I don’t know what can be more corrupt for INEC than to watch and observe an election that is characterised by vote buying.
Professor Jude Njoku is the former Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO). He is running for the governorship of Imo State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He speaks on his aspiration and other issues of interest.
The July 14th governorship election in Ekiti State was alleged to have been characterised by vote buying, what is the implication for our democracy?
Vote buying is a very serious indictment under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari who claims to be fighting corruption in Nigeria. I don’t know what can be more corrupt than vote buying or working contrary to the Electoral Act. I don’t know what can be more corrupt for INEC than to watch and observe an election that is characterised by vote buying. I can’t understand why we should degenerate to that level of desperation just to win election, yet, Mr. President congratulated Dr. Kayode Fayemi as winner and INEC for conducting free and fair exercise. I think our people should learn that despite the fact that there is hardship in the country, that you do not sell your conscience for a peanut. When you talk about vote buying, how much are they getting? Not more than N5, 000. Is that the reason they should mortgage their state, their growth and their success for another 4 to 8 years? I urge our people to stop demeaning themselves as they are making themselves look as if they are animals by selling their conscience through voting against their wish because of a little amount of money given to them by politicians. The people must be told that if they install good governance through their votes it will bring happiness and prosperity to all because everybody will benefit from the system. So, they should do everything to ensure that they vote for that government that will bring development, peace and prosperity to them.
Are you accusing the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of vote buying, when it is across board?
I see little or no distinction between the political parties in Nigeria. After all, 80 per cent of those in APC today were members of PDP and some of them have gone back to PDP. There was a time PDP was like the only party that existed and at that time even if you wear a goat cloth to contest election on the platform of PDP, it will win. But things have changed because a lot of people who felt dissatisfied and moved to other political parties are essentially the same people. See all the criticisms that were leveled against PDP in 2015, today APC has done worse things. And what bothers me is that they have a lot of pretension, because the rate of corruption in Nigeria under the present administration is high. My advice to our party members is that they should learn from the mistakes of the past. They should not make the same mistakes this time around. They should not sell their votes for a little amount of money rather, they should vote wisely. In fact, today, people no longer vote for political parties instead they now vote for personalities. That is what members of PDP should do and not because of money. If they like they can collect the money and vote their conscience, after all, some of them will spend the money before they get home.
The National Chairman of PDP, Uche Secondus accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of being bias during Ekiti election and threatened that PDP may boycott other elections, are there sufficient grounds for your party to issue such a threat?
The National Chairman of PDP is sending a warning signal to INEC that we are going to resist further attempt to manipulate election results in favour of the ruling party and I advice Federal Government to listen. Any further doubt of INEC’s independence, may lead to bloodshed. PDP may not at the end of the day boycott the elections, but they will also be out to counter them having learnt a lesson from Ekiti. There is likelihood that Ekiti may not repeat itself in Osun because when elections are taking place solely in one state, all the attention of the ruling and opposition parties are concentrated on that state. The Federal Government being the government in power mobilises all machinery available to them to ensure they win because it is an isolated type of election. But when elections are taking place simultaneously in all the states, the Federal Government is not goings to muster all the force towards one state alone. Everybody will be busy trying to win in his or her state. The fact of the matter is that PDP should resist any attempt to be muscled out of power by the ruling party through force just as they did in Ekiti. PDP should be prepared in their own way to match power for power as the will of the people will always prevail over the will of a tyrant.
In your last interview with us, you gave the assurance that within few months the crises rocking PDP in Imo State would be resolved, what is the state of PDP in the state now?
If you come to Imo State now the major political parties that are going to fight it out in the governorship race are PDP, APC and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Among these three, PDP is the most stable. Most stable in the sense that we have a very limited number of aspirants than any other party in state. We have a good state exco which has tried to sensitise PDP in Imo State and that has encouraged those who left the party to come back to participate in various levels of elections. Again, if you come to the governorship race, there are only five of us contesting on the platform of the PDP contrary to what we had in 2015 when we were close to 30 that jostled for the PDP governorship ticket. Now out of those five, one is from Okigwe zone and the other four are from Owerri. So, the contest will be keener because we are few contestants. Now it is easier for Imo people to access these limited number of people vying for the governorship position and to be able to take a decision on who to vote for based on their pedigree, credibility, track records and experience.
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Considering the fact that prosecuting governorship election is capital intensive, how are you going to execute the project?
Let me remind you that no single individual funds his election. A typical example is President Muhammadu Buhari who is acclaimed to be poor, but was able to mobilise resources to run his presidential election in 2015. You know that presidential election is extremely expensive because it runs into tens of millions but people raised money and assisted him to fund the election which he won and became the president. As a matter of fact, no aspirant can muster billions to run a gubernatorial election.
So, certainly, there must be funds here and there from people. It is worthy to note that if you emerge as the party flag bearer, funds will come from all angles. As a matter of fact, there are people who came to me and said, ‘Prof, once you emerge the flag bearer of PDP we will bring money for your campaign.’ It is a known fact that a lot of people who wants to invest in politics wait until candidates emerge then they will come with their money to support the party’s standard bearer. Even banks because they will want to do business with the incoming government, will also come forward. Meanwhile, before you get the ticket, you have to manage your own resources, even the party itself will organise fundraising for its candidate as it is always done. I also see a situation where PDP governors from other states will come to support me if I clinch the party’s ticket because they would want a PDP governor in Imo State. Considering the crises in the ruling party, and also given the fact that APC has performed woefully both in Imo State and at the federal level, coupled with the fact that they are heavily divided, nobody wants to hear about APC in Imo.
I do not see them coming out of the crises before the general elections. No matter how they pretend that the coalition won’t divide APC, it is glaring that they are divided.
Just recently, there was another congress conducted by Governor Rochas Okorocha and the coalition didn’t take part, saying the congress should not hold. So, whether the congress goes in favour of the Coalition or the Rescue Mission, the crises will continue and PDP will capitalise on the division to clinch the governorship seat.
What would say is responsible for the leadership tussle in Imo?
I had already said it elsewhere that the political landscape of Imo State is populated by fraudsters, popularly referred to as 419ers and people of questionable character. You remember that soon after the civil war when 419 started, it was called Obtain by Trick (OBT). These are the caliber of people that populate the political landscape of Imo State and these are people who have been in power since after Governor Achike Udenwa. Udenwa’s administration has remained the only sane government since the new political dispensation in Nigeria in 1999. Since then, it has been from one deceitful government to another. They will tell you that they are educated and you don’t know the schools they attended or where their names are published in convocation booklet. These are people who have not been trained, tested in the administration of any major establishment. They are businessmen who believe that politics is an avenue to make money not to serve and that is why they are desperate to have power just to enrich themselves. They can pump huge sums of money into politics because they see it as an investment.
But why do the people vote for such persons?
The reason is simple. It is because of the level of political education, which is low. These politicians deceive the electorate with all kinds of gimmick and the people fall prey including monetary inducement. But the people are beginning to realise that these politicians do not mean well and that is why they are saying that they don’t want career politicians any more but technocrats that are clean. The people of Imo want to emulate Anambra State in choice of leaders. Anambra State journey to towards political liberation began when Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige started development revolution in Anambra as a medical doctor not a money bag. After he left, Peter Obi who was a businessman/ banker replaced him and after Obi, Governor Willie Obiano, who is there now, is another banker.