• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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PEPT judgement may have killed the zeal of many Nigerians on future elections – Owokoniran

PEPT judgement may have killed the zeal of many Nigerians on future elections – Owokoniran

Rahman Owokoniran, acting national vice chairman South-West of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), former commissioner of Works in Lagos State and member of the state House of Assembly. In this exclusive interview with Iniobong Iwok, he spoke on the state of the nation, recent Court of Appeal Judgement affirming President Bola Tinubu’s victory in the February presidential poll and the state of PDP among others issues. Excerpts:

What is your take on the Court of Appeal judgement affirming the victory of President Bola Tinubu’s in the presidential poll?

The Court of Appeal delivered judgement and not justice, the judgement delivered and the manner it was delivered did not deal with the sustenance of the matter, rather they chose to create a path for themselves to deliver the judgment that was kind only to the ruling party.

What Nigerians were expecting was for justice to be delivered, but the Court ruling, not mindful that it took a whole lot for the people to come out and vote, because they had lost confidence in the conduct of INEC.

But this time around even with the support of the international community, there was support that our democracy would survive this time around. Our democracy has been in a lackadaisical manner in recent times.

Let’s put it in the words of our President when he was contesting “Snatch it, grasp it and run away with it.”

That is not how to legitimise your victory, that is not how to sustain democracy. What the tribunal did was to lend weight to that kind of thought from the ruling party.

They even went as far as rejecting the Electoral Act, which was intended to guard and legitimise the process. The Electoral Act was set aside and they use the excuse of the constitution to please themselves and then make decisions that favours the ruling party.

That was not supposed to be; they were in the position to deliver justice, they should have taken all the evidence available to make sure that justice was dispensed, but they did not do that.

Read also: PDP rejects Presidential Election Petition Court Judgment

The ruling also gives INEC the liberty in prescribing mode of results transmission. Did that come as a surprise to you?

Of course, but that is not true. The chairman of INEC was all over the place, assuring Nigerians that election results that did not come through BVAS would not be acceptable.

Purchases of electronic equipments in order to get the trust of Nigerians that this election would be credible and the IReV was to make sure that this election results is transmitted in real time for Nigerians to see, but the court is now saying that the same INEC chairman that failed in all his promises to Nigerians, should be trusted by Nigerians to conduct election how he likes.

When you follow the whole process of results, Day one, there were no results on the IReV, by the time he was collating results on the third day, and he hardly had 30 per cent of the votes on IReV, to the people of Nigerians. He came on TV to tell Nigerians to say; people should trust him to deliver the results.

Firstly, for the court to say the same people who failed on the assignment given to them, whatever they do should be trusted by Nigerians, shows that the Court was not speaking for the people.

Gubernatorial elections in Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa States are a few weeks away, does it bother you that this ruling may create uncertainty in the electoral process?

They have not only thrown us back, they have thrown us into a ditch, unless justice is done, they have lost confidence in democracy in this part of the world.

People were not even expecting much from this tribunal in the first place, people were saying that government would do everything to undermine the process and have their way.

That was the feeling of ordinary Nigerians before the judgment, for this to have happened shows that they are not there for the people. We saw the apathy from the electorate towards the general election, with what is happening now; we may not have 15 percent next time. If we see such a number we would be lucky, because there are a lot of first time voters that came out to vote, and we would be lucky to continue to allocate the results as desired.

What is the state of the PDP now after the general election?

The position now is to wait and see. The party has taken a decision that we would see the end of the presidential case up to the Supreme Court, before we take a position. What we have now is a situation where we are preparing for the Supreme Court case.

Read also: Election tribunal dismisses PDP’s allegations of forgery against Tinubu

In Lagos, the PDP chairman was suspended for anti-party activities some months ago, what is the situation now?

Nobody sacked the chairman, the chairman and the executives are still running the party. There were cases where some individuals took them to Court and those ones are asking for certain things from the court and it is up to the Court to decide. But the Court has taken a decision that the status quo should remain.

Since the court has ruled that the status quo should remain, anybody that violates that would be going against the law.

If you see any sort of lukewarm attitude from any structure of the party, it has to do with the cases in court on-going, there is hardly any senatorial constituency that is not in Court bothering on the 2023 polls.

