By Ademola Babalola…The Edo poll came to a conclusion on Thursday, September 29 with the announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission that the All Progressives Congress candidate, Godwin Obaseki, carried the day.
Given the direction of early results hours after the Sept 28 exercise, the final margin was considered unbelievable by many in Edo. No wonder many of the disappointed voters trooped to the streets to protest the results already rejected by the Peoples Democratic Party and it’s candidate, Nze Iyamu.
I have since spoken with many from the state, and outside it, and the compelling impression was that the APC victory did not represent the wishes of Edo voters. They said the outcome was a vindication of their fear that outgoing Governor Adams Oshiomhole and the APC that controls the government at the centre would subvert the will of the people. That APC would not accept it’s loss of popularity in Edo so soon after the people voted for it massively in the 2015 presidential poll, which held barely a year ago. Edo was the only South-South state that gave more of its votes to the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. Others voted a fellow South-South man, ex-president Goodluck Jonathan.
But a lot has happened between 2015 and 2016. Not only in Edo but across the country. The economic recession that has left most Nigerians dipping hands in the pocket without touching a nickel even as prices of items skyrocket on hourly basis has left many regretting investing their votes in the APC and it’s change mantra.
On September 28, most Edo voters were definitely not in love with the APC. Infact, the Change The Change slogan that is fast gaining ground in many parts of the country, especially in the South West where the people massively endorsed APC and Buhari last year, was said to have been invented in Edo as the battle cry towards the just concluded governorship poll.
Anyway, the Edo poll’s results have been announced. That could as well be the end of the story. Though a further battle over the Edo seat of power could be prosecuted in the law courts, there’s a very faint hope that the victory could be reversed given the political arrangement currently obtainable in the country and the fact of history that perhaps Edo people are not known for insisting on their will to be done.
The scary aspect of the Edo saga is the whispering that the same political game played in the South-South state could be re-enacted in Ondo come November.
I laughed when a colleague expressed this ‘fear’ near me. I however let him know that the Ondo scenario is quite different. One, Ondo is at the moment not an APC state, so no governor to force the will of the party on the people. Two, the APC is not only unpopular in Ondo, it’s house in the state is weak and divided. The bitterness that followed it’s recent primary election, which produced a once-beaten Rotimi Akeredolu, is still plaguing the party barely two months to the governorship election in the state. Three, APC’s Akeredolu is a stranger in Ondo and among the people of the state. Though an Owo indigene, the ex-National President of the Nigerian Bar Association would fare better if he is playing politics in Ibadan , where he grew up and has a home or in Lagos, where he has his associates and a godfather who made him a governorship candidate in 2012.
In the November 2016 election, Akeredolu has no chance against a fellow Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Eyitayo Jegede, the candidate of the PDP. Apart from drawing from the goodwill of the eight-year rule of Governor Olusegun Mimiko, the man generally accepted by the Ondo people as having worked for them, Jegede is a great grassroots mobiliser and he is generally loved by the people of the state. His candidature has been celebrated by the citizens, within and without his political party. While Akeredolu is still fighting his own party members to retain his ticket, all PDP members in Ondo are massed behind Jegede, a former Attorney-General, hailed for his gentle mien and commitment to the state ideals.
Perhaps a final point that differentiates the Ondo forthcoming poll from the Edo drama is the fact that the Ondo people are known to possess high political sophistication and resolve to enforce the popular will. In 1983, the then ruling National Party of Nigeria, apparently high on federal wine, attempted to impose it’s candidate, Akin Omoboriowo, on the people who invested their votes on the Unity Party of Nigeria’s Chief Adekunle Ajasin. The consequences were horrendous to recount here. It is suffice to say that the attempt by NPN contributed to the collapse of the Second Republic. Barely 60 seconds after the Federal Radio in Akure announced the fake results of the poll, the entire state, then comprising the present geographical area of Ondo State and the present Ekiti State, erupted in anger. Neither Omoboriowo nor the NPN waited to savour their announced victory. There was no rest in the country until the will of the people was respected and their choice, Ajasin, was sworn in for second term. By then, however, the foundation of the Second Republic had been badly shaken by the indiscretion of the NPN thus the military coup of December 31, 1983 that effectively ended the Republic and brought the then soldier, Maj-Gen Muhammadu Buhari, to power.
Buhari is now a democratically-elected president. He is also the leader of APC. He was a witness to history and he is not likely to invite crisis by toying with the will of the Ondo voters. Nobody should therefore see the Edo election as testing the water in readiness for the Ondo poll. If the people cast their votes for Jegede, nobody else can be the beneficiary.
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