ON Thursday April 21, 2010, the Edo State Government under the leadership of the Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole organised a rally in collaboration with Labour and the civil society in support of electoral reform in Nigeria around the philosophy of ‘One Man, One Vote’.

The rally provided yet another opportunity for the proponents of electoral reforms to propagate their ideas and drive home the imperative of the objective. It was however conceived to be an all inclusive affair in order to accommodate all possible stakeholders in the political project of Nigeria. These include social critics, pro- democracy activists, labour leaders, politicians of various persuasions and of course the ordinary man on the street. They were therefore all invited.

The rally which was very well attended turned out to be a huge success. The participation was as widespread as was envisaged by the organisers. Even more significant was the quality of attendance.

There were social commentators like Rev. Fr. Matthew Kukah and Festus Keyamo, highly respected political leaders like Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Chairman of CNPP and Chief Tom Ikimi, National Leader (South South) of the Action Congress; Dr. Pat Utomi, the Presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) as well as foremost labour leaders like the Secretary General of Organisation of African Trade Unions Unity (OATUU),  Alhaji Hassan Sumonu, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Alhaji Abdulwaheed Omar and the National President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr Peter Esele, Civil right activists like Dr Joe Odumakin of the Campaign for Democracy (CD), students leaders, market women and indeed people from all walks of life were there.

Even former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida who annulled the June 12 , 1993 presidential election was also present.

Governors of the Niger Delta, with the exception of Akwa Ibom, were there in solidarity with their brother Governor and the people of Edo State. The President (acting then) was not only represented, he sent a prepared speech. The Governor of Anambra State was also represented.

They were all there and most of them spoke on various aspects of the electoral process that they felt people should watch out for in ensuring one man, one vote.

Some of our respected leaders including Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, former Lagos State Governor, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the National Chairman of AC, Chief Bisi Akande chose to boycott the rally because of the presence of IBB and the choice of the Senate President David Mark as Chief Guest of Honour.

Since then a lot has been said for and against the rally or even the person of Comrade  Oshiomhole. From the contents of their comments, some people like one Yinka Odumakin have taken this as an opportunity clearly to settle old scores and insult the Comrade.

There are yet others, like the National Secretary of AC, Alhaji Usman Bugaje, who have even alleged that the rally was organised to enable IBB launch his presidential campaign. How absurd! What about the invitations extended to former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar?

I fully recognise the right of those who chose to boycott to do so and I respect it but as one of their admirers, I beg to differ. Boycott has never been known to yield any useful results in matters like this; recent experience clearly shows this. They boycotted PDP on account of Anenih to form AD.

The result of that boycott is that they unwittingly provided Obasanjo and Anenih the opportunity to dominate and overwhelm PDP with their overbearing influence. Nigeria is yet to recover from the effect of that. I dare say that were these solid democrats to have remained in PDP at the material time, those unwholesome practices would have been checked.

I therefore would have preferred if they had attended the rally and made their own contributions, including voicing their opinion against anyone they felt had offended the nation in the past. Alhaji Hassan Sunmonu, Festus Keyamo and Dr. Joe Odumakin did as much and they were applauded for it.

Thankfully there are yet those who have praised Comrade Oshiomhole and his collaborators for their effort in bringing the very topical issue of electoral reform to the fore.

They have alluded to the fact that he was able to champion such a worthy cause when he could jolly well have relied on good old ‘incumbency factor’ as is customary with those in power regardless of their political party. They therefore saw his move as courageous, altruistic and worthy of praise. Now that is a whole lot of mileage.

Mr. Ojezua is Chairman, Publicity committee, One Man One Vote rally.


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