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Edo no be Lagos

Edo no be Lagos

3 October, 2020

Segun Ayobolu


LET us flash back to 2012. It was the year of another governorship election in Ondo State. The incumbent governor then, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, was seeking re-election for a second term on the platform of the Labour Party (LP) and he was given a fierce competition by the candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN). The party leadership’ with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu at the forefront, campaigned vigorously across the state. The ruling party in Ondo State at the time stridently accused Asiwaju of seeking to extend what they described as Tinubu’s influence to the sunshine state. Those who argue this way discount the fact that for the big political parties with wide national spread, no election anywhere in the country is an entirely localized process. So, a loss in any state by the bigger parties will necessarily have negative implications for the party in future elections. That then explains why party leaders will strive to ensure the victory of their party in any election and this includes the leading party members, as well as serving and former governors.

When in 2012, Dr. Mimiko won his bid for re-election he was projected in certain quarters as the emergent leader of the Yoruba. I can recollect a famous photograph in which Mimiko posed between the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, and some PDP top shots in the South West including Senator Iyiola Omisore after his victory. ‘Behold, the Yoruba leader cometh’, the photograph seemed to scream. Unlike Professor Francis Fukuyama’s sensational thesis on what he termed the ‘End of History’, history continues to evolve  in Nigeria and the South-West systematically and unceasingly and what she has on offer for each individual lies in the womb of time.

Let’s fast forward to last year’s governorship election in Kwara State. That was when the ‘O to ge’ slogan shook Kwara to its roots and, when the entire political legacy and extant structure in the state, as exemplified by the late Dr. Sola Saraki, and his son, Dr. Abubalar Saraki, were swept away. Following the demolition of the Kwara political structure of the Saraki family, some persons glibly announced that the ‘O to ge’ symbol was to be moved to Lagos. The ruling party in the state, they argued, had been in power for too long and there should be a change. A prominent Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) addressed the media to sell the ‘O to ge’ philosophy to the public. It did not fly. Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu in fact had more votes than that recorded by his party in previous elections since 1999.

But what is responsible for the sheer structural and electoral solidity of the dominant sections of the political class in Lagos State since 1999? A plan was formulated for Lagos. Asiwaju built his administration on the developmental foundation of this plan. The governors who came in after him – Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Mr. Akinwumi Ambode and now Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu – have not only built on the foundation laid but have continually, improved on it. The result is the steady progress that has been recorded   in the state over the last two decades of civil rule even though the state still has a long way to go in its goal of becoming Africa’s model Megacity.

Neither Edo nor the centre has achieved the kind of progress that Lagos has made since 1999. And this is as a result of careful planning and massive innovations in financial engineering as well as leadership continuity that have guaranteed the state almost total fiscal emancipation.

It is indeed not always that leadership continuity is good for a given polity. Where a given leadership and the government they head have themselves become dysfunctional and an obstacle to the developmental transformation of society, then the time has come to terminate their rule. Lagos today exemplifies the possibilities of progress and systematic modernization in Nigeria. It is improbable that the electorate will reward a non-performing governor in Lagos State like happened in Edo State. We thus have a situation in which successive governors of the state try to outperform their predecessors. A standard of government has been set and a governor who cannot quickly reveal his ‘action –orientation’ to governance will most likely incur the wrath of the electorates.

In Edo, it seems that the electorate have voted back to power a government, which reportedly recorded minuscule achievements in its first term. That is within the rights of the people. So stringent was the opposition to the return of Mr. Godwin Obaseki for a second term and all because of perceived below par performance. Given the intensity of the anti-performance missiles hurled at him, I expected Obaseki’s media machinery to go into full scale action showcasing his government’s much touted achievements in diverse sectors. The government’s campaign visuals and commercials, some of which I watched,  concentrated on showing a secondary school or two as well as the revamped Ogbemudia stadium. Where were the new schools in at least in half of the 18 Local government areas? Or the hospitals? Or the 150, 000 new jobs that governor Obaseki had reportedly pledged his commitment to create during his campaign for the first time? As I watched the Channels television debate for Ize-Iyamu and Obasekki, I found it puzzling to me that Obaseki was not sure-footed in dealing with the allegations leveled against him, especially poor performance record.

However, governor Obaseki was, without doubt, very successful in framing the election as one between a godfather who wanted to continue to wield control of the government and its resources and a godson who wanted to offer service to the people of the state without distractions.

Comrade Adams Oshiomhole loomed large in the campaign and this may have contributed to the effectiveness of the Obaseki group in demonizing him as a meddlesome interloper in the governance of Edo State. There is also no doubt that the harsh words Oshiomhole had thrown at Ize-Iyamu during the campaign for the 2015 election came to haunt him this year.

Asiwaju Tinubu’s video recording appealing to the electorate to reject Obaseki at the poll has also generated controversy in certain quarters. Those who did not cease from active support for Obaseki now tried to prevent the National Leader of his party from backing the candidate of his party in the election. If this does not smack of hypocrisy, I don’t know what will.  Asiwaju’s intervention was focused on the need to reject Obaseki at the poll because of his prevention of the duly elected legislators, about 14 of them, to take their places in the House. The constituents who elected the legislators thus were without representation for the better part of Obaseki’s first term. This crippling of the legislature is authoritarian and anti-democratic and the victory of Obaseki at the polls does not make it right.

Reacting to the piece published in this space last week by Media aide to Asiwaju, Mr Tunde Rahman, Somebody on social media pointed out that Oshiomhole had  also prevented the state legislature from sitting during his tenure; if so, that does not make it right for Obaseki to do the same thing. After all, he has portrayed himself as a modernist and technocrat who will handle resources credibly and adhere to his oath of office, which does not empower him to abuse the constitution by incapacitating the legislature.

In the instance of incapacitation of the legislature, again surely Edo no be Lagos. For, truly it is unlikely that any governor of Lagos State would dare to sack the legislature as Obaseki has done in Edo State. I remember that sometime during Asiwaju’s second term as Lagos State governor, the majority of members suddenly effected a change in the leadership of the House without reference to the party. Of course, Asiwaju could have deployed resources and other means to overturn the decision. But he listened to the apparently aggrieved legislators and accepted the decision of the legislators so as not to circumscribe their autonomy as one of the most important institutions in a liberal democratic order.

How then does Obaseki now handle his victory at the polls? He can follow the path of triumphalism and continue to gloat in his triumph thus giving hypocrites and sycophants the opportunity to waste his second term or he can rediscover a sense of purpose with no malice towards any man and charity to all.

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