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Democracy and the Edo election

They lost! With the federal might, bullion van, master rigger governors, the paperweight of two ex-governors who became party chairmen, Oyegun and Oshiomole, plus all…

They lost! With the federal might, bullion van, master rigger governors, the paperweight of two ex-governors who became party chairmen, Oyegun and Oshiomole, plus all the money in the Central Bank.

APC lost Edo. And I didn’t add the power of NTA’s 30 million viewers that can’t be wrong with its uncanny semblance to Sai Baba’s curated cows. Add to that Radio Nigeria, the voice of the nation’s oppressors, the intimidating presence of the army, the police and the Daura Secret Service. They lost convincingly. But so did we, the people.

Five years ago, Adams Oshiomole’s fervent prayers were to play the puppeteer to his successor. Godfatherism was dead; long live the imminent godfatherism. With his days numbered, Oshiomole went to town campaigning. He begged the people. He attributed whatever success he achieved in the Edo economic front to Godwin Obaseki, the man he recruited for that job.

He told his audience that Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a quondam hireling was not worth anybody’s trust. He even berated his collar as a pastor. He is lucky that Ize-Iyamu has no strong ecclesiastical godsons, Oshiomole would have been scavenged and reduced to dust like Daddy Freeze. Unfortunately, politics and the pulpit only mix when politicians and pastors are desperate for power and influence.

For the entire campaign season, Oshiomole was back in the political latrine, lapping up every statement he dropped on Ize-Iyamu. May the tongues of all our enemies regret every evil they once spoke against us, amen. Apparently, Edolites are fast learners – or are they?

When Oshiomole changed camps and attempted to resuscitate godfatherism, the people had control of the coffin and were preparing its obsequies. They wouldn’t let go. When a politician of the Nigerian hue erects a scaffold of promises for you, don’t be over joyous; it could be your gallows.

And so, finally, both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu have made unenviable history jumping from party to party and winning and losing friends and elections. Obaseki became the third governor to win two back-to-back terms on the ticket of two different political parties. His collared challenger became a victim of wrongly reading Zeu’s tarot cards.  If, as they say in ecumenical circles, God called his pastor to greater service as governor, he did not wait to find out what time that should be.

As citizens of a country on the brinks, the Edo example is evidence that we have not learnt much. Those who fail to learn the lesson of history soon become its casualty. As we wait for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to confirm the number of political parties still left on its register, it is evident that the cosmic powers of political Nigeria are gradually turning party politics into a two-party state or the two sides of the same coin.

Ordinarily, there’s nothing wrong with a two-party state. Well managed, it gives room for the freedom of choice. Although a question of evolution and not convention, established democracies like the USA, Canada and many countries of Europe run two-party systems.

The difference between what we are dangerously inching towards is that in those climes, the difference is as clear as 7-Up in a Fanta bottle. Conservatives view floor crossing as a worse form of prostitution. Win or lose, politicians swim or sink with their parties. If they lose, they return to the drawing board and rebuild, not hop into the next boat. Captains of the other boat regard deserters as avoidable liabilities.

Nigerian politics is not in that mold. From Obaseki’s win, a man could wake up a PDP kingpin and go to lunch on an APC ticket, then return to PDP for dinner. This makes the Nigerian two-party state incongruous. Where there are no principles, conscience is useless.

From this Edo saga, voters have learnt nothing from their past mistakes. Both parties used stomach and tissue infrastructure to sway voters. A tumult of people elbowing each other for bales of Ankara is as bad as those collecting money in exchange for their voters’ cards.

The last time Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of porridge, he tried to buy it back with tears without success. It’s like taking loans on the value of the Naira to the dollar or the heightened price of crude oil. People have argued that voters should collect the money and still vote their consciences. You cannot have a conscience and succumb to material inducement – the two ideas are dissimilar. We must build a new Nigeria on the consciousness of a citizenry voting on conviction, not by inducement. This is why the Nigerian two-party evolution dangerously offers no valid option other than the flip side of the same coin.

Years back, Nasir el-Rufai and Bola Ahmed Tinubu were barred from entering Ekiti during elections. Citizens have freedom of circulation except during elections. Sadly, we have copied lockdown and curtailment of freedom of movement as sacrifices for casting votes. It is a carryover of military dictatorship and only happens in banana republics. It is an emblem of underdevelopment. If we are determined, elections can hold without lockdowns.

Last week, the tables turned against the PDP’s Nyesom Wike and his troops. While APC war generals led by Abdullahi Umar Ganduje were granted freedom to circulate, Wike and others had to piggyback on threats of mob action to outsmart police cordon. We need to free our electoral process of the noxious scent of the skunk spray of restriction of movement. Elections should not just be free and fair, it should be seen to be free and fair.

If governors want to visit other states, they should do so outside of the election cycle. In a serious clime, Ganduje would have to prove to the Kano Assembly that he did not waste the loans he recently obtained from Japan, meddling in Edo polls. That would have added value to democracy.

The idea of gathering the bad boys on opposite sides of the electoral tussle is a recipe for disaster. With the win or die attitude of politicians, the proliferation of arms and dispensable thugs for hire, this thing would boil over someday soon. There are better times to do national tourism than during polls.

Manipulation is fast becoming an integral part of the Nigerian electoral process. It is disdainful to see an electoral contest in which officials on national electoral assignment are either forced or induced to help subvert the people’s will. This happens because we do not commensurately punish election manipulators. How could it be democratic if the process is fraught with inducements and overwhelming evidence of coercion?

Edo has been won and lost. One thing is certain – in the Nigerian political process, second terms are hardly worth the trouble. Most winners use it to exhibit their true colours, hardly exhibiting their best conduct. Governors are not exempted. When governors fancy a senate retirement, they spend time and resources making it happen at the expense of performing. They attempt to install a puppet that is likely to question the books.

Second terms are often spent like footballers after they are leading a loan goal with only a few minutes or seconds left, the impetus to score is sacrificed on the quest to defend the lone goal to the last whistle. Will Obaseki justify the ‘trust’ of Edo people in four years’ time?

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