By Emmanuel Edukugho
Edo people, once perceived among the least beneficiaries of dividends of democracy since civil rule rebound in 1999 when the Lucky Igbinedion PDP administration in a total 8-year back-to-back term, frittered away and siphoned huge public funds without any meaningful infrastructure on ground and later convicted for theft, are now having it fairly good under Governor Adams Oshiomhole, re-elected in a natural massive victory.
Even the heavy rain that pounded Benin City on Sunday in the aftermath of the governorship election held on Saturday was seen as showers of blessing from God with thousands of people celebrating the landslide victory in pomp and pageantry.
His grassroots support was manifested in the celebration as almost everyone – the down trodden, poor and rich, old, young, literate and illiterate, jobless and the employed, men and women, chiefs, nobles, commoners, soldiers, police, motorcycle riders, taxi and bus operators, farmers, artisans market mummies, traders, all thronged the major streets, nooks and crannies of all towns, urban areas and villages dancing and singing to herald the second term of the comrade governor.
Never in the history of electoral contests in Nigeria had people came out spontaneously to celebrate victory of a candidate in a gubernatorial election as what took place in Edo State. From the electioneering to the actual voting itself on Saturday July 14, it was apparently clear which of the seven candidates the pendulum of victory was swinging to.
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) polled 477,478 votes; Major-General Charles Airhiavbere (Rtd) of Peoples Democratic Party scored 144,235; chief Solomon Edebiri, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) got 3,642; Mr. Roland Izeobunwa of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) had 2,793 votes; Mr. Frank Ukonga of Social Democratic Movement Party (SDMP) polled 807 votes; Mr. Andrew Igwemoh of Labour Party (LP) scored 604 votes and at the rear was Mr. Paul Orunmwese of the National Conscience Party (NCP) garnered 540 votes. These results were announced by the Vice-Chancellor of University of Benin, Prof. Osayuki Oshodin.
The youths crammed into vehicles, some branded with campaign inscriptions such as “Oshio Baba I pray for you,” others sat on car bonnets, inside boots, on the roofs of vehicles, blaring horns, acrobatic displays by motorcycle riders displaying their dexterity and skill of maneuvering, standing on the seat with foot raised up while in motion.
Many young men and women dancing around, singing solidarity and victory songs, wielding brooms and symbolically sweeping the streets to clear away PDP in epic celebrations ever known or seen anywhere in the country
Re-elected Governor Oshiomhole, riding in open car sandwich between jubilating crowd of supporters making the V-sign stormed major streets in Benin after the announcement of the election results. Youths turned Benin City “red”, with bottles of beer in hand, dancing stylishly, going round in buses, tricycles, motorcycles and on foot. Market women, traders, students stormed the streets in jubilation as security agents kept a distance watching keenly as the people celebrated unrestrained.
The build-up to the election witnessed varied and often controversial campaign trails in which several deaths were reported on campaign convoys and motorcades of the incumbent governor. Some journalists even lost their lives on the governor’s entourage as he alleged he was the target in the heat of the electioneering.
Few days to the election, the Comrade governor’s entourage was ambushed and attacked by some people, but he managed to escape unhurt. Earlier, the governor’s private secretary, seconded from the Nigeria Labour Congress was brutally killed in his home in the presence of his wives and kids.
So was the bloody dimension, tension, insecurity which prevailed in the build up that over 3,000 soldiers were sent to Edo State to maintain peace.
ACN chieftains including governors of states controlled by the party stormed Edo State on campaigns threatening fire and brimstones if the election is rigged.
So also was the PDP chiefs, governors and even President Goodluck Jonathan was in Benin to campaign for Charles Airhiavbere who was flying the party’s flag.
The President had arrived in Benin and had been received at the Benin Airport by Governor Oshiomhole himself not minding the political differences.
Thereafter, the President proceeded to the Palace of Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba Erediauwa. At the Oba’s Palace, he was received initially by chiefs and took his seat next to the monarch’s throne. He waited for about 15 minutes adorned with traditional beads on his neck and Vice-President Namadi Sambo also sitting opposite, expecting the Oba.
Suddenly, the Bini chiefs announced to the President’s delegation that the Oba would not be seeing the President because of circumstances beyond the monarch’s control.
To resolve the stalemate, a calm President Jonathan , his gaze lowered, a senior chief offered prayers, after which he said the Oba won’t see Mr. President in pubic, but will receive him alone in the inner recess or another section of the palace. This was done, as the President later met the Oba alone “outside the close monitoring of his (security) body guards,” according to reports.
It was later gathered that the Oba of Benin was adhering to the dictates of the “gods” who had made it impossible for him to receive Mr. President at that particular time.
The cat was let out of the bag when an elated Oshiomhole went to the Palace with his deputy some days after his victory to present this Certificate of Return to the Oba.
“You are welcomed to our palace. We have watched what you have done, like the press is saying that your handiwork is going to campaign for you. I prayed to my ancestors for you too and everybody has seen what you are doing for the people,” Oba Omo N’Oba Erediauwa said. He added that, “some of the roads that were left unkempt, we have seen what you have done with everything, and of course, not in only Bini Kingdom but in the entire state, infrastructural developments are going on.”