In this interview with journalists, the Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, gives insight into how the opposition political parties lost to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the recent senatorial bye-election for Delta Central and why Soldiers were deployed to maintain surveillance. Chuks Okocha presents the excerpts:
How did the Delta Central senatorial election go?
It went very well. It was a very successful election. Eight or nine parties fielded candidates and at the end of the day the PDP candidate emerged winner of the election
What with the allegation of restricted movement and militarisation of the town?
The truth is that the soldiers did not want to come out for the election at all but what happened was that APC raised an alarm that PDP were going to rig election with soldiers in uniform; that some boys were going to put military uniform and carry ballot boxes, so INEC wrote to the Joint Task Force and the IG and the Joint Task Force replied INEC, so they drafted soldiers to the place and the way the soldiers operated, they did not go near the polling units.
All they did was to place surveillance on the roads if there is going to be people that will move ballot boxes, they were prevented from such movement and you must also know that even before the election, when the PDP candidate was campaigning with his team and they went to the traditional ruler’s house in Kokori, some youths came out and started shooting and they were locked up there for hours until they were rescued by soldiers. These are pointers that there will be violence.
So the soldiers had every reason to be out to maintain peace and order, so that the whole place will be quiet throughout the election. There was no case of reported violence. Security reports are there. The monitors were there and you can ask the journalists that came. When Lagos State did their local government elections, there were officials carrying ballot boxes away; it was recorded by a television station. Channels reported it very well but this one there was no journalist that recorded violence and the kind of activity that is being spread all over the place, so it was a peaceful election.
Is it true that your deputy who is from the senatorial district was in charge of the operation that stopped INEC officials from going to a riverine community in Ewuru?
Fortunately, if you looked at the AIT report that day, it stated clearly what happened in Ewuru because the materials from Ewuru came late and it’s a riverine area. So, when he got there about 3pm, the deputy was insisting that the material would still go but the other party said no and it was recorded on AIT who said no and who said yes. Some people said they could still go and the other parties said it was too late, that how could they go to the riverine area.
AIT clearly interviewed the other parties, saying it was too late and they should cancel the election. But because that is my deputy’s local government, he wanted the materials to still go but people said no, so they cancelled the three wards, which would have been to his advantage if they went. Why will he be involved if they cancelled the elections? And these are the three major local government areas.
The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, said the DPP won Delta central in 2011 and wondered what has changed between now and then that made PDP to win?
Before 2011 what was the result like? It has always been PDP but in 2011, there was a lot of crises within the PDP and there was a lot of opposition within the party and they moved to the DPP and all the people that contested election under the DPP all came from the PDP, from Pius Ehweriodo to the House of Representatives members; they were all PDP members and they moved to the DPP to just get the ticket.
And between that time and now, we have been doing a lot of reconciliation and you know I reconciled with Chief E.K Clark at the time he made a statement supporting the DPP and a lot of key actors in the central had soft-spot for the DPP and supported the DPP. But between then and now we have done a lot of reconciliation to the extent that all the key actors in Delta Central are back to the PDP, even the House of Reps member that was just one came back to PDP a day or three before the election.
The House of Assembly members, we have about four or five of them that are back to PDP. We only have two left and in the next few weeks, they will come back to PDP. Look at their campaign, who was the prominent Uhrobo person that came for the APC? There was none! We have done a lot of reconciliation and our people that went to the DPP are back in the PDP. Even in his village, his own brother that was his foot soldier and used to do the work for him is back in PDP. That’s why he could not even win his ward because the man who is supposed to win his ward for him is back in PDP.
So what are we talking about? Even his own people from Sapele are all back in the PDP and that’s the secret of what happened, we did a lot of reconciliation and I must emphasise that it was because of the reconciliation that we did.
Second, in this second tenure in terms of infrastructure, we have also done more than we did in the first term- schools, roads, hospitals and a lot more infrastructure. At least, the people are appreciative that a lot more work is being done with all their social programmes. Third, the people are also tired as an ethnic group. You know Delta Central is one ethnic group and they are saying the person they have in the Senate is a one person caucus; that he will be the only person in the senate for them. It’s however not the best. They want to belong to the majority party so they readily grabbed the PDP and their relationship with their president has improved, they are lobbying to get a minister and all that and of course, for them to continue the lobby, they have to stretch a hand of fellowship and it’s just natural they will embrace PDP.
