‘Nigeria on the March Again’ is a mantra popularised by the ‘Hope 93’ Campaign Organisation of the renowned, illustrious late philanthropist and the 1993 Social Democratic Party, SDP, Presidential Candidate, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola, who was set to win the poll before the methodical announcement of results by states was abruptly truncated and the elections annulled in a bizarre fashion.
Just like the frenzy that characterised the 1993 election, Edo state has also been in the news in the last couple of months, being one of the states where elections now hold outside the general elections season.
Social and traditional media are awash with the news of clashes between the embattled state governor, Godwin Obaseki, a Christian, and virtually all All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders in the state including the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
It is an open secret that the State governor led the efforts to remove Comrade Oshiomhole from office albeit unsuccessfully, just as it’s also alleged that the disqualification of the Governor by the APC Gubernatorial Screening Committee is the party leader’s way of getting back at his estranged protégé turned nemesis.
Consequently, Mr Obaseki’s joining the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on Friday to seek re-election as the party’s flagbearer, indicates his determination to ‘shame’ those who disqualified him and favoured his archrival, Mr Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a Redeemed Christian Church of God member.
Beneath the ensuing contestations and the political brickbats, there is an oft forgotten trend but which has been seen as a deliberate attempt at side-lining an important but politically naive demographic – the Muslim community in Edo state.
Take the following stats for example:
Since 1999 till date, (21 years), the Muslims in Edo, with about 35% of the population have never held any key positon in the executive arm of government.
From Governor to Deputy Governor, Secretary to the State Government, Chief of Staff to the governor, to the Head of Service.
In the State’s legislature, though two Muslims have been Speakers in the State House of Assembly; and at a point in time a Chief Judge has been produced; the insignificance of these is seen in the fact that the State has had no less than 10 Speakers of the House of Assembly and much more Chief Judges.
Despite their numerical strength, of all the current Commissioners in the state Executive Council and the Chairmen of Boards, none is a Muslim. Even the Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board which would have been headed by a Muslim by default remains uninaugurated, almost four years into the present administration. This development cannot be considered as an omission or mere oversight, going by how people of other faiths have entrenched a phantom ‘Islamization agenda’ each time issues of elections and appointments come up in several states across the federation and in attacking the Buhari administration.
This sorry situation is largely due to three factors.
One is internal – the lack of political sagacity on a broader scale by the Muslim community. It is also a case of placing individual interests by some privileged Muslims over our collective interests as an ummah. Despite its large population with an array of some of the State’s finest intellectuals and technocrats, Muslims have largely been shortchanged in the scheme of things.
The second factor is the deleterious manner politics is practised in Edo state which can be considered a race for the bottom – a major factor that ordinarily scares away all men of character and discipline with modicum of morality, integrity and decency especially Muslims.
The same reason accounts for why many senior political office holders were denied re-election at different times – their refusal to join occultic groups due to their faith as well as asinine gossips by people intent to ‘pulling them down’ which the powers-that-be often assume to be true.
The third is the egregious factor – the deliberate side-lining of Muslims in Edo politics. For instance, the current administration, as in previous ones, Muslims are neither considered for elective offices nor appointive positions. This is despite the fact that the ruling party has consistently enjoyed unwavering support from the Edo North Senatorial District with its overwhelming Muslim population in all elections.
But for the Edo North, the ruling APC would neither have been able to amass the statutory 25% of votes it got at the general elections nor produced the only APC Senator and three of the five House of Representatives members it got in the last elections. What is however disturbing is that none of the three Senators and the nine members of the House of Reps across both APC and PDP are Muslims, courtesy of the anti-Muslim stance of the political machine in the Niger Delta state.
Enough should be enough:
Hence, it must stop forthwith, the undesirable situation – where the Governor, Deputy Governor, SSG, CoS, Speaker EDHA, Dep. Speaker, Head of Service, Chief Judge, 18 Commissioners, 9 House of Assembly members and all the 1 boards so far inaugurated as well as all but one of the current 18 Local Government Chairmen are non-Muslims in a state where nothing happens without being premeditated, must stop forthwith!
One lame excuse often advanced is that many Muslims do not participate in party politics. But this is not true. All politics is local, this fact is incontestable. Across the 192 wards, there are thousands of Muslims participating in local politics. The only challenge is that appointments or selection of candidates is vicariously done by a sub-set, the caucuses often referred to euphemistically as ‘leaders’. It is definitely not out of place for a governor or LGA chairman to, in the spirit of justice and fairness to all, seek to make persons holding offices to reflect the demographic dynamics of the cosmopolitan, multicultural and multi-religious state that Edo is.
Muslims on their part do not help matters as they have failed to effectively and methodically express their dissatisfaction with the deliberate acts of marginalization by successive administrations which is why it has gotten to this sorry state. They have failed to grasp and appreciate the nuances of democracy the language of politics and the power of the ballot box. Is it not time they organised themselves in a cohesive manner and deploy the effective use of lobbying and advocacy with a view to attaining political relevance and achieving their political goals?
As we approach the gubernatorial elections, it is the hoped that the Muslims will work in a coordinated and sagacious manner to correct the errors of the past and herald a new mutually beneficial political regime in Edo.
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