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The candidate and the aspirants

By Josef Omorotionmwan
THESE old men atThe Hague, with their goggles dropping on their noses, carefully calculate the relative life span of the accused and to make up for error factor, they just add about 10 years, and that’s the sentence. Where they are not sure, it makes the job simpler: The accused bags a life sentence.

The penultimate week, the former Liberian leader, Charles Taylor, got 50 years behind bars, while the immediate past Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, got a life sentence.

It did not matter to the Egyptian talakawas back home that their former leader suffered a heart-attack on his way to prison after the sentence; they still poured out to the streets to demonstrate that the judges were too lenient. They are questioning why Mubarak’s aides were set free.

This past week, we witnessed the activities rounding off the celebrations of the diamond jubilee of our Queen, the Queen of England, Head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II, on the throne.

To the glory of God, Mama still looks very strong, which means Prince Charles has to wait much longer. On the final day of the celebrations, she had a Thanksgiving service atSaint Paul’s Cathedral, some distance fromBuckinghamPalace. It is instructive that there was only one dispatch rider in her convoy.

In a similar situation, a Nigerian leader would have had close to 100 dispatch riders, 10 pilot and escort cars and myriads of other side wastes.

Incidentally, these ones do not go into the equation when we calculate our cost of governance. We do not question our leaders for behaving the way they do. After all, they have to be alive to lead us and this could also be their way of providing employment for the people.

There is a sharp irony here, though: Why is our rate of unemployment still higher than theirs? Put differently, why are we poor when we are so industrious? This is perhaps the title of a good book waiting for an author.

Back home, the battle forOsadebey Avenueis raging. The new comer to Nigerian politics soon comes in contact with two words that are seemingly related and sometimes confusing: aspirant and candidate. One is a journey to the other. The point at which the journey ends forms an integral part of today’s piece.

When those innocent children made the point that there are three candidates in the July 14, 2012 governorship race inEdoState– Adams, Aliyu and Oshiomhole – they were severely criticized for some obvious bias. What the children mean is that Oshiomhole is the Governor of Edo State and that others are aspiring to be where he already is.

To that extent, they are aspirants. We want to seek the permission of our esteemed readers to adopt this position for today, if only in a loose sense.

For sure, this position puts a heavy burden on Oshiomhole: He must set the pace for the aspirants to follow. He has been doing this very dexterously. Each time he mounts the podium, he points to where he started and proceeds from there to point out what he has done to lift Edo State from the inherited rot – the completed projects, the ongoing ones and what he intends to do if re-elected.

This also puts a big burden on the aspirants. In a more decent society, the aspirants would have to first acknowledge some of the good things that Governor Oshiomhole is doing before proceeding to say they would beat his record. Rather than do that, the aspirants are telling the people that Oshiomhole has done nothing and achieved nothing.

Any campaign that is based on deliberate falsehood must collapse sooner than later. There was the case of an aspirant who was telling the people: “You have no school in your town. I will provide school for you as soon as I come on board”. Meanwhile, this campaign was taking place in the premises of a secondary school that has been renovated and equipped with state-of-the-art facilities.

On another occasion, an aspirant went to Iruekpen in Esan West Local Government Area and told the people that they have no water and promised to give them water as soon as he gets elected. Unknown to him, Iruekpen is one place where borehole water had been provided by the Oshiomhole administration when everyone had given up hope of ever getting water in the area. Up till now, these aspirants are unable to understand why they were booed out of such places.

The difference in the campaigns is very clear: While the candidate is saying: “I will complete all ongoing projects and provide lots more if re-elected”, the aspirants are fixated at the level of mudslinging and name-calling. In essence, the moral message of the aspirants is that if they get elected, those projects that are very dear to the people will be abandoned. And the voters are listening!

One particular project that has constantly come under the attack of the aspirants is the water fountain atOba Ovonramwen Squareat the very heart ofBenin City.

They insist that the project has no economic value to the people. They are unanimous in their view that if elected, the water fountain would be destroyed in the same way that the Oshiomhole administration destroyed those amorphous roundabouts it met at the junctions of First and Second East Circular Roads on Akpakpava. And the voters are listening!

To the extent that the aspirants are unable to lift their campaigns above this level of self-destruct, they will only remain what they are – aspirants! Because of their past experience, the electorates in Edo State are so mentally alert and politically aware that no amount of money or bags of salt and rice can buy their conscience.



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