Edo, Visa Ban And Demystification Of A Godfather

Casmir Igbokwe

Edo State will make a good study in political chicanery of godfathers. Before the governorship election held on Saturday, September 19, 2020, it was as if war would break out in the state. The godfather himself, Adams Oshiomhole, pranced about the state in campaign summersault. Recall that, four years ago, the immediate past national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) campaigned for his then beloved candidate, Godwin Obaseki. Then, Obaseki was the candidate of the APC. Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this particular election, Obaseki is the candidate of the PDP while Ize-Iyamu is the candidate of the APC. For reasons best known to him, Oshiomhole, who had called Ize-Iyamu unprintable names, became his main backer this year and campaigned vigorously for him. He even knelt down before some stakeholders in fawning obeisance just to garner support for his candidate.

Today, the eagle has come home to roost. Except some miraculous manipulation happens, Obaseki, as at press time, has been re-elected the governor of Edo State. It is sweet victory for the people of Edo and vote of no confidence on godfathers.

Initially, it was as if the election was going to have serious hiccups. This was despite the deployment of at least 31,000 policemen and some other security personnel to the state for the exercise. On the eve of the election, over 300 policemen reportedly surrounded the hotel where the chairman of the PDP’s National Campaign Council for the election, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, was staying. Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, who was chairman of the APC National Campaign Council for the same election, and Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State were also said to be in Edo. But nobody harassed them.

Obviously, deploying thousands of security men during elections in Nigeria does not prevent malpractices. Rather, it appears to worsen them. The party in power at the centre always uses the security agents to its advantage. It happened in Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections last year. We were regaled with the tale that 66,241 officers were deployed in those elections. There were also Special Protection Unit, Counter-terrorism Unit, Special Forces, Intelligence Response Unit, Special Tactical Squad, Mounted Troops and Police Mobile Force who complemented the conventional police officers. At the end of the day, the two states witnessed some of the worst elections in Nigeria’s history.

The just concluded Edo State governorship election was not totally different. Though it appeared better than the Kogi and Bayelsa warfare, it was marred by pockets of violence, vote buying, voter intimidation and harassment.

It was not for nothing that the United States and the United Kingdom decided to impose visa ban on those who undermine Nigeria’s democratic process. The US has already listed some individuals. The UK, on its part, said it would not only ban such violators from visiting the UK, but would also seize their assets in the UK and prosecute them according to international law.

The protests by the Federal and Kogi State Governments over the visa ban are bunkum. While the Federal Government said the restriction was disrespectful of Nigeria’s sovereignty, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi accused the US of partisanship. In a letter to the US Embassy, signed by the Secretary to the State Government, Folashade Ayoade, Bello cited the court rulings in his favour as evidence that the election satisfactorily complied with the Nigerian Constitution and the Electoral Act. The regrettable incidents at the polls, he noted, were limited to a few polling units and the election was generally free, fair and credible.

These people in government must be living in a world of their own. They should realise that the world has become a global village. You can’t perpetrate evil and hide under the canopy of sovereignty. There is always a consequence for any action. Imagine Yahaya Bello talking about his election being free and credible!

Was it credible when security agents were even accused of aiding party thugs to snatch ballot boxes and intimidate voters and electoral officials? Was it free and fair when political thugs suspected to be loyal to the ruling APC went to the house of the PDP women leader of Wada Aro Campaign Council, Ochadamu Ward, in Kogi State, Mrs. Salome Abuh, poured petrol on her building and set it ablaze? Mrs. Abuh, who was inside the house when this happened, could not escape because her killers bolted every exit point from outside. They also rained bullets in her direction to make sure she didn’t escape. The woman was burnt to death in a most gruesome manner. The thugs allegedly burnt some other houses in the state. A coalition of civil rights organisations rightly described that election as a major dent to Nigeria’s democratic process.

To me, the visa ban is not even enough. Just like Governor Nasir el-Rufai recently signed the law stipulating castration for rapists in Kaduna State, we need to amend our laws to politically castrate politicians who have continued to rape our democratic ideals. Our electoral act should be amended in such a way that whoever is convicted for participating or supporting thuggery, violence, vote buying, ballot snatching and sundry electoral offences should be banned from participating in any election for a minimum of 10 years.

Why should we continue to break palm kernel for fowls with our clean hands? Every election cycle, it is the same story. In the last general election in 2019, there were serious irregularities. Over 620 people were reported to have lost their lives.

