Home » David-Chyddy Eleke: Benin People, Oshiomhole and the Tinubu rally

David-Chyddy Eleke: Benin People, Oshiomhole and the Tinubu rally

Pray, did I just watch a video of Benin People in Edo State rejecting their former governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, alongside the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu?

I was only wondering, but I’m not surprised. If there is a group of people whose decisiveness I envy, it is Edo people. They don’t care a hoot, when they have taken a stand, and they take no prisoners, ensuring that their decisions count. They have done it more than once, and I’m now convinced about their resoluteness. Who will forget the ‘Edo No Be Lagos Chant’ of 2020?

In the video I just watch, the former governor was leading a campaign for the APC presidential candidate, Tinubu in Benin, but as Oshiomhole made efforts to speak to the people, the huge crowd rejected him Obi! Obi! Obi!

By the way, let me tell you how much I know Edo people. In 2012, as a correspondent of LEADERSHIP Newspaper in Anambra State, I was called by the Editor, during the governorship election of that year, to proceed to Benin to get INEC accreditation to cover the election of a new governor for the state.

Oshiomhole was then the governor, and was also seeking reelection to the same seat. He was contesting on the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and his biggest contender was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), General Charles Airhiavbere.

President Goodluck Jonathan was the president then, and he was of PDP, and many people, including the ACN and even Edo people feared that Jonathan would rig his party man, Airhiavbere in, as Edo governor.

But you know what? Edo people were ready for that. The support for Oshiomhole was very high, Edo people wanted him to continue. On my arrival in Benin City, the first thing I did was to get a hotel accommodation, then move to NUJ Press Centre where I joined other journalists to INEC headquarters, somewhere at Ikpoba Hill where I got accreditation. Afterwards, I spent the rest of the day and the next, trekking along the streets of Benin City, eating in local joints and joining regular guys at beer spots to acclimatize myself.

During that survey, I found that every Highrise building had billboards of Oshiomhole. I made enquiries and gathered that owners of highrise properties surrendered them for Oshiomhole to place adverts on them for free of charge.

On the day of the election, my team (LEADERSHIP Newspapers crew) for the election met and decided that I should be the man to cover INEC. We had four men in our crew. I was to cover INEC, another reporter covered Oshiomhole, yet another covered Airhiavbere. Our team leader was to stay in his hotel room, collate our reports, edit them and send to Abuja for publication.

As the man covering INEC, experience from previous election coverage showed me that my work would start very early in the morning when distribution of materials start. After reporting early or late distribution of materials for onward movement to the voting centres, I may as well remain idle untile the next day when collation and announcement of result would begin.

True to the above, after reporting the distribution of materials, I retired to a couch in the INEC office and partly slept, and partly watched television. I knew that I won’t be able to catch any further sleep once results started arriving at night or the next morning. As expected, late in the night, results started arriving. I stayed awake recording election results and transmitting same to our team leader, until about 3am when the returning officer called for a break.

I decided to wade off sleep, and also use my already dizzy legs, to avoid swelling. There was tension in the INEC headquarters, and both Oshiomhole and Airhiavbere were running neck and neck in the already announced results. Edo people were sure they voted for Oshiomhole to return as governor, but they were not sure if the federal government was trying the play any game on them. So, the atmosphere was tensed.

I walked to the INEC gate, and the security around the compound was something else. Police dogs and horses were everywhere too. At the gate, I identified myself to the security people and told them I wanted to look around and return shortly. One advised me to be careful as I went out.

Just outside the gate, I couldn’t believe what Edo people were capable of. Despite the huge security, Benin youths formed a ring round the entire INEC office. Most of the youths held plastic cans, with coloured liquid inside it. Attached to the can were ropes. I was curious and wanted to ask some of them what was happening, but they paid no heed. I later found out the cans were filled with fuel, and the ropes attached to the can was to make it easy to toss them in any direction they liked, and their target was the INEC building, if they announced anything contrary to what they voted.

One of the youths in a voice thoroughly deformed by a huge amount of drug intake howled: “Na Oshiomhole we vote. If we hear any result wey no be Oshiomhole, make we see how una go take commot from this office alive.”

Long matter cut short, at about 7am the next morning when the entire result was declared, and Oshiomhole was pronounced winner; even the security men deployed to guard the INEC compound, could not help but heave sighs of relief, because they knew they would have had a lot to contend with if Oshiomhole had lost.

The above is just one instance.

Second instance; if you think Edo people supported Oshiomhole because they loved him so much, then you need to have a rethink.

In 2020 when the same Oshiomhole tried to play God by attempting to replace Governor Obaseki with Pastor Ize Iyamu, you needed to see how stoutly Edo people stood against the same Oshiomhole.

Oshiomhole employed all manner of theatrics to sell Iyamu (a man he had earlier pronounced a thief and cultist) to Edo people, but Edo people are not those to be deceived. They stood with Obaseki. Even when Oshiomhole frustrated Obaseki out of APC, and he joined PDP just close to the election, Edo people kept faith with him and elected him eventually. That was when the famous ‘Edo No be Lagos’ chant was strewn together, as Tinubu had tried to bring his godfather role to Edo to install Iyamu.

It was for these that it did not come to me as a surprise when the video of Oshiomhole and Tinubu’s rejection in Benin City started trending. In the video, as Oshiomhole made efforts to address the people, they rather chanted Obi! Obi! Obi! An indication that they preferred the Labour Party presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi to Oshiomhole’s Tinubu.

It is Oshiomhole’s right to support a presidential candidate, but shoving his choice down the throat of other voters is one thing Benin people, by extension – Edo rejected.

As we pray for a peaceful election, may I wish the entire Nigerians the Benin spirit. With Benin spirit, one governor will not tell a presidential candidate that his endorsement translates to outright victory in his state.

I wish Nigeria a peaceful election, but above all, I wish you all the Benin spirit. Nigerians, suffer don tire us. We will not wait for any man to endorse a candidate for us.

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