Delta 2023 Governorship Election; Civil Society and Coming Re-orientation   

By Jerome-Mario Utomi   
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Jerome-Mario Utomi

The recent unexpected expression of interest in the 2023 Delta state gubernatorial election by Comrade Mulade Sheriff, peace and environmental rights advocate and National Coordinator of The Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), a Lagos-based non-governmental, not-for-profit organization, gives fillip to the fact that the forthcoming 2023 General election in the state would be laced with arresting surprises and shaped by new orientations such as; fiscal, sociological, political and communal happenings in the state and the country by extension.

Essentially, Mulade’s speech at the event not only touched/expressed worry about ‘public leadership recruitment process, usually characterized as, and completely devoid of ideological convictions’. Rather, it deeply trumped up in sequence the believe that many different strata, sectors, and sections of the state will be looking up to 2023 as a year to settle various scores – both idealistically and holistically while delving on issues relating to electoral challenge in the state and the nation as a whole, in ways that will guide deltans build a united and prosperous state that will elicit the trust and loyalty of all citizens and become the envy of other states.

He captures it this way; I strongly believe that the masses that constitute the electorate are the deciding factors in every elective process. That is why I am here to formally consult you and express my interest in the next Delta State Governorship race. Permit me to state that the best approach for nominating a candidate for an elective position is through the electorate. The governorship seat is not an exception to this.

This is the time to change the narrative by adopting the Bottom-Top Approach, where the grassroots, that is the masses, are consulted in the process of nominating a credible, trustworthy and reliable candidate for an election, and not the other way round (Top-Down) where leaders of political parties and political godfathers select and impose unqualified candidates who are not connected to the masses, and may not have the capacity to redeem their campaign manifestos after election.

Thus, it is high time we allow a capable candidate to lead and govern Delta State. Let us say NO to political manipulations and imposition of candidates who are only seen during general elections. I wish to encourage you to support a candidate of the peoples' choice and mandate. This is the time for true governance; this is the time for grassroots inclusiveness in Delta State political process; and this is the time for us to nominate and elect a youthful, popular, experienced and an acceptable candidate of Ijaw extraction, who believes in the power and value of the masses, as the next Governor of Delta State. I know that with the support of all Deltans, we can engender positive progress in Delta State; and to accomplish this, every citizen, 18 years and above, should obtain his or her Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) and vote for the right and capable candidate. He concluded.

Specifically in my views, it is glaring that Mulade Sheriff has to the admiration of coastal dwellers done well in the areas of peace promotion in Niger Delta and youths’ empowerment. It is equally necessary in the present discourse to highlight for the sake of clarity/posterity, that, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, a medical doctor turned politician and Governor of Delta state has in the past six years demonstrated a passion for his purpose, practiced his values consistently and lead with his hearts as well as his head and through the process ushered in the state; growth and structural change, with some measures of distributive equity, modernization in social and cultural attitudes, brought about a degree of political transformation and stability, an improvement in health and education while bringing increase in urban living and sustainable employment.

Yet, these ‘virtues and attributes’ on the part of the Governor notwithstanding, there exists in the state like Mulade noted above, something deeply troubling about the state’s leadership particularly the inefficiency and redundancy at local Government levels that the Governor urgently needs to tackle in order to ‘finish strong’.

More importantly, characterizing Mulade’s expression of interest in politics as a right step in the right direction is the troubling awareness that in present day Nigeria, there exist a high level of trust deficit on the part of the politicians. This is however not Delta specific.

Behind this claim is a recent remark by YZ Yau, Director of CITAD, during a recent interview. He, among other comments stated; repression associated with military rule informed the focus of activism of the 80s and 90s. But, now that we say we have democracy, do citizens enjoy these rights? Can somebody travel from Abuja to Kaduna or Rigasa without fear of being kidnapped, killed or shot by bandits?

The right to life, in particular, now has a question mark. Can somebody facing such threats claim to have the right to life? The issues we advocated for many years ago haven’t been resolved and still beg for meaningful solutions. The police are not accountable to anybody. The army is not accountable to anybody. This is not what democracy should look like. We cannot promote democracy in an environment where human rights are not respected. He lamented.

Without doubt, these men in the 80s/90s participated in challenging; questioning obnoxious leadership in the country and through the process breathed democratic ideologies. They fought about the right to organize, the right to free expression, the right to assemble freely, the right to free movement and ultimately, the right to life. They forced the military to leave, and that was precisely part of the role they were expected to play.

Unfortunately, when the military left, the activists also abandoned Nigerians and their absence without any nation building programme directly allowed politicians the opportunity to use sophisticated means to manipulate public opinion as well as selectively control information relevant to the decision making process in our democracy. Aside from losing the political ground, their departure intrinsically handed Nigerians over to politicians and the experience quoting Richard Templar has been unpleasant, selfish, narrow minded and petty as their antics invariably involves intimidating people, being sly, getting things done by lying and other dishonest means.

To correct this fundamental mistake, I hold the opinion that the state and the nation needs leaders that are activists in nature to save the country from political and socioeconomic challenges that have spread its wings for a very long time. This explains why Mulade advocacy deserves not just the commendation of this piece but the blessings of all and support by the present administration in the state.

Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;[email protected]/08032725374.

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