Dim Ojukwu’s Last Hurrah

It is perhaps a reflection of the measure of his understanding of the nature of his stature in the estimation of his people and his confidence in their levels of affection for him, that impelled Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu – ahead of the recently concluded governorship elections in Anambra State – to issue an impassioned appeal to its people to renew the incumbency of Peter Obi as a final gesture of respect to him.

Only one possessed of his self-assurance would dare to have done such a thing. For in issuing his appeal, he single-handedly turned the election into a referendum about the depths of his influence and popularity in contemporary Anambra State politics. It was a risky thing to do. Particularly, when one considers the fact that standing in opposition to the realisation of his appeal was the combined weight of moneymen with moneybags matched by a formidable spending force capable of rendering him a spent force in today’s ‘cash and carry’ political climate.

But Dim Ojukwu has always been a risk taker. It is a defining feature of his personality. In matter of fact, it is to risk taking that he owes his international fame and notoriety. Such a propensity, it was, which led him to stand up for his people in their darkest hour during our nation’s darkest period over four decades ago.

Like then and like now, his people heeded his call; demonstrating by their actions that forty years hence they still recognise his voice and respond to its resonance. Choosing, as they did to eschew money politics; electing rather to heed the rallying cry of their charismatic past master. By so doing, their individual pockets may be the poorer for it, but their collective conscience is richer and our democracy enriched by their example.

By renewing Peter Obi’s incumbency, the people of Anambra State inflicted a decisive puncture in the nation’s ruling party’s balloon of supposed electoral omnipotence; thus deflating their air of political supremacy. This deflation may yet turn out to be one of many more which saves the nation, from unwanted the imposition upon it, of interminable One Party rule.

Other states, perhaps straining under the weight of the shackles of a non-performing ruling party will have taken notice of what happened in Anambra State. The failure of money politics to bend the will of the people is proof enough to demonstrate – that when a people are resolved towards a particular outcome nothing can derail them from its attainment. It is a salutary lesson for our democracy.

Minority political parties in the nation will do well in the light of this electoral outcome to consider the wisdom of coming together under a progressive banner to build a credible and constructive political opposition. This will ensure that we do not lose our footing on the slippery slope that leads to One Party rule. The descent on which has blighted many an African nation’s experience with democratic rule.

We must create the atmosphere in our political system for the ventilation of a broad range of divergent views, which lead to the generation of creative, rather than destructive tensions, from which radical ideas can emerge in order to facilitate progress in our nation.

Let us be, as the great Zik once said

‘As divided as the fingers, but as united as the fist.’

The overall conduct of the election, as reports suggest, continue to highlight some of the deficiencies and inefficiencies in the logistical and operational capabilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). These shortcomings are symptomatic of our national systemic weaknesses. And whether they can be addressed and redressed successfully – in isolation or in tandem – with our other systemic problems ahead of the next general elections in 2011, is a matter for further and future debate. But even in the face of their palpable inadequacies one must congratulate INEC for having the courage to call the correct outcome of the election.

But deserved praise is reserved for members of Civil Society – at home and abroad – who took an active interest and played a decisive role in monitoring the conduct of the election deserve our collective praise. Being physically absent from the event did not act preclude their virtual presence as they kept a watchful eye as events unfolded in the election.

One key learning (amongst others) to come out of the conduct of this election, is that it is maybe a good idea to consider incorporating into our constitution and electoral laws, provisions which allow for the spacing out of elections over specified periods. Such that at any one time only half of the States would fall due for elections; with the other half becoming due after a two year interval. In effect, elections would be held every two years.

This will ensure that INEC is not overwhelmed by the operational demands and complexities involved in conducting simultaneous elections across all the States. It also ensures that elections are held with regular frequency sufficient to enable INEC to gain regular practice and expertise from the conduct of them. It will equally ensure that INEC is no danger of losing sight of any lessons learned due to long intervals between elections. This approach will also ensure that our security forces are not overstretched to the point of becoming unstuck by the scale of logistical demands in these areas.

But in returning to Dim Ojukwu – it is befitting that in his autumn years he has become an active agent for the preservation of choice in our democracy. For this reason one hopes that he continues to keep his show on the road and make his voice heard, particularly, in the States within his immediate sphere of influence. If he does, and if he is successful at doing so, then democracy may yet take root in our soils.

Governor Obi is reported to have done well in his first term. So he deserves his victory. From where he stands he has a good view of progress. He is standing on the shoulders of a giant in Dim Ojukwu. His fellow governorship aspirants will do well to join him on those shoulders and work together for the progress of Anambra State.

One hopes that this is not Dim Ojukwu’s last hurrah; but if it is – then well done to him. One suspects that there remains fire in his belly. So rather than retire, he should rekindle this fire and let his people bask in the light of its glow.

Dim Ojukwu; long may you live!

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