By Michael Obetoh
The new twist which the political atmosphere in Edo State took on Saturday, July 25, 2020 can only be equated to the Biblical saying in the book of Sirach 27: 30; “Grudges and wrath are abominations, but sinful people excel in them.”
Better still, any keen observer of the Nigerian political terrain will acknowledge the fact that beating the drum of war in a political contest as the current one in Edo state is equal to blowing on a spark to ignite a politically tensed system, yet an evil tongue will go ahead to do so; not minding the consequences.
For a sitting governor and his deputy who left the All Progressives Congress (APC) on frivolous and trumped up claims to the other party whose presidential candidate in the 2015 general election, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan repeatedly said and demonstrated that his political ambition is not worth the blood of anyone.
Better still, when he has continued to blame his hitherto godfather, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of overbearing demands, it was ordinarily expected that Governor Godwin Obaseki and Philip Shaibu, his deputy, would have dropped their toga of violence and tow the part of non-violence or peaceful campaigns as Goodluck Jonathan who though a rare patriot, lost the 2015 elections to President Muhammadu Buhari; understandably so.
Some forebears: a typical example is the experience of former President Jonathan and his wife Patience who were severally maligned, and mocked even to the point of being called unprintable names, yet they did not order the arrest or intimidation of anybody.
Even as a sitting president, Buhari has also been demonized in many quarters. Some even called him Jibril of Sudan while others labeled him ‘Baba go slow’. Some critics even went as far as saying, President Buhari was cloned.
Despite all that, heaven did not fall. In the midst of such demonization and strong insult on the leaders, they never uttered a word of high handedness or tyranny as we see in Edo state today.
Away from Nigeria, American President Donald Trump has being facing stiff opposition from various sides both local and international. He is now about the most criticized American President.
But in the expected character of a democrat like Buhari and Jonathan, Trump has not winch-hunted or harassed any opposing view to his policies and administration. Tyranny as the one being experienced in Edo state under the supervision of Governor Obaseki has no place in any democratic establishment. Is Edo state been blessed or cursed with incarcerated Leadership? Your guess is as good as mine.
The unfortunate keeps happening: But the body language and conducts of the governor and his deputy in the face of the momentous gathering of political activities in Edo state recently, leaves much to be desired of a team that claims confidence in winning the September 19 governorship election in the once peaceful state.
On one breath, governor Obaseki claims wide spread acceptability and admiration of most electorates in the state to the extent that he brags of defeating Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the APC with landslide. On the other, he is seen sponsoring violent political attacks and hounding perceived opponents. That alone is an indication of a drowning contestant who is unsure of himself even in a state where he presides as the chief security officer.
Recent events have shown that Governor Obaseki is not only running his government based on lies, he is also hounding opponents who refuse to support his government and reelection bid. Obaseki and his deputy have been making several attempts to intimidate supporters of Pastor Ize-Iyamu and other respected APC supporters, including Captain Hosa Okunbor.
The lastest of such unprovoked onslaught on his opponents took place at the weekend when supporters of Obaseki launched a violent attack on APC supporters near the palace of the Oba of Benin – leaving several persons injured.
It happened when PDP governors, led by the Chairman of the PDP Campaign Council, Governor Nyesom Wike visited the Oba of Benin. His visitors who were in the state to flag off his campaign watched as many APC members and those believed to be opposed to his reelection were manhandled.
The Obaseki induced thugs unleashed violence on APC supporters even without provocations.
He should take a cue from other political leaders across party lines and know that this is not a bloodbath politics. It is a civil contest and should be moderated to that extent – with lots of decorum.
What an ugly incident! It is believed that the governor instructed thugs to attack the people as retribution for their public booing of his arrival with various chants labeling him a rejected candidate and for spurning his rally.
Instead of doing introspection on his public rejection at the Palace of the revered Oba, Obaseki and Shaibu losed their rabid dogs on innocent APC supporters who were on a peaceful campaign outreach in the metropolis.
Obaseki and his loyalists allegedly destroyed their own bill-boards at different locations in the state as a gimmick to deflect responsibility and get a reprieve for the alleged organized destruction of APC billboards after the party filed a petition with the police and other relevant agencies.
Like Edo State Media Campaign Council of the APC rightly noted, it is sad that Mr. Obaseki has displayed the same traits of intolerance and penchant for violence that made the people of Edo State unanimously reject him. That is unbecoming of a governor who was elected to protect and secure lives and properties of Edo people, irrespective of party affiliation.
“Booed by the people at the entrance of the palace of our great Oba of Benin for handing over the state to the PDP tax collectors who are unconscionably feasting on our collective patrimony, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, as an act of revenge, instructed the thugs and cultists he has spent the past few weeks recruiting in the State and beyond to attack the people with dangerous weapons”, the APC campaign council said.
For a sitting governor that prides himself as a gentleman, it would be better if he had responded to the issues rather than orchestrating violence of politically exposed opposition members and rising supporters’ base of the All Progressives Congress. If this can happen now, what would we expect when Obaseki is allowed to occupy the leadership position of the state in September?
In a civil contest as the one that is underway in Edo state, everyone must see preventing targeted violence as part of a larger set of needed interventions to improve the Nigerian democracy that includes freedom of choice without harassment from any quarter.
The new twist.
It was Pastor Ize-Iyamu, the leader candidate in the governorship race that assured residents of Edo State of a violence-free election while calling on his main opposition, the PDP, to shun provocative acts and campaign based on issues, not insults and name-calling. Ordinarily, many people expected Obaseki and his co-travellers to learn from that and restrict themselves to issues-based campaigns devoid of violence and name calling, and a campaign of calumny based on things non-beneficial to the people of the State.
“We have said that we want this election to be issue-based. We don’t want to resort to name-calling and insults. We want to focus on our SIMPLE agenda. I can assure you that we as a party will do everything to avoid violence,” that was the voice of Ize-Iyamu on one of his campaigns trails.
However, the people of Edo state are left to ponder and have decided that ‘the intolerable actions witnessed in the last four years and perceived as a tyrannical by watchers and indigenes should not be welcomed for the second time otherwise the state’s fortunes may rubble to sand dust at the end of the day.’
We are wiser now. Fool us the first time – we are ignorant, but no room to whisk us again as we have brought to the fore a better replacement come September election.
…Michael Obetoh is a Political Analysts and an indigene of Edo State