Written by Godwin Sogolo
Tuesday, 07 August 2012
There is a local adage that falsehood may reign for 20 years but it will only take one day for the truth to overthrow it. The validity of this adage has been proved over and again but those who peddle falsehoods appear to be oblivious to this truism. This was amply demonstrated during the campaigns leading to the recent governorship election in Edo State.
The campaigns were characterised by bitter exchanges, mudslinging and character assassinations. The two major parties in the election, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), used every available trick of campaigning to discredit each other in the eyes of the electorate.
However, there was a remarkable difference in campaign style between the two parties. Whereas the PDP focused largely on the failures and inadequacies of the ACN government and the hypocrisy of Governor Adams Oshiomhole, the ACN chose a more aggressive strategy of creating the impression that the PDP was a party of election riggers, looters, criminals and even murderers.
The ACN campaign machinery relentlessly demonised the PDP and its leaders. One cheap way in which this was done was that of associating the PDP with the violence and blood-letting that took place in the state in the immediate pre-election period. The aim was to create the impression that the PDP was desperate to wrest power from the ACN and would, therefore, do anything to attain this goal.
The first in this attempt to scandalise the PDP was the way in which the accident involving the convoy of Governor Oshiomhole, in which three journalists lost their lives, was presented to the public. The story was calibrated to read that an attempt was made to kill Oshiomhole. The second was the claim by the State Commissioner for Information, Mr Louis Odion, that he was trailed by men in a black jeep and his residence invaded by would-be assassins, after he had been allegedly threatened by Chief Tony Anenih in front of the palace of the Oba of Benin.
Indeed, the attempt at demonisation was consolidated in the aftermath of the assassination of the Private Secretary to Governor Oshiomhole. The ACN tried, strenuously, to convince the public that the PDP had a hand in the assassination. While, in these accusations, the ACN talked publicly about the PDP, the main target of the accusation was Anenih whom they had branded and relentlessly assailed as the evil godfather and the mastermind of the plot to forcibly take over power in Edo State.
In the case of Louis Odion, the culpability of Anenih was taken for granted and, indiscreetly, advertised to the public. It was clear that for the ACN, Anenih, acting through his agent, was behind the violence and assassination in Edo State. Fortunately for Anenih, police investigations into the most serious of the incidents (the convoy accident and the assassination of Oshiomhole’s private secretary) have shown that no political conspiracy was involved.
Oshiomhole’s convoy accident, according to the report, was the result of an unfortunate collision with a lorry owned and driven by card-carrying members of the ACN. In the matter of the assassination of the private secretary, the State Security Service (SSS) has, after thorough investigations, arrested six suspects who confessed to have killed the man in the course of robbing him. It is not unlikely if the police had thoroughly investigated the alarm raised by Odion, they would have reached a similar conclusion. I had, myself, questioned the validity of Odion’s alarm in my piece “Flight of Logic and Decency in Edo State” (Tribune of May 22, 2012, P.14 and ThisDay of May 23, 2012, P.14).
These major revelations have shown that Anenih was a victim of a vicious campaign of calumny. They show clearly that he is totally innocent of all the accusations that Oshiomhole and his cohorts leveled against him. We now know that Anenih never planned, either singly or with other persons, to commit any act of violence in Edo State or anywhere for that matter. He was simply targeted for a campaign of defamation and character assassination because he was, without doubt, the most powerful political figure in Edo State.
Fact is Anenih towers above every other politician in the State, including the Governor himself. His massive network of contacts across the country, his national political influence and his close association with all Nigerian Presidents in the last 33 years stand him out as a statesman of monumental proportions. He posed a great threat to the ACN. It was, therefore, not surprising that no effort was spared to malign him in a desperate attempt to diminish his political stature. The truth of what happened during the July 14, 2012 governorship election will soon come out.
The good thing is that Anenih has worked this path before and has always come out victorious. There was a time when Orji Uzor Kalu, former Governor of Abia State accused Anenih of planning to kill him because he (Kalu) had dared to raise issues about the dissonance between the N300 billion voted for road construction and maintenance, when Anenih was the Minister of Works, and the poor state of roads across the country, particularly, in the South-East. He, of course, later proclaimed to the world that at no time was he threatened by Anenih.
It should be of interest that Kalu’s claim about the N300 billion allocated to the Ministry of Works under Anenih, was later used as the rationale for setting up a Senate probe into the activities of the Federal Ministry of Works. This probe was championed, evidently, by those who were hostile to Anenih and there was no doubt that he was the target. However, the probe came to naught because Anenih excelled in his presentation, which showed that the Ministry of Works, all through his period as Minister, received just about half of the amount which had been bandied around. He left the probe with the respect of all and his reputation intact.
Great statesmen like Anenih will always be the targets of those who, by praising them, seek political advantage and those, who by maligning them, seek public attention. While there is no anti-dote to this malaise, there is an armour of protection in integrity, honesty, humaneness and Godly-devotion. Chief Tony Akhakon Anenih has survived all his travails and will continue to survive them because he has all these virtues in abundance.
Professor Sogolo lives in Abuja.
We enjoin our readers to send their stories/articles/reports, including pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org
Category: Benin City