Governor of Edo State, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, came out strongly, weekend, to defend his invitation of former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), to the “One Man One Vote” rally, stressing that it was high time Nigerians did away with politics of exclusion.

The governor said in Benin that the objective of the forum was to bring people from different political persuasions across the country together to engage on how to solve the nation’s electoral problems. That, according to him, has been met “and I am satisfied that it was a huge success,” he said.

Oshiomhole said he had no regret for inviting the former military president to the rally, adding that he will do it again if the opportunity warranted it.

Babangida, who has signifies his intention to contest next year’s presidential election, has been variously criticised for annulling the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by his friend, Chief Moshood Abiola.

Speaking in Benin, Oshiomhole said the presence of Babangida was appropriate since he was a former ruler of the country, adding that apart from former leaders of the country who were invited, the Acting President sent a representative, while most of the governors that came were those of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).

In his view, shutting the door against people considered to be anti-democrat is not the solution.

“The objective was clear”, he said. “To assemble people across the various political parties, leaders and politicians to renew campaign for electoral reform, which we called one man one vote. I don’t believe in the politics of exclusion and that was why we throw open the invitation”.

He continued: “politics of exclusion is not helpful. Democracy is also politics of tolerance. My trade union training allows me to engage my opponent and not to avoid him and that is kind of constructive engagement that this political environment deserves. The ultimate is to bring in those who are not yet on board. And I restated that it was not a partisan gathering. I respect the judgment of those who boycotted it, but I do not agree with it”.

It would be recalled that some leaders of the Action Congress (AC) and Professor Wole Soyinka shun the much publicized Edo rally because of the presence of Babangida and others.

Even so, Oshiomhole, a former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), said the boycott was unfortunate, adding however that it’s a reflection that friends can differ sometimes. He attributed it to difference in styles and strategies. “Their position is that you don’t sit with a man who is not convince of your goal”, he said.

“The discourse of electoral reform should be targeted at everyone so that it can deepen the debate and conversation. The real rigor of democracy does not permit us to involve in exclusiveness. Only Nigerians will decided who will be the next president if we have one man one vote. Forums are meant for debate, so you can now see that those who came benefited than those who boycotted the forum.

“My fundamental right connotes that I can differ. I am not a product of politics, I am a product of Labour and activism. I respect their judgment, but they must also respect mine. AC is a democratic party, which means that we can disagree”, he said.

The governor also spoke on the effort of the acting president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan since he took over the rein of government. He said Jonathan has done extremely well, particularly with electoral reform, adding that he has done well in a difficult situation.

Oshiomhole further said: “The removal of Iwu has given a lot of people relief and it’s the potent indication that change is in the offing. He has used his political power to make sure elections are free and fair. Edo is an example. His courage has given him several mileage in terms of effective leadership”.

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