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Edo guber election and democracy consolidation

By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
THIS weekend the Edo governorship election holds. It pits Adam Oshiomhole, the sitting governor, against the PDP’s Gen. Charles Airhiavbere, in what should be one of the most important political contests in Nigeria, in recent times.

For those able to deconstruct the portents of politics, it is clear, that the route to the 2015 elections are being opened in the gritty environment which surrounds the Edo governorship elections: murder; attempted murder and sundry crimes thrown in for good measure.

There is a lot at stake in Edo state this weekend. The army is deploying 3, 500 soldiers as part of a security ‘cordon sanitaire’, while the gladiators from all sides are determined to carry the day, ‘karfi da yaji’, as they say in Hausa!

This weekend could see the terminal demystification of some of the political heavyweights of Edo or the eternal reinforcement of their myth, as the case might be.

The four years of Oshiomhole governorship did significant damage to the political and material basis of the powers of patronage that entrenched some of the worst expressions of prebendalism in Nigerian politics. Edo is the political turf of dinosaurs like Tony Anenih, who bestride political life and have consequently given politics a name, far removed from service to the Nigerian people.

But it is in the nature of the political process they nurture, that they must do everything to regain the influence which has serviced their years of dominance and consequent underdevelopment of Nigeria. There is the added fillip, that the Edo contest is also an opening salvo of the 2015 election.

There is a determined effort to ‘capture’ Edo, because President Goodluck must be seen to be in complete control of the South-South.

Four years ago, I wrote in support of the Oshiomhole candidacy. This was rooted in his work as a leader of the Nigerian working people who led several battles against the neo-colonial Nigerian state and the depredations of neo-liberal capitalism.

Hisdecision to enter politics represented an avenue to win a space of responsive leadership for the Nigerian people, at least as much as the space of neo-colonial politics allowed.

And by all accounts, the four years under Adams have been far more productively engaging, in the best interest of the people of Edo, than the eight years under the PDP regime of Lucky Igbinedion. That was the height of politics as heist; Edo was stolen blind!

The enthusiastic endorsement of Adam Oshiomhole by broad sections of the population must also be placed against the determined efforts of the PDP to nick the state. It is that conflict which makes the Edo election this weekend so vital.

How the election plays out will give a broad indication of the progress on the route of democracy consolidation as well as the preparation of the political opposition to provide an alternative platform to the PDP in 2015.

The baseline is that the Nigerian nation is poorer under the PDP; but the political opposition is so fractious and has so far, been unable to rise to the historical responsibility of facilitating the defeat of the nation-ruining contraption called the PDP.

The ruling class project has become a danger to the survival of the country itself; unfortunately, not even the political opposition can escape culpability for a significant share of the problems dogging our country.

If the electoral process does not implicitly deepen confidence, that it can be used to remove bad government and reward those working in the interest of the people, then the legitimacy of the entire process will be lost. The alternative of violence, killings and de-legitimisation of Nigeria will spiral out of control.

Edo’s election this weekend concerns all of us. I am rooting for a second term for Adams Oshiomhole!

Dr. Haruna Salihi: Teacher, man of faith and modesty

I HEARD of the death of Dr. Haruna Salihi, Head of the Department of Political Science, Bayero University Kano, last week.

I was quite saddened by the passing of a wonderful and devoted teacher and man of deep religious faith and incredible modesty. Malam Salihi taught me Islamic Political Experiences, in my M.Sc. Pol. Science class. I did a term paper on Yusuf Qutb, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; this has become poignant today, with the political events in Egypt.

Looking back now, I think education in Northern Nigerian universities, especially during our times, gave us a rounded development that equipped us to appreciate the contradictory realities of our contemporary world.

For example, a post-graduate student of Political Science in say ABU Zaria or BUK in Kano, would have studied the classics of Western philosophy and politics, from Kant, Hobbes, Voltaire, Marx and Machiavelli, etc.; but he was also obliged to study the classical traditions in Islam from Al-Farabi’s MADINAT AL-FADILAH through works like AL-MUQADIMMA by Ibn Khaldun, the founder of the science of sociology or Al-Maghili’s OBLIGATION OF PRINCES and the more contemporary works, in the context of Islamic political experiences.

