OPINION: EXPANDING THE FRONTIERS OF DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA: FELICITATION AND VIEWS ON EDO STATE GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION

I join President Muhammadu Buhari and all lovers of democracy to congratulate Governor Godwin Obaseki on his re-election as the governor of Edo State. I also congratulate the good people of Edo State on the peaceful and successful conduct of the governorship election. Undoubtedly, it was a needless tension-soaked election, happily, notwithstanding some of the shortcomings that have been observed, the exercise turned out to be one of the best and a hitch free election in comparison to our recent experience in Kogi State and other places where elections were marred with violence, thuggery, chaos and loss of precious lives. This election has once again rekindled my belief that there is a big hope for a better Nigeria, with the right leadership and the willpower to do things the right way.

I must particularly commend President Muhammadu Buhari for his stand and commitment to free and fair election. As the President rightly observed, the bedrock of a true democratic order is an election process that is free and fair. The most fundamental principle defining credible elections is that they must reflect the free expression of the will of the people. Clearly, majority of Nigerians are satisfied with the outcome of this election as a true reflection of the wish of Edo people. I hope we can seize the moment (as a Nation) to make this as a turning point in our electoral and other political process.

One issue that featured prominently in the build-up to the gubernatorial election in Edo State is the issue of “godfatherism.” Of course, we cannot pretend about it, godfatherism has become a part of Nigeria politics. No matter how anyone may want to defend or colour this cankerworm in our body politic, it is, and will always remain an unhealthy practice incongruous with true democratic norms and values.

Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past National Chairman of APC and the predecessor of Governor Obaseki in office, joyfully announced to the whole world how he fought against godfatherism in order to entrench democratic values in Edo State. In one of his interviews, the Comrade Governor proudly stated that “weeding away godfatherism” was his greatest Landmark in Edo State. Regrettably, Comrade Oshiomhole ended up doing what he fought against and was rightly rejected by the people. The general perception in the country is that it was Comrade Oshiomhole that was defeated in that election and not Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Hopefully, this will serve as a lesson to other political gladiators who are playing gods in Nigeria political affairs. Their is a great honour and wisdom in knowing when to stop playing crass politics and become a statesman.

From the reactions of Nigerians, it is obvious that godfatherism is becoming very unpopular. In order to stay relevant, earn the trust and command the affection of the electorates, political parties must necessarily strengthen their internal democracies and consciously bring an end to godfatherism and its vestiges. Nothing in politics should be a do or die affair if the motive is truly to serve the people.

Governor Obaseki will do well and be on the positive side of history if he can refrain and reject the temptation to also turn himself to be a godfather when it is time for Edo people to go back to the polls and choose his successor. In addition to fulfilling his electoral promises, Governor Obaseki will be leaving a great democratic legacy, if he can build on his victory over godfatherism and use his position to promote the values of fairness, equity and transparency both in intra and inter party politics across the nation. Such are the legacies and virtues expected from statesmen and true leaders of democracy.

The absence of violence in the Edo election is a welcome development. Sadly, hitherto this election, violence often typifies elections in Nigeria with paid political thugs on rampage, snatching ballot boxes and causing mayhem with impunity. Electoral process is pivotal to the quality of a country’s governance and can either greatly advance or set back a country’s long-term democratic development. As such, elections ought to be a solemn civic exercise and not a stage for war. It is important to build on the experience of this election to make future elections in Nigeria violence free and credible.

The acceptance of the election result by the APC and its flag-bearer – Pastor Osagies Ize-Iyamu is very heartwarming and commendable, too, considering the fact that most of our elections were ultimately decided by the court. Election process that is free, fair and transparent breeds less acrimony and tension. It also makes it easier for the losing candidate to concede defeat and submit to the will of the electorates. This may be the first time in our recent political history where a state governor will be elected without the intervention of the judiciary should APC and the party flag bearer resolve not to challenge the result of the election in court.

It is safe to conclude that the problems and challenges of Nigeria as a nation do not require rocket science to be fixed but the will power, sincerity of purpose and committed leadership. A great foundation would have been established for a better Nigeria if the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari can deliver greatly on the fight against corruption and credible electoral process.

The gubernatorial election in Edo State is a victory for democracy. I hope and pray that this shall be a harbinger of better political process for Nigeria. A new dawn beckons on us and all hands must be on the deck for a better Nigeria. Yes, together, we can build a great Nation where truth, peace and justice shall reign.

*** Adebanji Dada writes from Itaji Ekiti. Email: adadalaw@gmail.com