By Issa Aremu
PROFESSOR Yakubu Mahmood Chairman of INEC last week announced that the Edo governorship election will hold September 19 while Ondo governorship poll would be held October 10 this year. Given the dramatized crisis that has engulfed the ruling APC, Edo governorship poll raises more political anxiety as much as the last presidential election did. Few months to September 19, partisanship understandably underpins any commentary on the battle for the soul of “The Heart Beat of the Nation”.
Precisely because yours truly is involved in Edo project, my partisan bias is predictable for partisan observers. Since 2008, my commentaries on Edo could make for a chapter in my revised Reflections on Good Governance and Democracy. With benefits of hindsight today, it is self-evident that good politics and good governance makes for good partisan commentaries. Conversely acrimonious and polarised politics even with good governance makes best of commentaries and reflections an uphill task. I had confessed to most of my mutual friends on Edo project that I have never been so “compromised” as a commentator, precisely because am a participant-observer.
Only the evergreen lyric of the legend, Fela Anikulapo sums up my frustration: “Oro pesi je”. ( A Yoruba saying once translated by Wole Soyinka as “The proposition swallows the response”!) Edo’s recent serial star words of mutual suspensions, expulsions, threats to lives and addictive violence, (scandalously all within same political party!), beat political imagination as well as task objective responses. There was once a (Edo) State in which, cohesion, unity of purpose among political friends and collective commitment of the ruling class to the welfare and security of citizens generated positive news, worthy of emulation by other states.
The September poll will either further deepen the slide towards politicide (defined here as the end of politics of the ruling APC in Edo) or political renaissance that will consolidate on the achievements of the last 12 years. Much had been written about how Comrade-Governor, Adams Oshiomhole positively transformed Edo State after his two year long walk to Osadebe Avenue government house in Benin City. Yours sincerely has a number of reflections on Edo political renaissance since Adams Oshimhole joined the political process in 2006 to 2008 when he regained his mandate in a landmark historic unanimous judgment which upheld the petition of the Action Congress, AC, candidate in the 2007 April 14 gubernatorial election in Edo State and subsequently declared Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Indeed Edo witnessed a renaissance which defeated the old pessimism according to which nothing would work as long as political god-fatherism called the shots.
In a decade Edo State became one huge reconstruction site in governance! Many things positively went on simultaneously; from massive rural and urban reconstructions to public schools reinventions, from innovated sporting facilities (remaking of Ogbemudia Stadium) to new public transportation (comrade buses), from maternal and child care to record mass public employment in record time, from multiple assault on insecurity to mass beautification of the ancient city of Benin, to massive water project, from mass job creation through public works to prompt payment of salaries, including 25 per cent increase in minimum wage above the statutory N18,000.
Governor Godwin Obaseki-led government in line with the legacy of his predecessor has also promoted urban renewal as one of its key development thrusts with massive construction of roads, reclaiming of gully erosion sites, construction of parks and restoring sanity to public places across the state. On education, there has also been renovation of public schools across. Of special importance, is the cluster for technology innovators and inventors set up by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led government to strengthen the state’s nascent technology innovation scene. The hub was commissioned on June 14, 2018, by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and hosts the South-South Innovation Hub, a regional cluster for technology entrepreneurs in the Niger Delta.
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Of special importance is the novel Edo Production Centre to drive industrialisation in the state: a facility that provides Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs, and artisans with 24-hour electricity, business support, market development, and industry linkage opportunities, fitted with 500KV transformers, which are connected to the 33KV line in the area. When we add the proposed $200b Benin Enterprise and Industrial Park, the sound bites from Edo State are melodious than the star words of crisis and violence. Edo is also among the first states to implement the new minimum wage which Obaseki publicly announced that it was made easier because Governor Adams made more than the hitherto N18000!
Count down to September, the APC ruling party must play up the bigger picture of these historic and contemporary achievements if the party must avoid politicide or political meltdown due to unacceptable internal party war of attrition that deal more with dysfunctional and unhelpful issues. It’s time for leadership. The “crisis entrepreneurs” must give way to genuine tested leadership based on forgiveness and reconciliation. All peaceful politics may very well be local, but it must also be underscored that violent acrimonious local politics under-develops local community.
Devil is in the details of what had unfolded in recent times. But Godliness demands that we see beyond devilish details arising out of fear among brothers and sisters than reasons of love and shared positive values. The received wisdom has it that “prosperity makes friends, but adversity tries them”.
Or better put, “friends are made in wine and proved in tears”. Indeed a good friend never offends. Real friendship in Edo State should not freeze in the winter of September polls. Third-party reconciliation committee is no substitute for genuine compromises between offended friends. Divisions shape politics in general but compromises make politics alluring. History shows that democracy died repeatedly in Nigeria when civilian politicians could not found common grounds of compromise and tolerance.
The military adventurers in 1966 buried the “democracy corpses” that were abound, mostly in the old Western region. It’s instructive that the bipolar forces in Edo crisis prefer in one way or the other, the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari. But they must learn from how President Buhari commendably manages his own bagful of political frustrations without the third party.
The recent spectacular picture of President Buhari in warm handshake with former (toxic partisan!) President Olusegun Obasanjo in Addis Ababa shows that if there is the will at all, there will always be some ways for an embrace after so much political fireworks and acrimony. We dare not conclusively prove the acid test that “bloody civilians” can only agonize but cannot organize themselves for common good.
Aremu, general secretary of the National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, wrote from Abuja