Conduct of 2023 presidential poll downgraded Nigeria’s rating globally – Obi
Peter Obi was the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the February 25 election and former governor of Anambra State. In this interview, he assesses the conduct of the presidential poll, his next step, among other issues.
Iniobong Iwok brings the excerpts:
How are you handling the result of the election which perhaps, went against what you had anticipated?
For me when you go into a competition, especially in a transactional country like Nigeria, you expect all sorts and whatever the outcome, the most important thing is to stay on course.
I’m on course on this, because we’ve seen probably what I consider the worst election in our history, because of the Electoral Law of 2022, which gave so much hope and the huge expenditure we put into technology.
You know what it means to spend over a billion dollars.
So, there was so much that was promised and then we went back to where we used to be, that is very devastating, that a country as big as Nigeria, the giant of Africa and supposedly a nation that should be celebrated 63 years after Independence cannot conduct a simple election, that’s how I feel. But for me the struggle is on, we must revise this situation.
Are you hurt, saddened; do you have hope?
I’m not hurt personally, and I’m not sad personally, but I am for my country and the future it portends for the young ones and the future generation, because we can’t go on this way, it must be the better place; we must give them a better place. It is about the future of the society we have. My generation will say we’ve lost it, but we must build a better place for them, and building a better place is why I’m saddened because it’s important to conduct the election.
I can assure anybody that if today, I’m in service Nigeria will not spend near what was spent and we have a first-class election that will be celebrated globally. Look at the editorials globally, starting from the financial Times to the economist, to Chatham House, institutions that don’t make comments, not making comments bringing us so low among committees of nations. Even one of the rating agencies downgraded our rating, it is already a junk rating, why bring us down again.
This is not your first time participating in elections; you have been a governor and presidential running mate. Is this the worst in the country’s recent history?
Yes, it is the worst, remember like I said, the law, the 2022 law that gives so much hope when it was passed because all those loopholes and difficulties we used to have was taken care of and then again we invested in technology which was supposed to make it seamless and there was so much noise, of results transmission from pulling boots to server and everybody would see it globally we advertised it.
Go and look at the speech of the APC presidential candidate speech at Chatham House, go and look at my own speech, go and look at the speech of the INEC chairman, everybody paid so much emphasis on the law and the technology.
The APC presidential candidate said; that the winner of this election requires the overwhelming mandate of the people to have the courage to be able to do the right things for the country. I said the same thing and the chairman of INEC said, I would be there for the world to watch, that they can watch it from there. I mean what else do you expect, when you promised so much confidence and you didn’t even meet the minimum.
The chairman of your party has expressed lack of confidence in the INEC chairman, are you satisfied now that your lawyers have been granted access to inspect information in BVAS machines used for the presidential election?
Well, it’s not the chairman of our party that passed a vote of no confidence, everybody did, including you. I’m sure you don’t have confidence in them, you might not say it.
You could see it whenever there’s an election announced globally, what it does is that it uplift the rating, the status of that society, but every newspaper editorial, read The Punch newspaper editorial on Sunday.
It has never happened before where we have bad editorial globally and internally, where people are saddened to go to the airport, if you’re not sure, but when you finish this program go out on the streets and ask people how do you feel? They’ll tell you.
Nigerians have passed a vote of no confidence and not the chairman of the Labour party.
We have legally approached INEC to inspect the materials which they conducted the election and I believe they are cooperative, even when they said they will configure, they’ve said they are going to book it at the backend server so that they would be able to conduct the election. For me, we don’t want to disrupt the electoral process that is ongoing, we want to do things in an organised manner, because at the end of the day it is our country.
It was a shocker that you won Lagos, I’ve had two members of your party say the votes that went to the LP from Lagos during the presidential election actually was about 900, 000. How possible is it that you secured such votes in Lagos, what would have gone to the presidential candidate of the APC?
I can assure you that the position announced by INEC is false, it’s wrong, I don’t know exactly what it is, but I would say, our votes is far more than that.
I don’t intend to say more than that because the matter is in court. What did we do? Because we campaigned and told the people right things, remember my watch world is going to verify whatever I’m telling you, you’re going to draw from the past. We campaigned and told the people the truth, nothing but the truth, anyone from our past, what we are promising we’re going to do.
We wanted to build a new Nigeria, we’re this Lagos will be a place and the financial center not just for Africa, probably the Middle East.
We really think a place that we used to drive the change of Africa in terms of finance and I’m part of that world and the same thing is all what we would have done all over Nigeria because we have the North would have been something where you have engine pulling people out of poverty due to massive agricultural production that will lead to Industry that would lead to export.
This should have been a place where you could see all sorts of industries emerging; lots of products again through Port Harcourt, Akwa Ibom. This country can be turned around as quickly as possible and become something everybody will celebrate.
Read also: Why human interference is behind INEC’s server crash
Your lawyers met with INEC some days ago and the INEC chairman made the statement that; there’s nothing to hide, has that changed your position, you have said time and again you don’t trust INEC?
That was the initial beginning when we wanted to start it, if somebody had pronounced this, there’s no way the trust would not have evaporated, but they are now dealing with the lawyers, I don’t go to INEC anymore. I’m not part of it.
So has your trust been restored in INEC?
I believe the lawyers so far are satisfied and if they are, the case is now in court. So it’s no longer me trusting or not trusting, there’s now something between the two of us which is our lawyers and if they trust them I am fine.
You have a history with the tribunal and court, I think it was your case that first changed the calendar of the election cycle in Nigeria, that’s in Anambra years ago. Are you confident in the Judiciary as you were then?
I am confident in the judiciary. I am because I have stayed in court for three years, when people said it was impossible for you to become a governor through the court and I became the first to reclaim a stolen mandate. Remember I was impeached and again the court brought me back. And I went for interpretation where I said, my tenure is not complete, People said it’s impossible because somebody else had been elected but I changed it.
So, having gone through courts, several of them, I have not had any cause to doubt the court. I believe Nigeria has one of the best judiciary globally, but it is we, the politicians, because of our transactional nature, that are trying to ensure that everywhere is corrupted. That I wish can start reversing, even with this case. They are seeing globally what is happening; Africans are surprised that the giant of Africa can no longer deliver. Even Ghana will soon have elections and they will do all without the BVAS and it will go smoothly.
I don’t go anywhere referring to how others were treated. Irrespective of their judgements recently, I have confidence that they know the country is collapsing, they know they have to help to build a better place for their children.