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From Kwara to Benue: Consequences and lessons of the 2019 elections

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From Kwara to Benue: Consequences and lessons of the 2019 elections

by Martins Oloja

Sooner than later, most politicians, especially from Western Nigeria who have apparently overrated their capacity to deliver votes and consistently failed to do so to their more resourceful allies in Abuja will know the implications of former U.S President Obama’s assertion that, ‘elections have consequences,’ after all. Here is the thing, most politicians and political leaders would have realised the consequences of their folly in over-promising and under-delivering in the current elections.

It is clear from writing on the wall in Abuja that soon and very soon, some strongmen in Western Nigeria specifically will regret not reading the warning of Winston Churchill that from 29 May this year, they will enter ‘a period of consequences’ when the hawks and the doves in the ‘kitchen cabinet’ in Abuja begin to allocate values of the 2019 elections.

In a speech in the House of Commons in 1936, Winston Churchill, the then British Prime Minister warned: ‘The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences….’

More critical now is that these big guns are still not aware that the era of procrastination, a period of half measures and propaganda in political communication have come to an end.

Too bad they still do not know that we have actually entered a period of consequences, yes consequences for their actions – since 2015 as I had noted on September 16, last year when I wrote here in a serialised piece that the governing authorities in the country were then entering a period of consequences.

Anyway, before the consequences begin to unfold, there are some lessons we can share as part of the significant dividends of democracy in the current elections that will be rounded off next weekend. If you are in this business of public affairs analysis, you could not have escaped some seminal pieces on the classic, O To Ge (Enough is Enough) slogan, a weapon of mass destruction of a political dynasty in Kwara state. That was a big story from Oloye’s Ilorin that will not remain the same again.

It will be interesting to study how the weapon was procured and used to good effect in Ilorin where an incumbent President of the Senate, Bulola Saraki who has since 2015 fought a bruising fight with even a brutal cabal in Abuja, could not save even his senate seat. One newspaper headline writer said the senator whose father’s word was once law, in Ilorin for years, was ‘comprehensively crushed’: all the three senate seats in the state were secured by Saraki’s opponents last weekend. Where is Akpo Esajere reporting to do a journalistic legwork on how the ‘Saraki Empire Was Crushed’ or ‘How They Got Him…’?

Indeed, this is one of the significant story leads in the 20th year of Nigeria’s unbroken democracy (since 1999), which our political reporters may not have been reporting contextually. And so only an Akpo Esajere, a veteran Group Political Editor of The Guardian (who is ‘too strong’ to write now) could have given us meaningful stories on these unusual occurrences at this time. Unfortunately, most politics reporters are too political to break down breaking news to the news hungry people these days. This is when good journalism, yes journalism of outrage matters. Recall I wrote the other day on ‘when good journalism doesn’t matter’ – to lament the reality of (current) ‘challenge of independent journalism’ as veteran Sonala Olumhense once called our strange practice these days.

This is just a way to lament decline of ethical practices everywhere we turn in our great country these days. But then, we cannot close our eyes to some little things that matter despite so much darkness we see at the moment. I mean while citizens are still making some meanings out of the under-reported undercurrents in the presidential and national assembly elections the other day, we can celebrate some not-s0-prominent but significant testimonies in the mix too apart from what my brother, Olusegun Adeniyi calls The Message from Kwara too. There are great messages from Akwa Ibom, Oyo, Benue, Ondo, Gombe, Rivers and others too. But of all the remarkable stories of ‘uncommon falls’ as Comfort Obi calls it, one underreported story inside Benue state strange politics appears most appealing to me.

No doubt, you have read the story of the fall of the former Governor of Benue State, Mr. George Akume who was defeated in his senatorial district. You have also read the fall of former Chairman of PDP, Mr. Barnabas Gemade who could not return to the senate too on the platform of the SDP he defected to. But you may not have read a more significant story of one Mrs. Blessing Onyeche Onuh, former President of the Senate, David Mark’s daughter who contested against her father’s anointed candidate in PDP.