There is the allegation by APC that security personnel beat up some of their agents and seized voting materials?
I think it’s wrong; it’s a very wrong statement. One will like to know the hospitals these patients were treated if they were beaten up. If a soldier beats you up, you know what that means, you must end up in the hospital, so we want to know the hospital they were treated and the doctors that treated them. Those are the evidences you will show to say that people were beaten up. But it’s not.
I have not seen, no paper has published anything, no electronic media has shown anything; they are just baseless allegation they are using to discredit the result. It’s unfortunate. It was a free election and so, for me, castigating or cancelling the results will not be the best. Go back and do your homework properly. What this election just showed is that those who think that they are on the ground are not on the ground.
If I were with them my advice would have been: go back and reassess your position, even when they did their primaries, it was full of controversies. Barrister Keyamo came out that the APC primaries was a sham and there is no way, once a primary is condemned like that (and there wasn’t much period between the primary and the election), there was no way they could have settled their home before the election with that controversial primaries. The two parties, DPP and APC had controversial primaries so when did they settle to be ready for election? I think they should go back to the drawing board if they want to make impact in the area
Are you saying the presence of soldiers did not affect voting?
No, not at all! It didn’t intimidate voters. In Channels, even you could see long queue of voters, so it didn’t intimidate voters. The presence of security people usually intimidate criminally minded persons.
You mentioned the primaries in APC and DPP and that brings us to the issue of primaries in the PDP, would you agree with stakeholders that the PDP primaries that picked Emmanuel was not transparent as people were forced to step down for him?
How can you say people were forced? How do you force someone from stepping down? It’s a consensus; it was part of our reconciliation. As soon as the seat was declared vacant, over 20 people indicated interest in contesting. If I’d allowed the 20 people to go for primaries, it would be very chaotic, based on our previous experiences so what I tried to do is to build a consensus. I was personally in the forefront of the consensus calling them, ‘oboy this might not be the right time to contest wait’, you know you have the right to indicate interest, but let’s look at what’s on the table and I sat with them. Is it what we want and all that? People indicated interest for so many reasons. Some indicated interest, not because they actually wanted to contest the election, maybe because that would give them the opportunity for the governor to call them and do some negotiation and it actually went like that. I called them one by one and told them the reason they should not go for primaries and they appreciated the fact that I called them early.
Sometimes what makes primaries very rancorous is the fact that if you call them at the last minute, they would have spent some money and they’ll say you could have called them early. So, based on experience, we were able to talk to some of them and they agreed. They actively participated in the election much more than people who did not contest in the primaries. So, if they were not happy, they would not participate actively in the elections. In fact, they actively worked for the main candidate and they were competing to get the highest votes in their area and they were part of the campaign.
With the result of the election even though it is still being contested, would you say there is no more opposition in Delta State?
There will always be opposition even if it’s one person. Without opposition there will be no politics. The opposition will always keep you on your toes. Without an opposition, you don’t grow politically, so I believe everywhere there is opposition and I give them respect. I respect the opposition because they point out certain issues which you will be taking for granted, so I always listen to them when they are making good points. But sometimes the points are just being made for points’ sake.
What does the rejection of the election result portend for 2015?
For me, it doesn’t portend anything. When you lose an election, you go to the tribunal. I think people should just go and work hard. What I also know from this election is that people at the top especially the leaders of the APC are being deceived by those on ground. I’m on the ground and there is a lot of deception and wrong perception. We are on the ground and those on ground, we know ourselves. I have been in politics in the state for several years and at least, I have a fair knowledge of who is on ground and who is not on ground.
I just think if they want to make an impression, they should work harder and not call for cancellation of elections. Once INEC makes pronouncement on a result, INEC cannot de-pronounce the result, if there is any word like that. What you can do is to go to the tribunal and I actually will advise them, instead of going to the tribunal, because I don’t see them winning, they should go and settle their homes. If DPP wants to exist, they should settle; if they don’t want to exist, for the remaining members, PDP is open to receive them.
Would you say the refusal of APC and DPP to work together gave PDP an advantage?
That’s a part of it, of course. The APC really is an amalgamation of half DPP and ACN, the other parties are just there in name, and within the DPP, there was a lot of infighting and conflict, whether they should join APC or not. Some said they would not, others said they would, even when he died, that situations has been there and before it, they were not really together. There were many DPPs after we had taken a large chunk of them and the remaining ones were not really together
Which do you support: a two party system or multiple party system?
