In 1999, Alhaji Aziz Garuba, an eminent Nigerian from Edo North lost in his gubernatorial bid. What was his offence? He failed to get the blessings of ‘the Southern kingmakers.’Meanwhile, as the 2007 elections drew near, there was a lot of activity among politicians of Edo North extraction. Within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – the then ruling party several brilliant minds from Edo North including the then Deputy-Governor Chief Mike Oghiadome emerged. In an interview granted Afenmai Voice (a local newspaper) and published in its December 2004 edition, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, one of Nigeria’s finest politicians and an illustrious son of Edo North in the 2007 gubernatorial race under the PDP had declared: “The people of Edo North have never produced an elected civilian governor for this state and other zones have done so. So, it is only natural that while we have supported other zones to produce the governor, they should support us to produce the governor in 2007.” As political an appeal as this appeared, he had hit the nail on the head. The people of Edo North had been marginalised for years both in infrastructural development and political appointments. 2007 was the time to turn the tables. But it was not to be. The PDP political machine engineered a political process which saw Professor Oseiriehmen Osunbor from Edo Central emerging as governor-elect in an election where it was clear even to the blind that Action Congress (AC) candidate Comrade Adams Oshiomole (a worthy son of Edo North) had a landslide win! Immediately, Oshiomole, reputed for his doggedness as a fighter of tyrannical governments from the hey-days of Abacha to the Obasanjo era proceeded to the Elections Petitions Tribunal in pursuit of justice. After several months of a rigorous judicial exercise, the tribunal declared Oshiomole winner in the April 2007 polls. The PDP party, perhaps anticipating the possibility of a re-run refused to abide by the tribunal’s order. Prof. Osunbor, a distinguished professor of Law filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal in Benin seeking to invalidate the ruling of the tribunal. However, on Tuesday 11 November 2008, in a unanimous order, the Court of Appeal declared Comrade Adams Oshiomole winner in the April 2007 gubernatorial elections in Edo State. He has since been sworn in as Executive Governor of Edo State and the rest has become history.
The Appeal Court ruling which pronounced him governor-elect has shown that amidst the institutional weaknesses of a troubled polity, we can still have faith in a critical arm of government as the judiciary. Oshiomole, recognizing the historical significance of his emergence at an auspicious time as this could not conclude his inaugural speech without alluding to Obama when he noted that we cannot really celebrate Obama in a country where we still hold on to primitive politics. He however declared that such debasement of the political process is not in our genes, observing that we can do better than the Americans. I concur with the Comrade Governor. Yes we can!