By Josef Omorotionwan
FOLLOWING the trend of the local government elections nationwide, the impression is created that the State Electoral Commissions only exist to do the bidding of their masters, the state governors.
Invariably, in every state, the political party in power at the state level ends up sweeping the local government council polls.
The erroneous conclusion is easily reached that the State Electoral Commission has fixed everything. After all, the chairman and members of the Commission are appointed by the state governor and they remain in office at his pleasure. He who pays the piper dictates the tune, so runs the argument.
This argument soon runs foul of itself. It is not true that if an opposition works hard, it cannot win some local government seats in a state. But the fact remains that opposition parties are weak and lazy. They easily run away from situations where a bit of hard work would have brought them victory.
It was not by accident that at the last gubernatorial election in Edo State, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, swept virtually all the polling units throughout the State.
In the months and weeks leading to that election, members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were nowhere to be found. Right from the nomination of candidates to the election campaign stages, they were nowhere. While the ACN kept bulldozing every where, the PDP lied low. Occasionally, words would filter out that the election was going to be fixed from Abuja; using the Federal might – from the Presidency to the Police to the Army to INEC – they possessed the wherewithal to write the results, announce same from Abuja and even swear in their victor.
These rumours made the rounds at the grassroots level. But at the higher, more sophisticated levels, rather than deter the ACN, the diabolical rumours fired them on. “The General Officer Commanding” kept bulldozing everywhere. That was how the ACN became the first political party that took its campaign to every hamlet in the State.
It soon became clear that the attitude of the electorate is one of Monkey-see, monkey-do. At the end of the campaign, the people cast their votes for the party they saw. In some areas, the people even believed that the ACN was the only party registered for the election.
While the ACN engaged itself in issue-based campaigns, the PDP members hid themselves, looking for the fixed odds – let’s wait for them to make mistake and we will harp on that. These are not the type of efforts that God is looking for to bless anyone. In any venture, God expects us to do what we can so that He will do what we can’t.
We are at it again. The Edo State Independent Electoral Commission, EDSIEC, has since announced the time table for the local elections. It is still wearing the appearance of a State where there is only one political party. While the ACN is bubbling at every stage: from the villages to the wards to the local governments to the state – dancing and fighting over nomination of candidates, the opposition parties are sleeping, unknown to them that there can be no greater campaign than ACN’s current gyration.
In all this, the PDP has not lifted a finger. It is only preparing for what it knows how to do best – the blame game. A man who waits to blame everybody for his misfortunes will never triumph. As soon as EDSIEC announced the time-table for the election, one factional leader of the PDP went on air to announce that the party was not going to participate in the election. Another factional leader retorted to denounce the announcement. Both leaders soon descended to their usual level of “you sack me, I sack you” and that was the pit in which we saw them last. They are still waiting for the omelet to appear on the breakfast table when they haven’t broken a single egg. Perhaps, they are waiting to cash in on ACN’s mistakes.
In a traditional wrestling bout, it is
common to hear people shout, “Catcham for leg, catcham for leg” but the owner of the leg is not about to leave it for his opponent to catch.
What is happening to the opposition parties at the national level? Are they cursed? At the advent of the current democratic experiment in 1999, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor who was then the National Chairman of the PDP poured out a lot of venom, including the prophecy that the PDP would rule this country continuously for 60 years in the first instance. Fourteen years on, the PDP has held on tenaciously to power, even where there is nothing to show for its rancorous reign of terror.
In the past, particularly after the defeat at the national elections, the opposition gathered themselves in a hotel room and pretended to be discussing merger. They soon began to spread rumour of the impending emergence of a mega party. As soon as the bell tolled, individual members of the mega party rushed to collect nomination forms and the mega party collapsed like a deck of cards.
Like Stevenson like Buhari. In the USA, Adlai Stevenson was the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party in two consecutive elections – 1948 and 1952. He lost both times to his Republican opponents. At the end of second contest, he threw in the towel and wrote a book, How to Come Second. It was a best seller.
Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari is working hard to beat Stevenson’s records. He is unprepared to learn the lessons of history. He may not know when to quit. But when will the young grow? The current merger talks appear promising but if the mega arrangement must work, we should begin to tell the old kegs to get out of the front line. Let the younger ones step in so that Mega can shape in while the PDP ships out! It can’t be done otherwise.