Dr Olusegun Abraham is one of the leading aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who lost in the primary of the party. He speaks with HAKEEM GBADAMOSI on steps taken to reclaim his mandate; the consequences of the alleged fraud on the party and his stand about the party’s candidate. Excerpts:
YOU have been crying blue murder over the governorship primary of your party; how do you intend to retrieve your mandate?
The mandate is the mandate of the good people of Ondo State. It was given to me by the delegates; so it is the mandate of these people that I want to reclaim. I have said it many times that we have some steps that we need to explore to restore this mandate and we have only explored one step and we are disappointed with the outcome, so we are moving towards the two other steps in order to claim our mandate. Fortunately, the issue is now a public matter and the whole world has seen that a crime was committed by some people in the APC at the national level. It is a criminal offence to inject names of non-delegates and non-party members into our voting list in Ondo State. We want to know who injected those names, and on whose authority was the name injected? Are they superior to the congress of the party and the panel? We want to know what the national chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun, did if his leadership was not the one who put the names illegally? Has he informed the EFCC to investigate the matter, because this is a very great criminal offence?
If [President Muhammadu] Buhari’s government truly represents change and is fighting corruption, this electoral fraud must be properly investigated and the culprit must be punished. If not, I don›t think this government has any right or moral justification to arrest anyone for fraud. This is one of the reasons I said I am not going to leave the party, we will be here in order to salvage the party. I support the Buhari government in fighting corruption and I’m sure this menace will be brought down to a minimal level, if not eradicated from our land. Therefore, if there are elements, either in government or in the party, that are trying to encourage corruption, this should be part of the things we must fight and correct.
So in specific terms, you are asking EFCC to investigate this particular matter?
Yes. I thought the perpetrators of the fraud should have been arrested by now. I thought Oyegun and his group, if they knew nothing about the padded delegates’ list in Ondo State, should fish out those behind the illegal padding. They should have been arrested by now. It is absurd, disappointing and an embarrassment to Buhari’s government and to a party that is known for fighting corruption. That we found out this fraud within the same party, is a disgrace.
But do you see the party reversing its decision after submitting the name of Chief Rotimi Akeredolu as the party’s choice for the election?
As I said earlier, those who did not support the candidature of Akeredolu are more than those who supported him. It is high time we fought this corruption. That somebody single-handedly dropped his name at INEC against the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) is another illegality. I am surprised to still find Oyegun at the helms of affairs of the APC, because in a much civilised society, this man ought to have resigned. He has nothing to do again. The same fraud that was perpetrated in Ondo was perfected by the national body. A candidate that was not popular was picked above favourite aspirants in the election. I was sure of over 800 delegates before the election but they went ahead by disenfranchising my delegates from the exercise; by removing their names and replacing them with non-delegates. This is even a greater offence than people stealing billions of naira—stealing somebody’s mandate through fraudulent means and giving their votes to an unqualified aspirant. These are the issues we need to correct and this is one of the reasons we are in this mess today in Nigeria, because the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) believed in rigging from the primary to even the general election and look at the situation we find ourselves today. But we want to put a stop to this during Buhari’s administration, because Mr. president is known to be a honest man, a man of integrity and someone determined to flush out corruption from this country and that’s why we are in this party to correct these anomalies.
You said you have three options that you’re going to explore in getting back this mandate and that you have only explored one of the three options, what are the two other options?
The two options are still within the party machinery. I don’t want to preempt the results of these options but when we get to that stage, the whole world will understand and know.
But the NWC members insisted there was no going back on Akeredolu, do you think there is still any need for the options?
The NWC members are not the people of Ondo State. Though they are the organs of the party, the organs of the party must listen to what the people are saying, because this is not a military regime but a democratic government and they must learn how to be democratic.
Talking about fake delegates, how are you sure many of the alleged fake delegates did not vote for you during the primary?
He who pays the piper dictates the tune. Those who put them there have an arrangement with them, because they have predetermined the results. There’s no need to mince words, they all voted for Akeredolu. They’ve been discovered and as a patriotic democrat, I am so confident that anytime there’s a rerun, I will win again and again. That’s one of the reasons they are afraid to go back to the field. If these perpetrators had been arrested by the EFCC, we would have known the truth and we wouldn’t be talking of this now.
