A Word for Hon. Emeka Ihedioha ~ By Olusegun Adeniyi
Ever since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Emeka Ihedioha winner of the Imo State gubernatorial election on Monday evening, I have been receiving calls and text messages from people who congratulate me on “your friend’s success”.
That has placed an uncomfortable burden on me. If Ihedioha succeeds in Imo State, as I pray he does, nobody is going to credit me with anything.
But should Ihedioha fail, God forbid, I am going to share in the blame because not a few people will remind me of our friendship. In fact, there will be those who could even find excuses in such failure in the fact that he has a Yoruba friend like me!
Ihedioha has been a close friend and confidant for almost 30 years. Ever since he started running for elective office in 2003, I have been part of his campaign. The only time I was not in Imo State with him was during the 2011 general election when I was in the United States.
Even then, he forced me to leave my family behind and come back home after my programme ended at the end of May 2011.
On the night preceding his election as deputy speaker of the House of Representatives on 6th June 2011, it was in my house that he slept, at the insistence of his wife, Ebere who has also been my friend right from the time they were courting.
And it was from my house Ihedioha left, dressed in Babariga as a disguise, to the chambers of the House.
In 2015, Ihedioha contested the governorship of Imo and failed, although he insists he was rigged out. But when I went last month to join the last lap of his campaign, I sensed that events were conspiring in his favour this time.
And I wrote as much in a piece I titled, “In Imo, Ihedioha Confronts Iberiberism’.
In the course of that visit, a fund raising dinner was organised for Ihedioha at the residence of Chief Charles Ugwu, a former commerce and industry minister and past president of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN).
As we drove out of Ugwu’s residence after the event at about 1am, Ihedioha suddenly remarked:
“Segun, you said yesterday that you would like to see the statues erected by Rochas (Okorocha) before you leave. Since your flight is very early and I promised to take you to see them, let’s go there before we go home.”
He asked the driver to stop and turn in a different direction from where we were headed and that caused commotion as other drivers in the convoy had to change course.
For the next 30 minutes at a very ungodly hour, we drove around Owerri as he showed me not only the statues but also the so-called ‘underground tunnel’ built by the governor.
But the message came at the point where Ihedioha asked the driver to turn so that he could show me the statues. A mutual friend from the state who was also in the vehicle with us commented: “Segun, that is Emeka for you. He keeps his promise.”
I found the comment disturbingly patronising, but I nonetheless liked the message. For Ihedioha, what he did for me in the wee hour of that morning just about four weeks ago is what the people of Imo State have now elected him to do for them.
He made a number of promises and they have vested their trust in him. Now is the time to keep those promises. In all circumstances, Ihedioha must put the interest of Imo people above any other consideration.
May God help him to succeed.
Elections and the Military
All the factors that make politics so ugly in our country were on full display during the 2019 general election that cannot be said to be over.
The violence which claimed several lives, including a House of Representatives member; snatching and burning of ballot papers; use of money to buy votes, compromise of electoral officers and security agents, etc.
Now, with undecided, suspended and inconclusive gubernatorial elections and the upturning of senatorial results declared under the barrel of the gun, the battle may have just started in a few states across the country.
As I said last week, I am interrogating all the issues associated with the 2019 general election and I don’t want to draw hasty conclusions but we must acknowledge that there have been interesting outcomes.
Indeed, one fact has come out quite clearly: The opposition has perhaps done better in the gubernatorial elections than at any time under the current dispensation which started in 1999.
For instance, in open-seat elections in Oyo, Kwara, Gombe and Imo, the ruling party in the states lost with two going for the PDP and two for the APC.
Even the open-seat election in Ogun State is a defeat for the outgoing governor who backed another candidate. But the real story is in the six states where the elections have been declared inconclusive.
The PDP is leading in Kano, Bauchi and Adamawa states that are currently controlled by the ruling APC and had been considered their traditional strongholds. PDP is also making a play for Plateau and will likely retain Benue and Sokoto States.
While the foregoing speaks to the increasing power of the ballots, there is a serious concern about the manner in which the military dominated the elections in the South-South, including the invasion of private homes (and kitchens) of targeted politicians.
There were also video images of people dressed in military uniforms aiding ballot snatchers in some other states.
To worsen matters, reports from the European Union (EU) Election Observation Mission Nigeria 2019, the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and other foreign election monitors have been very damning of the role played by the military in the course of the elections.
Whatever may be our attitude to ‘foreign interference’ we cannot dismiss their views because they were invited by INEC to monitor the polls.
“These actions and the impunity with which some electoral actors conducted themselves, including some polling agents and members of the military, undermine citizen confidence in elections and threaten the legitimacy of Nigeria’s democracy,” according to one of the foreign reports.
That summation is not much different from the conclusions drawn by the local observers.
While I intend to interrogate some of these issues in the coming weeks for a book project, it is in the enlightened interest of President Muhammadu Buhari to conduct a serious inquiry into the role played by the military in the course of these elections.
The survival of our democracy may depend on it.
You can follow me on my Twitter handle, @Olusegunverdictand on www.olusegunadeniyi.com