BY SULE AHMED OYOFO (THE NEWSPAPERMAN)
It is obvious: the chants that reverberated all over the streets of Edo State, remained on the lips of both the aristocrats and artisans, prominent decision-makers and even cut across the diaspora has all to do with the deliberate and inconceivable injustice meted out to a former Lagos State governor who hails from the Epe division. The deafening cries and revolt that swept through the streets of Benin; the vehemence that resisted 31,000 policemen, 21,000 INEC officials, a consortium of other paramilitary forces can no longer be taken for granted. Significantly, this lacuna is symptomatic of a huge unresolved problem. Like it was in the 1787 French revolution, which was a period of social and political upheaval that shook France and reached its climax in 1789, so it is now with the APC government. This government should do well not to suppress the truth any more. The APC machinery as a result of repeated injustice, stolen mandates, repression of weak colleagues and subjugation of the people’s will is no longer seen as divinely ordained; widespread discrimination, growing dissatisfaction with long tolerated feudal godfatherism has resulted in bourgeoisie and peasant resentment. The growing popularity of performing governors within their ranks who end up being rigged out of office despite good performance plus the increasing yearnings for social reforms appears to be their undoing, leading to demand immediate and genuine rapprochement. In that botched 2018 Lagos State primary, a popular leader with widespread connections was believed to have inexplicably manipulated the process and used raw power and political gangsterism to oust the then articulate and vibrant governor of the State. The reasons given were hazy but nonetheless forced through. Not only that, the former governor who remained loyal and cooperative throughout the scourge instead of receiving forgiveness and redress was to be hounded, blackmailed and cast into political oblivion. No question asked about his wellbeing which compounded his supporter’s restlessness. Resentment of the national leader was therefore inevitable as they began to see him as morally bankrupt whose only lust is political power. Furthermore, the leader, because of his far reaches allegedly pursued the former governor—his godson– to Abuja and was said to have prevented his nomination as serving Minister. To date, from information put together, the godson has continued to remain calm probably because he is a gentleman. He remains a bonafide member of the APC yet is treated as a pariah simply because he is not in the good books of the popular leader. And you want to ask if that is the way to grow a nation. Even at the APC headquarters where the popular leader also holds sway, the situation is not different. That bad attitude which registered in the minds of the former governor’s supporters nationwide is exactly what provoked this societal pressure and dissatisfaction with the eye glassed popular leader’s style of politics. How could a loyal APC member, a former governor who begged and prostrated with his loving wife be so treated with disdain under a democratic setting? That was a wildfire that was capable of consuming anyone in its path most especially the chief promoters of that injustice. Even in an imperfect system, there ways to moderate affairs and remain afloat; this type of attitude should have no place in modern-day politics. As a testimony, the popular leader’s man Friday has now suffered a double loss—ousted as national chairman of the APC and now defeated at home in another botched attempt to replicate the ill-fated Lagos bullshit. They say what is good for the goose is equally good for the gander; therefore, if the popular leader is nonpartisan he ought to have provided the same level playing opportunity for loyalist– both internal and external, not only to people within his nuclear family; some are even in their third stint at various positions—or elsewhere. That’s not how to be democratic. The former governor was not given any chance at all to express himself; this should not have been the case. That’s why Obaseki and the people of Edo State on seeing this crass injustice about to be applied to them resisted and defended themselves via the manufactured slogan “Edo no be lagos”. Today, First-time governors can breathe a sigh of relief following Obaseki’s overwhelming victory; they can now have the latitude to produce good governance and not worry about some shadowy godfather hiding somewhere to dictate how to spend tax payer’s money. That precarious attitude is the reason for the new resolve and electoral consciousness to wipe off godfatherism. Moving forward, the Buhari administration must seize this opportunity to bring back participatory democracy and nail the coffin of repressive politics. It is in part for this reason that any genuine reconciliation should first begin with the former governor if only to show that loyalty pays. This responsibility falls on the shoulders of the president of the country who graciously found the time to visit Lagos and commissioned some of the fantastic projects completed. The president who also added his voice in the time of the primary crisis should be encouraged to boldly wade into the matter and call for a truce. The former governor is certainly not a paperweight when it comes to financial matters which can be an added advantage in the build-up to revamp the sagging economy. The APC can certainly do with this impressive brain. They need all the hands within their fold at this time to work and consolidate before 2023. If a man who was capable to have presided over a State described as the fifth largest economy in the world is not engaged, questions are bound to be asked. Every hardworking personality within their ranks should be on deck to weather the storm and bale the country out of this difficult situation. This is an opportunity for the president and his team to put their differences aside and put the larger interest of the country on the table—not sectionalism—or rancour. Stronger Institutions should be built at this time to reduce the influence of private individuals. The truth is that, at this time, the influence of powerful individuals should be thoroughly discouraged. That’s not patriotism; if nothing else, our elected officials should grow in commitment to the oath of their office and be safe to sleep with their two eyes closed. A party that defeated an incumbent president should be more concerned with bringing development to the doorstep of Nigerians –not encourage impunity and strife. It is in the light of this that the former governor who has contributed immensely to the development of Lagos State should be brought home. The hallmarks of his incredible achievements are there for all to see. For the first time, in many years, the major road artery leading to the exit of Nigeria, the Murtala Muhammed Airport highway was reconstructed; the dreaded Oshodi got a facelift; the notorious Oyingbo axis reformed; so is Yaba bus stop, the waterways and Aja and its environs. Epe is now in a class of its own and beautiful new buses ply Lagos roads. The streets are all lighted up. Such a man cannot be excluded from participatory democracy. The nation stands to benefit more with his involvement in government. The APC should live up to their billings as a party that has come to make the difference; they should show love, unity, and build good roads, provide portable water, good infrastructure and reduce borrowing. They can do it; that’s why they have capable hands like the former governor. There is nowhere a tree has made a forest. An Igbo proverb says “when a man cooks for his villagers to eat, they can finish the food; but when the villagers cook for one man, he cannot finish it”, meaning that there is more harvest for the people when they all cooperate to move forward. Look at the manner the former APC national chairman was humbled at home; the gods came down in the form of men to make a statement. This is the time for genuine reconciliation to begin. People expect to make progress in politics –not to fight themselves. Just as Buhari shunned pressures and allowed a free and fair election in Edo State, he should now wrap it up by bringing the former governor to reckoning. The former governor is still useful and full of strength. Besides, he is ready to serve; so why not engage him? Until that issue is addressed, who knows? Who would have imagined that in 2020, Nigerians would be singing “edo no be Lagos?” It, therefore, stand to reason that for genuine reconciliation to be achieved the perceived injustice meted to the former governor should be properly addressed. That’s how to regain the trust of the people.