Special Adviser on Media to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, Mr. Kassim Afegbua, spoke to Adbe Emenyonu, on the controversy that greeted the local government elections in the state. Excerpts:
What is your take on the local government elections in Edo State and the accusations that the governor skewed it in favour of his party?
Well, we expected the PDP accusation because they had a grand plan to undermine the entire process of the election, discredit it and orchestrate a pattern that suggests that the Comrade Governor is not democratic. But we have seen through the lies, strategies, the propaganda and manipulation of the good intention of the people. We don’t want to make them look relevant by glorifying them because they are bad opposition and they have shown to be so as a party. Even the individuals and chieftains who are part and parcel of the party are people who in their rights no longer have electoral values anymore.
You see having been confronted with the mantra of one man one vote and having made it possible for the votes to count, the PDP has since taken that back seat because they were not use to voting as part of conduct of election. So they are being confronted with bare facts that the peoples’ power is still very potent. The controversies which are being talked about are within the periphery of PDP mindset. How do I mean? They didn’t campaign for election and they expected to win. How do you expect to win an election when you did not campaign? I am happy they did not accuse us of not allowing people to vote.
How do you mean by grand plan by the opposition to discredit the election?
Let me give you a typical example. Two days to the election, some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) came to the Government House that they were observers, and that they wanted to do a press conference about the LG election and that they needed logistics to do so. I now asked them how possible it was to do a press conference on an issue that had not even taken place. I also told them to wait until the election was conducted before they could issue any statement as it would be premature to do so. So, they left.
Soon after the election, they came back and started pressurising us to fund the conference and we refused. It was a very bad experience because I have never seen a situation where people who say they are election observers will turn around to demand funds to call a press briefing because as an independent monitor, your parent body should be able to fund you and not a government that is an interested party in the election. When it became obvious that we were not cooperating, they fell into the hands of the opposition and became a willing toll and began to grant press conferences and interviews in Abuja.
In any case, they did not issue any press statement here in Edo but in Abuja because as soon as the PDP made a statement as reported in the media in Abuja, the same NGOs also issued theirs. They even paid newspaper advertorials. So if the same people that came asking us for funds to call a conference which we refused will now be the ones paying for advertorials, it means some other persons sponsored them which is not far from the opposition.
But when you start mounting pressures on political parties for logistics to do your job, certainly you will be manipulated. So the PDP found those classes of people as convenient tools they could use to shout to the rooftop in order to discredit the government. But Edo State people are wiser. They have seen through the lines, through the lies of the PDP
The issue of late arrival of voting materials which even the EDSIEC chairman admitted was a major complaint in the exercise. Could it not have been wise to cancel the entire process since it is what opposition is latching on to?
No because the PDP had a mindset from day one. Initially, they had the mind of boycotting the election. You remember the statement credited to Ikhimekpen boycotting the election? After a thought, they said they were going to participate because ab iniitio they did not have candidates to field. But when they now managed to have some skeletal candidates from hither and thither, their preparations were not only shoddy, their campaigns were non-existent.
So, on the basis of that, they would naturally want to cash-in on the logistical problems as experienced in the council election as a lacuna to insinuate in a very loud voice that the election should be cancelled. The logistical problem was a human error. Even at that, government insulated itself from the duties and day-to-day activities of EDSIEC.
Oshiomhole even told party leaders not to rig election for him; that votes must count and that people must be seen to vote in the election. Therefore, that people must show course to defend their votes, and EDSIEC must be given the free hand to run its affairs within the labyrinths of the law so that it would not look as if we are towing the same line of the PDP where voting was a curse.
How do you react to reports that Governor Oshiomhole begged the PDP for membership but was denied?
Everyone knows this can’t be true. How can success be begging failure? Is like a man who is doing well in a particular political party going about asking to be enrolled in a party many have rejected. God forbid! I don’t think it is logical and sensible. Even right from day one when the governor was leaving labour and wanted to run election, it was the other way round because it was the PDP that wanted him to run on their platform. But he told them he wanted something new because it appeared the people in the state were fed up with the party’s misrule.
So he had to go round and first enlisted in Labour Party (LP) which he formed. Thereafter, members of the AC as it were then had to drag him and he contested on a joint LP/AC ticket and the story is where we are today.
We therefore find it ridiculous that PDP could brandish such a lie, manufacture, conjecture all manner of insinuations just to discredit the Comrade-Governor because they now see him as a threat, particularly when people are now beckoning on him to try his hands in national politics. Otherwise, I cannot rationalise the scenario where a man who won over 90 percent in all the 18 local government areas of Edo State will now be the one begging to be absorbed in another party that has failed woefully. It is all contradictory.