In his quest to get a second term, Governor Godwin Obaseki has made some new friends in his new party, the Peoples Democratic Party. Among them is Governor Nyesome Wike of Rivers State. For a name associated with avoidable controversies, pundits fear he could employ his cantankerous nature into the Edo State governorship election on September 19.
The governorship election in Edo State is just about four weeks away but as each day passes most of the stakeholders in the election are dead scared – they are worried that the process would be marred by violence – it is more like the state is heading for a war than going into an exercise to elect a leader.
Judging from the drumbeats of war coming from the state and the persistent threat by Governor Godwin Obaseki to unleash violence, if necessary, it is easy to agree with those already on red alert, but there are other factors on the ground that point to possibility of violence.
One main issue that the people of the state must be wary of is the involvement of Wike in the Edo election campaigns. Though a strong PDP chieftain, his new job as the chairman of the party’s National Campaign Council for Edo 2020 election has put the task of trying to win the election on his lap and with palpable desperation.
Anyone familiar with the Rivers State election, particularly the 2015 election would recall that Governor Wike only knows one language and that is politics of extreme violence. In his state back then, he freely used inducement and politicization of anti-social groups to undermine the integrity of the election.
Residents of Obio/Akpor, Khana; Gokana; Degema (Bakana); Akuku-Toru (Abomena); Asari-Toru; Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni; Emohua; Port Harcourt; Omuma; Ahoada East and several other parts of the state touched by violence will not forget their experiences in a hurry.
Deploying the federal might, which was maximally at his disposal it birthed an era for unprecedented political thuggery, assassinations, abductions/kidnappings, destruction of property, clashes during rallies, intimidation of perceived opponents, ballot buying, ballot snatching and dubious claims. It might not have been his direct instruction, but his body language instigated.
Those familiar with Governor Wike’s antics will surely be wary that he is already cooking up a winning strategy that might entail violence as seen in his state, where he recently paid N450 million as compensation to victims of electoral violence.
While it is obvious that the biggest challenge ahead of the election is providing security so that the electorate can make their choices without fear or Favour, he had alleged that the APC plans to use security agencies to rig the September 19 election in Edo, threading to scuttle it.
“It is now apparent there is no fight against corruption in Nigeria. We would scuttle the plan of the APC to use security agencies to rig the September 19 election in Edo State. The APC is confident about winning, because they want to rig,” Wike tweeted.
He further claimed that the PDP had gathered enough intelligence about “the unholy plan” and would scuttle it at the appropriate time.
Assuming without agreeing that he was right, if truly the APC has sinister motives to engage the use of the security agencies for election purposes, how does Governor Wike intend to scuttle that? He probably hopes to equip hoodlums under the guise of security agents to wreak havoc during the election and blame it on the APC as he did in his state.
Just as his godson, Obaseki, who recently stated that, “If they want violence, we will show them violence”, Wike said, adding, “I Do not fear anybody; you only die once.”
In yet another statement, he stated that, “We consider the comment by INEC to cancel or suspend the election, because of violence as succumbing to the antics of the APC.
“All they want is violence, because they cannot win the election. If the election is suspended, the implication is that Obaseki will serve out his tenure without an election in November,” he threatened.
The violence poise of Obaseki and Wike should get all well-meaning Nigerians worried, because they are both openly threatening violence and alleging that it was the opposition that plans violence. Then, when the electoral umpire said it would either suspend or cancel the election if there was violence, they started crying foul!
What would they have the INEC do? Already Wike has assured the people that he was prepared to battle with the security agencies, and so, if he does that, shouldn’t INEC cancel the election?
There is no better interpretation to Obaseki’s statement that “We will show them that we are in government. And I am governor; Philip (Shaibu) is deputy. We are the only two people, who have immunity in this state today. And I am saying it in a very clear warning,” that he has a sinister motive and is certain that the law could not catch up with him while he is still enjoying his protection from legal actions as a sitting governor.
Looking at INEC’s position as expounded by its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, the threat to suspend the election or cancel it was borne out of concern about the escalating levels of violent actions and incendiary statements by political parties, candidates and their supporters.
The electoral body fears that the activities of the political actors are capable of leading to a breakdown of law and order and such situation could easily be evaluated by the media and the general public, so one will wonder why that is also unacceptable to the PDP arrowheads.
The commission is sensing possibility for violence considering that parties are destroying opponents’ campaign materials such as billboards, violent campaigns and use of offensive language.
The Chairman, Edo State Media Campaign Council of the APC governorship election, Mr. John Mayaki, said Wike’s allegations were baseless, saying Wike, like Obaseki, should rather address the allegation of violation of human rights against them.
“Let him (Wike) provide proof for anything he said. He cannot. How does the party that is not in power plan to oust the police in Edo State? He meant to accuse us but ended up insulting the Nigeria Police Force. I think they need to address the disrespectful and sickening way he spoke about them.
This is not the first time that the governor has demonstrated a pedestrian restrain in his words. The inane speculation cannot hold water, as we stand to gain no further advantage should Mr. Obaseki leave office.”
As things stand today in Edo, the main challenge before INEC in organising Edo election is to improve security arrangements and that can best be done by identifying and sanctioning politicians and groups using inflammatory statements, inciting violence or plotting to perpetrate it, ensuring order at campaign rallies, strengthening inter-agency cooperation, and protecting polling centres in a non-partisan and non-threatening manner.
Leading politicians at the state and local levels must, therefore honour commitments, already made to the campaigns and pursue any grievances peacefully and lawfully. It is only shameful that Obaseki claimed to have left APC, because of godfathers only to end up with god-demons. He deserves everyone’s pity. Honestly!
Williams-Fashoro lives in Wuse II, Abuja, nation’s capital