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Some observers in Ekiti poll are political jobbers –Awe

Some observers in Ekiti poll are political jobbers –Awe

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Ekiti State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief Olajide Awe, denied allegations of vote buying against his party among other issues in this interview with KAMARUDEEN OGUNDELE

What is your assessment of the election?

After months of rigorous campaign and reaching out to our people, the election went well and satisfied our desire. It is one of the most peaceful elections in Ekiti State that is devoid of any chaotic situation. The result was timely; it was not delayed by INEC at all. Nearly all the protagonists in the election performed creditably well. The voters came out en masse and exercised their franchise in orderly manner. That was why people were satisfied at the end of the election. There was no noise anywhere. The INEC did its best by ensuring that the conduct of the election followed global best practices. Although there were incidents of malfunctioning of card readers, that was not enough to discredit the electoral process. The election was free and fair. Whatever that might be the shortcomings, whether from the security, INEC or from the politicians, these are minor things that could be corrected. To us in the APC, we give God the glory.

[READ ALSO] Ekiti vote buying: Rewarding emerging electoral fraud with victory

The PDP accused your party of working with the police to arrest their leaders and supporters.

Let them substantiate their allegations, let them prove it. I don’t have any record of anybody that was intimidated, harassed or whisked out of his house during and after the election unlike what happened in 2014. Maybe they are still day-dreaming. They thought the issue of 2014 will resurface – that people will be harassed and taken out of their houses. As far as we are concerned, we did not connive with security agencies in whatever form to intimidate the opposition. We did not do it and we will not do it because we respect the sanctity of that election. That was why we gave it what it takes to win an election. We did not connive with security agencies. Let them prove it; then, we will come out in clear terms to defend ourselves.

The PDP also accused your party of vote buying, which a coalition of observers said characterised the election and that the two parties were guilty. What is your reaction?

Today in Nigeria and all over the world, it is acknowledged that the APC government is leading the fight against corruption and as such, we will not encourage anyone to buy votes. If we are buying votes, it means we are encouraging corruption. As a party that abhors corruption, we will not encourage that. Apart from money meant for party agents, there was no money given out. The PDP is known for making spurious claims and unsubstantiated allegations. Now that they are at the receiving end, they may be thinking others are doing so. What they have to do is to go back to their drawing board and see that people have moved away from the culture of violence, intimidation and buying of votes. As far as we are concerned in APC, we don’t do that and we will not do that. If they have any proof, let them tender it.

Are you saying the coalition of election observers lied against your party?

I don’t know to what extent these domestic observers could be fair or how credible they are because I had hundreds of them in my office, who came from nowhere. We have a lot of people who disguised themselves as election observers. Only those registered with INEC are worth talking about. But as far as we are concerned, they cannot see more than those of us on the ground. One thing that baffles me about political observers is that some of them are political jobbers. Some of them came to intimidate, some of them came to harass; some of them came to act the scripts of their masters and that would get them nowhere. If your husband hates the APC, of what good will your report be as a wife to somebody who does not see anything good in APC? That’s why I’m saying the credibility of the observers is at stake. Not until they prove themselves worthy of what they are reporting, that is when they deserve attention. The election was credible enough.

Some people said to be your members were seen distributing money on the day of the election. If that is not vote buying, then what is it?

Did they carry the emblem or logo of our party? Election Day is a free day for politicians to move freely into their poling units and exercise their franchise. We don’t display any identity except party agents who are accredited to stay at polling units. When you say somebody is distributing money on Election Day, can you identify them? Issue of such nature does not occur in APC. In any case, if it becomes an issue, it is for us all to find a solution since you said both parties were accused, so that in future elections, we warn ourselves very well. If there are incidences of vote buying in the election, we should look for credible solution so that it does not repeat itself. We didn’t even have money for the election, not to talk of using money to buy votes. The only area we gave money was to our party agents. You don’t expect somebody to work all day long for you without food and water; sometimes we monetise it. If that is what people are referring to as vote buying, I don’t subscribe to that. Besides, the money was given prior to the election. If anybody was engaged in vote buying, our party did not send that person.

Looking back at the election, would you say it is a template for the 2019 general elections?

It is a pointer to the direction we are going into as a nation. The conduct of an election indicates the acceptability of a party. Very soon, we are going to Osun State and I know things are going to work out in our favour. All we need to do is to build on our strength and improve in areas of our weakness. In 2019, we will have a free, fair, credible and peaceful election under the APC government.

Allegations of arrest of party stalwarts, intimidation and the rest, raised in the recent election, surfaced in the 2014 poll in the state. Is this payback time for the PDP?

You see, one thing I have noticed in our democracy is that a loser will always complain. Even in students’ union elections, people will still complain. What I will advise is that people should look at the brighter side of an issue. It is the right of people to complain but when they are complaining, they should be objective. You cannot compare the level of serenity we have in 2018 to what we had in 2014. The 2014 election was like a war in which the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, instructed all the security agencies to go and capture Ekiti. When you use the word capture, it is not a decent word to use in an election.

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