That combination of the Western and Islamic philosophical and politicaltraditions gave us a rich grounding into the complexities of the world and the tapestry of knowledge which, in a profound sense, shape the world we live in!

It was intellectuals like the late Malam Haruna Salihi, who helped us navigate that complex experience. I do remember my polemics with Malam, given my Marxist materialist approach and his own Islamic ideological framework.

He nevertheless tolerated and respected my perspective. Dr. Haruna Salihi was completely dedicated to a lifetime of teaching and research and will be sorely missed.

The Williams Sisters: Serena and Venus

LAST Saturday, Serena Williams won the Women’s Singles trophy of the 2012 Wimbledon Tennis Championship in London. She equaled the fifth championship that her elder sister, Venus, had won at the All-England club. At the presentation ceremony, Serena confessed she always wanted whatever her elder sister had! John McEnroe, one of the best tennis players of all time, described Serena as the greatest female player ever.

A few hours after winning the ladies’ single, Serena partnered Venus to win the women’s double trophy; it was also the fifth won by the sisters. Writing in the London DAILY MIRROR of Monday, July 9, 2012, in a provocatively titled piece “No love game for winner Williams in SW 19”, Laura Williamson said: “to watch Williams is to be impressed by her power, swagger, physical stature and astonishing reserves of mental grit…” She added that: “the Williams’ incredible success has come by challenging the limits of women’s tennis, providing something different to what went before”.

The story of these remarkable African-American sports stars is one of utmost determination to overcome the social obstacles of a racist American society and with utmost single-mindednessthey succeeded in a sport that was typically White and middle class.

Their father, Richard Williams, decided they would make a success of their lives in sports as well as develop all-round interest in other areas of human endeavours; and they did! I have written about their lives and achievements in one of my columns in DAILY TRUST in the past.

I was drawing attention, especially in Northern Nigeria, to what a determined effort can build, especially for the girl child in our community. If the Williams sisters can rise to the pinnacle of their sport, surely, we can also encourage our daughters and sisters to become very productive and engaged members of our community. I write that as a father of young daughters who have shown incredible ability in academics and who love ballet, swimming, languages, music and who constantly say they would like to explore the world, do things in fashion design, architecture and so on!

The sky literally is the limit and the example of the Williams sisters speaks to our country and especially to Northern Nigeria. Someone sent me a text in response, that I was asking them to copy girls who dressed ‘half naked’; but I challenged him to let his daughters dress in the mode acceptable to his religious confession, but nevertheless encourage them to be the best of themselves.

So when the remarkable Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, became victorious again last weekend, I decided to remind of their inspiring story with the hope that we can do even better for all the girls of our beautiful country!

Did you watch the Nigerian Basketball team qualify for the Olympic Games?

IN far away Caracas, Venezuela, the Nigerian Basketball team qualified for the London Olympic Games. It was our first time and what a way to do so. The team took a bronze medal at the Afro Basketball championship last year in Madagascar, but was re-jigged with a new set of US-based players.

They were positively audacious and along the way, Nigeria beat Greece and Lithuania two of the best teams in the world and finally qualified by defeating the Dominican Republic. Watching those remarkably fit young men, Olumide, Diogu, Skinn, the Aminu brothers, Dagunduro, Obasohan and so on, I felt even prouder about the possibilities for change and development of our country.

It is teamwork of the Basketball Federation led by TJ, which facilitated the amazing feat for Nigeria. TJ was a youth corps member in the 1980s at the Kwara State Sports Council in Ilorin and was as devoted to the game then as he is today. A few weeks after his election as basketball federation chairman, we met in Abuja and he spoke effusively about his vision for the game in Nigeria. I am so happy to see the incremental improvement in basketball in our country.

On a more fundamental level, watching the young Nigerians from their different backgrounds, play together with a sense of purpose, strengthened my optimism about our country. If we can work together to earn a responsible nation-building ruling elite, able to inspire a sense of national purpose, we can certainly build a truly remarkable country. The basketball team is like a green shoot of growth in an arid wasteland!


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