Edo Polls: Salute To Courage!

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By Abadom Lawrence Amechi

IN my twenty-one  years  of watching  and studying our democracy,  I have  come to  realise that the issue of legitimacy arising from the  will of  the people freely expressed can only be ignored  at a prize. Our democracy should be allowed to grow. Self-appointed godfathers should lose their stranglehold on our democracy.

The Edo people have spoken, and I join the whole world to rejoice with them. Democracy may have its imperfections, but it is still the best form of government. The Athenians believe that a popular leader might be invested with tyrannical powers by a popular vote, yet they believe that their democracy is better than tyranny and oligarchy. They knew that a popular vote may be wrongheaded, even in the most auspicious time; nevertheless they hold to the belief that democracy is still the best form of government.

The beauty of the Edo State elections is that the two major candidates are not just Edo State citizens, but true sons of the ancient Benin kingdom. All politicians in Nigeria are the same. Personal interest counts first. Obaseki cannot claim to be better than Ize-Iyamu and vice versa. Who became the governor was never an issue for me. That was for Edo people and they have decided in a process adjudged to be free.

For our democracy to grow, we need people who have minds of their own. I salute Governor Godwin Obaseki for his doggedness, for refusing to be cowed, and frightened into submitting to the howling of his former boss. When a similar scenario played out in Lagos in 2019, the then governor of the state; Akinwunmi Ambode, could not muster enough courage to challenge the Tinubu hegemony. It takes courage to alter the course of history. Though the turn out of voters was low, observers’ reports indicate that the process was fair and free.

What bothered me so much before the election were the activities of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. God cannot put the destiny of millions of people in the manipulative hands of one man. He captured the system four years ago, frustrated all other interested candidates, and manipulated the process to ensure that his candidate, who was not then popular, emerged. Four years later, he returned to tell the people that he was sorry; it should have been the other guy I rejected four years ago.

If you take a cursory look at our democracy, one will understand the concept of state capture. It is very clear that certain elements in our political space have captured the society for themselves. In politics, trade unions, religion, etc., the story is the same. In the days of the late Lamidi Adedibu; the Strongman of Ibadan politics, his words were law. Whatever he wanted was what Oyo State got.

The Lagos State example is a visible one in Nigeria today. If you are not in Tinubu’s political camp, you are wasting your time. Whatever he decides, that is what Lagos will get. That goes for all the states – there’s always someone, or few people, who decide on behalf of others. The classic definition of democracy describes it as the rule of the people, and that the people have the right to rule.

Plato, in his work, tried to create a clear distinction between what he regarded as the forms of a city state. According to the number of the rulers, he distinguished between: (1) monarchy, the rule of one good man; tyranny, the distorted form of monarchy; (2) aristocracy, the rule of a few good men, and oligarchy, its distorted form; (3) democracy, the rule of the many, of all the people. Democracy did not have two forms. Despite its rowdy nature, it is still the best.

Our democracy is still nascent. It’s evolving, and like other advanced democracies of the world, it would definitely go through some challenges before stabilising. The challenge that all democratic states, old and young, face is how to organise and run a state democratically in a manner that bad leaders can be got rid of without bloodshed, without violence. This is the aim that every democracy wants to achieve. The principle that government can be dismissed by a majority vote is one of the major benefits of democracy.

If it is frustrated, disillusionment will engulf the entire political sphere. The theoretical believe that democracy is the government of the people is not very true. Nowhere do the people actually rule. It is governments that rule (and unfortunately, also bureaucrats, our civil servants that you can’t hold accountable for their actions.). If bad people form government there will be problem. The need to strengthen democracy for it to throw up good people is very important. It is only good and patriotic leaders that will turn our bad bureaucratic system into a good functional one.

We do not want a system where the destiny of everyone will be in the hands of one man. Like Governor Obaseki rightly said, those who do not have constitutionally defined role in a democracy are dangerous to the growth of democracy. Edo State elections of 2020 raised our hopes that democracy can work here if properly nurtured.

What bothered me so much before the election were the activities of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. God cannot put the destiny of millions of people in the manipulative hands of one man. He captured the system four years ago, frustrated all other interested candidates, and manipulated the process to ensure that his candidate, who was not then popular, emerged. Four years later, he returned to tell the people that he was sorry; it should have been the other guy I rejected four years ago.

I salute everyone that worked for the success of the election. President Muhammadu Buhari should be appreciated for not interfering with the process. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Police deserve appreciation. I salute the courage of Edo people who refused to be blackmailed, frightened or intimidated by the heated electioneering process. Edo no be Lagos, the people said and they held on to the position till the end.

For our democracy to grow, we need people who have minds of their own. I salute Governor Godwin Obaseki for his doggedness, for refusing to be cowed, and frightened into submitting to the howling of his former boss. When a similar scenario played out in Lagos in 2019, the then governor of the state; Akinwunmi Ambode, could not muster enough courage to challenge the Tinubu hegemony. It takes courage to alter the course of history. Though the turn out of voters was low, observers’ reports indicate that the process was fair and free.

I enjoin Governor Obaseki to be magnanimous in victory. He should eschew petty feud that only blows ill wind. He should know that governance goes beyond a four-year tenure. So many former governors are still playing very important roles in the political arena. The future still holds something good for him. In areas where he did not win elections; especially in Etsakho land, where Oshiomhole is from, he should ensure that development gets to them. Okpella Town for many years had been the goose that laid the golden egg in Edo State, yet there is no government presence in the town. In the past four years of governance, the people of Okpella could not point to one thing done for them by Obaseki’s leadership. Okpella deserves government attention in the next four years!

Comrade Amechi, a member of NUFBTE, is deputy chairperson of Lagos-based Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR).

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Views expressed in published opinion articles are entirely the authors’ and do not represent the opinion or position of National Record.

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