THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has finally fixed September 21 next year for the governorship election in Edo State. We pray and hope 2024 is not another dismal year for democracy in Nigeria. We sincerely wish that Edo State, the valley of dry bones, shall rise again.
Like Ezekiel, as recorded in the Holy Book of Ezekiel 37, 1-10, Comrade Prof. Sylvester Odion Akhaine, a Professor of Political Science and Comparative Politics – currently in the service of Lagos State University, would be prophesying and breathing life into Edo State dry bones – and they will come alive.
Prof. Akhaine sees a great many bones on the floor of the political valley of Edo State, bones that are consciously very dried and mutated. He will make breath life into them, and they will come to life. He will attach tendons to them and make flesh come upon them and cover them with skin; he will put breath in them, and they will come to life.
The question is, who is Comrade Prof. Sylvester Odion Akhaine? Is it just that he is a Professor like his late uncle and former Governor of the then Bendel State, Prof Ambrose Folorusho Alli, both of them from Emaudo Quarter in Ekpoma in Esan West Local Government Area of Edo State or is he simply buying into the waves of ‘Esan Agenda Movement’ that has saturated Edo political fermament like harmattan fire?
Comrade Akhaine studied in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. He earned his PhD in Politics at the Royal Holloway, University of London in 2004. He is currently a Professor of Comparative Politics in the Department of Political Science, Lagos State University and Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Centre for Constitutionalism and Demilitarization. He was former Editor of The Victims, a human rights newsletter of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), and subsequently its Secretary for Research, Publication, and Documentation.
He is currently the Editor of The Constitution, Journal of Constitutional Development (arguably the leading journal in Nigeria today). Also, he is a Contributing Editor to the UK-based Review of African Political Economy, as well as a Visiting Member of The Guardian Editorial Board. A 2005 Stanford University Fellow on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (now Draper Hills fellow), Comrade Akhaine has over 100 publications, including books, monographs, book chapters, and essays in learned journals such as African Affairs, Review of African Political Economy, Journal of Asia and African Studies, Canadian Journal of History and Political Studies Review.
His latest works are “Political Economy of Claude” Ake in S. Oloruntoba S and T. Falola, (Eds.), Palgrave Handbook of African Political Economy (2020); Populism in Africa and the Anti-corruption Trope in Nigeria’s Politics” in Michael Oswald (Ed.).The Palgrave Handbook of Populism (2022) and “Boko Haram Insurgency” in George Klay Keih Jr. & Kelechi A. Kalu (Eds.), Insurgency, Terrorism, and Counter terrorism in Africa (2023), Lexington Books.
Our governorship aspirant was one of the frontline leaders of the pro-democracy movement in Nigeria. He was at various times, the General Secretary of the Campaign for Democracy, Joint Secretary, and General Secretary of the United Action for Democracy in the thick of the anti-military struggle. Between 1995-1996, he was illegally incarcerated in solitary confinement by the military regime of General Sani Abacha in Birnin Kebbi Prison, Kebbi State.
On account of his ordeal, he was named Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International in 1995. In 2004, he was nominated for the John Humphreys Freedom Award, while in 2005, he was a recipient of the Golden Award from the Law Students Association for the Sustenance of Human Rights and Democracy in Nigeria. Also, in 2009, he was a receiver of the Tell Communications Democracy Award in appreciation of his outstanding contribution to the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria.
Comrade Sylvester Odion Akhaine’s governorship aspiration is not only being prosecuted in the name of genuine ethnic balancing or political equity; it is being festooned at the level of inter and intra-parties groupings and alliances, solely because of the content of his character as a solid social crusader and a bridge builder – with a head on his shoulders – poised at replicating the ‘golden era’ in the governorship of the state.
“Let me add with emphasis, should Edo people offer me the opportunity to govern the affairs of the state, it will be a continuation of that golden era laced with the civility of His Excellency, John Odigie-Oyegun and the grand vision of Osaigbovo Ogbemudia as military governor of Midwest. It will be a new dawn for Edo people, an era of giant strides.
“I believed in the revolutionary transformation of the Nigerian society. With the abundant resource endowment, we believed that another Nigeria was possible, and it is possible today, despite the rot in the system. With ideological orientation which is eternally pro-masses of our people, I hate to see people suffer, I hate injustice, I hate cheating, I was ready to die to save our people. I live daily in pain seeing the mass suffering of Nigerians, more painful as I know it is not natural but manmade”, Comrade Akhaine said in an interview recently.
With Comrade Akhaine’s coming, there certainly will be an gradual end to the tragic, nightmarish, appalling state of decadence in the state and untold hardship Edo citizens have been plunged into in the last seven years of Governor Godwin Obaseki’s unimaginable reign of terror, destruction of state’s fabrics and the state of paralysis in all sectors of the economy.
Edo collective victory in Comrade Akhaine’s project will douse the curious passivity among pro-democracy forces and the masses that democracy can be rescued from invidious godfathers and old-fashioned blunt repression emanating from the blighted political rulling class.
For Comrade Prof. Sylvester Odion Akhaine, the dry bones of comatose education, agricultural abandonment, collapsed of roads infrastructure, healthcare stagnation, environmental degradation, destruction of people’s homes and livelihoods, security architecture, shall rise again.