Voters' Power: A lesson From Edo State
This is not about Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities but about two states that grew from the same source. Delta and Edo States were formerly Bendel State. Before then it was Midwest State. Midwest State was so named on May 27, 1967 when Gowon created twelve states. It was the only region that was not split in that 1967 state creation exercise. In 1963, Midwest Region was created. It remains to date the only constitutionally created state in Nigeria. It was not created via any military fiat.
As Midwest State, the state became the pacesetter in Nigeria. The state became synonymous with development. In infrastructure, sports and other areas, the state became number one in the country. When it metamorphosed to Bendel State, the pace never slowed.
When twenty one years ago, Bendel State gave birth to Delta and Edo States one had expected the two states to maintain the pace. The relationship between these two states goes even beyond the 1963 creation of Midwest Region. Nearly all ethnic groups in the two states trace their origin to Bini. The language spoken by nearly all the ethnic groups in both states can be traceable too to Bini language. In folk tales too, most of the stories are about the Obas of Benin Empire.
Politically too, both states have been moving in the same direction. In the second republic, Bendel state joined the progressives in the West by voting in a Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) governorship candidate. In 1983, Bendel State went to National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
During Babangida’s contraption and democratic experiment, both states went to the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Both states have been moving in the same ideological direction way back in time.
In 1999, both states went to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In both states for a long period of time, they were condemned to bad leadership and corruption. For ten years, Edo state was in bondage. Development was lacking. There was infrastructural decay. Insecurity became the order of the day. The godfathers were busy helping themselves to state fund. It was ten years of disaster in Edo state. No wonder, the former governor was found guilty of corruption.
The case was not different in Delta State. Since 1999, the state has been retrogressing. Roads are in terrible conditions. From Effurun Roundabout to Enerhen Junction, from Enerhen Road to Udu, Refinery Road, there is none to write home about. Asaba is not faring better either. Apart from the new bridge construction going on, Agbor is a forgotten place. Where roads are constructed, it is of very poor quality. Maryam Babangida Way in Asaba is a typical example.
The Health is not left out in this rot going on in Delta State. Asaba General Hospital is an eyesore. If the hospital in the state capital is this bad, one can imagine what obtains in the rural areas.
Corruption has eaten deep into the system. Delta State awards the most expensive projects in the country and in most cases, the projects are never completed. Oghara power project has not left the drawing board several years after it was awarded and paid for. Asaba Airport has become a drain on the state’s purse. The Airport has gulped several billions of naira and is yet to be completed. N7.4billion was the contract sum for the demolition of hills at the airport. It was meant to be done in ten days. Over two months later, the job has not been completed.
Elections in Delta State have been the worst in the country. Results are known even before elections. Thanks to the judiciary, such results are made to stand. Since 1999, those in power have been able to win elections but have not been able to win the hearts of the people.
Like Edo State, the former governor of Delta State has been convicted of money laundering charges. It was ten years of bad governance and corruption in Edo State while Delta State has been thirteen years of corruption and bad governance with no end in sight.
In 2007, the people of Edo State had had enough. They decided to vote against underdevelopment, corruption and bad governance. Though the mandate was stolen, they were resolute and unbowed. Comrade Oshiomole provided the needed leadership - a quality that has been lacking in Delta State opposition. Almost two years after, Edo people reclaimed their mandate. Since then, Edo State has been on the roller coaster of one success story to the other. The people have never had it so good. While Edo State is on the ascendancy of development, Delta State has been on the ascendancy of corruption.
Two weeks ago, Edo people reaffirmed their faith in Comrade Oshiomole by massively voting for him and politically burying the forces of darkness in the state. They defended their votes. They ensured that their votes counted. In spite of some logistic problems in some areas and inclement weather in other areas, the people were never discouraged. They did not want the forces of darkness to eclipse the sun already shinning in the state. Their leader, the Comrade Governor never disappointed them as a leader. He was there with them. The small man with a big heart was like a god to Edo people. He never for once abandoned them. Today, any Deltan that passes through Edo State will be ashamed of his state. With a very small budget Comrade Oshiomole has been able to do what Delta State could not do with its massive budget.
Edo and Delta State are twins. Both states have been moving in one ideological direction until recently. Today, Edo State has overtaken Delta State. While Edo State is a reference point of good governance, Delta State has become a reference point of bad governance and corruption. Delta State must move in the right direction.
In a Press Statement issued by Delta Rescue Mission (DRM), immediately after the announcement of the Edo Election results, the group has this to say:
“The Edo State election is a source of good lesson for the people of Delta State. Since the advent of this democratic dispensation, Delta State has never had it so bad. Some politicians impose themselves through the blessing of the judiciary on the people. Delta State has suffered enough. Seeing the developmental strides in Edo State, one is ashamed to note that Delta State has more resources with little to show for it.
No non performing individual or political party can impose itself on the voters if they are determined and focused. This is the lesson from Edo State. It is the will of the people that determines change in democracy. Unlike the bullet in a military era, it is the ballot that becomes the people's potency against the wicked who want to rule by all means. When people are tired of darkness, their appetite for light cannot be silenced anymore. Deltans, let us move towards the light.
We were once the Midwest and then Bendel. It is wise to move westwards into the club of focused, visionary and development driven governors. We can do it. Delta Rescue Mission has flagged it off, join us. The time to prepare for that change is now.”
I cannot agree more with this statement. Deltans, let us begin to mobilize the people now. Power belongs to the people and not riggers of elections. We must take a cue from Edo State and make our votes count.
Delta Rescue Mission