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Edo politics: PDP not an option

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Oshiomhole-kk-

Governor of Edo State

FOR the first time in the last 16 years, there is a new realignment in the country’s political system. It is the first time control would be wrested from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

It is less than two week since this ‘change’ happened and the development, already, has started affecting the political behaviour of people, as seen in recent cases of defections.

When your ship berths, to borrow a popular maxim, you should expect to see a crowd of friends and relations all around.

In the past eight years, minus a year or so when Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor held a ‘stolen’ mandate, Edo State has played the part of the opposition. For a political system that is as patronising as ours, you do not gain much from belonging to the opposition, except of course, the feeling that you are on the side of the people.

As an individual player on the opposition turf, you might only lose personal benefits. But for a state, such stand could result in monumental loss, manifest in lack of attention and being bereft of basic amenities. The mathematics is obvious: Projects, at state and federal levels, are allocated on the basis of political consideration rather than need.

States usually do not get what they deserve, but what they can efficiently demand for. The sad implication is that we could continue this way until we hit a point of development where the formula would change to distribution of resources based on equity.

What appears to be the norm now is that too many mouths have to be filled; hence, attention is given to the loudest voice.

We can also view this from the standpoint of the growth of our democratic experience. To be honest, we have not experienced much growth in the past 16 years. And for a democracy yet to attain maturity, favouritism and individual influences are among the crude methods that determine who gets what.

Of course, the meeting point is lobbying. If lobbying, which is a give-and-take thing, still commands a place in the politics of the United States, you can imagine what goes on in Abuja.

Over the years, states have been marginalised because there were no strong voices to speak for them. As crucial as Lagos is to the national economy, it has had its fair share of the challenge of not having a voice. Many people still attribute the infrastructural problems it has faced to weak political link between Alausa and Aso Rock.

We do not have to go far to seek an instance. The Lagos-Badagry Expressway has suffered major setbacks as a result of undue politicking between the state and the Federal Government. The Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) initiative, which has offered succour to commuters in the commercial centre, was almost marred because the central government did not key into the vision.

The administration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was almost grounded by the legendary political battle he had with the Federal Government, which led to the seizure of allocations meant for local councils in the state. Needless to say, the state experienced severe developmental hold-ups.

In the past two years, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State has been in a battle of words with President Jonathan over non-completion of key projects in the state, including a water programme he claims the Federal Government intentionally scuttled because of his non-alignment with the Jonathan political camp. That battle has been fought, lost or won. And sadly, the state’s residents carry on with their lives without the benefits derivable from those projects.

On May 29, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio, will quit his state happier than he met it. In relative terms, he has achieved success in key areas, especially infrastructure. In political circles, Akpabio is seen as Jonathan’s ally. Many people believe he would not have achieved half of what the state boasts of, during his tenure, had he not been in the good books of the President.

It would be seen that people have and are still suffering the consequences of being in the opposition, whereas some have enjoyed the outcome of a smoother relationship. Edo State is at a crossroad, a crossroad of whether to remain an opposition state or join the ruling party. But the APC, which has firm roots in Edo from the start, is on the national stage; hence the state cannot afford to play loser.

Unfortunately, there are already signs that the old warlords are making serious efforts to reclaim the state. At the Presidential and National Assembly polls, the PDP swept the entire Edo South and Central senatorial zones. This outcome implies that the state will be playing the opposition in the National Assembly in the next four years. That is bad enough.

The governorship/state legislature polls hold on Saturday (April 11, 2005). Analysts expect the outcome of the presidential poll to swing votes, but we also know that politics is a matter of conviction. Individuals and communities will go to the polling booths to demonstrate their firmly held conviction. Should Edo voters choose PDP candidates as lawmakers, it will further prove their inclination to oppose in the new dispensation.

Understandably, Governor Adams Oshiomhole might have had a running battle with some PDP defectors. In politics, there are rooms for misgivings, being outcomes of bruises. But we must be bold enough to take stock; otherwise we will not know when we cross the thin line that separates sanity from insanity.

Interestingly, aggrieved APC members constitute the bulwark of the now opposition PDP. It is time those people return to their first love. And everybody must play his role: the governor, on the one hand, must accept his mistakes; the aggrieved individuals, on the other hand, must accept a ceasefire.

We must prevent Edo from slipping into the hands of the opposition, after working so hard in the past nine years to nurture the APC. With success, there will be a new momentum to build on towards securing the victory of the APC at the 2016 governorship election. This is because the state’s legislative election will have a deep-seated psychological impact on the electorate. Besides, elected office holders would automatically become rallying figures and opinion leaders, determining the future political behaviours of their communities.

There may be sentiments against Oshiomhole. But we cannot afford to throw away the child with the bathwater. He needs the support we all can give, to ensure a transition that meets the developmental challenges facing the state. We may not agree on issues, but we can all find a common ground to pursue our common aspiration. There is no doubt that the APC is that common ground. The past eight years would have been rosier, had the state been led by the ruling party. Edo cannot afford the cost of being in the opposition.

One thing is sure: The governor took decisions in the best interest of the state. It is too late a time, after playing the opposition for seven years, to allow personal interests and sentiments into an opposition again. The entire state is the common future and the ruling APC is its most certain path.

The recent elections pointed to deepening ethnic political groupings. We must be bold to confront the reality that we are one people who share the same pains. We must rise beyond ethnic politics, clannish cleansing, and embrace the path to a happier future.


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