By Efe Igbinovia
The misleading article, Flying the trite ‘APC’ll rig’ kite, authored by one Sufuyan Ojeifo could have easily been overlooked as one of the many sponsored Public Relations efforts of an Edo All Progressives Congress (APC) campaign that is now starring defeat in the face in the forthcoming September 19 governorship election in Edo State but for the fact that it could actually deceive persons who are not abreast with the issues surrounding the forthcoming election.
If Ojeifo was even minutely interested in presenting the most common fact around the ongoing electioneering process in Edo State, he probably would have been able to state that it has been the APC, not the PDP that has gone around casting aspersions on various individuals and institutions on sinister plots and conspiracy theories about rigging the election.
The publisher, editors and readers of the Vanguard Newspaper would be amused to note that the sponsored story on the paper’s front page sits right under a story titled ‘Edo poll: Igini threatens to sue Imuse, Mayaki over bribery claim’ which detailed how the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Akwa Ibom, Mike Igini has instituted legal proceedings against the APC campaign organization and its members over libellous statements accusing him of attempting to manipulate the electoral process.
The campaign team also accused a former director of INEC, Mr Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, of working in cahoots with Governor Godwin Obaseki, accusing him of working as a private consultant to the governor to rig the election in the governor’s favour. In a swift reaction, Osaze-Uzzi, through his lawyers, Ahmed Raji SAN and Alex Ejesieme SAN, denied the allegation and called for the retraction of the publication across different platforms, suing the APC campaign director for N500 million as a cost for damages caused by the defamatory and false allegation. They have also made similar claims against the Nigeria Police Force, which has been denied.
INEC has also come out to denounce the allegations and insinuations that there are plans from within the commission to rig the election, as claimed by the APC campaign team.
Reacting to the allegations, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, said that no staff of the commission, current or retired, had the capacity to interfere with the system
“With the innovations already in place, it is impossible for any staff of the Commission to rig the election or any other election for that matter. “Nigerians and the good people of Edo State should disregard the allegation and be rest assured that only the votes cast by eligible voters on 19th September 2020 will determine who becomes the next governor of Edo State,” he said.
It is clear, from the foregoing, who has adopted as part of its campaign tactic a resolve to attack the institutions that are supposed to ensure the sanctity of the electoral process, intentionally muddling the waters to make way for the ominous moves to undermine the process and ultimately cause a dent on the integrity of the electoral umpire.
Beyond this, what the resort to this rhetoric has made more apparent is the manifestation of APC’s vacuous campaign that has failed woefully at selling an unpopular candidate, who is weighed down by the baggage of an overbearing godfather, who has now settled for the APC candidate after his failed attempt to advance a fiefdom that would fester on the decimation of the people’s patrimony.
A reference to the governor’s disqualification by the APC, which was actuated on very puerile, ignoble albeit self-perpetuating grounds, complicates the case made by the author of the piece and rubbishes the proposition that he speaks for the masses.
What the APC is yet to realise and which may eventually be their hubris this election cycle in the state is that they have taken the people for granted and insulted the intelligence of the right-thinking members of the public by propagating the elections in a manner that puts the interest of one man and his friends over and above the dreams, aspirations and livelihoods of Edo people.
The arguments on which the said disqualification was procured have long been put to rest and all genuine and unbiased observers of the election so far would know that the issue was never really about certificates or correct spelling of names on documents. The certificate issuing bodies have since come out to make their positions known on what the APC chose as their lynchpin for a premeditated action.
The University of Ibadan, National Youth Service Corps, whose certificates formed the fulcrum of the claims against the governor, have been frontal in refuting the allegations of illegitimacy by the APC, a situation that can best be described as pathetic given the way the party almost mounted a national campaign against Nigeria’s oldest university over matters it ordinary should have nothing to do with.
Reading through the piece, though the author mounts the rostrum and tells us that the APC in Edo State has rejected Governor Obaseki, what we hear and what resonates with the people the more, is that the Governor has refused to be the stooge of the former chairman of the APC who, as the author admits, misread him as someone who would be a lackey to do his bidding.
