The recent governorship election in Edo State was a triumph for democracy because it succeeded beyond expectations.
The election was relatively peaceful, more peaceful than what doomsayers predicted.
It was also relatively free and fair, better than what political pundits predicted.
A lot of the credit belongs to INEC which pulled all the stops to show that it can conduct credible elections.
Its effort was also assisted by the fact that it was a single election conducted on a single day with less than one million voters to contend with.
We also commend the security forces, soldiers and policemen who acted professionally.
They saved the state from bloodshed. The federal government also deserves commendation for not negatively deploying its enormous might as it did in the last governorship elections in Osun and Ekiti to truncate the will of the people.
It is obvious from this change of tactics that President Muhammadu Buhari wants to correct the shenanigans of the past and leave a worthy legacy for the country.
If this good behaviour becomes a habit, then history will remember him kindly.
On the register of people of peace, we must also record the intervention of Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II who convened a meeting of the contestants in his palace and read the Riot Act to them.
The National Peace Committee headed by the former Head of State, retired General Abdulsalami Abubakar also got the candidates to sign an agreement to be of good behaviour.
We wish to commend him and all the other peace makers.
We commend the good people of Edo State who comported themselves decently as people who did not want their state to be a theatre of war.
The pre-election prognosis was scary because of the sabre-rattling and the incendiary speeches of campaigners.
When security men trooped into the state in their thousands armed to the teeth, the picture of disaster about to happen appeared in the consciousness of the people.
Mercifully, the election came and went without any major untoward incident. We think that the threat by the governments of United States of America and the United Kingdom to impose a visa ban on troublemakers worked like magic.
Well-to-do Nigerians are travel-loving people. The Daily Times thanks these friends of democracy.
However, the despicable role that the Inspector General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu played by harassing Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is condemnable.
It shows him off as a partisan, unprofessional policeman. Governors of the two major parties, APC and PDP from other states were in Edo State to perform election duties for their parties.
That he picked on Wike and ordered him to leave Edo State speaks volumes about his sense of fairness or more appropriately, the lack of it.
If he wants to be a politician, he is free to drop his uniform and get into the murky waters of politics.
But while he has that uniform on his back Nigerians expect him to behave fairly and professionally always.
We commend Wike for showing exemplary courage and for refusing to submit to Mr Adamu’s partisan directive.
It is men of courage that can water the tree of our democracy. Though the election was peaceful the numbers were not impressive.
The registered voters who had permanent voters’ cards were 1.72 million. The APC candidate, Mr Osagie Ize-Iyamu received 223,619 votes while the PDP candidate and winner, Mr Godwin Obaseki got 307,955 votes.
The total votes, including those of the small parties did not exceed 700,000. This means that about one million people did not bother to go out and vote.
Three reasons may be responsible for this apathy.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the approved protocol of mask-wearing, social distancing and hand washing may have discouraged some people from leaving their houses in order not to expose themselves to harassment from noncompliance.
Secondly, the huge army of security operatives on duty ought to have been an incentive for people to feel safe enough to step out to vote.
But the unprofessional and partisan conduct of some security men in past elections may have discouraged them from putting themselves in harm’s way by stepping out of their comfort zones.
Thirdly, some people may have thought, based on what had happened in some elections in the past, that their votes will not count because the elections will be rigged. In that case their preference was to stay away.
Voter apathy cannot help us to improve our democracy. People have bad leaders because good people do not go out to vote.
However, those who voted in the Edo State election have proved that the will of the people is supreme and that the people are the real sovereign.
For a state like Edo which has been bedevilled by the spectre of godfatherism as represented by the late Chief Tony Anenih and Mr Adams Oshiomhole the peoples’ decision was a vote for liberation.
It was an anti-godfatherism vote which is likely to free Mr Obaseki and subsequent governors from being the lapdog of any godfather.
If that victory sends some signals to other states to wrestle godfatherism to the ground, then Nigerians will be on the way to becoming the real sovereigns. One of the reasons our democracy cannot breathe well is godfatherism.
Godfatherism’s knee has been on the neck of our democracy since 1999. Edo people have proved that that knee can be removed from our neck.
However, this posture can only be sustained elsewhere if the people show courage. Finally, we urge Governor Obaseki to keep his election promises, run an inclusive government and see only the Edo people as the only godfather he must serve.