The gubernatorial elections held recently in both Edo and Ondo states have come and gone with all stakeholders, most especially the INEC as the electoral umpire having learnt one or two things. Even as this writer is of the opinion that there is more to be done as far as holding free and fair elections in the country (are concerned), what is certain is that Nigerians (perhaps in this part of the country)are beginning to open their eyes to the realities confronting them. Gone were the days when votes were not protected or failed to count. Political consciousness is fast holding sway and it is until perhaps Nigerians begin to understand that it is their constitutional right to vote and also their right to use their vote to annihiliate irresponsible government and politicians at the polls, such is when our nascent democracy will have a head way.
For those who watched and observed with keen interest the Edo gubernatorial election few months ago, it would not be a misnomer to posit that those who wanted to take the back door to win the election at all cost quickly found it expedient to spread apprehension around days into the election, yet failed to make good their plan. The apprehension was quite high that it was thought Edo state would boil and therefore lead to total break-down of law and order, yet the people of the state defied all, coming out en masse to vote for the candidate of their choice.
The same scenario played itself in the Ondo state election for two reasons. The first being that the three candidates were quite powerful, popular and presentable in their own rights and the second, that all three represented each the three powerful political parties in the country. With these, coupled with the fact that there existed series of vested interests in the election, it was not surprising why thousands of soldiers were deployed to the state to do a job the police and other para-military formations would ordinarily have been made to do in saner climes. At the end, the Ondo election was more than peaceful, even as few troubles were noticed in some places but summarily checkmated.
To keen observers, both election had the incumbents winning a second term in office with massive landslide victories. In Edo state for example, the winner of the election, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole won with 73.7 per cent of the vote while the Peoples Democratic Party, took only 22.3 per cent of the ballots cast. The remaining 4 per cent was split among five other parties. In Ondo state on the other hand, governor Olusegun Mimiko polled 260, 199 votes as against 155, 961 and 143, 512 votes from both the PDP and ACN. The implication of this is that the people had come out to vote despite the threats, unfounded apprehension, stories of insecurity and breakdown of law and order. The people had made their choice and were neither hampered nor schemed out from doing so.
Having said this, it should not be a surprise to many how both incumbents in Edo and Ondo states won the gubernatorial in a land-slide. In Edo state for instance, comrade Oshiomhole had it tough not with the PDP flagbearer this time around, but the series of political godfathers quite powerful within the state and around Aso-Rock. With the likes of these godfathers, it was thought whatever incumbency power Oshiomhole wielded would amount to nothing, yet the pendulum moved in the way of the latter.
In Ondo state, the drama was far more different and quite interesting as not only godfathers dictated the tunes but also the three political parties danced to a new concordant tune. As if that was not enough, the three political flagbearers are sons of the soil who had proven their worth in their respective fields. They are highly known, respected, quite popular, politically connected and critically intelligent. With an Olusola Oke or a Rotimi Akeredolu as candidates of a political party, it was enough for both to win massively, how much more with Olusegun Mimiko. Their personalities are reminiscent of a ‘sell-out concert’. Despite these, the incumbent governor won.
The picture this writer is trying to paint is that godfatherism, threats of apprehension, voter apathy, vote buying, rigging, electoral violence and fraud, ballot box snatching, intimidation, impersonation and all brands of electoral malfeasance popular in the country and between the ruler and ruled are beginning to be wiped away. This of course was evident in both Edo and Ondo with the people displaying a high sense of maturity and a determination to vote for a square peg in a square hole.
The elections in both states remind one that in today’s Nigeria, political parties and candidates don’t matter but ‘perfomance’. It is a known fact that comrade Oshiomhole and Dr. Mimiko had both performed during their first term and no matter the lies peddled by propagandists, uninformed groups, political jobbers and sycophants, perfomance certainly made way for their victories. Anambra and Lagos states under Peter Obi and Babatunde Fashola also remind many of governors who won their second term as a result of performance. This goes to show that in Nigeria, with billions of Naira allocated to a state, miracles could be performed.
The year 2015 is around the corner with what had taken place in Ondo state still fresh in the minds of voters. The days of ‘I wore no shoes’ speech are over. A leader saddled with the responsibility to effect a change in his society must begin to perform, else the vast majority of the people ‘will not give a damn’.
Raheem Oluwafunminiyi is a social commentator and public affairs analyst and could be reached via [email protected]