By John Mayaki
Any human society where democratic ethos of freedom and liberty is allowed to flower always plays host to disagreements and dissents. That is what oils the engine of democracy.
One of the few governors in Nigeria who truly understands this fact is the Edo State number one citizen, Governor Godwin Obaseki. A man with unfeigned respect for human rights, he feels no qualms promoting and defending the virtues of democracy and the principle of core freedoms to speak liberally, to assemble, to worship, to dissent and to protest peacefully which it vouchsafes.
In other words, Obaseki is neither a struggling nor a fair-weather democrat. Happily, pensioners in Edo are not unaware of this – except they think there is virtue in denying the obvious.
Being a state where democracy and the freedoms it guarantees reign unchecked, Edo has its many cases of disagreements and dissentions. The latest of this is the din produced by a body of pensioners who took to the streets recently to express their deep-hearted displeasure with the non-payment of their entitlements. While no one would chide these respected retirees for demanding what is their legitimate rights, particularly if it’s considered that they had spent a great deal of their lives serving society as civil servants, what can’t be overlooked is the deliberate falsehood that these retired persons alleged.
I feel strongly dispirited when recently I chanced on a document by those pensioners accusing the Edo State Government of attempting to brand them as fake and pawns in the hands of opposition politicians. They also alleged that the state government planned to crack down on them and abridge their rights to protest and express their feelings.
This is never a good way to resolve a hot-potato issue like pensions and other entitlements. It’s grossly unfair to tar the chief executive officer of the state with the same unsightly brush that infamous dictators are associated with.
Besides, it amounts to abuse of the freedoms democracy assured for the pensioners to claim that the Obaseki administration plans to disperse them forcefully.
Surely, the pensioners are wrong to make such infantile accusations. They belittle themselves and not the government when they made those cheap charges. I’m not saying anything new in observing that Governor Obaseki values and respects the rights of people to protest and make known their unhappy feelings about any issues. He sees Edo people as free people, worthy of freedom and is determined not only to remain so but to help others gain their freedom as well. To that end, he can’t contradict himself and reverse the gains accruable from his enrichment of democracy.
What I fear about the incorrect assertions of the pensioners is that it’s the beginning of the walk to violent expressions of feelings. Once they come to see the state and its helmsman as their foes, they will feel no restraints combating it violently. The pensioners must watch it.
It’s doubtful that Governor Obaseki will depart from his long-time commitment to fairness. He’s come to government with a strong determination to make the state better and everyone happier. Like other Edo sons and daughters, I believe that the fortunes of pensioners under this administration will improve for the better.
I believe the governor knows too well that he doesn’t do pensioners any favour by letting them have their rightful dues. He’s far too decent and enlightened to embrace such ludicrous low. He appreciates and respects pensioners, more for the services they have rendered for the good of society.
It will, therefore, make a great deal of sense for the pensioners to allow good thinking to prevail in the resolution of their pension issue, a problem which they themselves understand isn’t created by the state government. They can protest and call attention to their plight. It’s their right to do so. But they must as senior and esteemed citizens refrain from authoring damaging allegations against the governor and his team. Democracy doesn’t guarantee unlimited freedoms or the right to smear other people’s image.