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Published On: Tue, Nov 5th, 2013

Echoes of Delta Central Bye-Election

Winner of Delta Central Bye-Election, Chief Emmanuel Aguariavbodo

By Akporhobo Tataunu
“Democracy lets all voices even those against it be heard. Democracy’s true strength is its ability to incorporate the needs and desires of a diverse population into a governing consensus over a long period of time” Anonymous. Page 36, VANGUARD Book of Quotations.
Congratulations to Chief Emmanuel Edesiri Agwariavwodo, the alleged winner of the Delta Central Senatorial by-election in Delta State, Nigeria. The name of the alleged winner of the election is a confirmation of the series of activities leading to the winner’s victory. The only fear surrounding the name is whether the winner will be the saviour of his people. Of course, it was the candidate’s name and not the party’s name that gave the much talked about victory.

Saturday, 12th 2013, has come and gone. That was the day Nigerians in the Delta Central Senatorial District, Delta state were supposed to vote in a by-election to replace the late Senator Pius Akpor Ewherido. That was the day the iron- willed spirit of the Urhobo people was maligned with superior forces clad in military fatigue. Rumour has it that these men were ordered to remove any obstruction on the way to dinning with the devils of this world, for a given candidate. Painfully, the dream of voting as enshrined in the constitution of democratic governments as in the Nigerian constitution withered, due to the presence of unwarranted soldiers of occupation detailed by the Monarch of the day.
What the ruling party is doing is out of fashion, and democrats all over the world are watching the Party that gives itself the toga of the largest party in Africa. That the by-election held in Delta Central Senatorial District was a sham is an understatement. For instance, in Udu local government area Ward 09, bundles of ballot papers were given to voters to thumb- print at points not approved by the Independent National Electoral Commission. Sadly, there was no accreditation by polling clerks, may be due to the palm greasing effects, or is it due to the non-payment of the allowances of the Youth Corps members?
In most of the other polling centres, the story were exactly the same or similar to the scenario described above. How long will Nigerians be denied their franchise by the government that is presumed to holding forte for the people? Indeed, in the words of Pyrrhus, King of Epirus, ‘One more victory like that over the Romans will destroy us completely’. There is this feeling that because the ruling party is standing against the people in making free electoral choices, the party may not have its way in 2015, in the manner it has conducted the by –election in Delta Central senatorial District of Delta state. On the day of the by-election, virtually every large community in Urhobo land was militarized probably to forestall the event of the opposition winning the by-election to the chagrin of the boastful ruling party. I am afraid, the ruling party knows its failings hence it resorts to do or die and we must win stance. It was clearly for this reason that every polling centre was barricaded and militarized. Prominent opposition members were either coerced or persuaded to allow the election go the way of the ruling party.
It is therefore, not surprising that the All Progressives Congress(APC), and its ally, the DPP, rejected the results of the by-election. In the words of Professor Wole Soyinka, in an interview he granted the SUNDAY VANGUARD, July 14, 2013, page 17, ‘Again, I have been asking myself, are we not tilting towards absolute monarchy?’ Yet, this writer would advise the opposition, the APC in particular, in the words of Andre Schwartz-Bart, ’The man who has a tough heart is never beaten until he is dead’. Bad enough, the ideals and idea of ‘one man one vote’ which is the refrain of the Monarch was turned on its head and since then, he, had not made a statement on the outcome of the senatorial by-election which his party won in Delta state.
Here is the error, members of the ruling party in Delta state has always failed to understand the Urhobo people as a people with special attributes and cosmology. Their views about politics and life made them a special breed. The ruling party had tried to bamboozle and coerced them to no avail. They are a people with pride but not proud, yet they hate oppression, though calmly. The APC should go back to the drawing board because in the words of Bill Walsh (1994), ‘In defeat you can make progress if you have confidence, patience, a plan and a time-table.’
Pitiably, on the eve of the by-election, the ruling party sent its foot soldiers to share packets of salts to naïve women in most communities in Udu local government area, aimed at persuading these rural women to vote for their candidate. It all showed the ruling party is not aware of the enlightenment heights our women have attained. The era of salt sharing during elections is over and gone forever. But for the intimidation suffered by most voters, which forced them to stay away, it would have been a different story all together. The senatorial by-election victory was a pyrrhic one, nay, stolen mandate, and of course, not worth celebrating. It all point to the fact that until a political party record genuine electoral victory, the generality of electorates will not take the party serious. It is worthy of note that perception matters in political communication even in our clime. It will take some time and in fact real hard work for the ruling party to correct its very poor image in the heart and thought of good Nigerians. It goes beyond rhetoric and elephant projects and programmes existing only on paper. Deltans, nay Urhobo people are not as myopic as the ruling party takes them for. In an elegy on Senator Ewherido in THE GUARDIAN, Tuesday, July 30, 2013, page 68, Professor Chidi Oguamanam, wrote ‘His desire to rule Delta State was motivated less by ambition than by a sense of duty and a commitment to right the wrongs; to empower the weak. But such motivation was a wrong one in the eyes of PDP.’ Unfortunately, Senator Ewherido whose death gave rise to the by-election, never won his election to the Upper Chamber the same way, not on a platter of gold. Abuja did not provide a military support to ensure his victory at the polls in 2011. Neither was he foisted and forced on the people.
