‘Cash and carry democracy, bane of Nigeria’s development’
Former Deputy-Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly, Festus Ebea, who led a group of lawmakers in their controversial face-off with the governor, Adams Oshiomhole, told ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU, that the last election into the state legislature, where he lost a return bid, was not free. Excerpts:
A flawed election WE have had an election that people are praising was free and fair. But as an active participant I will say that the election was fraught with so many irregularities. I believe that Nigerians want change as they claimed.
But whatever happened in the last elections is not something that people will know now until probably much later. I am not making any exception. But taking into cognisance what happened in Edo State here, what really played out, you find that in my own constituency so many ugly things happened.
It was so bad to the extent that even the hands of security agents were not clean. In Constituency 1 of my local government, at the Ewohinmi end, there were so many irregularities.
There was massive thumb printing, shooting, snatching of ballot boxes etc. But you see I have always said that this thing is not about me.
We want democracy to thrive. We have no other country. But we keep begging God that He enthrones good leaders for us.
I am not in the tribunal because the level of betrayal even by some members of my political party cannot be downplayed and I do not want a situation whereby they start to intimidate even the witnesses we have which they have already started. ’’
If you force yourself on the people, except God does not exist, the truth will always come out. The situation whereby you induce voters with N1, 000.00 just because you know they are poor, they cannot make decisions for themselves, it is a pity. I always pray that the poverty burden on our people is ameliorated so that they can think properly.
No legal redress I am not in the tribunal because the level of betrayal even by some members of my political party cannot be downplayed and I do not want a situation whereby they start to intimidate even the witnesses we have which they have already started. I don’t want to put anybody in harm’s way because I want to represent my people.
I believe that God is the ultimate judge. But above all, my opponent who said that he won the election knows quite well that he didn’t win. All those boxes they snatched at Ikeken unit 7 and 8 of ward 2 in Esan South-East Local Government Area under the cover of security men, they know quite well that visibly those two boxes ought not to be part of it.
The Returning Officer was culpable. At the end, APC agents and leaders from Ewohinmi end escorted the so called result from those two units to Ubiaja at the final collation point. Results were never collated in ward 2.
They just came to Ubiaja with a piece of paper where they had entered results. For INEC to have accepted that result, especially their ad-hoc staff, the so called Returning Officer, who of course is from Auchi, a man that I had met earlier and pleaded with not to rig election for me but to be fair to all and follow all the rules as INEC has stated.
But at the end after manoeuvrings they said I should have started my fighting earlier from the ward level not to allow the result come in. That it was too late as they have to enter the result. I live in Ubiaja, this thing happened in Ewohinmi.
Because am the contestant I should start fighting because the result was not included? I asked them did you collate any result in Ewohinmi. Our agent ensured that they did not put it there.
They went and hid the ward 2 returning officer in the police station at Ewohinmi. Members of my party, the agents who were beaten made statement to the police. Some of them were still in the hospital when results were been declared.
When you see a thing like that you have to just calm down frayed nerves. There is no point. The man who claimed he won, let us see what he is going to do. I don’t believe that the dividends of democracy given to people are the job of one man.
Let us equally try him. I wish them all the best. But I pray that subsequent elections don’t go this way because if you allow them to continue like this we are not helping the course of this country.
Quitting politics? I am not calling it quits with politics. Why? Politics I believe is a catalyst to bring development to the people. For you to make sure that your voice is heard and you’re equally able to contribute to the change that we are talking about.
If you try through elective position and it is not working for you, you remain a party member, play opposition politics and do constructive criticism. For me, I have always told people that from the onset I don’t have problem with anybody. But it is the system that we’re operating. Today you are in party A, later you switch over to party B and vice-versa.
I am not calling it quits with politics. Why? Politics I believe is a catalyst to bring development to the people. For you to make sure that your voice is heard and you’re equally able to contribute to the change that we are talking about.’’
Is that why you should have problem with the people? But the system that allows you to short-change people and move to the other party is what we should talk about. It is not about me at all. I believe that every right meaning Nigerian knows the right thing to do.
Uncontrolled defection is not good for democracy. It is not healthy for democracy. It is not healthy for people who lost election to be looking for cover from the party that won. What if you want some witnesses to buttress your case but they have switched party too? Some of my key witnesses are already been approached by the APC with mouth-watering sums of money.
So, it is the system that I am talking about. Not until we check influence of money politics in Nigeria our democracy is going nowhere. With this cash and carry democracy we will not go anywhere.
We just pray that the incoming president is able to engineer some electoral reforms if not we cannot say we are enjoying democracy. If not the election might be free and fair but not credible.