The context: Blessing contested Otukpo/Ohimini federal constituency seat on the platform of APGA when her father ordered her to step down for his cousin, Hon. Egli Johnson Ahubi. David Mark’s father’s name is Ahubi. Both Blessing and Johnson were to slug it out on the PDP platform during the primaries in Otukpo, Benue. But David Mark who nominated the same daughter (Blessing) as Social Development Secretary in FCT under President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration prevailed on the daughter to step down for her big brother Johnson. She complied but refused to give up her ambition to be in National Assembly next session. She defected to APGA and was dismissed as a nonstarter on the platform of a strange party from the far East. Otukpo insiders said after defying her prominent father, who is not so significant in Idoma-land, anyway, Lady Blessing Onuh teamed up with her husband, a physician (Dr. Onuh) to leverage on her non-governmental organisation (NGO) Eyum Foundation, named after her paternal grandmother, (Eyum). Her allies said she set up the Foundation when she was FCT’s Social Development Secretary. It was confirmed at the weekend that the defiant Blessing had used Eyum Foundation to assist and mobilise women and assist even some men in Otukpo area in human capital development issues in some ways. Those who know Otukpo, the political capital of Idoma people would testify that the ancient city’s inner roads are part of the worst in the country. The road from Aliede (a Tiv major town) on the way from Makurdi, state capital to Otukpo has been a nightmare to the (Idoma) people despite Senator Mark’s influential political position in Abuja since 1999. What is the purpose of politics beyond development of the people?

The clincher here is that the people of the Otukpo/Ohimini federal constituency last weekend also flashed to retired Brig-General David Mark, an enough-is-enough red card too: they rejected his only-me politics and approved his rebellious daughter’s we-too politics. She was elected and her big brother, Johnson backed by Senator Mark who owns Joy-FM powerful radio station in Otukpo was rejected. The mainstream media election reporters did not follow up this enough-is enough remarkable story in Idoma-land but the social media did. If we do not put this story in its right contextual reporting, we may believe a lie that Blessing’s big father even used her influential Joy-FM station and PDP to install his daughter in Otukpo. That is not the story. Lady Blessing Onuh’s is a significant story of how to win election in Nigeria too through an effective Movement that can be local-people-centric. The not-too-young to run activists too have a lesson to learn here that empty noises in the social media without actual following in some or many local area (networks) will result in what the ‘big eight’ after President Muhammadu Buhari (15 million) and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (11million) got too in last week’s presidential election:

Felix Nicolas of the Peoples Coalition Party (PCP) came third with 110, 196 votes; Dr. Obadiah Mailafia (African Democratic Congress (ADC) came fourth with 97, 874 votes while John Gbor of APGA, who came fifth, got 66, 851 votes; Yusuf Yabagi of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) came sixth with 54, 930 votes. The 7th position in the presidential race went to Chukwuma Eke of Grassroots Development Party of Nigeria (GDPN) who obtained 41, 852 votes; and Ibrahim Hassan of African People’s Alliance (APA) went home with 36,866 votes.

One of the ‘three famous’ candidates powered by the social media – Omoyele Sowore of AAC, made the top 10 list of candidates with 33, 953 votes and he trailed behind Donald Duke of SDP who polled 34, 746 votes. Professor Kingsley Moghalu and Fela Durotoye scored 21, 886 and 16, 779 votes respectively.

So, as we celebrate the top 10 list, we should also denigrate the frivolities that have characterised the melodramatic contest without content that would have made any difference at this time. Let’s ask why these top ten didn’t organise solid candidates to contest governorship and state assembly elections. ‘All politics is local’ as iconic Tip O’Neil former U.S 47th House Speaker (1977-1987) once noted. Why didn’t they organise to begin from simple (local elections) to complex (presidential and national assembly)? They all have a lot to learn from Lady Onuh who began to impact her people through her NGO as Barack Obama too reportedly did in Illinois, Chicago years ago. No doubt, the performances of the top 10 list, will certainly have consequences on their political future. They need to learn, unlearn and relearn some lessons too. I hope they understand the message of Churchill that this is indeed ‘a period of consequences’.

The conclusion: while politicians are reflecting on the expediency of challenging the presidential election result in court or otherwise, it is also important for the rest of us to have an introspective look at the attitude and politics that shaped the fall of some political giants from grace in the just concluded national elections. Specifically, we need to learn notably from Senator Bukola Saraki from Kwara, a President of the Senate who could not return to the Senate; Governors Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo) and Ibrahim Dankwabo (Gombe) who could not win senate seats from the state they have been running for about eight years; the curious fall of the uncommon Governor Godswill Akpabio his people once worshipped as a hero of ‘government-too-can-work’ philosophy who could not retain a senate seat; Senators Akume and Gemade who ‘mysteriously’ lost their senate seats in Benue; former Senate leader and NDDC big man, Senator Ndoma Egba who could not secure a senate seat he once easily won. We need to learn so much from the road notes on the Saturday, February 23 national elections, which I think have had some consequences!

– This piece was written by Martins Oloja/Guardian

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