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Edo State today; the benefit and challenges of popular election- being the title of a paper presented by Hon. Aiyamenkhue Edokpolo 28th November 2009 at an Award Ceremony organized by The Call Newspaper, in Benin City.

By Edo Benin

All protocols dully and respectfully observed.
May I humbly declare that after a deep reflection on the manner holders of political offices are perceived by the public (as political yes-men); I chose to fine-tune my assigned topic of discussion “Edo State today: is Oshiomhole the messiah” to Edo State today, the benefits and challenges of popular election”. I beg for your endorsement because, the term messiah is not only ambiguous, but one that invokes an atmosphere of missed religious feelings and contradictions; and it is one that also connotes some measure of praise-singing by pedestrian politicians or those whom Karl Marx and Frederick Engels referred to as lumpen petty-bourgeoisie. So in order to provide a reasonable ground for political dialectics between those of us in government and those whom where either in government before or in the opposition; it became imperative to choose the latter as the topic for solomonic-appraisal.

The Webster's dictionary defines “election” as the selecting of a person or persons for public office, as by ballot. The framers of this encyclopedic dictionary assumed that by this definition, the ballot is immune from desecration whether inform of ballot stuffing or outright stealing of the ballot box itself; or crude tendencies of electoral violence or pre-election terrorism. But in Africa and Nigeria in particular, the ballot box and all pre-election ingredients like voter's education and voter's card registration are susceptible to all hazardous influences and manipulations by the oppressive political class or entrepreneurs of violence. This is the context with which I framed the term “popular election”. It is an indisputable fact that most people who occupy top political offices in Nigeria today were NOT popularly elected; they may be there all through their tenures because the actual winners of the election mid-way into the struggle submitted to the antics of “Landslide Victory” (the usual phrase of godfathers after they rig an election) or the judiciary allowed itself to be compromised as the last hope of the oppressed. Hypothetically, definitions of political concepts like election in Nigeria will not be the same in advanced democracies or developed nations, especially when the man or woman offering the definition is a beneficiary of a flawed-process of election. To me, the “ultimate good or satisfaction” is the attainment of political or public status through free and fair process devoid of crudity and corruption; because when you are eventually down-sized or removed through the Courts of law as was the case between Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and Prof. Sen. Osarhiemen Osunbor, you are most likely to be disgraced and ridiculed.

You may agree with me that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is an epitome of popular election; because his victory was pronounced by the mass of Edo people; denied by INEC; and reinstated by the Court of Appeal. The anticlimax of the eighteen months political cum legal struggle between Adams Oshiomhole and Edo political godfathers combined still rears its head inform of the standoff between the House of Assembly and the State Executive Council over the State Universal Basic Education Board; the Edo State Oil and Gas Producing Areas Development Commission and the protracted legal fireworks between the Justice Okungbowa' led State Independent Electoral Commission and the Court of Appeal sacked Osunbor administration. What I am saying is that, whereas a person was declared as winner of an election, awarded a certificate of return by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), sworn-in by the state chief judge as a Governor, whilst the “looser” ran to the election Tribunal for safety of his mandate, the declared Governor acting under the illusion of victory made all sorts of appointments and constituted several commissions and boards; by the time the judges of the apex court (Court of Appeal) ruled that the sitting Governor's declaration as Governor was illegal, by association, his appointments and the boards he constituted are illegal. Without pre-empting the ruling of the courts on some of these cases, as a lame man, I have a right to logical deductions and I earnestly believe same to be true if legal precedents are anything go by.

In x-raying the benefits and challenges (cost) of popular election therefore, one must relate it along the lines of present realities in Nigeria and Edo State particularly. Again when Jean Jacque Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes and others were postulating the social contract theorem, they either assumed that the populace will be very assertive and proactive in determining who represents them in the game of sovereignty; or that the elected holders of public office will be transparent and legally cautious; but in Nigeria, owing to years of military incursions and abuse of powers by politicians and their military partners, the populace retracted into near acute docility. It took a popular “election candidate” in the person of Comrade Adam Oshiomhole to reawaken the consciousness of Edo people to at least summon the courage to storm the voting centers to cast their votes; thereafter, resist the attempt to steal their ballot boxes and live the rest for him and his team players to defend. The costs or challenges of popular election cannot be quantified in monetary terms alone in Nigeria because, most lives are lost in the process; people's hands and legs are amputated, some even get traumatized to the level of mental disorderliness. Peoples houses are burnt, some people because of their membership of a political party are arbitrarily sent parking by their landlords and land ladies, we can go on and on listing the psycho-primitive implications of pursuing democratic freedoms for our people. This aptly informed the sobered-mood of the Comrade Governor on the 11th of November 2009, the day marking his 1st anniversary as Governor of Edo State when he laid wreaths in honor of the three young-men who were murdered while exercising their civic responsibilities. Again, in the midst of these painful scenarios, comes an atmosphere of freedom, that at least, the sanctity of the ballot boxes used on the April 14th 2007 elections were restored with the declaration of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as Governor is something worth classifying as “benefit of popular election”. I speak from the humanistic perception of the political contest, because, if not for the people (voters, party agents, security agents, and INEC agents) who stormed the courts as Petitioners Witness (PW001 to PW 201) to testify to the wanton disruption and flaws of the election, the Courts could not have had reasons for the landmark judgment. The point is that, only conscious people can fight well. All their determinations cannot be resisted by the oppressive class. One of the benefit of popular election include

1. Justified expectation of performance on the elected government or representatives by the electorates or populace.

2. Strong confidence of the trust and solidarity of the populace by the elected officials or government.

3. Based on 1 and 2 above, there will be mutual cooperation between the government and the governed; and this will lead to accountability.

4. There is spill-over positive effects inform of hope for future elections or higher offices.

As a political scientist by training and a political economist by apprenticeship, I have no doubts in mind that the people's Governor of Edo State Comrade Adams Oshiomohole acknowledges the fact that he or the state government is greatly indebted to the mass of Edo people for their bravery, courage and solidarity which culminated to his victory as Governor; and will remain committed to the provision of the variables and attributes for their greatest satisfaction. Aristotle is credited in history tom have declared that “man is zoo politicon” which was translated to “man is a political animal” by the English writers, Comrade Oshiomhole recognizes that his Government; firstly emerged by the immeasurable sacrifices of Edo people; and will be judged by the impacts he brings to governance during his tenure. These are the twin issues that will guarantee his future political aspirations; there is no gainsaying the fact therefore that he will live up to the expectations of the mass of Edo people.

I am grateful for this privilege accorded me to share my knowledge on this thought-provoking issue; I wish you smooth and progressive deliberations. Thanks and God bless.

Hon. Aiyamenkhue Edokpolo

Development / Accra / Ghana / Africa / Modernghana.com