A few hours after Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was declared the winner of the last Saturday governorship election in Edo State participants in a local radio programme in Benin drew attention to a trend: some governors slow down in their second term. Virtually all the callers during the programme that Sunday afternoon expressed the hope that Oshiomhole’s case would be remarkably different as they offered their kind pieces of advice to the governor.
It was as if the governor listened to the radio programme because in his brief speech at the spontaneous rally of youths at the government house on that day he declared that his re-election “is an invitation to hard work”. He promised to work even harder in the interest of the people than he has done in the first term. Really, Oshiomhole has not got any choice in the matter given the magnificence of the people’s verdict that his re-election represents. The governor has democratically defeated those who challenged him in the election; he now has the challenge of not disappointing the people as he said during the campaigns. This is now the hard part. He has to beat his own record.
In any sector where it is even obvious that his government has recorded good performance the administration has to do better in the second term. Errors of the last three and half years would have to be corrected for improved performance. Structures should also be put in place for sustainability. After all, a common line in the congratulatory messages that the comrade governor has received is that the Edo electorate decided to renew his mandate for another term of four years based on the performance of his administration in the first term. The huge expectation is that Oshiomhole will deliver a greater governance output for the good of Edo people who have trusted him with their mandate.
It is, therefore, reassuring that amidst the jubilation over the well-deserved victory, Oshiomhole is fully conscious of this great expectation and he is already making declarations to that effect. He has to continue to prove in action that he is connected with the people. Great performance would be the fitting way to reciprocate the enthusiasm, resolve and sacrifice that were amply displayed at the polling booths in the state on Saturday. Men, women and youths were united regardless of their languages and dialects in making a success of the election. Oshiomhole won the majority of votes in all the 18 local government areas of the state. As it has been widely acknowledged ethnicity was not the factor in the voting pattern. So it could be safely said that every part of the state is Oshiomhole’s stronghold. The people were determined to make their democratic will prevail. Even nature was clement enough in their support. The weather was generally pleasant in the state on that day.
The legitimate expectation of improvement in the quality of life of the people is further buoyed by the enormous import Oshiomhole’s re-election. The political implications are not only for Edo state but also for Nigeria. It is an index of the possibility within the polity and a basis for optimism that one day Nigeria will overcome the malaise of political cretinism. In endorsing Oshiomhole for the election last Thursday this newspaper argued that beyond physical development, Oshiomhole’s courageous leadership has opened up the democratic space in Edo. That is a point to further ponder now that the election is over. The people’s will is prevailing over the intrigues of few politicians.
What has happened in Edo is not merely a change in the locus of power within the political elite. The phenomenon is beyond the mere juggling of power equation. Indeed, the gamut of political culture is being transformed. This is good for democracy in the long run. The corollary to this development is that Oshiomhole should expect that the people who were resolute in making their votes count would also be alert to make his government accountable and govern for the greatest good of the greatest number. A positive outcome of the energetic political mobilisation that Oshiomhole embarked upon in the months leading to the election is that the people would ask questions subsequently about governance. So the change in the politics of Edo has profound lessons for Oshiomhole as much as it has for the political godfathers he has routed at the polls.
There are, of course, other lessons from the Edo election. In a manner that somewhat belied the apprehension that preceded the election, the election was generally conducted in a peaceful atmosphere. There were no reports of snatching of ballot boxes or gun shots to chase away agents at the collation centres as reported in previous elections. Thugs were not in control of the process. The deployment of soldiers to back up the police was obviously responsible. However, the point must be stressed that deployment of soldiers for civil duties should not be taken as the norm. The election day should not always be a day when law and order will totally breakdown to warrant presence of troops. The police should be equipped and oriented appropriately to perform such functions. It is a symptom of political underdevelopment that troops have to be deployed for a purely civil exercise as voting. The soldiers and police performed their duty professionally in the Edo election. That should not, however, be a justification for making deployment of troops on the election day as part of the political culture.
The sad news from the exercise was the unfortunate drowning of policemen and a member of staff of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) in Ologbo River in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area. Four lives were reportedly lost in the accident. While we commiserate with the families of those dutiful officers lessons should also be learnt from the accident. Those who have duties to perform in difficult terrains on the election day should be well equipped and protected.
Although the election was conclusive to the credit of INEC, lessons should be learnt from the logistical problems encountered in some areas of the state. Some of the inadequacies were indeed embarrassing. There were reported cases of late arrival of electoral materials and consequently late accreditation. In many respects, the lapses were simply not excusable because INEC chose the date and had time to plan for the exercise. It was good that the INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, and host of his colleagues in the commission were on ground in Benin. They saw what happened. The public expectation of INEC is that useful lessons would be drawn from the Edo experience so that INEC could further interrogate its capacity and operational methods. That again would be another positive outcome of the Edo election for the system. So INEC too is expected to work harder so as to deliver credible elections.