In order to keep its people awake to lessons embedded in happenings around them, the Yoruba have a number of sayings that inspire wisdom in caution and action. One of such is: “Iku to n pa ojugba eni, owe nla lo n pa”. Literarily, it means: “when death strikes your mate, it sends you a strong message”. The simple logic is that you must open your heart to learn from others’ mistakes or misfortune whenever they occur, and in whatever form. I guess the All Progressives Congress (APC) sees deep wisdom in this age-long Yoruba saying when it recently sought the relief of the court to restrain the Peoples Democratic Party-led (PDP) Federal Government from deploying soldiers to ‘monitor’ the forthcoming election in Osun state. The August 9 governorship election in the youthful state is just few days away. And the nature and levels of preparations across major stakeholders generate palpable heat as the day inches closer. There are genuine and potent fears that the powers-that-be might want to use their weight to thwart the wishes of the people for the state in the election.
For a party that ‘lost’ a governorship election in a neighbouring Ekiti state to the PDP candidate few weeks ago, I believe it is right for the APC to be apprehensive about the implication of heavy presence of the military for the conduct of the election. Now in court to challenge the conduct and outcome of the Ekiti election, the APC believes that apart from using scientific means to manipulate figures, heavy presence of military personnel and other security personnel across the state before and during the election was enough intimidation to prevent the people from voting as dictated by their consciences. That was in addition to the surgical arrest made on some leaders of the party (APC) hours before the commencement of the election, probably to send signals to the followers that they were not really safe.
The Ekiti experience came with warnings that are too strong to ignore. Many have argued that the PDP candidate, Ayodele Fayose, won the election fair and square. They premised their position on the allegation that the incumbent, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, had lost popularity among his people due to his elitist kind of governance, which, according to them, triggered massive yearnings for change. True or otherwise, we must appreciate the simple fact that the functions set out for the military by the Nigerian constitution in a democracy do not include election monitoring. Interestingly, there wasn’t any major breakdown of law and order or threat to peace in any part of the state prior to the election. Therefore, deploying the military to monitor a local election is an aberration, to say the least. And, if that has, in any way, affected the outcome of the election, who can blame the APC for acting to prevent similar occurrence in Osun state? It is a case of “iku to n pa ojugba eni…”
Ekiti and Osun have a similar history as far as the current political dispensation in Nigeria is concerned. Like all the states in the Southwest, they have always remained in hot contest between the PDP and the APC (including all its stages of metamorphosis). But unlike others, they have the peculiar fate of having been ceded to the APC (then ACN) through judicial pronouncements which declared the hitherto PDP occupants as usurpers. At every stage of these political maneuverings, the PDP often seems to have the upper hand with the use of the federal might which it has been in control of since 1999 when Nigeria began the current democratic journey.
If the PDP candidate was declared winner to dislodge the APC candidate from power in a heavily militarized and highly controversial Ekiti election, you can’t really blame the latter for pre-empting a similar scenario in Osun weeks after the Ekiti experience. Iku to n pa ojugba eni…..
Many Nigerians, including those instrumental to regaining the mandate of the incumbent APC governors in Ekiti and Osun states, have criticized the party for challenging the result of the Ekiti election. I have heard a lot of people argue that despite the heavy presence of the military and other security personnel to ‘monitor’ the election, the result, as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was a true reflection of the wishes of the people of the state. They said the security people never disturbed anyone from exercising his/her right to choose among the contenders.
To be candid, I was not in Ekiti to observe the election, so there wouldn’t be any basis for me to say categorically whether the claims were genuine or not. Yet, native intelligence tells me that it will be foolhardy for anyone to rationalize the provision of such high number of security personnel by the Federal Government, also a contender through its party (PDP), in the Ekiti election, as merely a move to maintain law and order. Then, we need to ask too, why did fellow APC governors and several other party leaders were barred from entering Ekiti to show their solidarity to their brother Governor Fayemi? Why were there no reports of incidents in which high-ranking PDP leaders from other states were prevented from entering Ekiti for the election?
We must not forget that PDP members from the Southwest directly superintend both the Federal Ministry of Defence and that of Police Affairs. And the party has never hidden its resolve (sometimes desperation) to take control of the entire region. So, if all seemed calm during the last Ekiti election, it might only be on face value. We do not know how many strategies were woven up to ensure a ‘recapture’ of Ekiti and other Southwest states. We do not even know what stage the PDP was when it ‘secured the victory’. So, if it ‘worked’ in Ekiti, it would only take a foolish Osun to fold its arms and brag, ‘it can’t work here’ when elections in the two states are only separated by weeks. Iku to n pa ojugba eni…..
I sincerely wish that the court prevails on the PDP-led Federal Government and prevent it from further abuse of the military in local elections. At least, that will reduce the number of evils the people will have to confront in choosing their leaders in democratic atmosphere. But, wishes are not horses. So, the poor don’t ride. Whichever way the court decides, we must all abide.
Meanwhile, I like to challenge the PDP as a party, and its leaders as individuals, to also open their hearts to accept the great lessons contained in their attempt to muffle the opposition across the country. Death, as represented in the Yoruba saying mentioned in this piece, can take any form. It can be natural. It could be caused through external force. Whichever way, it comes with a strong message. But it takes a truthful heart to grab, digest and act appropriately. If, as a mortal, you cause the death of fellow human being, that action sends you a message if only you are wise enough to grab it!
The PDP must realize that it has access to the military and other security apparatuses of the country today because it holds the power at the centre where orders are given top-down. With this at their beck and call, they can afford to use same to bully their mates (opposition) and cow them to submission in the game of power. But who knows what tomorrow holds? We have examples of yesteryears powerful people around us. When they were in power, their words were laws. But now, they are powerless; many at the mercy of their former most junior subordinates. Those who wield power today, and inflict all sorts of hardship on the people must be wise enough to grab the message contained in their actions. Power is transient! One day, they would come to that other side where they would be at the receiving end, probably to experience same measure of impact (or worse) as they tackle the new powerful being. Iku to n pa ojugba eni……
Mr. Jegede, a journalist, is based in Ibadan where he coordinates an online news platform, www.witnessng.com.