By Ochereome Nnanna
A DAY after getting re-elected, Governor Adams Oshiomhole surfaced in Aso Villa to thank President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for a job well done. Let us discuss the significance of this gesture.
I mean, can you imagine the governor of a state in the United States where we borrowed our presidential constitution from going to Washington to appreciate President Barack Obama for the successful conduct of an election in his state? When some assert that Nigeria’s presidency is among the world’s most powerful offices, this is an evidence of it.
What can a Nigerian president do to make or mar an election? Let us attempt the answer by isolating the stakeholders to an election.
They are: the president, the electorate, the political parties, the security agencies, the Electoral Commission, and much later, perhaps the Electoral Tribunal. The president of Nigeria has direct or indirect control over all the other elements except, perhaps to some extent, the electorate. If he wants a do-or-die election as former President Olusegun Obasanjo did during his time, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies will be the foot soldiers of his preferred candidate.
In other words, he will have a preferred candidate and he will be working for the “success” of his political party, rather than success of the democratic process to the glory of the country at large. He can plant his moles in opposition political parties and buy up their agents to work for his party.
He can empower local political “godfathers” to manipulate the processes with the support of governmental authority (the proverbial “federal might”).
He can mobilise funds from known and unknown sources to buy what he cannot steal. After the election, he will deploy the military to quell riots and haul protesters and their leaders into the cooler.
He can enlist the services of “black market” judges and continue to thwart the will of the people even at the Tribunal. In some cases as we saw in Obasanjo’s, his scheme may fail, but he can always try, not bothered if he is inflicting deep political injuries on the country.
President Jonathan desisted from all these. He was more interested in the success of democracy in Edo State. When he was about to join his party for the campaigns at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium recently, I wondered what he was going to tell Edo people, who had seen the clear difference between ten years of PDP and four years of the regime of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN’s) Oshiomhole.
Apart from the issue of performance, GEJ owed the governor so much political debt. Sensitive to the South-South solidarity in the 2011 presidential election, Oshiomhole had campaigned for GEJ against his party’s presidential candidate, Malam Nuhu Ribadu.
The “Comrade Governor” had also intervened to assist the GEJ administration weather a number of Labour storms, including the complicated negotiations that ended the Academic Staff of Universities (ASUU) strikes.
One man, one vote
Oshiomhole had also stuck out his neck to argue in support of the total withdrawal of petrol subsidy during the January 2012 nationwide strike, thus nearly hurting his own credibility among the Labour and civil society groups.
The question in my mind was whether GEJ would have the heart to go to Edo State and tell the electorate to vote out Oshiomhole who had defied party divides to help him in the overall national interest?
The president made it easy. He merely told Edo people that the election must be free and fair. He reiterated his One-Man, One Vote, reminding the voters of his incisive exhortation that no politician’s ambition was worth the blood of a Nigeria. He chose to be the leader of Nigeria rather than the leader of a political party.
This was much more of a statesman than the GEJ that drove away former Governor Timipre Sylva and imposed the incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson on his native Bayelsa State; an electoral process where he borrowed the leaf of impunity from Obasanjo.
So, as we commend the president for his contributions to the success of the Edo guber, we must also bear in mind that his Bayelsa shindig is an indication that he can also play from the other side of virtue if he sees the need. Nigerians must therefore remain vigilant.
We must not relax and entrust our democracy in the hands of a politician who has demonstrated an uncanny ability to play fast and loose.
It is our democracy. We must guard it with the same tenacity that Edo people did.
Prof. Osunbor fires back!
LAST week Thursday July 19, 2012 when my article entitled: Revolution in Edo State was published, former Governor of the state, Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor, called me to debunk aspects of my report and analysis. My sources in Edo State had alleged that he was a blood relation of the late Stella Obasanjo and that was why he was propped up by Obasanjo to become the candidate of the PDP in the 2006 governorship primaries and eventually won the election in 2007.
Prof. Osunbor categorically denied any relationship with Obasanjo’s wife’s family. He also rebuffed the notion that he was “propped up” by the former president, pointing out that he won his primaries and election transparently. According to him, Obasanjo preferred Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, his former Special Adviser, having rejected Anenih’s choice, Dr. Odion Ugbesia, for alleged incompetence as a minister.
He condemned the assertion that former INEC Chairman, Professor Maurice Iwu “awarded” him the election. Then he alleged that his loss at the Tribunal was a machination of the late President Yar’ Adua.
However, the Professor says he wishes Oshiomhole the best, adding that he needed to clear the air on what he considered “widely held misconceptions” about him “being peddled in the media”.
I have just granted him his right of reply.