Ex-Governor Peter Obi
Greece is acknowledged as the homeland of Democracy. Even as the people practised it, some rascals came in occasionally to interrupt it. A case was the dictatorship of Persistratus, who, on becoming popular, asked for a little guard to protect him. With the guard he took over government. As his dictatorship became harsher, like our several military regimes, the cry for freedom grew louder.
To enjoy uninterrupted freedom, which a democracy has the capacity to ensure, the Greek put several measures in place. A certain man called Cleisthenes, having gained democratic powers, went on to establish a popular Assembly with judicial powers. The powers of the Assembly were enlarged by the institution of Ostracism as a bulwark against the young democracy. How did it work?
At any time, by a majority of votes written secretly upon potsherds (ostraka), the Assembly, in a quorum of six thousand members, might send into exile for ten years one who, by its reckoning, had grown so strong or famous as to become a danger to the State. In this way ambitious leaders and those who disobeyed the laws of the land were constrained to conduct themselves with circumspection and moderation. Thus, men suspected of conspiracy could be disposed of without the law’s delay. The procedure required that the Assembly should be asked: “Is there any man among you whom you think vitally dangerous to the State? If so, whom?” The Assembly might then vote to ostracise the person. Such exile involved no confiscation of property and no disgrace; it was merely democracy’s way of cutting off the “tallest ears of the corn in the field”.
In spite of its function, ostracism was abused as demonstrated by one of its victims – Aristides. Aristides was a good man who supported democratic ideals and aligned himself with progressive forces for the good of Athens. He was unhappy to see his fellow Athenians suffer and thus was immersed in philanthropy. Consequently, Aristides was loved by many and became the “talk of the town”. However, he became so popular that Athenians voted for his ostracism; and Athenian beneficiaries of his philanthropy were the losers.
Ostracism has many variants, such as banishment, exile, recall, impeachment, etc. These are measures used to check the excesses of people, including elected officials. In the olden days, it was customary to banish people from their towns when they defiled the land. People go on, or are sent to, exile when they commit heinous crimes or when they deliberately run away from oppressive governments. Constituencies can actually recall those representing them in the House if they fall short of what is required of them. The House can check the excesses of the Executive through impeachment.
Like Aristides, anti-democratic forces are bent on ostracizing Peter Obi not on the basis of any of the accepted criteria, but because they feel injured about his popularity and what he stands for. He scares them by what seem to them his obstinate incorruptibility and uncanny commitment to principles. His life is an unforgivable indictment of theirs; and they wish he could “sin” a little, if only out of decent respect for the political habits of mankind.
In the just-concluded Anambra State governorship election, Peter Obi campaigned for the candidate of his choice. I do not want to go into the concourse of factors that made his candidate lose, but the reports of all the observers revealed that many voters were paid N10,000 each in some polling stations to vote for particular candidates. I am certain several Nigerians watched the gubernatorial debates, after which the election was narrowed down to Mr. Oseloka Obaze and Chief Osita Chidoka.
Surprisingly, most post-election analysts all focused on Obi’s candidate losing. It is a pity they are not willing to go behind the scenes and see what really happened. Obi believed the incumbent did not do well and supported another candidate in his party. That he lost due to extraneous factors should not have anything to do with him as a person. These reflexes reminds one of the fate President John Kennedy suffered after the Bay of Pigs invasion, where he was forced to remember the ancient saying that victory has many fathers and defeat an orphan.
Has it not occurred to these analysts that those issuing statements against Peter Obi in Anambra today are made up of collection of rejected politicians that would rather mortgage their souls to the devil in pursuit of lucre? The fact that this rabble of particular characters is attacking one man is a plus for him. It shows that Obi is diametrically opposed to them in politics, manners and morals.
Why are analysts not blaming the loss on PDP members that collected billions of Naira and worked against themselves? Did they expect Obi to perform magic?
When certain things happen, it reminds us of the dearth of men in Anambra State. I have personally seen enough of some religious leaders and those we call the elite in the state that I am convinced that we do not need them at all if this state must sustain the gains of the past.
•Obienyem wrote from Lagos.