OYEGUN:Election Already Won And Lost
Few days to the general elections, how prepared is your party?
YOU know very well as I do that we are more than ready. We have been ready since the actual date of the election. This is a Nigerian project that deserves all the seriousness it requires.
But the postponement seems to have taken a toll on your party. How stressful has the postponement been to the party?
The postponement has not stressed our capacity. It has not affected our finances because we where not throwing money around. If anything, the postponement has only bought us a little bit more time to deepen our messages, have a second look at our state of readiness and make sure everything is in order. It gave us more time to hold more Town Hall meetings, as you can see all over the place. It has given us more opportunity to interact with critical sectors of the economy, which we have been doing. Interestingly, it has also proved to expose the high caliber mischief of our rivals; especially to doubters.
In the last couple of days President Goodluck Jonathan has been transversing the length and breadth of one of your strongholds, the Southwest geo-political zone, meeting with traditional rules, elders and militant groups. Is your party not bothered that you could lose out in the battle for the zone?
We are not bothered in the least. We know that the President went to the Southwest because he feels threatened and desperate to acquire, fairly or otherwise, any extra votes that he can get in the hope of winning the election. But then, people have already made up their minds. People have already voted. If they were going to vote, they would have voted since February 14. It is their desperation that is making them jump, and down, and throwing money at everybody. Dumping money does not win elections. What wins election is the future that you are mapping out for them. The PDP can go to anywhere and dump money, hoping to buy the conscience of the people.
But the people can see that you have been a disaster in the 16 years. There is nobody that wants the continuation of that disastrous past. And you have nothing to show them; to convince them, that the future would not be like the past. People are not gamblers with their lives. They are gamblers with their happiness. They are not gamblers with their future. As such, they have decided to try something new. They have decided to try a party that has evidence of performance in all the states its members are at the helm of affairs.
So, in dumping the money, I’m sure people would be lining up wherever they are sharing the money; it is their right. We have told them, if they give you money, take it. But at the end of the day, do what is right. They cannot alter the decision people have already made. The PDP think they can bribe their ways all the time. They think Nigerians are so cheap and can be bought; regardless of their performance. Well, we symapthise with them in their desperation. But they have left it too late. And the people are not gullible. Nigerians are lot more enlightened than these people want to give them credit for. A few people may praise you, but in the recess of their mind they know what is right. They know when they are being insulted by the PDP Father Christmas.
There are still loose talks about further postponement of the election. Is there any basis for this anxiety?
We have suspicions. We have fears. And this is because the ruling party’s desperation to cling on to power at all cost knows no bound. Their body language is very disturbing. But I’m sure, in the back of their minds, they have lost this one. They know that anytime the election is held, they are losing. I suspect what they are merely doing now is to reduce the possible devastating impact of the loss.
They know they have lost. You will notice they are the one now acting like the opposition party; even against themselves. For reasons best known to them, they are so frightened. Imagine the wife of the President saying that if the PDP fails they would all go to jail. I f people don’t vote for her husband they are all going to prison. That she does not want to go to prison. Who can say a thing like that? Unless, if you had done something very, very wrong that you think other people would not find easy to forgive. By all practical purposes, they have accepted defeat. Her confession is one that they know they are going to lose the election.
But then, they should be particular about losing gracefully and quietly bow out. And not start toying with ideas of trying to postpone election again. We are just some six days to the election and I don’t know who would be stupid enough to want to advance any argument to want to postpone election. Whoever wants to tamper with the election timetable again, must be somebody who has a suicidal inclination. I don’t see how that one can now happen; under whatever pretence.
Would the idea of an interim government resonate with you?
How can it resonate with me. Let whoever wants to put that in place bring the constitution and show us where such arrangement is captured. Let us see in the constitution where that is provided for. All these are just wishful thinking that cannot materialise. If you lose, you lose and you don’t have to bring the nation into turmoil.
Is there any truth in the claim that some of you leaders are being induced to embrace the option of interim national government?
