In this interview with JESUSEGUN ALAGBE, the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party in Osun State, Bola Ajao, reacts to the postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission
How did your party receive the news of the postponement of the elections until February 23?
Going by what our party at the national level has said, the PDP in Osun State is also disappointed in the Independent National Electoral Commission over the postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections. We are not happy because we have invested so much resources and efforts prior to the election day. To come out few hours to the D-Day and tell us the elections have been postponed is rather unfair and unfortunate. The news came rather too late. To say that we are deeply saddened is an understatement and it’s a pity that INEC has failed the people.
Like some people are alleging, do you also believe the postponement is a ploy by the All Progressives Congress to rig the elections?
Yes, of course. These days, you don’t need to snatch or destroy ballot boxes to rig elections. In other words, you don’t need to cause violence before rigging. A postponement of this nature gives an ample time for the All Progressives Congress to rig the elections. What is happening is a plot by the APC-led government to manipulate the process. It’s rather unfortunate that INEC is collaborating with the APC to rig the elections and make the votes of the people not to count. This is so unfair and it is gross incompetence on the part of INEC, but I hope that in spite of everything, the votes of the people will still count.
But the APC has also condemned INEC’s action…
Would anybody planning to rig ever support the postponement? Anyone can condemn INEC’s behaviour and feel saddened about it, but there is something called eye service. Anybody can pretend he is not happy with INEC, but does anyone know what goes on in the background? We don’t know and this is purely a case of ‘the more you look, the less you see’. None of us can be bamboozled. Nigerians are now awake and they can see the handwriting on the wall.
Do you think INEC was fully prepared for the elections in the first place?
INEC has really disappointed many Nigerians. They had kept assuring the people that the exercise would hold until the last minute due to lack of good preparations. We could say all they had been making was a shoddy arrangement. They had years and months and weeks to look at the logistics to know if the exercise would hold or not. But from what happened, we can safely say they were never fully prepared to hold the elections. Many Nigerians had travelled, including from abroad, to participate in the exercise, but look at what happened.
There is a high level of disappointment and regret; people have invested a lot of their time and financial resources to strengthen the democratic process, and with the elections postponement, it means they are going to spend much more. This ought not to be so. If the postponement had been announced even just two days before the day, people would have been angry, but the level of disappointment would have been reduced. We had people who travelled just a day before the elections. If INEC had been well-organised and announced the postponement earlier, such people would have stayed back until the new date.
According to some people, INEC’s action is a way to discourage the electorate from voting. Do you share similar sentiments?
Yes, this development can discourage many people from voting again. Some borrowed money to travel because they wanted to vote, how do they get another money to travel again? Some had bought return flight tickets, look at the inconvenience that they would have. Businesses closed, look at what it has cost the economy. It would only take the resilience to want to participate in this process again.
However, the people should please not allow the cost they have incurred to cause them not to travel again to vote. This might just be the sacrifice we need to make for our country at this crucial time.
We in the PDP encourage the people to stay focused on the goal and not on the present situation, which is painful. We all have the responsibility to make this country work again and so we should be resolute to change this current narrative. They want the people to be discouraged but they should not be destabilised. The people should remain strong and come out en masse on Saturday to vote. At the end of it all, we are the only people who can change the narrative of this country.
Do you think any amount of motivation can still change the minds of those already discouraged from voting as a result of the postponement?
There is no other thing to tell the people than to say they should not be discouraged. They should come together and let us change the present narrative of Nigeria being the poverty capital of the world; we should come out and collectively change the narrative of Nigeria having one of the highest number of out-of-school children. Nigerians should come out and vote and let us change the narrative of having a President who is not always aware of his environment, someone who doesn’t have a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of top national and international issues. We should change the narrative of having a President, who is not intellectually sound to make sound decisions that can get the economy working. It is time to change our current predicament and get our country on the path of greatness again. I believe it is our duty to still come out on Saturday to vote for a leader who can get Nigeria working again after years of suffering. It’s time to change the change.
The APC in Osun State has accused your party of causing trouble in several communities in the state, including in Ila and Ile-Ife. Is this true?
The allegations are false and malicious. Our candidate in Ila has gone through a series of mind torture from the APC. In the last six weeks, his supporters have been attacked; our party’s officials are being arrested. The lies of him importing thugs into the state is the only hope the APC wants to hold onto since they have lost all support in the constituency.
He is very popular with his people, so he doesn’t need any thugs. It is the APC candidate, who has no records of achievement in the constituency and he is afraid. How can they attribute any attack in Ife North to the PDP?
There has been kingship crisis in the local government and so there has been trouble in the community, so this is not about the PDP.
But the APC is insisting the attackers in the local government are PDP members…
Of what importance or relevance will an attack on a less recognised candidate be? The APC didn’t report the crisis in Atakumosa East Local Government Area, where the violence caught the attention of the Commissioner of Police twice within 48 hours. They are burning our members’ houses in Iwara and Igangan.
Why is the APC not talking about where they have been beating and maiming our members? The APC people are known to be liars and they enjoy it. They are still behaving like the opposition.