By Josef Omorotionmwan
IT is Monday morning. We suddenly realise that this column is still waiting. The congratulatory messages must also wait for us to do the needful. I will rather leave my people wondering why I am absent from the celebration rendezvous than for this column to fail. After all, every occasion must have some opportunity cost.
In the beginning, there was full apprehension everywhere. There were strong arguments against the use of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, members as ad-hoc staff by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. After all, the guarantees from INEC and the NYSC authorities, the corps members were eventually engaged.
At the end of it all, the corps members have proved all skeptics and cynics wrong. As they did during the 2011 general elections, they have proved once more that they are, indeed, the best for that assignment.
We thought that under the guise of security, the election and the State were being over-militarized. Here again, our “milito-phobia” was misplaced.
The rumour mill was rife with speculations that the 3,500 military men were being drafted to Edo State to defend whatever results were going to be concocted and announced. When the military men actually arrived, they were the best. Even in their uniforms, wherein the fright of them normally resides, they were marvelous.
They were in the highest spirit. I can only speak for my polling booth and leave what happened in other polling booths to conjecture and comparison.
Even at that, the reports we are getting point to the positive direction that the soldiers were generally very friendly. At the Oghada polling booth where I voted, the military men were obviously elated with the orderliness they met on ground. One of the soldiers went to an old woman and asked: “Mama, you come vote? You dey hungry?” When the old woman said yes, the soldier dipped his hand into his pocket and gave her N100. There was jubilation everywhere.
All’s Well that Ends Well. This is not 1602. We are not Shakespeare. Neither are we Shakespeare’s Helena, the stubborn girl of that era, who was born into a lower caste that she was considered of inferior rank to be married to Count Betramo. Even in her poverty, Helena aspired, against all odds, to get married to Betramo. She pursued Betramo from Italy to France and even against his will, she finally won his hand in marriage.
Oshiomhole’s achievement in the just-concluded election is the modern day equivalent of Helena’s. How else does one explain a situation where Oshiomhole took Edo State from its total comatose situation and in less than four years, he has turned it around to an Eldorado?
The efforts of the Oshiomhole-led administration all showed up in a single election. There is no better way to explain the revolution that has just come our way: A situation in which Oshiomhole and his ACN came tops in all the 18 local government areas; and a situation in which all the PDP big wigs were demolished beyond comprehension.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Oshiomhole is the present day Prometheus – that Titan, the cultural hero, who is credited in Greek mythology with the creation of man from clay and the thief of fire from heaven for the use of man, which has been responsible for man’s progress and civilization.
We are not about to lose sight of the fact that, of the seven contestants at the Edo gubernatorial election, Oshiomhole and Chief Solomon Edebiri, the ANPP candidate, met at a point: They won at their polling units while others lost.
Did money make the essential difference in the election? The answer is yes and no. We are not going to write-off the importance of money in any political contest. This was the most subscribed election we have ever had – in media adverts, we saw how every available space on radio, television, newspapers, bill boards and the rest were inundated with what we were later forced to regard as political nonsense. Money, real money, was being burnt in the process.
The various religious bodies – Christians, Muslims and the traditional religionists – did not spare any single minute without prayers mainly against violence and mayhem.
Edebiri thinks money was everything. To him, money or lack of it made the difference, which means that if he had spent as much as the PDP, he would have won as much as the PDP. But where would that have taken him with the run-away victory of the ACN? At the time Edebiri was speaking, he probably had not heard that a particular political party was distributing money at polling centres. Of course, people lined up to collect their Naira and still went ahead to vote their conscience. If money was everything, how could the political elephants, some of whom are even richer than the Federal Government, have lost in their polling units? This election has shown that money is important but performance is more important.
Our democracy is moving. Most of the defeated candidates have accepted defeat. But a particular gentleman and scholar among them still insists: “I will not congratulate Oshiomhole yet”. According to him, Oshiomhole had earlier condemned the very system that eventually threw him up as the winner. We wonder who would see what Oshiomhole saw at the time and not be even more apprehensive than Oshiomhole – as late as 3 p.m., election materials had not arrived at some ACN strongholds!
The good thing, though, is that congratulatory messages are hardly time barred. In essence, the man has 48 months within which to congratulate Oshiomhole. All the same, the sooner the sweeter!