BY DAPO AKINREFON
WITH the October 20 governorship election in Ondo State come and gone, winners have been counting their blessings while the losers are sulking over their defeat.
But having emerged second position at the poll, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the state, Chief Olusola Oke is not pleased with the conduct and eventual outcome of the elections.
In this interview, he berated the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for the alleged irregularities. He bares his mind on this and other sundry issues. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of the October 20 elections in Ondo State?
For those of us who are major stakeholders in the Nigerian project, we had high hopes towards the October 20 elections in Ondo State, of showcasing credible elections. Particularly, I was amazed at the outcome of the elections because we demonstrated that rather than improving the electoral process, it is retrogressing.
Elections were marred by severe irregularities, non-compliance, wide spread manipulations, corrupt practices and alleged perversion by INEC, collaborating with the ruling party in Ondo State.
Such that the outcome of that election cannot be said to reflect the desire of the people of Ondo state for the change. If an election was marred by corrupt practices, irregularities, non-compliance, pervasion, distortions, it can certainly not be free and fair elections.
You chided INEC earlier, but how would you rate the performance of INEC and security elections during the poll?
The INEC office in Ondo state is an embodiment of criminality.
They perverted every process known to the elections, all the documents were distorted, and ballot papers were released before the due time for the elections. Very known Labour Party members were recruited as officiating officers.
INEC documents were distorted to give advantage to the ruling party; elections were deliberately delayed in the strongholds of opposition parties. The election was everything but free and fair. Majority of INEC personnel were compromised.
What was your initial reaction when you heard that some members of your party congratulated and even visited Governor Olusegun Mimiko?
For our leaders in Abuja who congratulated him, I took it that they were not at breast of the facts in Ondo state. So, they gave their congratulation as sportsmen and women oblivious of the level of pervasion that characterized the election in Ondo state.
So, I grudge them not; but there were individuals who ought to know, notwithstanding the pervasion that congratulated him just to curry favour from him, those are the ones that are condemned.
It is normal for the president, who is the father of Nigeria and a member of the PDP, to congratulate the winner and to encourage the loser. It is abnormal for members of the party in the state or around the state who were aware of the distortions and pervasion that characterized the election because of their expectation of crumbs from the master’s table to summersault to them. Those are the ones I berate.
But how do you feel with reports that some members of your party worked against you during the election?
Actually, I think they worked against the party and not against me because I have nothing personal about the election.
But you are the candidate.
I was nominated candidate of the party and I was going to give victory to the party. For the many offices that were available, I could only occupy one. So, it was not a case of really working against me. But I felt very sad that some members of the party worked against the party, it can be saddening.
Will you be heading to the tribunal to challenge the outcome of the election?
If you remember, less than 24 hours after the release of the results, the state chapter in Ondo state rejected the outcome.
The party also disclosed that it was going to study the results and the reports from the various units. At the moment, the various committees of the party are studying the results and there are startling revelations of irregularities.
I contested this election not as an independent candidate but as a product of a political party. My responsibility is to furnish the party with preliminary reports and final reports of what happened during the elections, and to be guided by their own position on what next to do notwithstanding the fact that the Electoral Act allows me as a candidate to redress and allows me and the party to redress. I have already forwarded a preliminary report to the party in Abuja and would wish to be guided by their own position before I decide what to do.
The mood of the entire leadership of the party in Ondo state is not to allow this monumental injustice to go un-redressed. I have to engage myself in very wide consultations to ensure that whatever I do at the end of the day is not totally inconsistent with the good decision of the party. I am bound by lawful directive and I am at liberty to ignore unlawful directive.
What are your hopes and aspiration from the judiciary?
As a senior counsel, it will be wrong of me to say that I have no faith in the judiciary. I have faith in the judiciary, there are bad eggs no doubt but there are still officers of hope. I will wait until the tribunal is constituted and then perhaps pass an opinion. I have faith in the judiciary notwithstanding there are bad eggs.
But what gives you the conviction that you will win at the tribunal?
I don’t have to be convinced that I will win but I am made to know that I have a good case and of course, I hold the responsibility to expose to the Nigerian public the malaise inflicted on the electoral process. So, going to the tribunal is not to win at all cost but to win deservedly and to expose the malaise that has characterized the election.
How would you place the role of former president Olusegun Obasanjo in your campaign and is it true that he actually advised against litigation?
I am greatly indebted to Baba Obasanjo. He was the first leader of this party to believe in us and to believe that the PDP in Ondo state is still very virile and capable of contesting and winning an election. He not only personally attended the Unity Rally, he also encouraged us by way of admonition but materially, he assisted us. So, I remain indebted to him.
As to what was credited to him as his position, it was an organized publication. I was at the meeting where he spoke and he never counseled against going to the tribunal.
What he said was that we should study the facts and that if we have no strong facts, we should not bother but then no injustice should be allowed to go un-redressed. So, I think those who gave that impression were merely dancing to the tone of their pay masters.