The next governorship election in Edo state is well over one year away, yet the state is already in the electioneering mood as different groups are strategizing to grab political power. Interestingly it is the ruling party – the All Progressives Congress APC that is busy dissipating its energy rather than striving to consummate the gains of incumbency. All over the state, the matter of the moment seems to be on how some APC members are working hard for their governor’s reelection and another group fully set to upstage the plan.
For the onlooker, both groups are into self-denial pretending that all is well when their transparent mutual distrust and suspicion are virtually visible to even the blind. What is obviously a bigger lie is the argument of one of the groups that the friction between them is not caused by the struggle for material gains. What else do Nigerian politicians fight for?
In reality, the groups – one loyal to Governor Godwin Obaseki and the other loyal to Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past governor are in deep conflict. No one needs to live in the state to learn that the deputy governor, Philip Shaibu and the secretary to the state government, Osarodion Ogie belong to the governor’s camp. The second group is also not hidden as those in the group have held media conferences to articulate their position.
A recent meeting of the group which testifies to this was reportedly convened and addressed by a former Attorney General of the state, Henry Idahagbon in the presence of top party chieftains, such as Engineer Festus Evbuomwan and Samson Osagie a former minority whip of the House of Representative among many other allies of Adams Oshiomhole. The anger of this group against the governor provoked a demonstration last week by a group known as Concerned Edo Youths who carried placards bearing different inscriptions in support of Obaseki. At the State House of Assembly, the deputy governor Philip Shaibu, who was coincidentally there for the youth parliament programme assured the demonstrators that Governor Obaseki would not be distracted.
Ordinarily, the existence of several dissenting groups is good for democracy; so have no grouse with the factions expressing their feelings. But we deprecate their refusal to recognise that democracy presupposes the rule of law which provides for time for everything; there is time for political engineering and there is time for governance. As we have said more than once in this column, Obaseki having become governor has a greater mandate of state development than being distracted by the nuances of only one political party. He is the governor of the APC as well as of all the other political parties and all edo people. No one group has a right to distract him from governance. When it is time for political campaigns, different groups can canvass support for or against him or any candidate. Until then, distracting Obaseki at this point in time on account of the interests of a particular group amounts to anti-people disposition.
Painfully, Nigerians have never appreciated this inherent democratic trait, instead, they rely on the often-said statement that politics is a dirty game to fight dirty over every political subject and all year round thereby relegating governance to the backburner. The political groups currently making noise in Benin City do not have our mandate to evaluate Obaseki for us. We have seen what he has done so far with roads, taxation and management of resources.
There are Oredo traders for instance who like his reduction of payment for market stall from N900 to N200 just as there are many citizens who are excited over the reduction of payment for Certificate of Occupancy for land from N300, 000 to N50, 000. At the same time, it is also possible that the policy of electronic payment of fees and taxes direct to government coffers rather than the old order where the payments went into private pockets may have angered some citizens. At the end of the day, each person should be allowed to make up his or her mind about the degree of success of the governor so as to determine our choices in the next election. No premature political campaigns
However, some of the issues raised by the governor’s antagonists are weighty and worthy of investigation – the most serious being the allegation of spending hundreds of millions of naira to write memorandum of understanding and to correct some mistakes detected in them. If the allegations are true, they should be well articulated and presented to our anti-corruption bodies. An opposing APC camp cannot be the accuser and the judge. It is also necessary to make the point that the historical dimension of Edo’s problems cannot be wished away.
Here, there are citizens who blame Governor Obaseki for refusing to let the state know the true state of the empty treasury he inherited or the frivolous expenses he is being requested to meet. They say he had no business covering up the mess on ground. One analyst told this writer, the other day, to visit the website of the Debt Management office and find out when exactly Edo became next to Lagos as the most indebted state to foreign and domestic bodies. One is reminded that in 2016, the state government claimed to have paid N1.5 billion to a so-called world-renowned Austro-German Hospital Equipment provider to equip our 5-star new Central Hospital. We saw neither the equipment nor the money.
The other reason a heated polity by those opposed to the governor is appalling is their claim that Obaseki “knew nothing before he came in, we manufactured his APC card because he did not even have a party card.” Since when the statement was made till the time of going to press, no one has condemned, or retracted it. The confession is no doubt reprehensible because it suggests an affirmation that the APC in Edo State is a fraudulent political party – a confession that appears to confirm the generally held belief that the party was not the true winner of the 2016 election. But more importantly, how are we sure that they are not about to engage in another manipulation in their current drive to dump Obaseki and sponsor a more pliable candidate as governor so as to attain some material desires? One can see a dirty fight ahead which if care is not taken can move Edo APC to the Zamfara level in which a state negligently frustrates its own achievement through political rascality.
To save Nigeria and any part of it from the machinations of political jobbers, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must monitor party activities more effectively and disqualify those engaged in unwholesome behaviour. INEC should also embrace technology to sanitize our electoral process so that with one person one vote, which must count, our nation will be better positioned to withstand the plans of election riggers.