Two weeks ago, I visited Asaba.
The last time I visited the town was in 2012, while I was a youth corps member in Enugu. I visited Benin and Warri often and had cause to travel through (and to) Delta. On many occasions, my friends and I would take a detour and go into the town; it was service year, after all, and we were on a quest to discover Nigeria.
The first thought that registered when the pilot announced that we would land soon was: “this is the first time I’m going by air,” then as we drew closer, I couldn’t help but take in the view below me; all was brown, so brown that I had a hard time differentiating between the rivers and the roads. I wasn’t hopeful of discovering that much – if anything – had changed, and the drive into town proved me right.
I arrived at my hotel shortly after I landed, and was told on the way that I was lucky it hadn’t rained that day, else, the hotel I was headed to would be flooded and gaining entry would be near impossible. I thought that this was an exaggeration, but was subsequently proven wrong.
My trip to Asaba was necessitated by business, although it also served as a good opportunity to connect with youth leaders in Delta, and to support the APC gubernatorial candidate, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, at the tribunal by attending a sitting. The facts I learnt that day pushed the deplorable state of infrastructure to the back of my mind for quite a while; it was an experience that helped put into perspective, my take on the concept of magic and just how much of it is done in politics.
The court hearing began around 10 a.m. on August 25, 2015, and on this day, our candidate was present. This filled the party faithful within the court premises with quite a bit of excitement but little did they know that the day was about to get very interesting. The first witness called up was an assistant director at the ICT department at the INEC headquarters, Abuja, who testified that the total number of accredited voters in the Delta state guber elections was 715,393 (according to the accreditation report which was fully updated as at 13th August and generated from INEC’s voter identification database).
This little piece of information seemed rather insignificant, until I did a google search and discovered that the PDP’s Okowa had supposedly polled 724,680 votes. Now, even if Okowa had somehow achieved the impossible and gotten ALL the votes in Delta, this still leaves 9,287 additional votes unaccounted for. Was this a case of his gubernatorial cup overflowing with the blessing of votes, or should scientists be headed to Delta to observe the hitherto-unknown-to-man phenomenon of self-raising ballot papers and ink?
I believe that as citizens, one of the foremost responsibilities that we must fulfill is to safeguard our democracy. I am not an “indigene” of Delta State, but as someone from Ogun who knows what it is to live under the oppressive rule of a tyrant operating on a stolen mandate, I deem it imperative that all eyes be on Delta state and that proceedings from the election tribunal be closely monitored.
The situation in Delta is all the more heart-breaking due to the fact that the state is grossly underdeveloped despite being one of those states which receive the highest federal allocation. The neighbouring Edo state receives nothing close to what Delta does, yet, while the situation in Edo is most certainly not perfect, there exists a certain level of dedication by the governor to leave the state better than he met it. It is sad that in the case of Delta state, the governors have shared no such sentiment.
Asaba was replete with tales of marginalisation, of no development whatsoever, of floods which have over time, eroded not only the soil, but the hope of the people for decent governance and an improved standard of living. Warri is slightly better off, but only “slightly”; the curse of the acute lack of infrastructure is one which afflicts all Deltans, irrespective of where they are from.
It is assumed that a logical conclusion to the tribunal would be to have a re-run of the gubernatorial election; the question is, how will the Judiciary handle the duty of discharging the enormous responsibility of administering justice, will the logical verdict be the official judgment, and most importantly, if this second chance comes, what and who will the people choose?
Will the APC’s federal presence work in their favour in the state? Will the decent example laid by the APC governor in Edo influence voters in Delta? Will Olorogun O’tega Emerhor’s extensive career in finance and management be enough to make the people realise that they need to have their resources efficiently managed, and efficiently managed by him? Delta state is home to different ethnic groups and ethnic identity is a strong factor in the state’s politics; however, as in all other states, bad leadership is what it is and affects all citizens equally, irrespective of whether they’re from the North, the South, or the Central senatorial zone.
Rinsola Abiola is the Acting President of the APC Young Women Forum, and a member of the APC’s Board of Trustees.