When I returned from a trip to Edo State at the end of May, I had written a column in which I had captured, with the best of objectivity I could muster, to graphically capture what I found as the mood of the people of Edo State, across ranks and classes, with direct reference to the ‘warfare’ building up in the State in preparation for the July 14 election. The violence, the alleged assassination attempts, the actual killing of key persons in the State, directly politically motivated, and so on. I find it inevitable to quote, copiously, from that end-of-May stint, especially in the aftermath of the election, its implication for the nation’s democratic culture, especially in anticipation of the 2015 general elections, whose drums are already sounding with frightening deafness. It is instructive that the election itself, with all the conundrums, the cacophony and the mortal fear it bred into all of us, leading to a preparation by government and the people for an actual battle, ended, not with a bang but with a whimper, to borrow a T. S. Eliot’s poetic turn of poetic-prose. Find below my reflective narrative of the situation in Edo then:
‘’I had always believed, rather than expected, that the comrade Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, will deliver on his promise to lift Edo State out of decay and morass, built by years of misrule and insensitive governance. The fact is that, in the labour and popular circles, it would be a disaster were he to sink the State. So when I arrived at Benin for a week intensive visit—not as a tourist but as a visitor with a definite study intent—I received what I must describe, for want of a better descriptive lexicon, a happy shock. Right from the entry point from the uncompleted Ore-Benin Express, driving through the GRA and along the airport road, a usual nightmare of overcrowded, impossible-to- weed through snaky stretches of potholes, I found a government at work. Asphalt lay and endless stretches of drainage. The dirty red mud that dressed the roads of Benin has disappeared. The hold-ups have thinned down considerably. The roads have worn a happy, modern look.
There was joy on the faces of the average Benin man as work on state infrastructure was in advanced, active state. The schools have new classrooms and the old ones have been rehabilitated. The gulleys and erosion that dominate the landscape of Benin are fast disappearing. Dredged topography, long culverts, kerbs and bridges have been built. Such was the rapidity of modernization of the State—with the Local Governments across the State already beaten by the bug of progress planted by comrade Governor outdoing themselves to make a difference in their constituencies, that it was easy to see that there was appreciation of the spread of hope across the State.
It was no surprise that there was confidence, writ large, in government circles and among the electorate that change has come at last to a State which was lying forlorn in the clutches of visionless ruination in the name of politics. The dark cynicism which led a pater of a sitting Governor to request that his son who had evidently, and so adjudged in a failure in governance, should be given a chance to repeat, like is done to failed school pupils! At the Oba’s palace, you could assess the verdict or the score-card of the Government. All the Oba and his Council wanted was that the FG would release funds to their son in power to carry on the good work that he was doing. It was as if as far as he and his people were concerned, there was no election forth-coming as we all know will be in July. And if anybody wanted to contest that mass acceptance of the comrade Governor, let them try it, come July.
Thus, for all progressive-minded people in Edo and around the country, the comrade in power has delivered the goods of good governance and has given a good account of himself as a change agent and a representative of the people’s wishes and aspirations which he had symbolized for decades. But more importantly, he has inspired the popular masses of the State and roused the slumbering centre of cultural civilization of Nigeria into renewed action and fresh dreams about the possibilities of growth and development in the ancient city and its environs.
It was saddening therefore, that one week after I left Benin, the circus politics of desperation, blood-letting, assassination, threats or more assassination and passionate lethal rage had taken over a happy and hopeful State. The call by the sitting Governor and all well-meaning people for a credible, one-man-one-vote come July was beginning to be submerged. The confidence radiating in the rolling bulging eyes of this impish giant, and one that carries a load of change-contagion, was being threatened by agents of death. The attempt to assassinate the Governor and some of his men has become a threat to the survival of democracy.’’
Well, in view of the political desperation at play in Edo State, count-down to the lection; the regime of violence, the shenanigans of political parties, the manipulations and violent body language, the power manipulations, the lobbying and so on, nobody could be blamed for the larger -than-life preparation for the April 14 gubernatorial election in Edo State. INEC was put on its toes, given the critical insinuations levelled against it by the ANC—allegations of subtle partisanship and culpability in the massive rigging plans alleged to be in the offing by the PDP, the ruling party, which had left no one in doubt that it was ill-prepared to lose that State again to the ANC. Allegation was rife that the audacious power-muzzling that was witnessed in the Bayelsa election will re-echo, especially given the facetious shows put up by the PDP and its election fixers. The visit of the President and the palace drama further left nobody in any doubt that no effort would be spared by the party-in-power too ‘capture’ Edo back. There was also palpable manifestation of the ‘trigger-readiness’ of the ANC, the enlightened masses of Edo, the spiritual and traditional authorities in the State that any attempt t deny the triumph of the sovereign will of the people to name its Governor will be resisted with every non-violent means. There was heat and passion in the air. Fire was raging ad water was ready to douse it.
The security forces prepared for outright war and the INEC was unmistakably up in arms to demonstrate its total commitment to a credible, free and responsible election. The nation at large took the election as a litmus test for the elections of the future, especially since the 2015 General Elections have already assumed a massive frame in the nation’s body politic as early as 2011, and nobody in power as willing to curb its dominance as the issue at stake!!