By Sunday next week, the actual voting in the governorship elections in Edo State would have been concluded with the collation of results apparently still in progress.
That is if things work as planned, for in Nigeria’s electoral culture anything can happen at any time. And for Edo State, the build up to the polls provides the basis for expecting anything – more of the absurd than the sublime. Even at that, among developments that will be trending next Sunday is what has been gained or lost by who, where and how. Needless to state that the most important gain any of the two candidates being Godwin Obaseki of his new found political platform – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is a higher vote count as well as his final declaration as the winner of the exercise and therefore governor-elect of Edo State. While other gains that should be expected presently hang in the balance, the build up to the polls indicate that the losses which qualify as the dividends of the incidental anomie, may flow in torrents.
Indications that the forthcoming Edo State governorship polls may take Nigeria deeper into the crevices of political rascality emerged long before the exercise commenced, with the break in partnership between the incumbent governor Godwin Obaseki and his former godfather and immediate past governor of the state Adams Oshiomole. That development set the stage for an all-holds-barred build up for the polls.
Already the tension preceding the polls has reached fever high pitch with the security agencies priming themselves for contingencies that may ensue during the exercise. In that context, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), last week used the opportunity of addressing the conference of commanders of the 79 Police Mobile Force (MOPOL 79) to warn all political actors in Edo State – be such a politician or voter, not to test the will of the Police during the polls, but confine their political activities within the ambit of the law. Just as well, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also issued a cautionary note for politicians to avoid creating any challenge to the polls exercise, which can lead to a constitutional crisis, at the instance of factors that could derail the exercise including undue postponement. The INEC was particular about the incidence of the COVID-19 pandemic which has introduced additional protocols to the electoral exercise.
While the details of the soured relationship between Obaseki and Oshiomole have saturated the public space, suffice it to be stated that the polls will be the final battle ground at least for now. As Obaseki will be jostling personally on the platform of his new found political platform of the PDP, Oshiomole will contend as a proxy to Osagie Ize-Iyamu the actual candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In the Nigerian political culture of winner takes all, whoever loses at the polls has more than the loss of a throne to contend with, after the exercise. The portends of a loser ending up with his followers and sympathisers in political wilderness and emasculation, remain part of the bargain.
As things stand, if even before its conduct the Edo governorship election has demonstrated significant congruence with past exercises in other parts of the country, it then tells a very disturbing story about how jaundiced the country’s political processes are, and therefore needy of a therapy. The lesson here remains that the leadership succession process in the country is still in its most primitive state; perhaps like buchaneers on the high seas, among whom leadership does not have to follow any definite order, but is determined by whichever of them that seizes a booty-laden ship becoming ‘Capoon’ (Captain). Likewise, any number of a ‘Capoon’s’ fellow sailors can organize a mutiny against him, take over command and spare or waste his life.
Granted that such may be a lifestyle that is dictated by the vagaries of brigandage on the high seas, it however remains most anachronistic for a country with a defined communal identity in the comity of nations. Nigeria, with all its warts and weaknesses, faults and foibles, as amplified as they may be, still remains a country of reckoning both for most of her citizens, as well as on the global scene. That is why the spate of hate speech, hate action and violence which are preceding the Edo polls, needs to be interrogated extensively to facilitate a most desired turn-around in the electoral culture and fortunes in the country. Must every election be a do and die exercise, one may ask.
The lingering tendency whereby, inspite of the wide spread condemnation of electoral violence some Nigerians – especially the younger generations are still lured into it, remains a matter that is yet to be frontally addressed and minimized if not terminated. Violence in this dispensation is often deployed to foster the personal political fortunes of individuals, not the community. This means that whoever loses his or life in any incidence of political violence dies for a fellow individual who may not even appreciate the sacrifice. However even as this reality is self-manifest, unscrupulous political leaders still deploy it to foster their political interests.
As has been demonstrated vividly and severally, it does not require rocket science to appreciate that the politics of Edo State polls in 2020 would have been different if a person like Adams Oshiomole had not interfered directly to take sides against the incumbent governor Godwin Obaseki whom he had previously praised to high heavens while literally destroying the public and political image of Osagie Ize-Iyamu. A major point of interest in the Edo polls is to what extent the credibility which was spawned for Ize-Iyamu by Oshiomole will feature in the poll exercise.
What a relief it would have been if the political space in Edo State at this time was driven by the heartening take by Nigeria’s immediate past President Dr Goodluck Jonathan who declared before the 2015 Presidential polls that his political ambition was not worth the life of any Nigerian. The nobility in the foregoing declaration by Jonathan, profiles as unacceptable in the forthcoming Edo polls, any manifestation of do and die politics which is fit, only for fools.