Wilfred Okiche: Why Oshiomhole’s apology matters



….governor Oshiomhole’s apology, overplayed and self serving as it is is just what we need to remind ourselves that we are after all in a government practiced by the people, for the people and of the people.

It was the video seen around the world.

A comrade-governor on an environmental inspection tour- that he really shouldn’t be bothered with if his state were better run- and his ragtag team of overzealous henchmen running roughshod over a portion of the populace they were elected to serve and protect. The victims this time? Those pesky roadside hawkers; scourge of any mega-city loving governor and bane of town planners’ existence worldwide.

Puffed full of his own righteous indignation, the former labour leader and second term governor of Edo state Adams Oshiomhole looked on in approval as his men confisticated the wares of ordinary folk who happened to be breaking the law while trying to eke out a living. The imperial governor then screamed tragically at one widow who dared approach him to grovel for her fate, telling her to go and die.

It was as chilling as it reads. The backlash followed swiftly.

It would be relevant to mention at this point that in saner climes, no matter his previous antecedents or political leaning, governor Oshiomhole would have handed in his resignation the moment the video went viral. But as the cliché goes, this is Nigeria and we do not enjoy such little luxuries.

The next best thing would be the offending official’s heartfelt apology but even that isn’t guaranteed in these climes. Battered and traumatized by decades of military misrule plus an 8-year transitioning period under Olusegun Obasanjo, himself a retired general , basic tenets of democracy remain strange to us. This is after all a country where the sitting president chose not declare his assets, without giving a damn on national television and where a serving minister looks set to get away with approving the purchase of 2 bullet proof vehicles costing 255million Naira.

No consequences, no remorse, not even an apology.

Which is why governor Oshiomhole’s apology, overplayed and self serving as it is is just what we need to remind ourselves that we are after all in a government practiced by the people, for the people and of the people.

The first apology, delivered to an association of well heeled women who really could not be bothered seemed insincere but the governor’s well publicized tea party with the abused widow, Joy Ifije went a long way in restoring the dignity that was stripped from her by her governor. It also restored a bit of our faith that our democracy can work too. A member of the ruling class attempts an unpopular action, the people, amplified by social media register their dissatisfaction, such leader back pedals, apologises and empowers the widow, recipient of his righteous fury. It is the way these things should work. Any other official would now think twice before going on a tour of human right infarctions.

Yes empowering one widow out of the many in Edo state does not begin to scratch the surface and maybe her appointment as special assistant is a bit comedic and soaked in saccharine but the little triumphs like this deserve to be celebrated. And encouraged. And amplified.

Governor Oshiomhole may just have renegotiated himself back into the good graces of Nigerians but like the Fashola apology for deporting some Igbo have-nots from his dream Lagos state, it goes a long way to transfer some balance of power where it really belongs, to the people. It should yield us a feeling of smugness, that we are indeed capable of influencing our leaders. People who really should be answerable to us from the get go. This balance of power, minute and fleeting as it appears should be treasured and applied consistently- swelling with our collective heckling and outrage. It may not be enough to shame the next public official into resigning their appointment or mandate, but it fosters some sense of accountability, rewards efficiency and shoots down unpopular policies.

Baby steps.



Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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