The governorship candidate, some House of Representatives candidates are in court and I believe the state exco is still meeting, I have just received a visitation from committee members about reconciliation in the party and it is the exco that put this committee together, so they are working.

Some Nigerians have spoken on the need for the PDP to look inwards, re-strategise and rebrand going forward. Do you agree?

I strongly agree with that suggestion that the party needs to plan ahead, even the national chairman in the briefing after the Court ruling on the presidential case, said the party would play a formidable opposition role, pending the time they win back the presidential seat.

There is a need for a new PDP, there has been a lot of talk about the way PDP ran its campaign the other time; some people suggested that we ran it, that we were still in government and that we were not strong in the media etc.

But I don’t agree with that, I think we need to do our best, maybe we need to do more to reposition the party to a winning party for now and the future.

What is the state of the PDP in the South-west now?

We are working on rebranding the party, and even where the ruling party, presidential candidate came from, we did not do badly, because we improved from a one governor state to a two governor state and even more are coming.

In the case of Ogun State gubernatorial election, we believed we were robbed, our case was much better than that of Adamawa that was declared.

They should have concluded the results computation before announcing the winner. Even INEC should not have announced the winner. They used their influence to suppress the votes and have their way. We would win in Court in Ogun.

Read also: Anti-party activities: Wike lists reasons PDP can’t expel him

PDP chieftain Bode George said the judiciary should not take the position of electorate, but should rather order a rerun. How important is this?

It is not the right of the judiciary to take the position of INEC and you can also see from the presidential tribunal ruling, given the role of conducting election to INEC, but forgetting that INEC did not do their work well.

We are now back to the era of the former chairman of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, where he was adding figures to give judgement and declare election winners.

We are back to the era, where the Court says; we can’t conduct elections, but whatever INEC does we stand by them.

The judiciary should abstain from politics, they should look at the case as it is and their decision should be was this election properly conducted and if not go back and do the right thing.

How do you react to the recent comment by former Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike that he cannot be suspended from the party?

Wike was expressing himself and removing himself from blame. People have been reacting to it. But he was speaking to get himself out of perceived wrong doing. Is he guilty of any offence now? The party has not taken a position, that nobody should do this and that or join the current administration; the party assumes people should know better.

The party position is that; for now let’s put any reconciliation aside and face the Court case.

There was an antecedent where politicians such as; Bola Ige and Vincent Ogbulafor, took positions in another government without consent from their party and the party did not come out and say because of that you are suspended and dismissed.

We have to manage the crisis after the general election, the focus would be to manage the party, rather than go into further confrontation. We have a situation of ‘bull in the china shop’ and if you are not careful the whole party would collapse.

A lot of people believed that PDP would have won the presidential poll if internal wrangling was managed better and Atiku had stuck with Wike as his running mate. What is your take?

My experience in party politics shows that after every election, there is always a need to x-ray what happened, the party has not sat down to do that.

But in reaching that conclusion, there are deeper issues that were put into consideration and not known to those who were quick to condemn the decision.

Until those critical decisions are made, the party must take the decision, because we want the house to be viable and if we want the house to be viable there are some decisions that need to be taken.

What is your assessment of the reforms of President Bola Tinubu?

Nigerians are in pain and there is no sign of the pains going away soon. The reform policies have not been kind to Nigerians.

Even before he became President, people were in pain and we were looking for succour and the removal of petrol subsidy has caused more problems.

This government has not told Nigerians what exactly they want to do within the space of a certain period to bring back relief, rather he is given palliative.

Read also: PDP governors put forward nominees for positions in Tinubu govt, says Wike

What is palliative going to solve when the cost of transportation is three times more and the paycheck is still the same?

Again, I saw something that is amazing: that they want to repair the Port Harcourt refinery and put that refinery back to work in December. What have the previous government been looking at for eight years?

It is hard for me to believe that would not be another deceit. It is because successive governments are never put in check, that is why we would waste billions of naira on a refinery that would not work.

They said the Dangote refinery would work in August. Where is it now? Now the same man has been given a license for one year to import petrol.

This government appears not prepared for governance. The refinery is going to turn into another storage facility?

This government is still looking for answers and putting Nigerians in a desperate position and if you are in this kind of position, you are likely going to enter the risk of being manipulated by the international community.

The international community are interested in investment, they want to make money and if you don’t have your feet on the ground they would take advantage of you.