With just three days to the conduct of the Edo State governorship election, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Godwin Obaseki, answered questions about the chances of his party in the election, security arrangement ahead of the election, amongst other issues. BANJI ALUKO brings excerpts.
IT’S a few days to an election you are contesting in. How do feel now?
From the feelers we are getting from across the state, the indication is that we will win by 75 per cent. That is what the last exit poll I monitored last night indicated. Particularly in Edo South, things have improved quite significantly from the last poll that we received. Edo Central has been very interesting. The amount of defection from the PDP has essentially crumbled the opposition party in the area. It means that in their strongholds, we are beginning to see them becoming jittery. In Edo North, apart from few units in Akoko-Edo and one unit in Owan East, the area is essentially for us.
So, from what we can see today, barring any unforeseen circumstances, barring violence that will scare people from the poll and any attempt by the opposition party to cause disruptions in some highly populated voting units so that the results from those units will be inconclusive, we believe that we are very comfortable.
Are you worried that the election could be compromised?
We were worried but we are no longer worried because if you were in Benin yesterday, you saw the demonstration of force by the combined team of military and police essentially trying to re-assure people that the security situation in the state is intact. We also are very encouraged by the arrests that have been made across the state. You will recall that two nights ago, some disguised militants, who were lodged in some hotels, were arrested. I hope the investigation will lead to more arrests. I know that based on reports and petitions, there is high security alert in riverine areas, particularly along the River Niger. In places like Agenebode, they are planning to import militants from Idah across the water. That is being financed by one of the well-known PDP leaders from the area. Ilushi axis too is another area where they expect to arm militants. I think that area is now being well policed. We are confident of the measure being taken around the Ovia River as well. I am sure security agencies will be able to monitor and substantially reduce the number of the militants that will come in. Our concern is on election day because we understand that some people, who will disguise as journalists and agents with accreditation badges, are going to be moving around with arms. I think it is important that those who have been accredited, efforts should be made to ensure that they are disarmed.
How satisfied are you of the mobilisation within your party?
The level of mobilisation has been quite high. We have practically met every group: youths, community leaders, associations, development associations. In fact, there is no group in any local government area that we have not reached and touched. Students have come out, though many of the university students are on holidays. They have rallied with us; they’ve been very supportive. Farmers came in their thousands; artisans, tailors, salon operators have all endorsed us. The spate of endorsements across the state has been very humbling to say the least.
There is concern of internal sabotage within your party. Are you bothered about that?
It is part of the opposition’s propaganda strategy to try and cause dissension with the rank of the party. The party is very cohesive. You saw the statement that was made by the deputy governor and several other party leaders just to debunk this opposition’s strategy to create dissension and division within our party. We are much smarter and wiser than that; we know all the tricks in the books and this time around, they are not working.
Some of your members are believed to be working against you. Do you think so?
I hear this sort of generalisation. I have met with the leadership and executives of our party separately across the 18 local governments and they are not foolish people. Those who were touted to be working against us, they know they will not benefit. What will they gain from doing that? So, it is all propaganda. Do you know how many texts I get every day? The areas that need attention within our party, we know. The interesting thing is that even those areas, it is not because the individuals have any issue with the party; they are intra-party quarrels. The good thing about those situations is that each one of them is working for the same purpose just that they do not agree. It is like a quarrel within a family, but the family is still a family.
So, what is your message to INEC, security agencies and the Edo people?
I believe in the integrity of INEC as an institution. They have conducted elections and have been the bastion of our democracy over the last 17 years. You have to give kudos to them and like any umpire, they will get bashing from the people, who have lost. I believe they have largely lived up to their responsibilities. I know that they have done a lot of work and I am impressed with the arrangements that have been made. That however, is not to say that they have been superhuman since this is a human institution. There is still bound to be a few loose ends that still need to be tidied up. So far so good, you still have a lot of information flying around. There are stories and innuendos flying around and people trying to insinuate that there are corrupt practices within the institution. I just feel they know their responsibilities. So far, from what they have done, I am satisfied.
We have sent petitions to them about information we have about opposition members being accredited as observers. These are some of the issues we expect them to look into. Our allegation that opposition has access to some result sheets, we have asked INEC to investigate. I don’t believe that the INEC is as porous as being alleged. For the security, we are quite impressed and pleased. The intelligence services have been quite responsive as is evidenced by the arrests which have been recorded. We have no reason to doubt that the security will continue to be stepped up because there is enough intelligence as to what is being planned and what is going on. The interesting thing about the opposition party is that whatever they plan is usually leaked from their own camp. It is like as they are planning, they are coming to tell us what they are planning. Last week, they had a meeting and part of the strategy was to attack my convoy.
For Edo people, I have traversed the entire state and I have met with people over the last one year. I am aware of the successes we have attained but more importantly, the amount of work that still needs to be done. In all my campaigns and travels, what I see is the amount of work and the challenges ahead of us, but more importantly the opportunities. That has made me re-dedicate myself to this cause, that as a people even though we are facing severe challenges at this point in time, the opportunities ahead of us are enormous and mind boggling. There is hope for Edo and Nigeria. To realise this hope, we have to hug and hold democracy tight and ensure that we do not, no matter the provocation, do things or take steps that will threaten our democracy. So, despite the anti-democratic tendencies we see today paraded particularly by the opposition party, that should not deter us. We should not meet violence with violence; violence will only derail our democracy.
Let us be confident; let us be prayerful. Let us be hopeful that God in His infinite mercy has given us the resources and the opportunities to overcome our challenges. God never gives challenges that you cannot overcome. I am convinced that if we continue with the quality of leadership which we have been fortunate to have in the last eight years, in a matter of time, Edo will be the envy of the nation and our continent.