THE Edo widow controversy is a poignant illustration of the power of the media in a democracy. The Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, had gone out on a routine inspection and stumbled upon a woman who was selling her articles of trade on an unauthorised spot on the road, thus blocking the traffic.
He ordered his officials to confiscate the woman’s goods. When the woman went on her knees to beg and informed the governor that she was a widow, apparently to try and touch the human chord in his heart, Governor Oshiomhole told her: “go and die”!
It was filmed and posted to the Internet where it immediately spread like virus. The picture was so vivid and the voices so clear that it was pointless for anyone to attempt denying it took place. The governor made the second mistake of vaguely apologising for the ugly event when a Muslim women interest group paid him a courtesy call, restating that being a widow was no excuse to break the law.
The Edo State chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) immediately cashed in, donated the sum of N250,000 to the widow, Mrs Joy Ifije, and issued a statement accusing the governor of heartlessness.
The governor refused to be outdone. On Monday, December 2nd, 2013, he invited Mrs Ifije to the Government House, apologised very effusively to her in the front of cameras, had tea with her, offered her “automatic employment” and gave her a gift of two million Naira! Thus, from an obscure widow, Mrs Ifije not only became rich overnight but also a celebrity of sorts.
Aside from the politically-driven drama that turned Mrs Ifije’s story from sour to sweet, this event has its lessons, especially for persons occupying high offices. Being in high office imposes a great burden of personal restraint, especially in the public, on such persons. Coveted high offices are supposed to recondition people to become very careful and mindful of what they say and do, because they are expected to be models of society whom everyone looks up to for good example. One must learn to choose words very carefully and consult widely before saying or doing things in order to avoid the kind of unnecessary embarrassment Governor Oshiomhole exposed himself to.
We are living in a sensitive political atmosphere, where the opposite camp is waiting for slip-ups, such as the deportation saga in Lagos and the widow controversy in Edo State to make hay politically. We hope others will learn from this and ensure that they carry themselves well in the public and always give the people whom they serve reason to believe that those they elect into high offices will always respect their feelings and interests, even in the execution of public interest policies.