2019 – Registering new political parties shouldn’t have been priority of INEC – ADP
Christopher Ojeikere is the spokesperson of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Edo State Chapter. In an encounter with Spy News Online Benin Bureau Chief, Abavo Kingsley and asserted that his party was born to right all that is wrong in the Nigeria political space and give a breath of fresh air to the people. He adds that it is the credible alternative that has been offered to every purpose driven and positive result oriented politician to actualize his or her dream as year 2019 beckons.
What is the rating of the ADP in Edo State?
The presence of the ADP in Edo State is a reflection of the presence of the party at national level. It is on record that ADP disassociated itself when it was listed among the parties that formed the coalition.
What coalition are you talking about?
The CUPP coalition. We disassociated ourselves because we have a very different agenda from what we perceived as the agenda of the Coalition. The agenda of ADP is to build a party. Our challenge is that of reflecting on the political space, we have not been able to see what you may refer to as a rounded party built on structure that has respect for its constitution, and has respect for its manifesto. So in a response to what we have seen in the society, we decided that we were going to build a party that will be a sustainable structure for people who have developmental agenda to use as platform to realize that agenda. So when we were listed among one of these other parties, we came out to the public and disassociated ourselves. Now, in Edo State to answer your question particularly we have a full structure and presence in the 18 Local Government area of Edo State. We have got in place experienced hands as the State Working Committee. Happily for us, the South – South deputy national Chairman is from Edo State in the person of Senator Roland Owie. From his wealth of experience and experience of Gabriel Oloruntobi who is the party Chairman, and other people who have been brought up as round pegs in round holes like my humble self who has media background who has been brought in as the State publicity Secretary we feel we are good to go; to present to Edo State a credible alternative, the actual third force that is in the works to building a structure for people here to have the liberty to express themselves politically as they wish and to pursue their career without fringes, without godfathers breathing down their neck, without their ambition and their career being dashed half – way or in – fact full way into their pursuit and ambition. So, our whole idea is to build that kind of party; that is what we are in Edo State, and that is what we are nationally.
INEC had just registered another 23 new political parties making it a total of 91. Some persons have consequently argued that it is a house of commotion that has been structured in the country democracy. What is your take on that sir?
There are people who believe that proliferation is strength. It is not just only in our political space. If you check the narrative of our national life, when we have problems with particular ministries, agencies, and departments of government, instead of us to ensure these agencies, ministries, and departments are strengthened to deliver effectively on their mandate, we create new agencies. It is the same thing that has just happened in the political space.
We have parties that do not have internal democracy, we have parties where people can exit and enter faster and freer than they enter and exit beer parlours. INEC has not put down its feet to ensure internal democracy within parties. All sorts of characters, all sorts of names irrespective of the process that threw them up are submitted to INEC and are fielded as candidates. INEC has not bothered to strengthen the electoral process to ensure logistics are put in place and on time to ensure that the 2019 election is credibly conducted, they have not even had their budget passed. The House has not resumed as at now, six months to election, INEC is not even aware what its budget is going to be. Now, the question I ask INEC is this; if you are registering new parties are you to make Nigerians believe that six months to election you have not printed ballot papers? Okay, if you have not printed ballot papers six months to election, then that is already a recipe for failure. We are talking of election that would take the presidential election, and take about 32 States governorship election and 468 when you put into consideration all the bye elections of the national assembly, not to mention the States assemblies. So registering new parties certainly is not a priority right now and shouldn’t be at the front burner of INEC. I agree perfectly with those who think these parties were just brought in to clutter the political space to create a mirage of confusion for whatever reason.
Let’s come back to Edo State, is ADP featuring candidates for both the State and National Assembly elections?
We already have in Edo North a senatorial aspirant, and two house of assembly aspirants in Esan Central, and in Edo South; Egor local government area, we have four house of assembly aspirants, and house of representatives aspirant and many others that are knocking on our door. In fact in Edo we are going to produce candidates in the three senatorial districts.
Your party will be fielding candidates in 2019 in Edo what is the assurance that it would be able to clinch some of these positions?
Yes, I like your question; some of these positions that is being realistic. There are 24 members in Edo State House of Assembly and there is a general consensus among Edo People that those who are occupying these positions, with due respect to them, have not satisfied the expectations of the people. And one good example that Edo people cannot forget, that when it was time for them to vote for their autonomy, they declined to vote. That is not a selling point to anybody who calls himself a representative of the people and I think Edo people would not want to return such a representative back to the House of Assembly. Now this people if you take note, are divided between the two so called big political parties. The question you should ask yourself; if these people are representatives of these two parties; are they not a reflection of these two parties? So they are! That is the standard of these two parties. Edo people want standard and not people who cannot vote for their own autonomy. They cannot continue to cope with mediocrity, that kind of mentality and petty politics where people cannot even stand for their own independence. Now the party that has presented that opportunity for people who are not of this lot, that are looking for a party where they will contest and be sure that their vote will count and represent their people is the ADP. We want a party that is a credible alternative. I think there is a lot of third force mentality out there. But the question they ask when they want to offer themselves, what are we going to do about the behemoth, this kind of hegemonic system you have in this two big parties? I say you are not tied to the apron string of these two non performing parties. There is a third force, and it has made itself available, it is registered and has offices in the 36 States of the federation and Abuja, it has offices in the 18 local government area of Edo State.