Do you think you can get redress in court?
We have not reached the option of court because we know there are mechanisms within the party, which we can explore to correct these anomalies and reclaim our mandate.
Do you suspect the Presidency in this alleged fraud of delegates padding?
We can’t rule it out. But what I know is that the president will not have a hand in that fraud. I believe they cannot perpetrate this fraud without the connivance of the people at the party secretariat. That’s why they took our delegates’ list and injected the list with their own delegates. I was surprised that the legal adviser did not even tell them the implication of what they have done; that they have no right to do that or tamper with the authentic delegates’ list
Do you see any nexus in the statement credited to Akeredolu before the election where he reportedly said the result of the election would shock Tinubu, and the alteration of the delegate list?
The result of the election confirmed that statement. God has a way of exposing some things ahead of time. Has he not shocked the whole world with the result? Not only Tinubu but also the whole world was and the shock was multidimensional. It shows people could be so daring to the extent of fraudulently inputting names illegally into the delegates’ list. He also shocked the whole world by calling some members of the opposition to come and vote for him during the primary, calling people on the streets who were not members of the party; paying them to vote for him. We should be talking about this act in the 15th century and not the 21st century. It is also shocking that even the apex body of the party kept quiet about the foreign names injected into the list. It’s a big embarrassment to the party. This might have an adverse effect on the foreign investors who are thinking of operating in Nigeria, because they do not want an atmosphere where corruption thrives. And investors have been showing interest in investing in Nigeria, because they’ve seen the seriousness of President Buhari in fighting corruption.
In the face of this crisis, what do you think should be the position of the NWC of the party? Would you advise them to resign or what?
Well, that should be determined by the leaders of the party. But as for me and my people, my mandate should be returned to me. Again, those who perpetrated that criminal fraud by bringing in fake delegates’ list must be prosecuted so that it will serve as a deterrent to others and there won’t be a repeat of such act in other states. But once they allow the perpetrators to go scot-free, then we are in problem in this country, because an enemy of the state can be pushed forward as a candidate and once they succeed, the general election will not count again and INEC will be irrelevant in elections in the country, because they will use the same power to prevail on INEC and make it redundant. This was what the NPN (National Party of Nigeria) did in 1983 and that was the beginning of the end for the NPN then; President Buhari should not allow this fraud and irregularities to go on in APC. He should appeal to him (Oyegun) to look into this and reverse the decision by giving me my mandate.
If the leadership prevails on you and asks for your support, will you abide by this?
I will only ask them to prevail on the people of the state, because what took place was a fraud and a slap on the faces of the people of the state. If they want to prevail on the people by producing fraudulent results and a fraudulent candidate that emerged through fraud but the people have said it repeatedly that they would not support fraud and fraudulent person to rule them. So, I stand by the peoplr and I stand with them and so calling me or prevailing on me will be immaterial. The answer to their request is what have they done to those who perpetrated the initial fraud? And we can’t continue this way in this country. We have a lot of young undergraduates and youths who have no job, women who are jobless, and elderly people who cannot afford to eat three-square meals because of the corruption in our country. We must think and find a way of putting an end to this corruption and fraudulent act. Anyway, I want the fraud in the Ondo APC primary to be investigated.
Do you see APC winning the election in the state?
With Akeredolu as APC candidate, it’s automatic loss. There’s no need wasting time on somebody that is not loved by the people, the party people dislike him, the electorate do not like him. He is not sellable to the electorate, because the moment his name was mentioned as the party’s candidate for Ondo election, the party went comatose. Members of the party in the state have started dumping the party for PDP; that’s an indication that the candidate picked by the party is not popular and he is not acceptable to the majority of the APC members in the state. Some people have joined the Action Alliance too; we don’t need crystal ball to know that the party is finished in the state. If we are lucky in this coming governorship election in the state, we will be number five unless the party reverses its decision.