By Tonnie Iredia
The re-election bid by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as governor of Edo State was probably his publicly known stiffest challenge in life. The electioneering campaign leading to the July 2012 governorship election in the State was more or less a nightmare for him and his party, the then Action Congress of Nigeria.
The heat brought to bear on the contest by the candidate of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was so intense that the previous daily beating of the chest by the governor that he needed no campaign ostensibly because of his development projects virtually fizzled away. Indeed, his tractors and caterpillars that were expected to campaign on his behalf were in reality inanimate.
By the time the PDP galvanized the three most celebrated political gladiators of the State against the governor, everything was thrown into the election – public institutions and structures, vehicles and personnel thereby stretching the advantage of incumbency beyond rationality. Overwhelming taxes which hitherto pitched several professional groups – lawyers, doctors, teachers etc. against the Governor were relaxed in the electioneering period. So it was with the demolition of houses that were ‘courageously’ done earlier to beautify the State Capital. It was a case of perverse desperation.
At the end of the election, the nation was told that the action governor won everywhere including his opponents’ bedrooms. Of course, such a magical feat was not performed by one man. Party chieftains played great roles. They attested to the comrade’s invincibility and overwhelmed every opposition. Ethnic sentiments usually associated with contests in heterogeneous societies were brushed aside and the title ‘Honorary Benin man’ was bestowed on the governor by some well serviced Benin leaders. When the highest court of the land dismissed the allegation of deficiency in the basic school qualification of the governor for reasons that only Senior Advocates comprehended, Edo citizens had cause to look forward to another four years of giant steps in massive developments.
With about only half of the tenure spent, it appears the beats are changing. Echoes coming out of the heartbeat of the nation seem to suggest that those who swore that Oshiomhole can do no wrong have waxed a new chorus. If so, we need to let them know that the tunes are immoral and no one should listen to them no matter how melodious they sound. Our people are not electric bulbs that can be switched on and off at will. In a decent democracy, the declaration of the winner of an election puts paid to electioneering. The winning party ceases to be just a political party but government that must be allowed to implement its campaign policies; for which the people gave it their votes.
An opposition party can continue canvassing alternative options for solving societal problems, not to score cheap political points but to put government on its toes thereby helping to keep it in line only in the interest of society. Here, ample credit must go to the Chairman of the opposition party in the state, Mr Dan Orbih for doing just that especially his persuasive analysis of the inappropriateness of selling the Edo House in Lagos. In earnest, in none of his criticisms has his personal interests been glaring. This is a far cry from the visible blackmail that all others particularly the newly converted opposition members are currently engaged in. We hear that the state has virtually become ungovernable. That is unacceptable.
Meanwhile, there is enough of government action that can annoy well-meaning citizens. The airport road for instance is quite beautiful but we doubt if it fits into the priority of development of a state like Edo. Those who wish to tackle the governor should use research to put him to task over the rather huge cost of such a project even if to prevent a repeat of that style of public policy.
Secondly, more than forty years ago, Ikpoba Hill served as the outskirts of Benin from Auchi and Asaba. It is still so. At that time too, Oluku was described as near Benin on the way from Lagos. The situation is still so. On the way to Warri, a traveller can feel that he has left Benin as soon as he passes Ekai Amusement Park. It is still so till date. But the same cannot be said of Effurun and Warri that have fully merged as a result of purposive development. What this suggests is that Benin is static as it has continued to witness unending efforts to straighten or widen the same three roads leading to Ring Road.
Unfortunately, those who are putting Benin under heat today are not talking about these. We hear that some members of the State House of Assembly are part of those who are now making the state ungovernable. When that House was passing anti-people laws, where were such members? The point to be made is that no political grouping should be allowed to appropriate the peace of society. Whoever wants to move from APC to PDP and vice versa is quite free to do so. After all, there is no real difference between the two parties and as such, the notorious movements between and among them that are happening across board nationwide should bother no one. But it becomes a different matter if the game stretches to the posting of policemen to mount surveillance on Ring Road to checkmate political hooliganism.
Our condemnation of the on-going distractions to governance in Benin must not be misunderstood to mean that an erring governor cannot be removed from office. Our constitution has already provided for removal where an elected executive, has committed a serious offence, better described as an impeachable offence. Edo is too civilized to be engaged in the political rascality of a minority in the legislature claiming to have suspended the majority! It is in earnest unfair to turn the legislature to a House where people are suspended over political differences instead of misdemeanors. So our politicians should for now allow Edo to develop while they wait till election time to vote out those they are opposed to.