Shortly before noon on April 14 this year, incalculable joy erupted at the Justice Ahmed Badamasi-led Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Benin City.
The reason was that both petitioners – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu – and all three respondents – Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Godwin Obaseki and All Progressives Congress (APC) had all been informed of their fates.
Earlier on, Senators Odion Ugbesea, Yisah Braimoh and Chief Tom Ikimi had breezed out of the courtroom before 11:15am with less flourish than they entered. Being perceptive men of the House, it gives that they suspected defeat was close at hand, especially as they knew that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, immediate past Governor of the state and no stranger to victories at election tribunals, sat throughout the 2 hours and 15 minutes of the excellent judgment.
Suddenly, it was Governor Godwin Obaseki and his Wife, Betsy Obaseki, Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who lit up the ancient city from the lofty perch of a speaker-laden Hilux Truck, which headed westwards from Sapele Road.
The train soon gathered momentum as it headed towards the popular Ring Road, now known as Oba Ovonramwen Square, and made a detour northwards to Akpakpava Federal Road were some thousands of people clustered – in the street, on the sidewalks, balconies, sitting atop vehicles, and brandishing the broom vigorously. The winner, Governor Obaseki equally held a sturdy looking broom himself to appreciate the people for the support he currently enjoys.
An uninspiring number of the opposition spied him and, tails between their legs, peeled off, while staunch APC faithfuls surrounded his convoy, taking pictures and reaching for handshakes.
“It’s a roller coaster day”, thundered an enthusiast. “This is one of the truest and most resounding judgments so far, in the history of our judiciary, when it comes to election petitions and their unpredictability”.
The idea that it would go the peoples’ way with throngs of them congregating to celebrate their hero was not surprising. Like a viral tweet, Governor Obaseki ignited a city, and attracted a gathering out of thin air – a reminder that, for the right person, the city can be activated at any moment.
The congregation was, as spontaneous large-scale eruptions of fandom go, exceedingly frenzied with cheers even from familiar faces of sympathetic PDP chieftains. The crowd was so thick that a pin thrown into it would hardly touch the ground as Obaseki cascaded through the organized crowd as people posed for selfies with sea of fans as a backdrop.
While, Obaseki’s only battle was with sweat, his Aide De Camp was on hand to supply a pack of handkerchiefs and he kept substituting one soaked one for another unused one, as the Governor kept waving his sturdy broom at the crowd in thanksgiving. There was no disorderliness in this celebration, according to police records.
The weather was complacent, and it seemed, as the Oba of Benin said, that the spirit of the ancestors was in support of Governor Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki’s administration.