• Saturday, April 20, 2024
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I would have resigned, if I were Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman – Shelle

Tunji Shelle

Tunji Shelle, former chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State and the party’s campaign coordinator for the 2019 presidential election, in this exclusive interview with INIOBONG IWOK, spoke on the just concluded Bayelsa and Kogi gubernatorial elections, the Buhari administration, Lagos PDP, among several other issues in the polity. Excerpts:

What is your assessment of the Kogi and Bayelsa States gubernatorial elections?

It is very disappointing; although not much was expected from the present-day government. Personally, I put all the blame on the government not necessarily INEC, police, SSS and every other security agency. We saw all these things coming; it was a disaster waiting to happen in that elections. What happened should not be reckoned with in a free and fair election. From Bayelsa to Kogi, I don’t think the country ever witnessed any election badly managed and handled like these last elections of November 16. In Bayelsa, lots of things happened before the election which pointed to a bad election taking place. There was Court judgment which was delivered before the election. Those ones were on the side-line, they can be attended to; I hoped the judiciary would not shy away from that. The governorship candidate of the APC in Bayelsa did not have a deputy and INEC supposed to make a pronouncement on that but they did not do it. A lot of other things underground happened; intimidation of PDP supporters, hijacking of ballot papers, maiming and killings, in several places, thank God the killings were not as we expected. Thank God some people and the party on ground maintained some sanity. Otherwise, it would have been worse. If we look at it generally, in several places in Bayelsa State the election did not take place. Some people were barred from participating in the election especially in the PDP strongholds and INEC validated such election.

Were you surprised that the PDP lost Bayelsa?

In both elections you realised that PDP was making inroads. The PDP was still ahead to a large extent, that election result was manipulated. If we have to go by actual result of the election of that day, PDP would have won that election. In Kogi State, I have not seen that level of intimidation before; gun shots, tear-gas was thrown to the PDP supporters. The governor knows that. This is a state where salaries are not paid; there is nothing on ground. Judging by the geography of that area, most of the strong areas belong to PDP. Look at the killings of the women leader even after the election; nobody has been arrested, not to talk of charging them to court. So, a lot of things are happening. All these things put together is not helping the nation; we should wake up to our responsibilities, and it is not helping us at all.

But they said the governor of Bayelsa State has not justified his re-election for second term?

Yes, I am hearing g that one lately; we were talking of somebody not performing what of Kogi State? After they have manipulated the result they are now talking that the Bayelsa governor did not perform. The governor look like a responsible person to me, the only thing he cannot defend is his airport project, because I don’t like white elephant projects. People are hungry; you can’t do something that would not benefit the people. In every other thing he has tried in the areas of infrastructure. Bayelsa is a very difficult terrain; and a lot of money is needed to put into projects. He has done well in the area of education and health. Kogi has a solid ground so they can’t defend their actions in Kogi State, so the people in Kogi State know that the governor has not performed, that is why his people knelt down and begged people few days to the election. Even the Federal Government released money to Kogi State; it is like giving them money to go and buy votes, rig the election and to kill people.

Is it not time for the PDP to do a soul searching; some people have even called for the resignation of the national chairman?

That one is a cheap talk. To the best of my knowledge, after he assumed office, elections have been won and lost in recent time, his tenure has done reasonably well except you want to do some character assassination. He has shown capacity to lead; if he does not perform, later we would know. It is good for them to do their primaries and he accepts the result. He cannot say the primary election is not credible that is the work of INEC.

What happened in the Kogi and Bayelsa elections have increased agitation for electronic voting and transmission of result, do you agree?

That one is long overdue; that is what should have been done before the last general election. Everyone expects him to do that but he did not and this is the consequences of that but they don’t care because they are out to manipulate results. Even the judiciary, INEC and police but all hope is not lost. Some people are leaving the country, going to US and some other countries; this is the consequences. Many more people would seek to leave the country with the state of things that we are now. If you see the press statement of the national chairman of the PDP today, you would know what I am saying, it is loaded and contains a lot of recommendations. The international community and the election observers that monitored that election are watching and they are going to make their comment on the elections.

What about INEC; did they live up to expectation?

My own personal assessment of INEC is that they don’t have business conducting elections again and if I was INEC chairman I would honourably resign if I cannot handle the affairs of INEC. Certainly, they have performed badly in my own honest observation. We thought he was being pressured before, but now it is more than being pressured; it is about him dancing to the tune of people at the top.

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So, you mean Yakubu lacks the capacity to handle INEC?

That is what I am saying; that he lacks the capacity, maybe he lacks the guts and he allows himself to be used. He cannot stand as a man, stand on his ground. In these elections, people were being killed, result manipulated, a lot of things happened that should not be allowed to happen.

But the APC said the PDP is noted for complaining whenever they lose an election; the party did not complain after taking Zamfara State?

That is not true; they did what they did in Zamfara because they knew what they wanted to do. They did it because they wanted to justify their actions, so that when they do what they would do people would not talk. It was deliberate; may be, they fell out with a particular person in the state. Look at what is happening in Edo State, the national chairman is fighting the governor; it is unbelievable. If they disqualify any of them PDP would not complain; PDP would complain when they are cheated against.

2023 is around the corner; do you believe in power shift to the South?

I have a simple answer, democracy and politics cannot be isolated, they go hand in hand. Democracy should be a baby of politics and wherever you find an outstanding personality, somebody that is generally acceptable, he does not have to be from a section of the country. It is not in the constitution, wherever he comes from is acceptable to all of us. When Abiola contested, everybody accepted him from the South, to the North. No one said he is from the South. If the present administration is doing well, nobody would complain; if there is light and infrastructure, nobody would complain. It is good governance, the calibre of people we are looking for, whether they come from the South or from the North. The North have agenda that is logical, they can tell you that Jonathan spent 6 years, Obasanjo spent eight years, Buhari would be spending eight years and they have an outstanding of four years. If it is political and you can defend your action, no problem; all we are saying is that let the best man do the job.

What is your take on the anti-graft war of this administration; the President wants special court?

Special Court is just to punish some people in a hurry. Some people that are supposed to be prosecuted are part of the ministers and National Assembly members, the anti-graft war has failed. The institution is not there; by way of prosecuting people they are just making some people scapegoat. You don’t just make people scapegoat; you have to do it across board; what is happening now is that looting is done by few people.

The Lagos State PDP crisis has been on for a long time; you were part of those that voted to elect the new chairman, but Bode George’s camp said they are still in charge. What is really happening?

That is local politics; the party would move on. Nobody can sideline Bode George; he is too big to be sidelined. It has happened before when the party would take its leaders to court; it happened in Bayelsa, the candidate taking themselves to court. The same thing happened in Kogi State and it would happen everywhere; that is power struggle. But I can assure you that we are almost there in Lagos State; everybody would collapse into one party and we shall move on. Doherty is going to be a good leader.