In their desperation –– I will continue to use that word –– they have reached even Local Government chairmen of our party. They have reached our candidates, at various levels of governance –– governors, legislators and so on. They have reached top leaders of the party. All these, as you may well be aware of, are in the public domain. But they have not succeeded in one single case, of getting anybody to their side. So, the issue does not arise. In any case, it is not provided in our constitution. We are not in any crisis, unless the PDP promotes and engineers one. The issues do not arise at all. It is not on the table at all.
Assuming there is indeed evidence of desperation on the part of the ruling party, is there any serious basis to be wary of the personality of your presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari; don’t you think that political rivals have genuine reasons, bordering on vindictiveness, to be afraid?
They are afraid because they have skeletons peeping out of their cupboards; you don’t even have to open the cupboards to see the skeletons. But then, this man has assured them repeatedly, and he happens to be a man whose word is his bond, that the future of this nation is the challenge he has and not the past. Past is past and that is the end of the past. But people must be ready to work for the new morality. They are just terrified because they have done so many terrible things, that they think no normal human being can forgive. That no nation can endure. But that is a cross they have to carry. Our candidate has spoken and he is a man not given to double-talk.
They are afraid because they have skeletons peeping out of their cupboards; you don’t even have to open the cupboards to see the skeletons. But then, this man has assured them repeatedly, and he happens to be a man whose word is his bond, that the future of this nation is the challenge he has and not the past. Past is past and that is the end of the past. But people must be ready to work for the new morality. They are just terrified because they have done so many terrible things, that they think no normal human being can forgive. That no nation can endure. But that is a cross they have to carry
Some Nigerians have called for the removal of the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Professor Attairu Jega. What is the standpoint of your party?
Every elementary school boy knows that it is cheating. A few days to an election and you want to take away the captain. of the process, that is not something any normal mind should contemplate. That is my answer that to that kind of silly idea. So long as Jega is conducting himself and the electoral process according to the laws of the land and the constitution, he will receive our support. So long as he’s doing things according to law and constitution.
All these are evidences of mortal fear of wrongdoers, people who have become bloodsuckers to this nation that are creating the rumours of Jega being removed. It is so close to the election, why will any body be talking about removing Jega, unless that person has a sinister plan, which is not in the interest of the nation.
With what you have seen during this electioneering campaign and with your perception even before you became the national chairman, will you say that what you have seen met with your expectations or you are disappointed with the state of the polity?
This is certainly one of the very, very worse. Of course, it is the most keenly contested and kind of a landmark election, the like of which has really never happened before. It is a critical election in terms of the fact that it will either permanently ground democracy in this nation or destroy democracy.
It is the first election that I know of where the probability of the government being defeated is very high. Those have shaped the electioneering; and the government in its mortal fear has degenerated to the mud in terms of crudity of their campaign. But we have refused to join them in the mud; we have maintained the high role. We have every confidence that the people of this nation are on our side, every confidence that the people of the nation are seriously committed to change.
So, we do not need to be as crude like they have been. We are maintaining the high ground. That is how it has been. If I tell I have not been disappointed at the level to which their campaign have degenerated; in fact, there seems to be two PDPs as far as the campaign is concerned. There is regular PDP and there is the PDP led by people like Fani-Kayode, the governor of Ekiti State, Fayose, people like Dr. Okupe and the rest of the group that have taken over the campaign on behalf of the PDP.
They are a party in confusion; a party in contest against itself; a party against institutions like INEC. A party that is clearly confused. Who knows, maybe some of us will find it possible to forgive.
In all these, has there been any attempt at reaching out to you, to compromise your position as the national chairman of the opposition; has there been a veiled or open attempt?
The answer is a capital no. They know me; they know my record. They know I am one of the very few Nigerians that do not have a prize tag; they know that.
Against the possibility of your party’s victory at the polls, will the South-south burn as being threatened by some people from that zone?
Why will it burn? Oh, because of the threat by those so-called ex-militants. Of course not. We don’t hope so. But from day one, we will be ready to meet up with any contingency. But I sincerely don’t expect so. There will be so much celebration nationwide that I will be sorry for anybody who insists on PDP.
Even in the South-south, there will be celebration?
Wherever. Nationwide. Of course, the Southsouth is ready for us. You know we are strong in Edo State; you know we are strong in Delta; you know we are strong in Akwa-Ibom and so on and so forth. So you know the situation on the ground.