So, why don’t you use the credible alternative and realize your ambition? I started with the APC as Grace Group; initially it was ACD, to AC, ACN, and APC. I have always stood on internal party democracy, I have always stood on developmental politics and when it came clear to me that the high and lofty promises that APC was when it was formed and which we thought that was going to take Nigeria to el – doraldo have been hijacked, have been jettisoned by some people for whatever reason, I have to exit.
And when I was exiting, I didn’ t exit through the back door, I didn’t exit to the PDP because we have two sides of the same coin. I wanted a credible alternative, a new platform to pursue that developmental politics that I have always believed in. So I am encouraging other progressives, even those who have not ventured into politics to come use this platform; a political party where people are now thinking development, progress and sustainability. Instead of this skewed thing that we have today where the moment your ego is hurt, you are in another party and even when you are on the podium you will be saying the party in which you were governor for eight years has ruined this State and you were part of that and even begin to clap for the man who said so. That tells you that they don’t even weigh and measure the things that they say. They just speak to the moment because if a man weighs his words, he will be conscious of what have been said.
So what is the impact of ADP at the grassroots towards 2019?
I am a thorough grassroots man.
May be I should let you know that I was the deputy State co – ordinator of the Nigeria Intervention Movement under the leadership of Olisah Agbakobah. The strategy of NIM was the civil society approach of mobilization so we went to the base and started from the communities. When I was coming into ADP, I brought with me the NIM, it was my structure. So it is the grassroots, where we have been operating but it is now we want to move into the mainstream media. I have now come to resume fully now that I have something to offer. So, we have been at the grassroots and there is still a lot to be done. You know our society have been bedeviled by money politics, big man mentality, notoriety and all sorts of things but we will get there.
Against the trend of vote buying which demands huge sum of money, how ready is ADP, does it have the muscle to match others?
If we have it, and we use it then we are not different from any other party. It will be continuation of the dirty system we are trying to change. What I understand by muscle here is If we have people who have the money that they have stolen from government, from your taxes and mine, to come use to buy votes. If we have people who have money no matter where they got it from, and they use it for vote buying, then we are not diferent, and we have no business existing. That is what I tell people when all these small parties say they want to grow and you want to use the same method which makes you came into existence then how are you going to grow? If we have money, we will use it for campaign, logistics, and infrastructure then we go out to present our candidates before the electorate. Let me tell you, the vote buying thing is not going to stay because the consciousness and awarwness of the young ones against the vices of election is increasing by the day. The commentaries you read on the social media from the youths indicate the level of consciousness that the tide is changing and that is the begining of the end. Once people begin to realize that it is a bad practice, it will lose popularity and it will begin to die though it will work again to an extent in 2019. But beyond 2019, when Nigerians will have come to the realization that we need to revolutionize the country that we cannot continue in this way then vote buying is going to die naturally. So what we are doing in ADP, we are already looking ahead to a post vote buying era to a time when consciousness will have risen. It may sound farfetched what I am saying now but remember that we started our election by ballot stuffing and snatching. But we don’t have all of that anymore. We are pushing for electronic voting system, if we have electronic voting system, vote buying will die naturally. But let me tell you what is encouraging it right now, we need to work on INEC and journalists should help us. What we have right now is not an open – secret ballot system, what we have is an open, open ballot system. An open secret ballot system is such that after I have been accreditted, I should vote in a secret place where nobody sees me, without anyone knowing who I have voted for. But our polling boots are designed in such a way that people vote in the full glare of the public and so mecenaries who have been mounted to watch influence decision of the voter. After collecting money, I am aware that they are watching me so I go vote for the candidate for whom money have been collected. INEC have not done anything about this, they are just telling politicians don’t do election malpractice. Politicians don’t listen rather a system to check – mate them is put in place. So that is what we are trying to do in voters’ education, we want to involve ourselves also in the advocacy; you know it is part of responsibility of political parties to give political education and it is part of our agenda now that we are coming into the public because examples is more efficacious than words and to make our party popular. If you are coming to our party and you know that there is internal democracy, you will be our best advertiser.
Are you saying that there would be no concesus like it is done in the APC? You know it is another form of imposition.
No it depends on how you look at it. Consensus as an ideal of decision taking is acceptable in every organization anywhere in the world. What do we mean by consensus? Every person that is a stakeholder in the decision making process must agree. That is the meaning of consensus. But what they call consensus in these big parties is that two or three persons takes the decision and impose it on the majority and that is why it has that kind of backlash. If we are six taking decision, then we agree or if there is disagreement, then we put it to vote and if four out of six agree, that is a consensus. Nobody will later disassociate himself. So, consensus is done everywhere. But the truth is that what they call consensus is not consensus rather, two or three godfathers want to impose their will on the majority and that is why you have backlash. Consensus is now assuming a negative connotation. But it shouldn’t.