It would be recalled with nostalgia in this context how, ahead of the 2015 general elections in Edo State, thousands of youths in the State, precisely on August 14, 2014, held a procession round major roads in Benin, saying politicians should use their children as thugs, and warned that they would resist attempts by politicians in the State to engage youths as thugs.
The youths, who at the time made their collective position known on the occasion of the 2014 International Youth Day, called on the state government to set up a panel of inquiry to investigate the alleged murder of Mr. Daniel Aifegha, who was allegedly killed for political reasons in Owan West Local Government Area of the state in the month of July. A statement issued by Osaro Iyamu of the Edo Youth for Good Governance, EYFGG at the time, and similar statement issued by Solomon Okoduwa of Initiative for Youth Awareness on Migration, Immigration, Development and Reintegration (IYAMIDR) among other outspoken Edolites and groups that spoke against youths’ involvement in thuggery and vandalism during electioneering, urged politicians in the state to focus on how to sponsor responsible youths as candidates for elections rather than arming and recruiting them as thugs.
Unanimously, they agreed that they had heard politicians threatening fire and brimstone in the state over the then coming 2015 elections, and pointed out that they were aware that the politicians were merely relying on youths of the state, whom they use as thugs. They collectively warned that Edo youths will never be used again, and added that the politicians should bring back their children from where they are hidden for safety and use them as thugs. They advised them to sponsor candidates with good pedigree else they will lose if they want to rely on the youths who are majorly the children of hapless parents for thuggery.
Ostensibly sharing views on how the youths can be profitably engaged, they called on the Federal Government to initiate strategies that will revolutionize the country through agriculture, saying that the dependence on oil was hampering development in the country.
Regrettably, in as much as this writer did not witnessed the much reported ugly incident that was mischievously carried out around the Oba Palace in Benin City on Saturday, he believes the kind of advice offered to the youths by the duo of Osaro Iyamu and Solomon Okoduwa then in 2014 was not given to the youths who were reported to have gone gaga upon sighting their perceived political “enemies”. At this juncture, it suffices to say that I deliberately choose to use the word “enemies” in the foregoing view to enable me clarify afterward that political opponents are not enemies but friends. For instance, Suzzy Kassem, in her work, “Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem said “Today’s enemies can be your friends tomorrow. And today’s friends can be tomorrow’s enemies.” Gladly enough, the foregoing quote readily finds expression in the situation where Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is now flying the flag of the party he once contested against in 2016 while the incumbent governor Mr. Godwin Obaseki is in the same vein flying the flag of the party he also contested against in 2016.
To me, the youths should be enlightened within this few weeks that is left before the election by making them to understand that democracy or electioneering is not war. Nonetheless it can be shot through with innuendoes, metaphors and outright acerbic language but the fact remains that democracy ultimately requires a high level of respect between the opposing sides. Without that, the peaceful give-and-take of power that characterizes it becomes unrealizable. In fact, if one’s view of democracy doesn’t distinguish between electoral campaigns and artillery campaigns, that democracy will be an inherently fragile project.
Still in the same nexus, I think Mustafa Donmez explained it better when he said, “Always respect your opponents because they are enemies you have generated. The reason why they look like enemies is that we are all contestants who want to reach a common goal, that’s all”. What this quote means is that if in the next political dispensation, assuredly under the tenure of the incoming governor, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Edo State becomes better than it is today, will the incumbent governor as an Edolite not experience the benefits that would be inherent in the change? The same goes for those that are supporting him today. Simply put, a robust economy and good governance do not discriminate as to which party anyone belongs to, which ethnic group or religion one is affiliated to. It is like the rain that falls in a given village, it washes the roof on each building without discrimination against the owners; rich or poor. More so given that the expected government will be led by a leader that is averse to “Divide and Rule” style of leadership and what I may in the context dub “Paranoid leadership Style”; that is seeing everybody as enemy and threat politics in Edo, particularly ahead of September 19 should not be seen as war. With due respect to former president Olusegun Obasanjo, “It is not a do or die affair”.
Against the foregoing backdrop, it suffices to say that Political thuggery in Edo has by each passing political dispensation remained synonymous with political process in the State. Equally put, election in the State has become synonymous with crisis and violence; geared towards winning power by subverting the democratic electoral process. Regrettably in the process, hundreds of uninformed youths, mostly from poor or average homes, lose their precious lives in political melees fuelled by political leaders in their bid to protect their mandates. Why then do youths need politicians to determine their lives or means of livelihood? Proverbially put, like the chicken that is wont to cover its chick with its feather, as a way of hiding them from the prying eyes of the kite, the politician usually hides his children in Ivy League schools that are far away from Benin City. They usually fly their children to Europe, America or even in Lagos and Abuja. Peradventure they are in Benin; they are usually protected under the watchful eyes of Security Officers within a high gated mansion. Permit me to ask in pidgin in this context thus: “Poor man pickin wey be thug, wetin dey do you, you nor dey think?”
Announcing it again in this context, electioneering ahead of Edo gubernatorial election that is scheduled for September 19, 2020 is here again. It is worth noting that politicians, as witnessed by Edolites on Saturday at the Oba Palace, who loves their own children so much but blissfully send the children of the poor to war zone in a manner that is reminiscent of David and Uriah in the Bible, leaves any right thinking political observer to ponder over the height of man’s inhumanity to man.
There is no denying the fact that many politicians got to their positions through this exploitation of the youth in the State, denying thousands of Edolites any voice in selecting their political leaders. In this context, I am urging Edo youths to ensure that winners emerge by the votes of the people, and that such votes should be cast at booths supervised by the electoral commission; and not in the court, as we have witnessed in the past. To my view, it is absolutely inadvisable to turn Edo youths to political tools. As our elders would say to the young ones when they are bound to fall into a pitfall,” Wa gha feko!”