Edo: My Advice on How to Secure Your Votes
Edo: My Advice on How to Secure Your Votes View pictures in App save up to 80% data.
By David-Chyddy Eleke
With Obaseki crossing the hurdle of picking the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to run for the Edo Governorship election, it is now clear who the dramatis personae in the September election will be. I am now Constantine's to advice Edo people on how to protect their votes.
In 2012, I was in Edo State as a senior reporter for LEADERSHIP Newspapers to cover the state governorship election. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was vying for re-election then, as a candidate of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He was up against a very formidable candidate, Gen Charles Airhiavbere who was contesting on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
It would be my first time in Benin, except for ocassionally crossing the state during trips to Lagos, and I learnt new lessons then about the courage of an average Benin youths.
I was just one out of five reporters from the company invited to cover the election, and after accreditation for the election, our team held a mini meeting and beats were immediately assigned to each reporter. The reporter on ground who was the state correspondent of the newspaper was to rove the entire state for news, while two visiting reporters were assigned to Oshiomhole and Airhiavbere respectively to cover them.
I was assigned to cover the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), while an editor who came from Lagos to coordinate the team stayed comfortably in his hotel room to receive our reports and package them for onward transmission to Abuja for publication.
As the man assigned to INEC, I knew there was less for me to do during the day. While other reporters were getting prepared to hit the field on the morning of the election, mine was to simply move to INEC office at Ikpoba Hill and monitor distribution of materials very early in the morning, after which I sat comfortably in their hall and relaxed with their TV all through the day, waiting for the next phase of my job.
The reporters assigned to various beats had the job of covering the election at day, but when they were done, mine was to stay awake at night to cover the announcement of the result (I no know why politicians too like night game sef).
It was about 3:30am on Sunday, when INEC had announced most of the results from the local government areas, and was just waiting to receive the last batch of results from the returning officers at the local government, and Prof Osayuki Oshodi, the returning officer announced a break. I decided to take a stroll to stretch my legs. As I approached the gate, I found that a huge detachment of security agents had surrounded the entire INEC. I summoned enough courage to venture out and breathe in some air, different from the one in the INEC compound, which was a tensed up. It was there that I say the courage of the real Benin youths. It is the measure they took to defend their votes then, that I am here to sell to them again this year.
Oshiomhole then was so popular, and it was believed that the Goodluck Jonathan PDP government at the centre was hell bent on stealing the Edo mandate for their candidate (or so Oshiomhole made them believe).
PDP was 'hated' then because of that singular belief, and Oshiomhole rode on it to become even popular. Landlords donated their high-rise buildings for billboards bearing Oshiomhole's campaign posters for free, just as commercial taxis and buses didn't mind about the bodies of their vehicles being defaced with posters of Oshiomhole at no fee at all. The Benin people believed that the government at the centre had come to steal their mandate and dash it to Gen Airhiavbere, and were not ready to have it at all.
They trooped out on the day of the election and voted massively for Oshiomhole, they did not just vote, but they came back later in the dead of the night to police their votes. How did they do it?
As I stepped out of the gate of INEC, I found that bare chested youths formed themselves into a huge ring round the premises of the commission. Each had a plastic bottle in hand, which dangled from a rope tied firmly on the neck of the bottle. Urine-coloured liquid were in all the bottles held, and they smoked away, not minding the huge presence of security men.
Attempts by security officers to repel them failed, and to avoid an unfortunate incident, they were allowed to be. One said; "except them call the result as we take vote am yesterday, na im go save everybody for that place. We go burn this place, anything wey go happen, make e happen." That was when I understood. The liquid in the bottles was fuel, cigarettes were to help lit up the bottles, and the ropes were to facilitate easy tossing of the lit can into the INEC compound. I had to beat a retreat, back into the Hall.
At about 6am, the final result was announced, and Oshodi declared Oshiomhole winner. The security men were happy because they had no jobs to do but join thugs in jubilation, the youths discarded their bottles and retired into nearby beer parlours to enjoy. Okada men formed a huge carnival on major streets, ridding styles with reckless abandon. Hotel operators gave out free beer to lodgers and visitors. A fellow journalist even told me that prostitutes gave free sex in one dingy hotel where he found space to Lodge, all in celebration of Oshiomhole's victory. Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who was the Director General of Oshiomhole's campaign then called journalists together and blew lots of grammar into their tapes about how happy everyone was, and how the wishes of Edo people had prevailed. Las Las (as today's youths are wont to say), Oshiomhole held a victory party same day in the government house after a church service, and everyone was happy.
Fast forward to 2020, the table has turned. Governor Godwin Obaseki is running on PDP, his direct opponent in APC is Oshiomhole, while his indirect opponent is Ize-Iyamu. Edo people I learnt are even afraid that the government at the centre (APC) want to use their might to steal their votes for their candidate. So, Edo people are faced with a scenario akin to the 2012 election.
Edo youths, now you know what I am saying. I have not said anything, but I have said everything. If you leave your votes, it will be stolen. I trust that you know what to do, but in case you want to be reminded, permit me to remind you of 2012. God bless you all.