Call it a democratic soap opera or a premium box office, the fact remains that the just concluded 2020 gubernatorial elections in Edo state had everything expected from the yearnings for political power and relevance in Nigeria. From the intrigues of defections, to the makings and unmaking of political godfathers; from the creation of strong brotherhoods, to the battle cry of strong men from the geopolitical compasses of the country. You cannot but agree that the Edo polls lived up to its billings.
As it turned out, incumbent Governor, Godwin Obaseki emerged victorious. He garnered 307, 955 votes and won with a margin of 84, 336. His main challenger, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) scored 223, 619 votes. Governor Obaseki had defected from the ruling party, APC to the opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to enable him seek a second term in office after he was rejected by powerful forces in the APC. The campaign against him was spearheaded by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the same man he served as economic strategist and who in 2016 sold him to the people of Edo State as the best thing that ever happened to them. It was even speculated that voters would stay away from the polling stations, out of fear and anxiety. This was so because, before the election proper, campaign rhetoric was full of nervous energy and hate speech dominated political discussions. The people had every reason to be afraid. But in all, the Edo state governorship election have come and gone, leaving in its trail, a blend of bitter and sweet experiences and lessons that has been learnt already.
What Goes Around Comes Around…
Top on the lessons learnt is that the consequences of one’s actions will have to be dealt with eventually. This gives credence to the saying, ‘what goes around comes around’. In other words, one should not mistreat others. Borrowing a leaf from this expression, it becomes expedient to caution that the political class, particularly the gladiators, should be cautious of how the image of their political opponent is being tarnished all in the name of de-marketing him or her before the electorates ahead of any election. They must learn to imbibe maturity, decorum and self-restrain in the pursuit of their political interests. The practice where most Nigerian politicians indulge in character assassination and campaigns of defamation against one another should be discouraged. This is because; they tend to forget that when their interests change direction, the same bad utterances and damaging condemnations will turn around to haunt them. The then national working committee of the APC mistreated Governor Obaseki when he needed them most; now the party has eventually been punished by the electorate with their votes for the ill-treatment meted on Obaseki. It is against this backdrop that one can say that a salient lesson has been learnt.
A Two-Party System Looms
Another lesson is that Nigeria is gradually heading to a two-party system. There were 14 political parties in the September 19th election, but it was basically a two-way horse race between the PDP and the APC. It was as if all the other 12 political parties never existed. Their votes taken together did not quite amount to 10, 000. More so, the multi-party political system we claim to practice appears to be a mirage that makes mockery of our constitution. Worse still, the two-party systems are totally bereft of ideology, internal democratic values or integrity. This is because, the events leading up to the election in Edo State has been the case in most other polls in Nigeria over the last 21 years of our democratic experimentation. This indeed should be of serious concern to Nigerians.
Disrespect for the Nigerian Electorate
Meanwhile, the Edo 2020 elections have clearly exposed our political parties as groups that are lacking clear cut ideologies and direction. The way and manner the same political parties that were daggers drawn against each other in the previous 2016 Edo elections, suddenly exchanged candidates as if there were mere articles of trade, shows the level of disrespect the political class have for the Nigerian electorate. Politicians on their part no longer attempt or even pretend to demonstrate a sense of integrity or an ability to stand by their own words.
A Lesson on the Part of the Ruling Party
It is shocking to learn that a political party which is leading the country, and has the president in its ranks, was unable to settle an interpersonal dispute between two individuals – a governor and the chairman of the party. This resulted in the eventual loss of its grip in a pivotal state in the country. Meanwhile, this party is supposed to and does actually choose the ministers, ambassadors and security officials that engage in negotiations on behalf of the country and as well, saddled with addressing the intricate socio-cultural, political and economic challenges of a country like Nigeria. Yet, the hierarchy of the ruling party was unable to see the bigger picture. This should call for a serious cause for concern because the red flag it raises doesn’t speak well of how well the ruling APC have managed both the economic and internal security challenges in the country.
An End to ‘Godfatherism’
In the run-up to the election, Governor Obaseki had stated severally that his victory will mark the end to political god fathers in the state and ultimately, the country. True to it, his victory was able to serve as a loud lesson that power belongs only to God; and that He confers such powers through the people, meaning that no matter how an individual strives to lord it over others, the will of God through the people, will always prevail. Yes, ‘God-win’ prevailed.
Lessons for Other Post Covid-19 Elections
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC had in the build up to the election, insisted that voters should observe COVID-19 protocols. Though many voters wore face masks, quite alright, INEC was totally incapable of enforcing physical and social distancing. This is because there were widespread reports of lack of compliance with voting guidelines and covid-19 protocols in the just concluded Edo polls. That becomes a major setback and nobody should be surprised if there is a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in Edo state after the election. Therefore, it becomes instructive that officials of the Commission in charge of communications and voter education should learn to do enough work in subsequent elections to ensure physical distancing, wearing of face masks and total compliance with other Covid-19 protocols.
In conclusion, there is no gainsaying that, the September 19th Edo gubernatorial election came and passed with relative peace. This says much about Nigerian politics and democratic advancement, given the tension that preceded the polls. Indeed, the big take away remains that the peaceful conduct of the exercise simply demonstrate that Nigerians have got the capacity and ability to organize themselves and do the right thing. The Edo state experience therefore marks a watershed, indicating that finally, there is hope for a brighter light at the end of the nation’s political tunnel. But this will only point the way to the Eldorado and become a remarkable turning point, if lessons presented by the Edo election are painstakingly taken into heart by Nigerians, both within and outside the political class.
Oluka Emmanuel Chukwuemeka, a graduate of Electronic and Computer Engineering from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org