The ruling party will always encounter blockades on its way in every election in Urhobo land. From the Aso Rock Villa to Government House, Asaba, the party cannot justify its maltreatment of the Urhobo ethnic group. Since the 2011 Presidential elections, the ruling party has seen no reason why it should appoint an Urhobo as a substantive Minister in the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. This was the same contestant, Jonathan, who got 100% vote in his election in Urhobo land. One does not know if he is conversant with the overt knowledge that the voting population in Urhobo land is more than treble the population of his Bayelsa State. Yet, he treats this same people with levity. Perhaps, he has his reasons, and he had kept this very close to his chest. Then tell me why the people would cast their votes for a party that has anything to do with the President. Here comes the ground and platform for horrendous elections in 2015, indeed for all categories of positions. Possibly, the toga of do or die will come to play again. Free and fair elections are not won through the use of state apparatuses, but through noticeable commitment to the ideals of democracy. There is a mistaken position that those who decamp during the by-elections’ campaigns came with fortune; rather, nemesis would catch up with them in the 2015 elections. It would be payback time for the electorates in the Delta Central, because these decampees reaped where they did not sow and they are therefore indebted politically to the voters in their constituencies. One begins to wonder how these politicians will come face to face with their constituents in subsequent elections.
The Delta Steel Company Limited, Ovwian/Aladja, which has become a campaign jingle and refrains for politicians in Delta State, is the only sign of Federal government presence in Delta State. Its fate is the height of the conspiracy of the ruling Party against the people of Delta State in general and the Urhobo ethnic group in specific terms. The elephant project in the name of Ajaokuta Steel Complex, no, Project, is the special project of the largest party in Africa? Lets juxtapose these organisations and one begin to observe cursorily, the level of hatred the ruling party holds against the people of Delta State, nay Urhobo people. Yet, this party wants to record victory in elections in this area. The ruling party in Delta State does not deserve anything better. The use of the carrot and stick approach by the ruling party is indeed, not strange with the Urhobo people. However, one does not know how well the approach succeeds in wooing the people to voting for the ruling party in the fraudulent by-elections held. The foot soldiers of the party went to town with bags of deceits, saying that except the Urhobo people vote for them, an Urhobo will not be appointed a Minister. The question is, how much have the ruling party done to reward the people for casting 100% of their votes for it in the presidential elections of 2011? It means all those campaigning using the appointment of a Federal Minister are bunch of unserious people and they ought to be treated as such. Party politics has gone beyond salt sharing and intimidation. Parties, who want to win elections work ceaselessly and are committed to improving the welfare of the people, not minding the political party of their choice. The PDP needs to do much more if it desires to win elections in Urhobo land in free and fair elections in Delta State and indeed Nigeria. For instance, most PDP appointees are not committed to enhancing the fortunes of their party. They discriminate against others, even within the PDP. How do you persuade non- members to cast their votes for the party during elections in the face of these selfish traits? On elections day, these voters will collect money from the PDP and still vote for the alleged opposition, and that is the irony of poor human relations coupled with poor performance. Would the Delta State Governor bother himself a little to enquire about how the SURE-P funds were utilized in the local government areas, possibly, he would agree with the position of this writer. Major efforts of the Governor are not taken down to the grassroots where you have thousands of voters. Most transition committee chairmen are square pegs in round holes, and if the party needs improvement in its electoral fortune, there is an urgent need for surgical operations among party appointees. A word is enough for the wise, so it is said. Writing in THE GUARDIAN, Friday, June 1, 2012, page 51, Mr. Akido Agenro posited ‘Basically, democracy is an all embracing concept incorporating social, economic and political dimensions in its scope. Democracy entails the individual having a listening ear, accommodating divergent opinions and varying shades of interests, exercising their rights and recognizing their limits’. ‘Democracy is persuasion instead of force, argument instead of aggression, due process instead of violence, dialogue instead of coercion and the rule of law instead of the resort to self help.’ All the above are the direct opposites of the practice of the ruling party. The supervision of the conspiracy by the ruling party, and ruins of the first integrated steel plant in Africa, the Delta Steel Company Limited, Ovwian-Aladja, is a story for another day.

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