by Abdul Mahmud
The advertorial titled, ‘’Edo PDP and bedroom-based election monitors’’, signed by Julius Ihonvbere, Secretary to the Edo State Government, and published by ‘The Nation’ newspaper of Wednesday May 8 2013 provides a sad reading. That a former university teacher who passes himself off as a professor could in a cavalier manner turn truth on its head highlights what power does to those who acquire it by accident. Let me be charitable, here: Ihonvbere of the yesteryear of alternative radical politics would not have penned such trite just to appeal to his new party, the Action Congress of Nigeria. I shall however leave the interrogation of his transformation to students of contemporary politics.
There are many reasons why the outcome of the April 20 Edo local government area council election is disturbing. One of these is the denial of the rights of voters and its portents for the social contract. A government of the people by the people and for the people implies that the relations of governance are shaped by the consent of the governed. Thus, the social contract that embodies the sovereignty of the governed is also at once an indicator of the very essence of democracy. And it is on this basis the governing classes exercise their borrowed powers according to the dictates of the governed.
The local government area councils’ election that Ihonvbere strenuously tried to garnish as ‘’ free, fair and credible’’ violated the rights of voters. No matter the spin he placed on the reports of groups with indisputable links to the Edo State Government, the shorthand of what transpired on April 20th 2013 remains that voting didn’t take place in many parts of the state, particularly in the Afemai nation, where fictitious results were credited to his party. If voting did take place, Ihonvbere should explain why the youths of Uzebba, his hometown, barricaded his country home; and why he was forcefully imprisoned for hours before a detachment of armed mobile policemen from nearby Saboginda-Ora freed him? Why Auchi youths threw stones at the Comrade Governor? And why AbdulRazak Momoh, an ACN member of the Edo State House of Assembly, turned up with his heavily armed Congress of Progressive Change supporters at Bilaldin Hotel, Ughioli-Aviele, to retrieve ballot papers and boxes that were allegedly snatched by Gani Audu, the Executive Director at the Governor’s Office?
In his advertorial, Ihonvbere described the Edo election as ‘’free, fair and credible’’. How could he have described an election that never took place in many towns and clans as free, fair and credible? Perhaps to plant a foothold in his new party, he chose to be brazenly immodest. Truth is: ballot boxes and papers never arrived at the polling booths in many towns and clans, including my South Ibie community where voters were cajoled to solicit the insufferable charity of the Comrade Governor’s mother who foisted a nonentity on the local party. This was inspite of the fact that the deeply Islamic community rooted for a woman as her councillorship candidate. Today, a community which boasts of Professors IB Bello-Imam, Mustapha Danesi, Ahmed Yerimah, Kenneth Oyarebu, Musa Anavberokhai, Nasiru Obagha, Clement Mahmud and Anselm Iyamah; and other illustrious sons like Senator Kassim Oyofo, Chief Anavberokhai, Chief Haruna Osumah, Colonel Yakubu and the maritime lawyer, Tony Dania, is represented in the Council of Etsako-West Local Government by a certain Abdulazeez Asemokhai who party apparatchiks secretly admit has no school certificate.
Yes, the Action Congress of Nigeria has since 2007 won all elections conducted in the state. Sadly, its electoral invincibility has also imbued arrogance in its leaders, to the extent that internal party structures are subverted to accommodate the interests of the Comrade Governor and his mother. Fearing the protest votes of members who openly threatened to vote for the Peoples Democratic Party, following the imposition of candidates in Etsako, the big goons of the party connived with the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission (EDSIEC) and deployed the old tactic the Peoples Democratic Party developed during the Igbinedion era and mastered so well during Osunbor’s stint as governor. The tactic of ensuring that election never held, and fictitious results declared. What a travesty of democracy.
What is it that was problematic with the report of the group Ihonvbere dismissed in his advertorial as ‘’hungry and misguided’’? Ihonvbere knows that the benchmarks for adjudging elections are shaped by the material facts that are available for observations, pre and post-election. So, between the groups he hurled up as official truth-bearers and the one that comprised of those he described as ‘’charlatans and commercial bedroom-based observers’’, voters who forcefully imprisoned him in his home and those who threw stones at the Comrade Governor because they were denied the right to vote occupy the middle as the ultimate bearers of truth. No amount of sepulchral white-washing can beatify rotted bones.
Local councils are the cash cows of governors who seize the third tier of government and convert it into conduits for siphoning off funds into their secret bank accounts. To maintain the boundaries of political control through patronages, governors work at anything and everything to ensure control of these local councils. This explains why they rig the internal democratic structures of their parties to secure the loyalties of their lackeys.
How should Edo people view the Comrade Governor’s claim to enthroning the democratic culture that is often couched as ‘’one man, one woman and one vote’’? The April 20 local election presents the governed with the material evidences to dispute the Comrade Governor’s claim. His unwillingness to affirm the rights of voters highlighted his aversion for the social contract. On April 20, he exhausted the goodwill of the governed and reversed the change he promised Edo people. Yet, Ihonvbere expects democrats of conscience to defend him because he bears the appellation, comrade.