Edo election as flash of hope
Despite the tumultuous episodes and frantic permutations preceding the Edo State governorship election, both the conduct and outcome of that election was not surprising to peace-loving Nigerians. Given the resources and goodwill expended, the election reflected some modest credibility and the peace, which well-meaning Nigerians didn’t anticipate.
Thanks to the forceful measures taken to ensure peace, the September 14 election experienced relative calm. Graciously, contrary to the initial expectations of many watchers of the event, the ruling government, personified in the President himself, did not succumb to the parochialism of party loyalty in this election. At least to the average man on the street, the expected deployment of ‘‘federal might’’ to determine the outcome of the election was virtually absent. This too wasn’t expected.
And so in times of relative success such as this, it is customary to congratulate the president on the peaceful delivery of the Edo election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). If for nothing else, President Muhammadu Buhari deserves some plaudit for his insistence that the right thing be done. Buhari was quoted as asserting: “I am supposed to preside over all Nigerians’ interests, whether I like it or not, but my single desire is to make sure that innocent people don’t suffer. That message I got across to the Inspector General of Police, that elections must be free and fair.” This newspaper believes however that, the feat in Edo should not be a flash in the pan, after all.
The green light given by the Federal Government to INEC to do the right thing was quite gratifying. If it was the president’s directive that made this happen, then it is quite cheering at this time – when people seemed to have lost hope in the ballot. Indeed, this has been one election, in the last few years, that tended to have redeemed the image of this country and its people. It was evident that in spite of the presence of godfathers and the scathing diatribes mutually spewed by parties’ campaign managers, the voters voted conscientiously for their choice.
As the election time drew near it was observed that respected citizens and clerics, notably General Abubakar Abdulsalami (rtd) and the Right Reverend Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Catholic bishop of Sokoto, were on hand to broker peace amongst feuding politicians. They even caused a peace deal to be signed. Besides, there was the royal counsel of the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, who admonished politicians especially the major contenders on peace and progress for the people. The symbolic gesture demonstrated by these representatives of eminent persons is that statesmen, religious leaders and traditional monarchs have a role to play in effecting positive social transformation. When respected eminent Nigerians genuinely intervene to broker peace, rather than make a living as government errand boys, the people would sincerely on their own give heed to their wise counsel.
The lesson expressed here is that when people are assured of safety and protection from harassment during elections, the electorate would on their own disregard the overtures of selfish and non-performing politicians and comport themselves with civility during elections. What is further revealed is the level to which misguided leadership has affected Nigerians. For a long time, critical political watchers have described elections in Nigeria as a hopeless situation, a travesty of democracy and a threat to the principles of good governance.
The Edo election, with its shortcomings, is a harbinger of hope. It is a demonstration that Nigeria can be extricated from the morass of devious political machinations and unbridled money-politics, that this country can grow steadily in its appreciation of the democratic culture. It is also a demonstration that of the fact that Nigerians can muster the political will and good conscience to address a problem.
As the Ondo State governorship election draws near, political watchers and analysts are likely to invoke Edo as the litmus test for evaluating the outcome of Ondo’s election, not minding its peculiarities. They are also likely to expect the right to be done, as instructed by the president. If that is going to be the case, the outcome of this election offers the president and other agencies responsible for its success an auspicious opportunity to, at all times, replicate the expressed interest in the common good. It is also the expectation of Nigerians that state institutions that were involved in this success should continue so as not to give the country and its leadership a bad name.
Now that the election is over politicians in the state must transmute from partisan loyalists to well-meaning stakeholders concerned with the over-all development of the state. They must shield their swords of opposition and assume the role of constructive collaborators with the newly elected governor and people of Edo State. This is not the time to set bobby traps and scavenge for cracks or faults, or engage in dubious political permutations to the peril of genuine governance.
Politicians must come together and work assiduously for the common good. Irrespective of party affiliations, they must join hands with the government and people of Edo State to ensure concrete development and positively transform lives.
The governor too should realise that with this electoral victory, he ceases to be a partisan administrator. He should avoid needless vituperation and any posturing that suggests vengeance over pre-election hurts. Henceforth, as it should be always for any elected political officer, the electorate still remains one people that must be developed wholesomely.
In the final analysis, as this newspaper has repeatedly maintained, vying for a political position need not be a ‘‘do or die affair,’’ neither should it demand the investment of any person’s blood. Political positions are purely a call to service. Any other embellishment that rips the people off is simply a self-aggrandizing venture that means no good. The president’s congratulatory message sums it up appropriately when it stated that innocent people need not suffer because of any election. That, in the main, is the beauty of the whole political contest. There should be no partisan campaign after this remarkable governorship election in Edo State.
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