By Josef Omorotionmwan
IN the next 48 hours, Edolites will go to the polls to elect a new Governor. How lucky could anyone be when the situation we have by default is what people in the more advanced democracies earnestly pray for and work hard to attain?
They talk of staggered elections – where laws are enacted to ensure that officials from across the country do not go for elections at the same time. Their elections are segmented to avoid a cluster; thus there are always Governors, Representatives and Senators whose elections or re-elections come up alternately at two yearly intervals.
One thing that the staggered election has to its credit is that it enhances pooling of resources for optimum advantage. For example, the police authorities have just announced the deployment of 22,603 policemen to Edo State for the governorship election, which means that there will be about five policemen in each polling station – a situation that would be unimaginable when governorship elections are taking place simultaneously in the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The same scenario also plays out with other security agencies and other stakeholders in the system.
The situation in Edo State is more in the character of a carry-over examination as we have in our institutions of higher learning. Essentially, this is a carry-over from the summer of 2007, when we had to go through the entire court labyrinth to obtain the final decision.
Like in other re-sit or carry-over examinations, not much is new in a staggered election. In our particular case, all necessary experiments have been concluded during the 2015 general elections. Edolites have long recognised that Nigeria has a history of election and post-election violence and that there is the crying need to nip it in the bud.
Flowing directly from the 2015 elections, Edolites have been awakened to the need for peace. This is perhaps one way of explaining that although the verbal attacks have been fierce and vehement at times, there has been no single reported case of violence throughout the campaigns.
This is one election that has been apparently over-subscribed. With about one score political parties presenting candidates in the election – a bulk of whom are running to win – yet, it has still remained a relatively clean contest.
With a strong sense of purpose, one of the candidates is insisting that all the contestants must be dragged to Oba Palace to swear that if elected, they would fulfill all the campaign promises now being dished out.
Even in the midst of all rhetoric, we have seen a measure of issues-based campaigns. This also puts a big burden on the electorate to make their votes issues-based as the era of selling their votes for pittance is over.
At Saturday’s election, there will be winners and losers. We have a word or two for each category:
To the victor belongs the spoil of office. This is an age-long philosophy. On the winning side, it will be jubilations galore. The jubilation will continue far into the future. But as the winners bask in the euphoria of their victory, they must not allow their jubilation to degenerate into violence and destruction.
They must not take the law into their hands. No matter the amount of jubilation, the truth remains that jubilation cannot develop Edo State. The development of the State requires something else. It requires earnest, patriotic and ceaseless work from all of us. Every Edolite, irrespective of party affiliation and irrespective of religious and ethnic differences, must quickly banish from his heart, all feelings of disappointment, all sense of chagrin, and, like the gallant soldier, fall in line, salute the colours and face the common enemies.
Our enemies are many: They include unemployment, bad roads, extreme poverty in the midst of plenty, insecurity, fragile health and educational institutions, infrastructural deficiencies, environmental degradation and so on.
On the debit side, people must constantly bear in mind that he who has never failed has never really succeeded. Examples here are legion: The case of President Muhammadu Buhari is quite familiar – he contested the presidential elections four times – he lost three times and won at the fourth attempt.
It is not falling that matters but the ability to rise each time you fall. Evidently, losers must lick their wounds, particularly in the face of the prohibitive cost of running elections in Nigeria today. The important thing is not to allow their loss to tie them down.
Neither must they allow their loss to becloud them into perpetuating violence and wanton destruction. Rather, they must pick courage and return quickly to the drawing board. After all, 2020 is around the corner.
We remember Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) who was the flag bearer of the Democratic Party in the 1948 and 1952 presidential elections in the United States of America. On both occasions, he lost to his Republican Party opponents. After the 1952 contest, while maintaining a very high spirit, he wrote a best seller titled “How to come second”
His advice is today as relevant as it was when it was given more than 60 years ago: “Even more important than winning the election is governing the nation. That is the test of a political party; the acid final test. When the tumult and the shouting die; when the bands are gone and the lights are dimmed, there is the stark reality of responsibility”. This we commend to Edolites in particular and Nigerians in general.
Beginning from the outcome of Saturday’s election, we see Edo State through the candidates, showing the way that the Election Petition Tribunal is not a casino where gamblers go to try their luck. The Tribunal is a serious business for serious-minded people who should approach it only on those rare occasions when they have good cases to pursue.
We hope the judiciary will give the election cases accelerated attention so that only the final winner will be sworn in on November 12.
Happy Voting, Edolites.