I think with time, things will sort out themselves naturally. From 1999 till now, we find that as the years go by, the number of viable parties have continued to reduce and we still have a lot of parties but they are many in names. You go round this country and look for them: who is a member of this party, you won’t see them. They are there as parties but with time we will gradually gravitate to either two or to almost three parties
Do you think PDP is able to pull through its crisis?
The crisis of the new and old PDP, don’t you think it will rub off on the party’s success in next elections?
What people don’t understand is that when the time for election comes, people will settle in their own house. Now, don’t forget there is something about the PDP. Since the beginning of this democratic dispensation; it’s the only party that has been bearing its name; the name it was registered from day one till now is still there. Other parties have metamorphosed; they have changed their name from one to another but PDP has remained PDP from day one till today.
So it’s a brand, that is the truth and because it has that brand name, many people at the grassroots still identify with it. In this country, any local government you go to, if you mentioned two parties, PDP must be one of them, so that is what we are using as a state now. In the campaign for this senatorial election, one of the things I did working with the party chairman was that our campaign should be ward-based. There was a local government campaign that was going on but real campaign should be ward-based and that means the campaign committees in every ward and those wards were going from units to units; from house to house.
That’s how the PDP is, naturally. They have a capacity to form teams in every local government in the country that can campaign for the PDP. So, in every local government, if we don’t win in that particular local government, we will get reasonable votes. This is an advantage of the PDP and that is why today, it’s a very difficult party to beat no matter how many amalgamation is going on; it will be a very difficult party to beat in this country.
Do you share the position that the national conference is ill-timed?
National conference is a dialogue and there is no dialogue that is ill-timed. Anytime you dialogue, it’s the right time. I was one of those who requested for a national dialogue early enough. What I didn’t accept was the sovereign national conference. We need to talk. There are lots of issues to be discussed and I pray that a lot of hostilities will be reduced if we are going to talk to each other. There are regions and there are ethnic groups that have one thing or the other to say; that have issues to bring up. So, we need to talk and once we are able to talk, it will be better for the country; it will be better handled.
Do you have problems with no-go-areas?
There should be no-go-areas; there should be no restriction in what to say and when we get to the table, if a particular region does not want an issue discussed, let it negotiate for that issue not to be discussed. It’s part of the dialogue. If they are raising an issue in the South-south for instance and the South-south people do not want it to be discussed, they will now negotiate and say why it will not be discussed. That’s the way I look at it.
What if some regions choose not to be part of Nigeria?
It will be discussed. If the other parts agree that they should not be part of Nigeria, so be it. That is what I’m saying. The bottom line should be discussion. If an area said I don’t want to be part of Nigeria, it will be discussed and an agreement reached, you see even at home when a husband and wife have disagreement and they are able to sit down and discuss it, the tendency for violence and breakup is very much reduced.
But when you don’t talk at all, this one will come in the morning and you have your bath and go out, no good morning; things are bottled up. But once you bring things to the table and create a great room for dialogue, you are able to solve many problems because your perception of me might change when you hear from me. However, when you don’t hear from me, you continue to have a negative perception.
There is also the belief that the president designed this as a precursor to 2015?
It can never be distractive. Talking can never be distractive. 2015 will come and go but Nigeria will remain and the earlier we start talking about Nigeria, the better. If you don’t talk today, you will talk tomorrow; if you don’t talk next tomorrow, you will talk the day after tomorrow. So, anytime the talking comes up, you will and now the president says we should talk and we must also thank him for the initiative because for the past one or two years, everybody has been requesting for dialogue and he said we should dialogue and people are reading meanings to it.
Don’t you think this talk could overheat the polity especially that campaign for 2015 starts next year?
No, and in actual fact, it will help to reduce tension. Like I said, it’s when you don’t give room for people to talk that you create tension. If there is no room for people to talk, people in the South-south will be talking on their own. In the west, they will be raising issues but there will be no common platform to discuss these issues and they will have problems. But now that they have created a common platform, we should thank him (Jonathan) for it.
Will the South-south ask for an increment in derivation?
Let me say I cannot sit here and be speaking for the South-south now. I believe that when the agenda for the dialogue is raised, the South-south will come back home and decide on what they want to bring to the table; what they want to discuss. But right now, the process has not started; I cannot pre-empt.