Ours has become a jackboot democracy where the wishes of the people in power are greater than the power of the people. Peaceful protesters are suppressed and sometimes mowed down for demanding their fundamental rights. Those who engage in terrorist activities against the state are pardoned and rewarded. And when the Obasanjos and Soyinkas of this world talk, they are branded “dividers-in-chief.”

It is either we rise up and make this democracy work or we all suffer the consequences. You may think you are immune to the crisis that may erupt, but the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the elite have shown that in the day of reckoning nobody is spared. We need to reform our electoral, judicial and political systems. We need to punish electoral offenders. Changing from one civilian regime to another does not confer democratic honours on us. Respecting the rule of law, free and fair elections and elevating the power of the people over the people in power are the things that make us a democratic nation.

Meanwhile, congratulations, Governor Obaseki.

 

Re: Obiano and Akeredolu’s frivolous car gifts

Dear Casmir, it is easy to blame Govs Obiano and Akeredolu for the “profligacy” of giving out vehicles to Igwes and legislators, until you discover the exigent conditions, schemes, lies and political arm-twisting involved. Take Anambra as a case study. For Gov. Obiano, who is not given to such frivolity, the bloated lies about Arthur Eze giving out Lexus 407 jeeps to 12 Igwes was mere propaganda. It was confirmed that Eze gave them N250,000 each, through their leaders, who gave out only N150,000 to each of the Igwes and “smartly dodged” N100,000 x 12 = N1.2 m. One of the Igwes was seen on social media putting spittle on his fingers, to count the N500 notes.

A well choreographed plot was set up to get Obiano to give out the Innoson SUVs to the Igwes, among them the undeserving, political chameleonic ones (real number not known), many of whom, like the one from my town, Owerre-Ezukala, and from Alor, are facing lawsuits for their removal.

– Dr. Chuka Nwosu, Port Harcourt, 08085914645

APC government is an evil wind to Nigeria. Even those that marched against Goodluck in Lagos and Abuja, where are they today? I stopped reading/listening to Lai Mohammed a long time ago when he was comparing the number of people killed under Buhari and Jonathan. The solution now is for all those who trekked from Lagos and Maiduguri to Abuja when INEC declared Baba presidential winner to, please, come and trek back to Lagos and Maiduguri, if they still have legs.

– Amobi Agubuzu, +2348063202873

Casmir, godfatherism is anti-democratic. Ngige saw the devil in it. That could explain why he frowned on traditional rulers who abandoned their domain to accompany Eze to the Presidency. Ngige realised that an executive governor of a state must be respected, no matter how wealthy one claims to be. He was a victim of moneybags assault and was rescued by courageous traditional rulers.

– Pharm. Okwuchukwu Njike, +234 803 885 4922

Casmir, it is ‘very easy’ and ‘sweet’ to spend money that one did not work for via security votes. Egg eaters (governors, senators, etc) don’t know what it ‘cost’ the fowl (citizens) to produce each egg (tax) they consume or spend with impunity. Profligate Governor Obiano of Anambra State, for me, should cart home ‘the 2020 most profligate governor of the year award,’ with Gov. Akeredolu as close runner-up. EFCC should be truly and fully lionized. The immunity clause for governors should be removed for sanity to prevail.

– Mike, Mushin, +2348161114572 

Dear Casy, the money spent to buy those cars should have been used to reduce poverty. The AfDB-assisted loan contract in old Anambra State was siphoned by one big man and nobody was prosecuted. Today, the man is a kingmaker. The political elite have destroyed the country.

– Eze Chima C. Lagos, +2347036225495

At this critical time, when Nigerians are finding it difficult to eat three square meals a day, some governors are purchasing SUVs for their lawmakers and traditional rulers. It is very unfortunate.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia,+2348062887535

We all know that the eye-popping actions of Governors Obiano and Akeredolu are politically motivated. At the background of the avalanche of pre-election promises of politicians to the voters, the politicians’ political and economic interests are usually and most certainly caged somewhere. Or, is politics not a game of interest of its player?

– Edet Essien Esq. Cal. South, +2348037952470

Dear Casmir, I keep reiterating the need to legislate against profligacy. I wonder the value of cars when compared to three square meals, quality education, health care and social security.

– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +234 909 538 5215

Why should the suspended traditional rulers accompany Arthur Eze to Presidential Villa, Abuja, without the permission of their paymaster? In civil service, it is called AWOL, that is, Absent Without Leave, and the offender is subject to summary dismissal.

– Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno, 08063730644 

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, September 21, 2020.

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