By Tonnie Iredia
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is set to conduct governorship elections in 2 states – Edo and Ondo before the end of the year. The Commission has already announced the dates of the elections with Edo taking the lead on September 10 while the Ondo contest is slated for November 28.
As expected, the nation’s 2 major political parties – the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will be the ones to wrestle for power among themselves in the 2 elections. For the Edo contest, both parties are currently campaigning for votes across the state. Unfortunately, the way the campaigns have gone so far shows that the contest is programmed along the ‘do or die’ pattern of past elections in the country.
Painfully, it is the state that will as usual end up the loser. With the Ondo election still slightly far away, how can well meaning citizens reverse the trend by helping to redirect Nigerians into realizing that an election is a game and not a battle? Anyone willing to undertake such a task of political education must begin with the elites because it is their posture that usually dictates what form an election takes in the country.
To start with, it must be realized that our winner-takes-all political system makes political office unduly lucrative thereby encouraging people to seek to win at all costs. This seems to explain why there are usually too many aspirants in each race. In the forthcoming Ondo elections for instance, the APC alone has as many as 25 aspirants.
This in turn gives political parties the opportunity to exploit their members through convoluted party primaries. At the end of the day, several aspirants are left aggrieved and instigated to undo their parties and indeed to use whatever means to ventilate their grievances. Again, even when two candidates eventually emerge, the ruling party never allows the opposition parties an opportunity to sell their candidates to the voters through the state owned media as the operatives of the latter are under strict instructions to black out all other parties. Can Ondo State avoid this trend of not allowing a level playing field for all contestants irrespective of party affiliation? It is probably too early to be sure of this.
We can only imagine that the incumbent Governor, Olusegun Mimiko having had the privilege of governing the state for well over 7 years should be obliged to pilot the affairs of the state in the interest of the people. Of course he would want his party to hold on to power.
There is in earnest, ample evidence already that Mimiko is anxious to hand over to a PDP successor as he has begun to undertake projects that can convince the people to continue to vote PDP. He has in fact recently introduced a pro-people project akin to that of his neighbour, Governor Fayose’s stomach infrastructure. According to media reports the government has launched what it called a palliative programme (Eto Igbe-Ayo) in which food stuffs are given to residents in the state for free. At the launch of the programme, the governor reportedly said “it is obvious there is hunger in the land and we as government cannot pretend that this is not the case. We promised during our inauguration to share in the joy and sorrow of the people. We will never jettison this promise even during this trying period.” The problem with this beautiful speech is that the governor suddenly became conscious of the hunger which has been biting for no less than one year now.
In October last year, after waiting in vain for months, workers in the state went on strike. No palliative programme at the time was introduced to mitigate their economic hardship; hence critics have described ‘Eto Igbe-Ayo’ as a Greek gift. If the state has miraculously recovered from the nation-wide recession, why not clear the workers’ salaries? Instead, what looks like another Greek gift is being instituted.This time, Governor Mimiko decided to approve the completion of the Okitipupa-Ayeka-Araromi-Irele road in the Southern senatorial district of the State.
At a press briefing last Wednesday in Akure, Kayode Akinmade, the state commissioner for information announced the approval of over N1.2bn for the completion of the road project which consists of 1.4km swampy failed portion and road pavement. The project is to be completed within 6months. Again this is a project that should ordinarily improve the living conditions of the people but why is it being considered less than 5months to the end of the governor’s 8-year tenure? Is it as the people suspect, a vote-catching project that will never be executed? If so, it is unfair to the people and should be condemned as a subtle undue influence bearing in mind that elections cannot be free and fair if the government of the day behaves not as government but as a party.
Even within his own party, the PDP, is the governor willing to allow a level playing field? While it is not out of place for him to have a soft spot for one aspirant he ought to be sane enough not to play God by imposing him and fighting any other person who shows interest. Interestingly, a fellow analyst based in Akure confirmed to me only last night that everyone already knows the yet to be pronounced anointed aspirant that the governor would be comfortable to hand over power to. For example, the suspect is the only one whose posters are allowed to adorn the streets of the state capital; all others have their own removed by government ostensibly not to litter the streets of Akure with posters. Yet by INEC’s guidelines electioneering is not to start in the state before August 28!
But why do our governors always fight the battle of their lives just to install anointed candidates? Could it be that they have so much to hide and as such do everything in their powers to handover to someone that can cover their tracks? If so, our people should become wiser by voting against any anointed candidate. The advantage of such a position is that it can easily stamp out corruption and bad governance as the new governor being himself and not imposed would function independently and be conscious of the expedience of accountability.