The promise by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to create Ibadan State out of Oyo State, if it wins the general elections, has been described as not only deceitful but also laughable by a member representing Oyo State in the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Committee, Mr Ayodeji Abass-Alesinloye. He had a chat with BISI OLADELE and SIKIRU AKINOLA.
Your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) was seemingly coasting home to victory in the general elections scheduled for February 2015, before the sudden postponement. How would you rate your party’s chances at the re-scheduled polls?
Our chances are very bright. Ask the ordinary Nigerians about the two candidates and they will tell you it is General Muhammadu Buhari who so many Nigerians have seen as their incoming president, whose popularity has made the incumbent to push for the postponement of the elections.
Do you think Buhari still has the kind of rating he had before the postponement, considering the fact that President Goodluck Jonathan has used the period of the postponement to gain foothold in the South west following his series of meetings with some Yoruba traditional rulers?
Honestly, Buhari still has that rating. Of course, people are more prepared now and for the first time too. We have to be honest with ourselves, we saw it coming. The popularity was too much. It was obvious and that was why they shifted the election. They had thought that by extending the election for six weeks, they would be able to correct some mistakes and that is why you see them running helter-skelter. But unfortunately, people are just collecting his (President Jonathan’s) money, they are more than before committed to ejecting him from Aso Rock. People want change. You give them money today but you have not been able to stop the killing and maiming of Nigerians (by the insurgents). So if you are giving money to those who cannot convince anyone to vote for you, it does not matter.
You alleged that the PDP candidate is going round the South West, giving people money to vote. Are you saying the APC and its candidate are not doing the same?
Yes. As I am talking to you, I can boldly say I am working like a volunteer which is okay for me. What we are saying is that we want things to change in Nigeria. And I want my name to be mentioned as part of those who effected the change. Even General Buhari did not give a dime during the primary and he won. Why? It was because we knew he has something to offer this nation. PDP has said so many things about Buhari but none has pointed to him as a corrupt man. He has not given money to anyone. We saw the tempo at which President Jonathan has been going around campaigning in the last couple of weeks, giving out money. And three out of the four weeks (he was engaged in doing this) Buhari was outside the country and still, the people love him.
What is your take on PDP’s strident opposition to the use of the card reader in the general elections?
On the card reader, there has never been a country where people will say they don’t want election malpractices and they will reject card reader. The card reader is like one man, one vote. Just like the umpire is canvassing for the usage of card reader, we are also re-echoing it. Why will a party like PDP be canvassing against the card reader when in actual fact, all the developed countries of the world, including those not as big and influential as Nigeria, have tested and used it? Why should our case be different? I think the whole world is going hi-tech and we cannot be left behind. I think what we are saying basically is that we as opposition party don’t want INEC to support anybody. What we want is free and fair election.
Many states across the country have not been able to meet their financial obligations, and yet as you alleged, the PDP is doling out money to people. Don’t you think this will influence voters to vote those who can meet the immediate needs?
Nigerians are so wise. People know what they are doing. When we had election in 2011, the rate of sophistication was not much. Go to the social media and see what is going on. Having given out the money, go and see people’s comments and reactions. Go and see the reactions of those who collected money. We know the money they are spending. Now, states cannot pay salaries. As I speak with you, February allocation has not been shared and March is going to an end. And you can see them doling out money but I pity these people who give money because Nigerians are watching. People will voice out their anger. Remember that the late Obafemi Awolowo said that a time would come when, no matter the party you are in or the tribe you come from or the status you attain, people will come under one platform to challenge their oppressor.
The governorship candidate of the PDP in Oyo State has been promising the creation of Ibadan State if the PDP wins both governorship and presidential elections. Don’t you think that may affect the chances of your party, especially in Ibadan?
Go and write it down, the PDP gubernatorial candidate in Oyo State will not make the top three positions when the result of the gubernatorial election is announced. Here is a man who was in the Senate for eight years, four of which was as Senate Leader. He never for once made a move towards the creation of Ibadan State. Let him tell us what he did for Ibadan in those inglorious years. What he could not do for Ibadan as Senate Leader, can he now do it on his own? What he is saying is even not in tandem with the current reality. This is an issue that has been discussed at the national conference and which is undergoing a process in the House of Representatives. And it is not only Ibadan State. He is not doing anybody a favour as this has been on for a numbers of years. And of course, state creation is only feasible during military regime and not in a democratic dispensation. So, anytime the people hear the jingle (on his promise) they always laugh. They would see the result.