Like a Tweet in the Night, a Governor Erupted the Ancient City
In this report, JOHN MAYAKI recollects the day Comrade Adams Oshiomhole became Governor in 2008.
It was yet noon. Dateline: 11th of November, 2008. The joy that provoked rowdiness in the Court was unusual after both petitioners and defendants in an election petition showed appearances at the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin City. Suddenly, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole poked his head through the roof of a black SUV heading southwards from the Appeal Court and surveyed what he had wrought – sweet victory; no orphan.
On both sides of the Federal Road, Aduwawa southward Akpakpava through KingSquare, were a couple of thousand people clustered – in the street, on the sidewalks, on stoops, on balconies, sitting atop vehicles, hanging vehicles doors ajar, riding motorcycles menacingly, hijacking trucks and brandishing the broom vigorously – waiting for the just-announced winner of the 2007 gubernatorial elections in the state.
And when the newly announced Governor rode by, a few hundred of them spied him and peeled off, surrounding his convoy, taking pictures, reaching for handshakes – news of his victory had spiraled into town from the Northern end downtown, signaling an anti-climactic end to the reign of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
Don’t forget that before this roller coaster day, the lower court gave what the higher court reaffirmed – that the people gave Oshiomhole what the PDP took away; this is one of the truest and most resounding judgments so far, in the history of our judiciary, when it comes to Election petition – unpredictability.
This is unpredictably so because the PDP, notorious for what they are good at, was cocksure of victory and the idea that it would go the peoples’ way with throngs of them congregating on downtown streets awaiting their hero would have seemed ludicrous. But with a couple of tweets, Oshiomhole ignited a city, summoned a gathering out of thin air; a reminder that, for the right person, the city can be activated at any moment.
The congregation was – as spontaneous large-scale eruptions of fandom go – exceedingly frenzied with cheers even from familiar faces of sympathetic PDP chieftains. The trek from the North to the South was great just as thick was the crowd that a pin thrown into it, would hardly touch the ground but not without a space for their hero; Oshiomhole made his way through the organized crowd as people posed for selfies with sea of fans as a backdrop.
For about six hours, police officers, whose Boss, a former Commissioner of police, had made inflammatory comments about the cult-like following of the Comrade in the face of a sitting Governor, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor – watched from a distance , more bewildered than tense. Even more shocking was the sudden emergence of State Security apparatchiks detailed for the man of the moment right from the Appeal Court; power shift.
But, Oshiomhole’s only battle that day was with sweat. However, one Obadiah was on hand to help supply a pack of handkerchief and kept exchanging a soaked one with another unused other, as the Governor kept waving his hands to the crowd in thanksgiving – there was no one arrest, either for disorderly conduct, according to police records.
The story of this vintage headliner cannot be summarized without the behavior of the weather which never decimated – clement. Benin, the city of the Omo N Oba N Edo was present on that day too.
Even when it was dark, tameable crowd would not let “Mr. Victor” go, just as he also would not excuse himself for a rest. The faithful stood firm, forming a civilian JTF around him – this time around, from KingSquare to Sapele Road inside the GRA to Gemide, where his campaign office was headquartered to his former residence on Gapiona.
However, around 2.45am, dozens of officers from the police department began to clear the arena for the formal swearing-in the same morning by which time, fans jumped down from their perches – atop parked cars and SUVs now with dented roofs – and began to disperse from around the Governor’s abode.
Some, though, still held out for any flicker of hope to be counted among the number, they kept vigil at the Gapiona residence till dawn. And such was the undying memories of the Oshiomhole’s historic day, when he was announced the duly elected Governor of Edo State.
The question is: Who amongst the aspirants will emerge Governor in this year’s election to beat this record of popularity and cult-like following? Only time will tell.