By Olise Onwusando
The 2023 electoral season has come and gone but the varied postures and inclinations of political gladiators that mounted the soapbox are still fresh in the minds of Nigerians. The conduct of most contestants reflected the foibles of the average Nigerian politician while a small number of contestants manifested a commendable disposition such as lack of desperation in the pursuit of their ambitions.
During and after the 2023 election season, Dr. Goodnews Agbi, the governorship candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party(NNPP) in Delta State, had shown certain distinctness in carriage and approach to politicking. As a gubernatorial gladiator, he carried out a peculiarly simple, self-effacing campaign that dwelt on issues enunciated in his D.E.A.L Agenda. He hardly indulged in the spread of vitriol or personality denigration as routinely employed by other contestants in the two dominant political parties.
As far as he’s concerned, politics is a vehicle for public service and should be played in a reasonable, honourable manner no matter the circumstances. It’s on this basis that the apparent conversion of political contests to a warfare of sorts by politicians is an anathema to his philosophy which is rooted in the medieval Dutch advocacy of live and let live.
For much of his adulthood, Agbi’s mindset had been nurtured in tolerance, a character trait which propelled his recent congratulatory visit to Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly and Governor-Elect in his office at Asaba. He spoke as a matter of fact: “We are here to congratulate you on the just concluded election. We are aware of the acceptability of your gubernatorial drive by Deltans. Of 25 local government areas, you won 21 and I keep wondering why some of our colleagues after the landslide victory, they still want to go through the rituals of tribunal and I think this is the right time to rally round you in order to move this state forward”.
The aforementioned concession is arguably strange but historic in the sense that no governorship contestant in the political history of Delta State had ever walked up to his rival and winner of the poll since the birth of the current democratic dispensation in the manner Agbi did. From the Fourth Republic’s transitional elections of 1999, 2007, 2015 and the recent 2023, there had been no volitional acceptance of defeat as exemplified by Agbi who seemed to have pioneered an inimitable futuristic pathway for elective office seekers to conduct themselves after elections had been won and lost.
Of course, the path taken by Agbi is in contrast with the course of action embarked upon by other contestants. The option chosen by the latter has a precedent in the tradition and political culture of Delta State. At all times, a guber election in Delta is a high stake game for obvious reasons; so, most contestants would out of pride seek to ventilate their loss through a judicial process rather than walk the humble path of accepting defeat which is largely seen as shameful and unmanly.
As at the last count, three of the governorship candidates, namely Senator Ovie Omo-Agege of the All Progressives Congress(APC), Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi of the Social Democratic Party(SDP) and Mr. Kennedy Pela of the Labour Party(LP) had served notice of contesting the guber election results in an Election Petition Tribunal already set up for that purpose.
Yet, the ennobling aspect of the Agbi solidarity with Oborevwori’s triumph is the respectability it confers on the personality of the conceding contestant arising from an awareness of his failure at the election and his willingness to learn from the variables that bolstered the emergence of the winner. The overall goal is to enrich his future ambition with the envisaged lessons that would be learned in due course.
Agreed that Agbi’s option may not appeal to a broad spectrum of career politicians, but there’s an imperative for its consideration and possible adoption given the envisaged benefits which the loser, the winner, and the larger geo-political entity would derive from the decision of politicians not to contest the outcome of an election that they justifiably lost.
*ONWUSANDO, a writer and public affairs commentator, is based in Asaba, Delta State.