I’m Proud of my Okpella People, by Kassim Afegbua


I have been receiving many phone calls and messages on the outcome of the Edo election. While some callers tend to mock my position, others appreciated and commended my stance by pulling through my support for Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.

My position has not changed. Governor Godwin Obaseki has not meant well for my people in Okpella. I promised to deliver Okpella to the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and I am happy and fulfilled that I achieved that. All the four wards in Okpella were delivered to Pastor Ize-Iyamu.

Godwin Obaseki may have won, but he has not won our hearts as Okpella people who have been heavily abandoned, even though we remain the goose that lays the golden egg.

He has not won our hearts because, as I write this, our road has been taken over by a river that now threatens to cut the communities into two separate halves. Our people realised that my position was borne out of the neglect which we have been suffering under a government that has consistently paid lip service to the infrastructural decay in our community.

Despite the unwholesome activities of political thugs, we, as Okpella people, delivered our verdict of rejection. I am fully fulfilled, even though other results gave the victory to Obaseki, my party’s candidate. I do appreciate the point that quite a number of people understood the position I took.

Party members must be able to interrogate processes leading to outcomes, and not just the outcomes themselves. They must be able to rationalise the difference between evil and good.

They must derive courage to speak truth to power. Those who now celebrate that the Edo election was a defeat of godfatherism, must truly re-examine themselves. It takes a godfather to defeat another godfather. The processes leading to the emergence of Godwin Obaseki as candidate of the PDP are still symptomatic of godfatherism.

All democratic norms were broken, simply because they know the governor has state funds to deploy. Despite the deployment, Okpella people stood firm and spoke eloquently about their rejection of a system and a governor that makes empty promises. He told the people, that he would look into their plights 24 months from now.

We are not expecting anything from him, we will endure the neglect, but the point has been made that Okpella people can neither be bought by inducement nor bow to harassment.

The outcome of the Edo election is not a reflection of the wishes of the people. It was a rehash of weather-beaten rhetoric of “oh, we are fighting godfatherism” kind of. It exposes the drawbacks in our electoral progression. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) made some improvement in its approach, but spoilt it with application. How can INEC use a single accreditation officer to attend to a deluge of voters at the polling units?

At the close of voting by some impatient Corps members, over 100 voters were still on queue waiting to vote at my Polling Unit 1, Ward 5. The same thing replicated itself in almost all the polling units in my Ward. INEC must seek improvement in subsequent election by deploying more than one polling clerk to handle the voters.

The rigours of queuing up under the sun should remind us all that we need to improve on procedures and systems. We cannot disenfranchise people simply because of system failure. We must attempt to improve on systems to accommodate more voters.

The last exercise in Edo did not achieve that exercise. Over 1.7 million voters registered to vote in the election 550,242 voted. That is not a good representation. If voters’ apathy was an issue, one would have understood, but the voters turned out in their huge numbers, but the system failed them because of shortage of manpower. Even though I still remain a member of the PDP, I will not be a fan or supporter of Governor Obaseki.

All I desire to see is a governance driven by performance and not governance driven by failed promises and empty rhetoric’s. My position remains the same irrespective of the fresh mandate given to him. I have read different commentaries of those who said the defeat of the APC candidate was as a result of his affiliation to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, his chief campaigner.

That to me does not convey a valid argument, after all, the candidate defeated Obaseki in Edo North. Oshiomhole still remains a former governor who can still walk in the streets anywhere in Edo State amid cheers. He still has electoral value that cannot be quantified. The defeat of the APC was the product of internal sabotage by pretentious friends who desire to see Obaseki re-elected to be re-admitted back to the APC’s fold.

That rehearsal was part of what made some APC governors maintain some quiet throughout the process, while working in cahoot with the PDP and its imposed candidate. In the months ahead, we will be waiting to see how much of that conspiracy would flourish.

To my Okpella community, I wish to express my profound appreciation for speaking with one voice in the four wards of the community.

Those who taunted me as having no electoral value have suddenly kept quiet. If I were to lose my polling unit and my wards, alarm bells would have been let off. I feel a sense of inner joy and fulfilment that we were able to convey our reservations to a governor that could not deliver on his promise.

Despite the deliberate attempt to armtwist the process by sponsored thugs and ballot box snatchers, we stood firm in our resolve. We toiled, campaigned vigorously and stood by our votes to ensure they were not tampered with. All the noise makers in Okpella and elsewhere, who could not deliver their polling units are suddenly quiet. Their silence is so palpable, you would almost think they do not exist on planet earth.

The quiet that also attended the declaration of Obaseki is indicative of the fact that he is not generally accepted. There was no spontaneous jubilation across Edo State, until the party had to organise a roadshow to display its celebration. The Edo election was actually a contest between APC versus APC. Too many internal sabotage and conflict of interest.

Too many saboteurs who thought in their infantile thinking that they were extracting a pound of flesh from Oshiomhole, would soon discover that their party is on its way out of contention in 2023. The man who made me joined the PDP in 2018 is still in contention for the plum seat in 2023, a project that I am still committed to irrespective of my stand against Obaseki unapologetically.

Political parties are mere vehicles to pursue political ambition. I cherish relationship more than the thin boundaries of party affiliations that are often driven by selfish interest. I will not depart from my convictions even if it means standing alone. The choice is essentially mine and not that of anyone. Those who helped me in campaigning round the villages in Okpella, during the day and night, under the sun and in the rain, I thank you all.

My ever-reliable youths who were gallant all through the exercise, I appreciate you all. Those few Okpella people who are celebrating the victory of Obaseki, I also greet you all. Your victory can only make meaning to us if your candidate remembers what we seriously desire to see in Okpella, only by that can you truly celebrate.

As you celebrate, remember the parlous state of our roads, remember our schools without teachers, remember the frustrations of our youths, and the backwardness of our community. That was the motivating reason why I stood against failed promises of Obaseki for a more positive-minded candidate with emotional intelligence.


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