The argument on continuity as propagated by Ojeifo and his folks in the APC falls flat on its face when basic questions are asked, but what must be of concern to all well-meaning and decent Edo people is if the reign of chaos and state-backed thuggery must continue. Governor Obaseki being a key figure in the immediate past administration continued developmental projects that met the needs of the welfare of Edo people and where necessary, restructured those that needed to be so tweaked.
The Benin Central Hospital is admitting patients and providing services to Edo people. The Storm Water Project is on course as well, with massive construction of floodwater retention and erosion control projects in the Upper Adesuwa-Gapiona axis and other locations across Benin City.
On performance, the governor has a surfeit of achievement spread across several sectors, including but not limited to creating the business space for attracting private investors leading to the cultivation of 110,000 hectares of plantation land, development of the 6000bpd Edo Modular Refinery, completion of the 55MW CCETC-Ossiomo Independent Power Plant (IPP); civil service reforms with regular payment of salaries and pension; at least one road project in each of the 192 wards across the state; reformed land management and administration; retooled and rebuilt government buildings and institutions; reconstructed the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium and built mini-stadia across the Benin metropolis.
In the education sector, the governor’s Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (Edo-BEST) programme is a global success story. The World Bank has just approved $75m (N40bn) for the expansion of the programme to junior and senior secondary schools in the state.
In tackling human trafficking, which had for years blighted the reputation of Edo people in the eye of the world, the governor took up the tasks and retrieved a missing core of the soul of Edo people, with the re-integration and rehabilitation of not less than 6000 returnees through an elaborate framework for managing illegal migration issues.
With his impact across different sectors and a commitment to open up the state for industrial growth, the popularity of the governor continues to soar by the day. The verdict is out on the streets. The polls are returning an 80 per cent acceptance rating for the governor, which is giving the APC sleepless nights, as even polls commissioned by them corroborate the acceptance rating, despite their flip flop campaigns with which they have been playing catch up.
Governor Obaseki’s decision to pitch his tent with the PDP gives the APC sleepless nights. This is why they keep propping it as a major sore point for their ebbing fortunes. The catalyzing impact of the governor’s popularity melding with the PDP structure, coupled with the support the governor enjoys within the state and across the country among members of even their party, obviously intimidates the APC and the Oshiomhole’s handlers.
That all politics is local is a given, but what is even more striking with Obaseki’s politics is that instead of concentrating on politics for its own sake, he emplaced a development-centric bent to this by constituting the ward development committees that now dictate the pace of development in the rural areas.
It is in line with this thinking that instead of a local council-based campaign, the governor embarked on a ward-based campaign, which affords him the opportunity to interface directly with the people, assess their needs and make connections with the institutions and other levers of interaction necessary for community-enabled development.
In the course of the ward-to-ward campaign, the governor is interacting with all the traditional rulers across wards in the state, meeting with over 200 traditional rulers and chiefs. Most of the traditional rulers have acknowledged the governor’s sterling performance, bestowed him with chieftaincy titles and celebrated his business acumen and forthrightness in prioritizing development.
With the deep-reaching support base and an all-encompassing campaign strategy that ensures a bottom-top conversation in the course of the campaigns, it is obvious who has indeed touched base with the people. The connection with the people, for Governor Obaseki, is not a political gimmick. He has indeed reached out and felt the people’s pulse in the state’s 192 wards.
In the final analysis, after all, is done and dusted at the September 19 polls, it would be the APC that would be regretting why it gifted a performing governor to the PDP and Edo people would indeed be better off, for siding with the governor against those seeking to shortchange them.
The plot to rig, of which the APC has accused every other person but itself, would be thwarted and undone by the overwhelming support which the governor enjoys from the people and perhaps, for the first time, these elements within the APC will be taught the bitter lesson that people’s power will always prevail over the oppressive tendencies of a few.
Efe Igbinovia, is a public commentator and can be reached on [email protected]