by Simon Ateba
Thursday, August 21st, is a bright day here in Osogbo, the capital of Nigeria’s south-western state of Osun. The masked men have gone. The checkpoints have disappeared. The sea of policemen and soldiers holding Ak-47 rifles or operatives of the State Security Services brandishing machine guns and driving at breakneck speed have all vanished. They have all left following the completion of a tension-soaked, closely watched governorship election on August 9.
The election itself is now history. Governor Rauf Aregbesola, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, won almost 400 thousand votes and 23 out 30 council areas, leaving Iyiola Omisore of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, far behind with only 7 local government areas.
Life appears to have returned to normal virtually everywhere I visited on my way to the capital.
At Freedom Park, a government renovated square in Osogbo, many people sat late into last night drinking beer, eating meat and watching Yoruba movies on a giant screen. Adults sat on plastic chairs and children were on bare floors.
The police boss in charge of that election had refused to disclose at a pre-election press conference how many cops were deployed here, but reports claimed they were more than 65,000.
Yesterday, I saw only four of them controlling traffic and looking mild, not as dangerous as those who ordered me and a Reuters photographer on August 8 to take one way or turn back because they had closed the road.
The empty streets have been filled up and commercial and social activities have picked up. At Spices, a famous fast-food restaurant here, the queue was as long as the curfew imposed on August 8. Hotels, booked weeks and months before August 9, are now empty again. The giant billboards are everything left as a reminder of that election.
With the politicians long gone with their money and their security agents, the state is again left to grapple with the same challenges. The roads linking Osogbo and the other local government areas remain in a chaotic state, many of them are riddled with potholes. The intercity roads will also need a serious and fast upgrade to make Osogbo look like a normal capital city.
Basic social amenities for those living in the suburbs are still lacking. Apart from electricity, which is fairly constant because of the location of Osun state in relation to how power is distributed in Nigeria, other amenities such as potable water, affordable and good health centres all need to be built rapidly.
Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy with its biggest population, but corruption and mismanagement have left much of its 170 million people stuck in squalor and hopelessness. Virtually none of the governors indicted for money laundering, mismanagement or whatever else has been convicted in Nigeria. The only one in jail now, was prosecuted and locked up in London.
Elections have come and gone in Osun State and ordinary Nigerians have returned to facing the same challenges of life.
A version of this article first appeared on Simon’s blog