By: President Aigbokhan, Esq.
According to Albert Einstein “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” The Edo September 19 election has come and gone but there are some vital lessons to be learnt. The Edo election is a model precedent of electioneering process and citizens engagement.
The Edo election has again beautified our democratic climate. It is no news that the Edo Guber result caused anguish and despair to high and mighty across creation and ingenuity. The election was predicted to end in tears and blood but was rather of unbridled hilarity.
The rift was promoted so as to make the electorate turn their back on their franchise and embrace the friendship of those who are only interested in exploiting the riches of the land.
‘Togba’ or ‘Ogbane’ is Edo language version for Liberal individualism. It means a lot of things to many people. It is a phrase that was developed during the heat of the electioneering campaign and shifting coalitions. It connotes completion, second-term assured and power belongs to the people amongst others. The concept is a value system of continuity of an ideal against infidelity. It willfully embraces a democratic value not for justification for service but guiding principles of measured action for development. It means let genuine men and women of enduring conviction with pristine agenda of solution to present malaise present themselves for leadership.
It means not everybody can make history on tabloid but everyone can write it with their finger print one way or the other. It is a notion that amplified voices of voiceless and highlighted the finger print of the people to the chagrin of political sponsors.
No doubt, the notion undermined the age long practice of waiting in the wings to gatecrash into power through the benevolence of political godfathers who serve as a political gatekeepers.
In the Edo Guber election, there was independence of thought and action in setting up democratic system for continuous development of the state. The election as a battle between the people and the elites but ended in laughter. For a known field talker and business moguls who are not so much masters of themselves and subject to the injuries of all things but call themselves emperor of Edo voters of which they have no power to know the least much to command the whole.
Some of the factors that worked against the APC in the state is mainly the ill commentary of the former APC chairman against the APC candidate. You called a child a thief and there are strong indications for that, you come again and say he is a saint without sufficient explanation of the conflicting record.
On the other hand, the APC candidate who is a lawyer did not see any good reason to approach a court for redress on its name and integrity. He thought it does not matter after all, they will vote as the come touches their hand. It was obvious the APC campaign machinery took the people for granted as usual and they paid dearly for it.
The APC candidate who is also a pentecostal pastor who secured the endorsement of very respected Christian leaders days after he was given a title by a king amidst Islamic chorus. The endorsement of Christian leaders should have been substituted with suspension as in the days of old.
I share with you a short story that impacted my life. As a lawyer, I do pro bono support for indigent Nigerians. In 2014, I was representing a client in Nasarawa State. The client contacted me to help him enforce the right of his late brother who was shot dead by security personnel when they went out to protest lack of water supply in university community of Agwa lambo, Nasarawa state. The deceased brother received me and prayed heavily for me, thanking me for coming to their aid timeously. I compiled the court papers and exhibits and prepared for filing. The applicant now has to sign before filling. After a careful reading of the affidavit, the client brought to my attention that I wrote in the affidavit that he is a Christian whereas he is a Muslim. I encouraged him to ahead and sign considering the stress it will take to adjust the status. He declined and insisted that he will change it before he signs and he bore the cost. That is the spirit. To denounce your faith in any context or pretext is not just a sin but rebellion. Of course, it attracts instant judgment unlike sin where you have to be judged before verdict. In the case of rebellion you will be disgraced.
Our God is a very jealous one and this is one of the layers ogbane or togba philosophy rode on to power. As a full time pastor, he now has a second chance to right the wrong and teach people how to identify and avoid conducts that renounce faith.
Before now, political bigwigs define the agenda of campaign and discourse. They define what they perceive to be the problems of the state and shape the discussion around it. They ridicule us because many of them will be compromised but in this case, they met their waterloo.
POI’s manifesto is called ‘simple agenda’, has content bereft of cost effective product and measurable outcomes. His campaign team never responded to policy critique on social or mainstream media platforms. They boosted of winning before the poll was conducted. Just like manifestoes, solution driven policy does not guarantee success in election. This is now the exception and not the rule as measured in Edo togba election.
Channels debate also opened up POI for crystal defeat. He was exposed not for good reason. It was clear to all that watched the debate that POI was deficit in economic, health, education and security architecture, governance and financing for Edo state (2020-2024). The main factor that accounts for this may be the impact of the pandemic on development and governance discourse. He kept saying “the governor increased the security vote”. The viewer’s understood him as a candidate interested only in security vote and nothing more. He was exceptionally belligerent.
Naira rain in the election matter to the voters as their reputation but not more than their resolve to retain the current holder of the office against all odds. There was rampant gifting that never resulted in vote buying as the citizens voted for their conscience. For there to be vote buying the people must vote for the money collected. It is not a process but an outcome. There are instances where the voters dispossessed those sharing money and disbanded them form the voting centers. Some took the risk to turn the paper sideway to confuse those sharing money and they ended up collecting money and voted for their conscience
We remember how well the Governor Godwin Obaseki handled the Covid19 crisis. He did not shut down the state because the poverty that will arise cannot be curtailed within a decade. He became dear to the people. His colleagues were slaves to global announcement but in here Obaseki managed the crisis to a bearable proportion. He deployed his experience in money market to the ‘now’ problem. This is because he is a cross over politician. He was in the finance sector and now in politics, no one can say that of POI and this also made the sound and sign of ogbane louder.
If we leave the political field to the ruling class and expect them to bring about change we can never have change and political balance. The choice of Obaseki was informed by the people’s belief in his ability to chart a better path for the state in the next four years. The election has reiterated that there can be no change without an ideology of change. And concerted effort to breathe life into the ideology by standing up makes the difference
Gov. Obaseki’s legacies are certainly not more in brick and mortar but capacity building and visionary design. Although there are numbers of infrastructure development if the need to reckon does arise. His legacies during height of covid19 outbreak of the people who he left to go about their businesses while observing the global protocol. He put the people first and was hard in tracking any spread including announcing a breast feeding woman infested with covid19 which was later discovered to be false perhaps due to anxiety. He no doubt shared in the experiences of the people and was rooted in them. Beyond this, he directed with knowledge and grasp of data.
The future of liberal individualism in the state is not for PDP or APC to determine but a patchwork of rules, norms and standards deliberately protected. The cadres across the party front must allow the people enjoy the wages of the struggle they wage. They have demonstrated self-denial, selflessness, sacrifice and projected a philosophy deserving of further interrogation, review and enhancement. This is how changes have been made through our history as this phase has come to stay.
Aigbokhan, Esq is the Executive Director of Freedom of Information (FOI) Counsel and Country Representative for West Africa Media Lawyers (WAMELA)