during the presidential and gubernatorial election in Rivers State on February 23 and March 9, 2019, respectively, the peace of the people would have been seriously disturbed, to say the least.
In spite of heightened tension and distrust that preceded the election, the Edo electorate displayed commendable determination to elect a governor of their choice. A few days to the election and during the election, there were reports and video footages of some persons engaged in purchase of votes. Some hungry people of weak moral stature fell for the bait set by unpopular politicians. I learnt from observers that some voters who collected money said that they still voted for a candidate of their choice. This shows that where good citizens who are always in the majority are resolved not trade off their well-being and future of their children for a pittance, elections in Nigeria would truly be a celebration of the will of the people, not of godfathers, soldiers, police and corrupt public officials.
Another remarkable record set at the election was the superlative performance of the Nigeria Police and other security agencies. Unlike their attitude during the gubernatorial election in Osun State on September 22, 2018and rerun election on September 27, 2018, voters and media reports were unanimous that the security agencies were upright and impertial and performed their duties creditably. Channels TV added that the policemen were courteous and approachable. This is unprecedented in recent Nigerian history.
This development is very significant and one hopes that the Police would keep it up because if the police is perceived as distant, unapproachable, hostile or unreliable, decent citizens who have credible and useful information that would assist Police to fight crime would not come forward for fear that the Police could take side with rich and powerful criminals against them.
Although it is too early to sing Halleluiah in this respect, it must be said that Edo 2020 served to restore a level of public confidence in the Nigeria Police Force.
Perhaps, the most significant lesson to be learnt from Edo 2020, is how two of the most powerful political godfathers in Nigerian politics, former National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, were effectively neutralized. The Edo electorate demonstrated that citizens have minds of their own; they are not toys to be played with by politicians and this could serve as a model for other states under the stranglehold of godfathers in Nigeria.
From this point of view, Edo 2020 might rank as the first sign of an imminent social revolution in Nigeria. By revolution in this context, I do not mean shooting people because bloodshed does not amount to revolution. Fascism and killing people to retain power is not revolution; they are heinous crimes. All the murders carried out by ambitious military officers in their 28 years of barbaric dictatorship did not amount to change, not to speak of revolution. It was a degenerate example of what the Italian sociologist and economist, Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) characterised as “circulation of elite”, in the Nigerian case, by the military class.
The term revolution designates collective action taken to contest, overthrow and change an existing social order. Revolutions may take varied forms. They may be spiritual (transition from polytheism to monotheism in ancient Egypt, 5000 BCE), economic (The Industrial Revolution, 1760-1840) artistic, cultural, intellectual (The European Renaissance of 14th to 17th centuries) or political such as transition from monarchy to constitutional rule (English Revolution, 1645-1660). A political revolution is basically a successful struggle by which the ruling power passes from one economic class or group to another. The enthronement of credible elections in Nigeria offers a workable revolutionary plank to overthrow feudal-military structures that dominate the country and enthrone social democracy in its place.
No great nation over survived on feudalism, unregulated exploitation of the weak by the powerful or rule of force. For example, the efficient and orderly administration of the Roman Empire was eventually undermined by its system of slavery and monopoly of property by a few large land owners. This created unemployment and restlessness among the population, finally resulting in the destruction of the empire. Therefore, inefficient administration is not always the cause of the downfall of states.
.There is urgent need for radical departure from the decadent system that has brought this potentially great country to its knees and made it a hell on earth where the greatest ambition of most youths is to run away from their own country to suffer untold hardships in more humane climes across the world. Nigeria needs radical or revolutionary change, not cosmetic reforms, painted with sweet but deceptive words. This revolutionary project to save Nigeria from perdition needs courageous personalities of great vision and patriotic zeal to bring it to actuality.
For example, when Olayinka Herbert Samuel Heelas Macaulay (1846-1946), Father of Nigerian Nationalism, led his fellow Africans to dare British colonialists and demand equality of opportunity with whites, it was a very radical thing to do.
When the youthful Mr Anthony Eromosele Enahoro, (as he then was) moved the historic motion for Self-Government for Nigeria on the floor of the Federal House of Representatives in Lagos on March 31, 1953, it was an extremely radical move. Enahoro did not ask for reform of colonialism; he demanded its repudiation. That singular act sparked off a chain of events that culminated in a series of constitutional conferences and eventually in Nigerian independence in October 1960.
Great philosophers and religious leaders were considered to be radicals or revolutionaries in their time. For example, in the 5th century BCE, it was considered most radical for Socrates of Athens to defy Athenian traditions and preach freedom of thought.
The revolutionary spirit is consistent with progressive political ideology. The progressive mind is ever willing to consider ways to improve the ways in which things are done for the greater benefit and advantage of all. Adding the appellation “progressive” to an organization does not make it progressive. Indeed, this is one of the big lies that define the Nigerian society. People adopt titles that are antithetic to what they do or stand for. Progressives by political conviction are soldiers for what is right and beneficial to society; they are fortified by intellectual clarity, inward gallantry and motivated by patriotic zeal.
Nigerians await the emergence of a new crop of progressives in the mold of Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909-1987), Mallam Aminu Kano (1920-1983) and Professor Chike Obi (1921-2008). The challenge of development, which the expected progressive political formation must address, in the broadest sense, is to improve the quality of life. This entails better education, nutrition, health, higher income, less poverty, cleaner environment, greater individual freedom and a richer cultural life.
My reading of Edo 2020 is that it presages the Nigerian revolution. Nigerians should never again fall below the standard set in Edo State on September 19, 2020. When citizens find that their votes count, it is not only a return to democracy, it promotes a sense of self-worth of citizens, that they choose the government that rules them, not political godfathers; it re-enacts their faith in themselves and the country.
When votes count, it serves notice to political leaders that they stand to be removed at the next election if they fail to meet the yearnings and aspirations of citizens. For that reason, leaders are less likely to take the people for granted, ride rough-shod on them or hope that they would easily purchase voters to remain in office.
When votes count, Ndigbo will remove docile S’East Governors that collude with rampaging Fulani herdsmen militia that kill their people and grab their land. When votes count, the electorate across the country will remove Representatives and Senators that collect their votes and go to Abuja to support anti-people legislation or use legislative leverage to fester for their private nests.
When votes count, the Middle-Belt, S’East, S’South and S’West Regions will no longer need to continue begging Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and President Muhammadu Buhari to implement political restructuring to bring about political and economic justice in the country; they will simply elect a new crop of Assembly-men, Governors, Representatives, Senators and a President that will do their will.
My congratulatory message to the winner of the Edo State governorship election, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, is that his first task is to reinforce political education of citizens, which gave him the mandate. In any major programme of social transformation, the people come first. Therefore, Governor Obaseki must provide them with moral, intellectual and economic empowerment so that never again will proud citizens of Edo State sacrifice their self-respect and honour to cringe before political god-fathers or sell their votes to mighty rogues. The political revolution in Nigeria has started from Edo State and since Obaseki is the first beneficiary, he must be in front of the battle.
When I visited Benin City a few weeks ago, I found that Governor Obaseki had transformed hitherto rowdy and unkempt King’s Square (Ring Road) axis. He provided modern car parks, sidewalks, and everything was sparkling and orderly. No more ‘agbero’ and touts! It was unbelievable. He must now reinvigorate his urban renewal project and restore the glory of ancient Benin (Edo State) which was reputed to be the most advanced Black Civilisation in this part of the world before the advent of colonialism. This is the Herculean task which Governor Obaseki has assumed.