•Says desperate politicians must shun do-or-die attitude
Elder Monday Udo-Tom is the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, of Bayelsa State. In an exclusive interview during the 2019 Post-election review held by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Lagos, Udo-Tom reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa is free, fair, and acceptable.
The expectation on the election
Bayelsa State may look like a small state but if you are there, you will realise that is not small. The terrain of Bayelsa has made it a very big state because over 25 per cent of the state is riverine. Therefore, our responsibility is somehow very cumbersome. The expectation of the people of Bayelsa is that the election on November 16 will be free, fair, credible and acceptable and that is what we promise to deliver.
For the past month, we have been having a series of stakeholders meeting updating them on what we did in the past and what we intend to achieve during the election. And that has given us a great impetus to deliver service to the Bayelsa people at a higher level than what happened before. We are prepared to do what is right through procurement of materials, employment and training of Adhoc staffs, their deployment shall be well-guided by the rule of the game and by the law.
On the do-or-die antics of political parties and politicians
We had a reason to attend advocacy for peaceful election in Bayelsa State and my keynote speech was on the participatory election and not war. Therefore, we are not part of any war, we are only coming to conduct the election as allowed by the dictates of the constitution. Our message to every Bayelsan is to give peace a chance. Many are of the view that Bayelsa is always troublesome. Let politicians in the state try to change the narrative in the coming election. And it seems the people themselves are the ones clamouring for peace. I am believing God that we would achieve a peaceful election on November 16. I have been telling Bayelsan politicians that if they should kill anybody, it is their own brother or sister they will kill unjustly because of elections. That brother or sister may have been destined to be a governor in the future. If you look from that perspective, we should make sure that no life is lost during any election for any purpose. Former President Goodluck Jonathan is from Bayelsa and during the Presidential election in 2015, he said his ambition was not worth the life of any Nigerian and I believe that as a foremost person from Bayelsa, they should emulate him.
We have written to them and are willing to meet with all political gladiators in the state. We are still going to have a series of stakeholders meeting starting from when the ban on a political campaign is lifted in the state. We cannot have elections without stakeholders meeting to discuss peaceful co-existence and the way forward.
On the menace of vote-buying ravaging our electoral system
That is an issue the INEC is addressing at every given time. In the last election, we had to change the position of our cubicle in order to curtail and monitor this dastardly act of desperate politicians inducing voters. In our stakeholder’s meetings, we will continue to discourage vote-buying. Candidates should be voted for based on their character and antecedents. When you buy votes you are short-changing Bayelsa and Nigeria at large. But in the first instance, there is no buyer without a seller. So, we are equally appealing to Bayelsans not to sell their votes because by so doing, they are doing themselves a disservice by collecting money from someone who is not competent enough to be their governor. Later, the money he or she is supposed to use in constructing roads, schools and other infrastructures would then be used for personal aggrandizement. So vote selling is a big challenge for INEC as the commission cannot be everywhere at every time. The vote is a trust and civic responsibility that should be given to Nigerians instead of being tele-guided during elections.
Don’t you think the level of abject poverty is contributing to vote-buying?
Poverty is a thing of the mind, you may be rich and decide to live poor. The ability to be able to be contented with the level you are now is what keeps you going. The problem with Nigeria is that many want to be like Mr A and if you don’t have the means of being like Mr A then you start having a problem. Do you know that the so-called rich also collect money from politicians? So, it is the state of the mind and the ability to say no to inducement.
On his advice to politicians and the electorate ahead of the election?
I will urge candidates to be their brothers’ keeper. Don’t see elections as a do-or-die affair. Be magnanimous in your victory and accept defeat gallantly. If you don’t win today, it does not mean that you won’t win tomorrow. Politicians should be open to the competition. If you don’t win, you embrace the person that won. The person that won should be able to carry a lot of people along because when you win an election, you are not just ruling the party, you are also ruling over every person in the community. Therefore your responsibility is to everybody in your community, constituency and the whole country. By so doing you are going to change the narrative of politics in Nigeria.