OPINION: Applauding Odubu’s Knack For Political Sportsmanship

Dr. Pius Egberanmwen Odubu

Isaac Asabor

If there is any virtue that has further deepened the high opinion I have for Dr. Pius Egberanmwen Odubu, it is unarguably the spirit of sportsmanship he displayed in less than 48 hours after the adoption of Pastor Osaze Ize-Iyamu as the consensus candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State ahead of the primary election scheduled to hold on June 22, 2020, and by extension the general election which comes up on September 19, 2020.

As conveyed by a congratulatory letter to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Odubu stated, “I wish to seize this opportunity to inform all members of the ODUBU CAMPAIGN ORGANISATION and our teeming supporters that the authentic APC aspirants in Edo State together with our party leaders have agreed on a consensus candidate for the Edo 2020 gubernatorial primary election. He is Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.

Without being misunderstood, the quote credited to Sue Wick that says “I think sportsmanship is knowing that it is a game that we are only as a good as our opponents, and whether you win or lose, to always give 100 percent”, has unarguably found expression in Odubu’s peaceful disposition.

When this writer and others resorted to posting panegyric articles that bothered on Odubu’s political strength in the bid to boost his electability in the oncoming elections, some readers might have misconstrued the views to be narcissistic. In this part of the world where the perception and interpretation of the game of politics by most politicians and their followers are often distorted, Odubu’s congratulatory message to Ize Iyamu should be seen to be commendable and worthy of emulation by other politicians.

Against the foregoing backdrop, Odubu has through his exemplary disposition vicariously conveyed the message that politics should not be seen as war by politicians whenever they lose out in any election. Not only that, he has through his uncommon action passed the message that campaigning ahead of primaries or general election is not the right time for exhibiting retrogressive McCarthyism and horse trading.

In view of the forthcoming APC Primary election in the State that is scheduled to hold June 22, 2020, it would be nice for aspirants and their followers to learn from Odubu and begin to see politics as a sport rather than as a war. They should through Odubu’s action realize that in politics, just as in sports, that there is always a winner and a loser. The loser in future election should always accepts defeat with equanimity.

The question now is, is it possible to achieve electoral peace during the forthcoming elections in the State? Yes! It is very possible but on conditions that lesson should be learnt from Odubu’s calm and peaceful disposition as explicated in this piece.

Still in the same connection, politicians in Edo State should learn from Odubu’s peaceful disposition in order to prevent the State from being dragged into the mud, and thereby preventing investors from coming to the State for investment.  Politicians of Edo extraction should begin to be patriotic like Odubu. They should be conscious of the fact that the State cannot afford to be perceived as volatile as such perception would leave her with bad image.

No one likes to lose—especially to a rival. The ashes of defeat leave a bitter taste. But I could not have been prouder of the players I heard interviewed after the game. They complimented their opponents, accepted responsibility for their own performance, and generally acted with civility and respect. They exhibited good sportsmanship in defeat. No matter what went wrong in the game, I thought, something is going right in the program.

Learning to lose well, particularly from Odubu, is one of the most important lessons taught by sports, which has long been justified in school as a laboratory for character education. American democracy succeeds, in no small part, owing to lessons learned on baseball, soccer, and football fields across the land. At their best, sports can inculcate crucial democratic values, including deference to the rule of law; the ideal of fair play; practical experience with rivalries constrained by time, place, and impartial arbitrators; and the peaceful acceptance of defeat.

Democracies have a huge stake in inculcating such values. Particularly important to civil society is how to be a good loser.  At no time is the civic importance of good sportsmanship more on display than now when moves are being made to unseat an incumbent governor. With the move, there is no denying the fact that the polity in Edo is at the moment “hot and boiling”. Right thinking Edolites expect politicians and political parties, like athletes and athletic teams, to play by the rules. Edolites expect losing candidates to abide by the outcome, however distasteful, rather than resort to violence. Just as Odubu did, Edolites even expect losers to congratulate the winners in the forthcoming election. We expect rivals to resume the contest only within carefully contained and structured arenas of engagement. These democratic values all find corollaries in principles of good sportsmanship. Most important of all, politicians should, just the way Odubu demonstrated, ensure that they accept the outcome of election result so as to de-emphasise the do-or-die syndrome which breeds acrimony and vengeance.

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