By Ikechukwu Amaechi
ON September 19, Edo electorate will perform their civic duty of deciding, in the words of David Easton, the late Canadian-born American political scientist, who will authoritatively allocate the state’s values in the next four years. This exercise is important particularly in a representative democracy. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s democracy is like a sailboat in tempestuous waters with no appetite, not to talk of a demonstrable ability, for self-righting its palpable failings.
What is happening in Edo State typifies the flaws of our leadership recruitment process. Until Friday, June 19, 2020, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who happens to be the incumbent governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, was a member of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Yet, he was given a waiver and handed the party’s governorship ticket four days later in a primary election that was no more than a coronation.
In fact, the PDP primary was postponed from Saturday, June 20, to Tuesday, June 23, in a bid to create a window of opportunity for him to negotiate himself into the shelter provided by the PDP umbrella. Three bona-fide aspirants, including Kenneth Imansuagbon, a legal practitioner who said he used the past 16 years to work on his ambition to serve Edo people, were muscled out of the race.
The scenario in APC is not different. Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a former Secretary to the Edo State Government, who had a bright chance to become the APC governorship candidate in the 2016 election was muscled out when the then governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, swore never to allow that happen. Instead, he foisted Obaseki, his protégé, on the party and railroaded him to power.
When Oshiomhole, as APC national chairman, fell out with Obaseki, he went back to Ize-Iyamu, spruced him up in a new robe, and ultimately handed him the APC governorship ticket on a platter of spiteful politics. Now, in all these maneouverings, the people who are only supposed to be seen but not heard, didn’t count. They were put in a leash while the godfathers with elephantine egos ran riot.
The implication is that even before the election proper, the leadership recruitment process has been so badly compromised leaving the people with no choice whatsoever. But what is even more instructive and speaks to the malignancy of the country’s democracy tumour is penchant to behave as if words no longer matter. While canvassing votes for Obaseki in 2016, Oshiomhole denounced Ize-Iyamu as being unworthy of public office.
“It is true we found ourselves in the region of politics working together, but I never gave him government job,”Oshiomhole said of Ize-Iyamu during an APC campaign rally in Benin. I kept him busy, let him be holding midnight meetings which he is used to. Ask him, since he was the director general of my campaign organisation, why did I not appoint him into government? We kept him away, nothing near government circle, no access to public fund,” Oshiomhole said.
He was even more trenchant in his criticism at another rally. “We are liable if we say anything that is libelous,” he told a fawning crowd. “I bear full responsibility in my personal capacity. I waive my immunity and declare as follows before God: That Ize-Iyamu … went to school; he finished his primary school, I haven’t seen the testimonial but he finished. He then went to University of Benin to read law and two years later, he was rusticated. Why? He poured acid on the body of another student. Today, that student is deformed for life. His manhood has been destroyed and he cannot raise a family. That is his credential and that is why, he could not go to law school. That is why although he read law, he is not a barrister. Now, because of crisis of identity, he went to carry a Bible to say he is a pastor, a born again. That is okay, he has to continue to pray for the sins he committed.”
The Edo PDP equally disparaged Obaseki as a certificate fraud. “I have had Oshiomhole refer to him as a technocrat and the candidate has described himself as one,” Dan Orbih, the then chairman of PDP in the state, said of Obaseki in August 2016. Here with me is the school certificate he used to gain admission to the University of Ibadan. In this result, he did not pass economics, yet he calls himself head of economic team.
In the same certificate, he made P7 in English and failed mathematics. He claimed he entered the university the year he left secondary school. How could he have gained admission with such result? The result was not even good enough for any form of preliminary studies. This can only mean that Obaseki forged the certificates to gain admission. It is obvious that the man has no academic qualifications as he had only three credits,” Orbih said.
Sadly, the APC, which defended Obaseki’s certificates in 2016, later deployed the same controversy to disqualify him in 2020, and the PDP, which started the controversy, is now defending him. So, what will Oshiomhole tell Edo people about Ize-Iyamu as campaign starts – that he lied four years ago? Will he blame them for being naïve in believing their governor then? Some people are already saying that it does not matter, using John Lyly’s “All is fair in love and war” proverb to hedge their argument. War, they insist, falling back on Carl von Clausewitz’s thesis, is politics by other means. But is that correct? Shouldn’t there be integrity in politics? Shouldn’t the words of political leaders on the hustings be believable?
As if that is not bad enough, Ize-Iyamu and four others are standing trial over an alleged N700 million fraud. The prosecutor is the Nigerian state superintended by the self-same anti-corruption APC government. APC apologists say it does not matter because Ize-Iyamu is now in their camp. Really? Yet, Olisa Metuh, the former PDP spokesman is serving a seven-year jail term since February for the same offence of fraudulent receipt of N400 million from the office of the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasukui.
On Monday, Mr. Ifedayo Abegunde, the immediate past Secretary to the Ondo State Government, alleged in a live radio programme in Akure that Rotimi Akeredolu, an APC governor, didn’t win the 2016 governorship election. According to him, Akeredolu lost the poll to the PDP candidate, Eyitayo Jegede.
Narrating how he and other political juggernauts arm-twisted the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, into declaring Akeredolu winner of an election he lost, Jegede said: “Akeredolu didn’t win the election in 2016 but we made it possible for him to become governor. We were the pillars behind him and we will not support him again. He will lose this time around.” Yet, he is still walking the streets freely. Will the party once again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in Edo on September 19 as they did in Ondo four years ago?
Truth be told, 21 years after, Nigeria’s democracy is completely broken. Each time I think about what is happening in the political space in the name of democracy, I remember what Maurice Iwu, former INEC chairman, told me in an interview in 2014. “The political elite are so bent on holding all of us to ransom. They are so bent on making sure that Nigeria doesn’t work. They are so bent on making sure that the will of the people is never realised,” he agonised. “It is a cabal. They are into a bubble of their own. Nigerian politicians are rotten. They are just rotten. I am not saying some of them are rotten. I am saying Nigerian politicians are rotten.”