By Raymond Nkannebe
As the good people of Edo State troop out en masse to cast their ballots towards determining the next occupant of the Dennis Osadebe Government House in the State, so much is at stake.
On the one hand, the election is in many respects a referendum on the performance of incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki who ran a popular campaign some four years ago to become the 5th democratically elected Governor of the State. On the other hand, it is a fight to the finish by political heavyweights in the State seeking to ‘retire’ each other.
Whereas Obaseki had been lavishly marketed by the former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Governor of the State, comrade Adams Oshiomhole, four years ago, in an election that seemed as though he was also on the ballot, today, the tables are completely turned. Friends have become bitter enemies. And for Oshiomhole, just about anything would be fine, to prevent Obaseki from winning re-election.
On the campaign stump, he was seen kneeling before a gathering of Benin Chiefs apologizing to them for the indiscretion of canvassing the candidate of his former God-son, Godwin Obaseki four years ago. He now says he (Obaseki) is the worst thing to have happened to the State. And wants to correct it, with the same man, he had told the whole world was an unrepentant liar, school dropout, and “a well known non-performer”, Pastor Osazie Ize Iyamu.
For Ize Iyamu, a veteran political figure in the State by all standards, the election is probably his last shot at acheiving what has clearly become a life ambition. His quest to become a Governor in the State has seen him alternate both ends of the political pendulum at different times depending on the political dynamics. While he had vied for the top job of the State under the banner of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2016, he flies the flag of the APC today; a paradox that highlights the fluidity of Nigerian political parties and the lack of politics of ideology in Nigeria’s experiment with elective politics. Like Ize-Iyamu, like Obaseki, but it however remains to be seen whether his (Ize-Iyamu’s) well articulated SIMPLE Agenda makes any impression in the minds of the over 2 million registered voters who would be expected to cast their ballots today and in consequence decide the fate of the political gladiators.
From the robust and engaging campaigns of the leading contenders in the polls and the enthusiasm shown by the people of the state across the 192 wards, there is no doubt that the polls would be well attended, despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 Pandemic. In this wise, the Electoral Commission, deserves some commendation for the efforts it has taken to create a Covid-19 environment for conduct of elections. As voters, electoral officers, observers and other election stakeholders in the State file out on election duty today, one hopes that compliance with the INEC Guidelines for Conducting Elections during the Covid-19 Pandemic is prioritised.
As with all elections, the place of transparency in the entire process cannot be overemphasized. Indeed the essence of democracy is to afford the people the latitude and liberty to elect their preferred leaders without interference from any quarters. Sadly, our history with elections on this score have been nothing to cheer about. The ugly outcome of the Bayelsa and Kogi State elections indeed leaves much to be desired. And it would be a sad commentary for our election management system if the electoral heist that the world witnessed in both elections repeat itself in Edo.
As usual, INEC says it is ready for the polls, promising to ensure free, fair and credible elections. But if there is anything we have learnt from the past, it is that those words mean nothing. However, today’s elections affords the electoral commission, the rare opportunity to redeem it’s battered image in the opinion of many Nigerians by, asserting it’s neutrality and independence from any power centres whether at Abuja or Edo Government House. The Commission can only do this by undertaking today’s exercise with the demonstrated knowledge that it is the repository of a public trust which must not be treated lightly.
Implicit in the role of INEC in delivering its mandate on free and fair elections, is the role of the security agencies. Last year in Kogi, the Nigerian Police made an embarrassing show of how unprofessional it can be in the conduct of the election as some of its officers and men, were seen publicly prostituting the electoral process to confer undue advantage to a particular candidate. Such cannot be the role of the police which ought to maintain neutrality at all times and provide civil cover for the entire electoral process. Will the situation be different today? That is the question.
Already the events of yesterday evening, where a detachment of about 300 policemen were reported to be laying seige at the hotel lodged by the Chairman of the PDP Campaign Council and Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike does not give one hope that the over 30,000 police personnel posted to the State would conduct their duties with the highest sense of professionalism expected. When one factors the high stakes in today’s exercise as signposted in the serial cases of violence and thuggery that characterised the campaigns, that the police should be on the top of their game cannot be gainsaid. In my opinion, with all the best intentions in the world, there is little INEC can do in delivering on its mandate in the face of a compromised security architecture.
All said and done, beyond considerations of the oversized ego of the political actors in the State for whom this election is a test of their political future, we must not lose sight of the fact that the paramount demographics of today’s exercise is the people of Edo whose political choices today would determine how they’ll fare socially, economically and otherwise in another four years. If the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has taught us anything, it is that elections have huge consequences in the material well being of a people.
Consequently, the people of Edo must resist every attempt to make this election an extension of the political feud between Governor Obaseki and Adams Oshiomohle and vote in line with the dictates of their conscience and their aspirations as a collective. The developmental issues in the State are not in any way different from those in other parts of Nigeria: bad roads, ill equipped schools, unpaid salaries and other entitlements of civil servants, unemployment, electricity, lack of portable water, dilapidated healthcare system, a thin social security and poor access to credit in no particular order. An informed decision today at the ballot would entail a proper assessment of the manafestoes of the 14 political parties on the ballot, against the antecedents of each of the candidates, and making a choice accordingly.
By all means, today’s event should not be seen as an avenue to make quick money by unscrupulous voters and vote traders. Sadly, the wide trust deficit between citizens and leaders occasioned by years of leadership neglect, have given birth to a sprawling vote market as electorates now see election seasons as an opportunity to have their own share of the proverbial National Cake. A pre-election report released by the Centre for Democracy in Africa (CDD) on 17th September, 2020 which cited “vote trading” as a feared dynamic in the election had it that, “a number of voters interviewed insisted that the only thing, which would make them vote, is if a contestant, agrees to pay an amount for the vote”. When citizens trade their vote, they lose the moral right to hold elected governments to account and become complicit in their misery. Edolites can however sieze today’s occasion to elevate the standards of civic conduct at periodic elections in Nigeria.
