By Nosa Omorodion
ONE factor that is used to establish culpability in criminal investigation or prosecution, particularly when a suspect is not caught red-handed, is motive. Motive simply means the reason for doing a thing.
It is this concept that should guide us in making our conclusions about the allegations of malicious damage to billboards by the camps of the two main contenders for the 2019 Edo South Senatorial Election – Senator Matthew Urhoghide, PDP and Patrick Obahiagbon, APC.
On November 20, 2018, two days after INEC lifted the embargo on campaign for the National Assembly elections, Sen. Matthew Urhoghide put on display for the first time, his campaign banners, even without the solicitous “vote for” sign. The billboards simply display varied images and proclamations of the incumbent’s physical infrastructure, community service and advocacy achievements in the three years of his four-year tenure which ends in June 2019.
They are bold graphic illustrations of what have been acclaimed by all and sundry as unprecedented in the history of Edo South representation at the National Assembly. Among Sen. Urhoghide’s achievements, for which he is being celebrated, are empowerment training of over 4000 constituents in various fields;
economic empowerment of hundreds of constituents with trade tools and financial grants; awards of 263 scholarship to students in secondary and tertiary schools; facilitation of 87 federal jobs; installation of solar powered street lights; constructing and asphalting of roads; construction of over 50 water boreholes; construction of an ultra-modern health center; construction of bridges in six communities; construction of numerous market stalls and the construction of blocks of classrooms.
What more Sen. Urhoghide did that the billboards do not tell of is that he has sponsored nine bills out of which three have been passed into law. They also do not speak of his having raised 23 motions at plenary. They do not even tell us how vocal, vibrant and versatile he has been, in and out of the hallowed chambers.
Interestingly, a day after the banners were displayed, one along Upper Sokponba Road was discovered to have been pulled down. The following day, some boys were seen tampering with another one along Sapele Road. The supporters of Sen. Matthew Urhoghide promptly raised an alarm via the social media to draw attention to this criminal and uncharitable development.
The motive is apparent – to remove the intimidating evidence of Sen. Urhoghide’s performance from public view. The obvious suspects were and still are, without doubt APC supporters. Even with such credible suspicion, Sen. Urhoghide’s supporters did not pour invectives on Obahiagbon.
The ugly reverse was the case when, curiously, following the alarm by the PDP and Sen. Urhoghide’s supporters over the destruction of his banners, the supporters of Obahiagbon came up with the story that his banners have been defaced. They supported this claim with pictures.
Behold they have been sensationally vitriolic and literally inebriated in paroxysm, accusing Urhoghide and his supporters for their misfortune, which many informed people, given the reactions that have trailed their vituperations, believe to be a melodramatic afterthought.
What could be the motive for the opposition to contemplate damaging Obahiagbon’s banner? There is virtually none. It is instructive to note that Obahiagbon’s banners which advertise a single quality and achievement of his being a “vocal voice” have been on display around Benin City about three weeks before Urhoghide’s, and in flagrant disregard of INEC’s guideline that no campaign activity should be done before then.
In all this time, there was no report that any of them vandalised. Thus, many people have reasoned that what the Obahiagbon supporters are displaying as their own injury is self-inflicted with the objective of dampening the outrage over the reported malicious damage to Urhoghide’s billboards.
If only Obahiagbon’s supporters had left their verbal attacks to the issue of damaged banners, perhaps their exuberance may have been pardonable. They went overboard by trying to impute that their loss was occasioned by the attempt of the PDP and Sen. Urhoghide to obliterate the intimidating image of Obahiagbon.
The question is: In what ways does Obahiagbon’s profile, which they cannot even display, save for false representation, diminish Urhoghide’s profile? In cognitive terms, what can they report of Obahiagbon’s achievement in his 12 years in the legislature apart from burgeoned bombast? Edo South people have had the opportunity to observe the performances of both Sen. Urhoghide in his three years of legislative delivery, and Obahiagbon in his 12 years of legislative adventure. As they say and with due respect, the difference is clear.
In the meantime, security agencies and government should rise up to the occasion to ensure that this intolerance and tendency to suppress opposing views and campaigns are curtailed, lest they be suspected of aiding, abetting and tolerating illegality and criminality.
The offenders should be cautioned that the electioneering war of words should be prosecuted with decorum and respect while the billboards are left to tell their stories, celebrating both men for what they are best known – Urhoghide for his developmental strides and Obahiagbon for his amusing vocalisations.