No, don’t get me wrong. I am not insinuating that President Goodluck Jonathan backed a candidate other than that of his party in the just concluded gubernatorial election in Edo State. He did not also work for the victory of the comrade Governor. After all, in the run up to the election, Mr. President, like a loyal party man, never hid his support and preference for General Charles Airhiavbare, rtd, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the July 14 gubernatorial election. As a matter of fact President Jonathan was in Benin, the Edo State capital with other leading lights of the PDP to drum support for him just days to the election. And Mr. President was very direct in his appeal to the people of Edo State to vote in Airhiavbare in order for him to replace Adams Oshiomhole, the incumbent Governor and candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. Oshiomhole was also on top of the situation as he crisscrossed the state asking for the votes of the people.
At a point the situation was so tense that a number of people predicted Armageddon in Edo State. They had reckoned that the main opposition party would deploy the federal might to win at all costs while the ruling party would put up a stiff resistance. The clash of two powerful forces would lead to bedlam and violence. One man, that is President Goodluck Jonathan, ensured that the prediction of doomsday never came to pass in Edo State.
Mr. President simply played the statesman when the battle line was joined. In the first place he ensured that everything was done to guarantee and provide adequate security before, during and after the election. Mr. President, as the commander in chief of the armed forces ordered the deployment of soldiers and additional security back up for the state. Even when some individuals began to play politics with the deployment and insinuated that the tight security cordon thrown over the state was to favour a particular candidate, Mr. President kept his eye on the ball. He is aware of his constitutional responsibility to guarantee the safety of lives of Nigerian irrespective of their religious leaning and political persuasion. And he did just that in Edo State.
For Jonathan, from what happened in Edo State, election should not be a matter of life and death or a do or die affair. Clearly the President’s campaign for and believe in one man one vote is not just a slogan. It is something the President not only preaches but also practices as shown by the non interference with the processes leading up to the election and its final outcome. All the officials who coordinated and took part in the process also read the body language of Mr. President and as such allowed a transparent and free and fair election which has done a lot of credit to the democratic process in the country and of course to Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
It is also instructive that Jonathan was one of the first set of leaders to congratulate the victorious candidate in spite of the fact that they belong to different political parties. Jonathan in a statement issued on his behalf described Oshiomhole’s victory as,”an endorsement of his outstanding performance in his first term and the desire of the people for a continuation of his focused purposeful and dynamic leadership”. The president said he expected that the Governor will work even harder in his second term “to justify the confidence in his leadership clearly expressed by the Edo State electorate.” And to put into perspective that he sees Nigeria as his constituency and that he is party blind when it comes to working for the development of every part of the country, Jonathan promised that, “the federal government will continue to give all possible support and assistance for development in the state.”
It is time for all politicians to take a cue from Mr. President. Election should not be a do or die affair. It should not be a period when they call their supporters to sharpen their knives and cudgels. It is simply another major process in the democratic process. Like in all contests, there will be winners and there will be losers. Mr. President has shown that winners should be magnanimous in victory while losers should be gallant in defeat. Election from the perspective of Mr. President should not be a period to maim and kill or engage in divisive campaign that divides the people and create tension in the polity. What was key for the President in the
Edo affair was that the election should free and fair in keeping, “with his administration commitment to continually strengthen democracy through the establishment of a more credible electoral system.” President Jonathan allowed the voice of the people to resonate and their votes to count in Edo State. Indeed but for his statesmanship and deft handling of the Edo affair we might be talking about another avoidable crisis in the country now.
Adelaja Adebanjo wrote sent this piece from Abeokuta and can be reached via