On Monday, 6th of March 2017, Acting President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo was in Benin City, the capital of Edo State. The visit was part of his several others to states in the Niger-Delta to interact with leaders of the oil rich communities on how to resolve the persistent crisis in the region.
The visit was also in continuation of his engagement and consultation with the Niger Delta having already visited Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, Imo, and Akwa Ibom States.
In Benin, however, the spirit of democracy held sway. Professor Osinbajo was at a meeting at New Era College in Benin where he was holding a stakeholders meeting to engage the oil producing communities when the town hall meeting was briefly interrupted – some of the people that constitute the Ijaw Ethnic group stormed the venue, feeling the need to express certain opinions to the Acting President, and holding to the belief that he would stay true to the spirit of democracy and oblige them with a listening ear.
Democracy as a concept and system of governance thrives on diversity of ideas, schools of thought and the freedom to express such in a manner that will not discomfort others. The tolerance that should arise from the freedom to express opinions is key to the sustenance of peace and order in any democratic setting.
Professor Osinbajo displayed a readiness to remain steadfast in democracy that should be emulated by other leaders in Africa and the wider world in general.
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State played an important role in ensuring that the town hall meeting continued peacefully after Ijaw youths had stormed the venue to vent their opinions to the Acting President.
In a bid to quell the growing disorder, Governor Obsaseki stood up and hailed the Ijaw people in their language, reminding them that he is related to them by virtue of his marriage to his current wife, Mrs Betsy Obaseki, who is of Ijaw heritage.
This subsequently calmed the Ijaw people who listened and met minds with the Acting President while the rest of the meeting went on productively on how to develop the oil-producing communities in the region of the country.
Prof. Osinbajo did not disappoint them. Instead of getting upset and thinking more highly of himself, as imperialism would have prompted, to wit that the people should not have the effrontery to barge in on the meeting in such a manner, he listened attentively to them and promised to attend to their grievances.
The Ijaw people themselves calmed down and listened reciprocally to him in a true display of the tolerance of democratic governance. All was well that ended well, and Nigeria perhaps climbed to a higher rung on the ladder of democracy. If this acclivity is maintained, then that famed light at the end of the tunnel will no longer remain just an intangible ideal or a myth for too long; it will become a reality.