Finally, elections like every other contests, are only amenable to one winner. In this connection, the conduct of the candidates at today’s exercise comes to mind. For all the foibles of our 21 years uninterrupted democratic process, we have been able to show leadership in the Continent by subscribing to a peaceful transition of power through the ballot, with president Good luck Jonathan elevating the bar in 2015. We cannot afford to go off that trajectory.
Therefore, irrespective of the outcome of the polls, basic rules of decorum, civility and gentlemanliness demands that contestants subscribe to the pact extracted from them by the Abdulsalami Abubakar and Bishop Kukah’s Peace Committee, not to foment trouble or outbreak of law and order by whatever means, but to explore our rich Jurisprudence to ventilate all perceived grievances at the Courts. In the words of former president Goodluck Jonathan, nobody’s political ambition should be worth anyone’s life.
May the best candidate emerge as the Heartbeat of the Nation, beats.
Raymond Nkannebe, a legal practitioner writes from Lagos. Comments and reactions to firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @raynkah
Yobe Governor, Buni Marries Abacha’s Divorced Daughter, Gumsu
Yobe Governor Mai Mala Buni on Wednesday married Gumsu Sani Abacha in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The marriage was held at the Abuja residence of the new wife’s brother, Mohammed Abacha.
Buni is the All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker National Chairman; Gumsu is a daughter of former Head of State, Sani Abacha.
Notable personalities and government officials, including the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Hameed Ali attended.
In 2019, shortly after he assumed office, Buni tied the knot with Ummy, a daughter of his predecessor and incumbent Yobe East Senator Ibrahim Gaidam.
Gumsu, 45, is the governor’s fourth wife. Her marriage to Cameroonian multi-billionaire, Bayero Mohamadou crashed in 2020.
Wike Locks Down Rivers for LGA Elections
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has ordered restriction of movement ahead of the local government election in the state.
The election is slated for Saturday, April 17 across 4,442 polling units, 319 wards and 23 local government areas.
In a broadcast on Thursday, Wike said the restriction from Friday night to Saturday is needed to ensure the smooth conduct of the election by the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RVSIEC).
The governor assured residents that security agencies will provide adequate protection at all the polling units and collation centres.
“Consequently, vehicular and human movements, within and out of the state and the local government areas is hereby totally restricted from the midnight of Friday, 16th April, 2021, until the end of polling at 5pm on Saturday, 17th April, 2021, except for persons and vehicles strictly on essential duties with genuine and valid identifications,” Wike said.
“The security agencies have been directed to strictly enforce the restriction on human and vehicular movements and arrest and prosecute any person who dares to violate this ban. I have been briefed and received assurances from the RVSIEC that it is fully prepared and ready not only to conduct, but also to ensure that polling is hitch-free, fair and credible.
“Furthermore, the security agencies have clear directives to arrest and deal decisively with any person or group of persons, no matter how highly placed, who attempts to prevent the peaceful and orderly conduct of the election or compromise its integrity in any way.
“We call on community leaders and the general public to be vigilant and promptly report every suspicious movement and or illegal activity around polling units and collation centres in their localities to the security agencies for immediate action.”
Wike added that his administration will always ensure the promotion of democratic principles, including the election of officials at local government levels across the state.
“As a government that believes in the practice and consolidation of democracy, and in fulfilment of our constitutional duty to ensure the sustenance of democratically-elected local government councils in the state, we have since decided never to run our local government system with caretaker committees, except in inevitably justifiable circumstances,” he said.
“It is against this background that this election has been fixed to once again give our people the opportunity to effectively participate in the process of electing and constituting the next set of chairmen and councillors to administer the 23 local government councils.”
The governor urged voters to conduct themselves peacefully and refrain from any act of violence, adding that the election is not a do-or-die affair.
EFCC Frees Okorocha after Two Days Detention
Rochas Okorocha, former governor of Imo state, has been released from the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), two days after he was invited for questioning.
Okorocha, who is currently representing Imo west at the senate, was grilled at the EFCC office in Abuja on Tuesday, over issues bothering on alleged corruption.
The former governor, who was in charge of Imo from 2011 to 2019, had been accused by the state government of various corrupt practices including diversion of public funds — although Okorocha has denied any wrongdoing.
Documents obtained by TheCable showed how the former governor awarded 12 contracts worth N20 billion in violation of the public procurement act.
TheCable had also reported how a government committee uncovered N112.8 billion “dubious debts”, which various banks owed the state during Okorocha’s tenure.
Sam Onwuemeodo, Okorocha’s media adviser, confirmed that Okorocha left the custody of the anti-graft agency on Thursday.
“With gratitude to God Almighty, we are delighted to inform the general public that the former governor of lmo state, and by the grace of God, the Senator representing lmo west senatorial district, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, is out of the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and he is now in his house,” the statement reads.
“He left the Commission’s office on the afternoon of Thursday, April 15, 2021.”
Onwuemeodo, who described Okorocha’s invitation to the EFCC’s office as a “trip” said the former governor had earlier given the assurance that he will cooperate fully with the agency.
“We didn’t bother about whether he spent 24 hours or 48 hours at the Commission’s office. We were only keen in his having the needed opportunity to address the allegations contained in the avalanche of petitions written by the lmo State Government, against the former governor,” the spokesman said.
“Remember also that we had alluded that EFCC was not a slaughter house, but a responsible institution, established for the good of the nation and her people. And Okorocha being in his house today, only confirmed our hypothesis that, indeed, the Commission’s office is not an abattoir.”