Edo State Labour Party Chairman, Kelly Ogbaloi, in this interview with MAYOWA SAMUEL, faults the outcome of the Presidential and National Assembly elections that took place on February 25, 2023 in the state. He shares his expectation regarding the upcoming March 11, 2023 House of Assembly elections in the state. Excerpts:
What’s your view regarding the outcome of the recent presidential, National Assembly elections that took place in Edo State?
The All Progressives Congress imported conducts that weren’t known to us into the election. We won the presidential election, but I’ll tell you that notwithstanding, that is not to say that the election was free and fair. We hoped that INEC by now should have been able to bring to the table a better deal in terms of elections in Nigeria.
“RIGHT NOW, WE ARE LOOKING AT THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY, SO WE ARE GOING TO REPLICATE THE SAME STRENGTH THERE, AND ENSURE THAT WE ARE ABLE TO PUT INTO THE STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY, PEOPLE WHO WE CONSIDER AS MOST COMPETENT AND COMING WITH BETTER IDEAS TO HELP THE STATE”
But what we saw was a compromising, intolerable negligence, omissions, and calculations of results without conceding what had happened, even materials not getting to some places on time, physical attacks on both INEC officials and the electorate and what have you. All these happened in Edo State but we thank God that at the end of the day, we won. But to take it in total, those elections were not the wishes of the people.
In your state, your party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi, won the presidential election, despite the PDP and the APC being the major election contenders over the years. How do you see such a feat – trouncing the two main parties in your state by your party from nowhere?
This is to teach the people that when the people speak, nothing can stand in their way. What happened here was that the people got tired of this administration we have. They got tired of keeping these ones who are not ready to respond to the yearnings and aspirations of the people they govern.
Very clearly, they’ve sent a message, and won. Therefore, I’m sure that the description is not far from the fact that they must know that the game is up for them. You can no longer be winning elections all the time just because you think you have been there, just because you think you know the game.
You’re there only when the people want you to be there, and this is the message they have sent. Today, nobody in Edo State is listening to APC or PDP, and therefore, we got the win.
The result in Edo showed that Obi won the election, just like in some states. But many say that the result for Obi in most states where he won and lost was actually higher than what was announced. Can you say the same of your state?
Despite the fact that we won the election, it was a fact that so many things happened. There were physical attacks and all of that. It’s not an election that can be regarded as free and fair, it should be rejected.
That’s why in the press conference I did, I mentioned to INEC that they need to go back to the drawing board, check all those options I submitted to them, check areas where they have cancelled elections without thinking, and then, redo the elections there because we are aware that the elections that were not counted, they are the ones that belonged to Labour Party.
So, I think that you cannot regard this election as free and fair, and that’s why you saw that it impacted on the result that we got. Yes, it’s clear that those were not our expectations, the results they gave were not what we should have had if the election was really free and fair.
Do you believe that if Edo State was to conduct a governorship election on March 11, with this result of the presidential election, it would have also been a victory for your party in that regard as well?
The turnout here is to be replicated in subsequent elections. Right now, we are looking at the House of Assembly, so we are going to replicate the same strength there, and ensure that we are able to put into the state House of Assembly, people who we consider as most competent and coming with better ideas to help the state.
So, we are not deterred, what we have done in the presidential election, we will do it again. What I can tell you is that we are going there with more vigour and vigilance this time around, so that what was actually voted in our credit will be counted and we’ll be victorious. So, these are the things we want to do.
One of your candidates, Meda Imasuen, won the Edo South Senatorial seat. Do you see this as a pointer to greater things ahead for your party?
Certainly, because the road has been created now, the victory will be more experienced in the House of Assembly election. With that victory, everybody is encouraged, and now ready to push harder than we did in the previous election. We can’t be intimidated now, so that will stand against the opposition. So, for us, the victory will be more successfully achieved.
What particular unpalatable experience were you able to gather in terms of electoral violence, voter intimidation, and the likes in your state?
There were cases where there were physical attacks on electoral officers and materials that were kept out there. There were cases where election results were picked and whisked away. There were cases where people were shot.
So, it was quite very disheartening and I can tell you that it’s a bad experience. Our calculation was that by now, INEC ought to have brought to the table more specifications that can be more defined as setting standards for others to follow but we didn’t see that.
What we could see was this shameful act, very terrible compromises and sometimes, indolence and people not ready to do their work. So this led to why there was mistrust here and there. The votes that belonged to the Labour Party were stolen in the manner they did. So for me, it was a very bad experience.
Your candidate won in the Edo South, but were you satisfied with the other senatorial seats that didn’t come your way?
Where there is a clear case of defeat, we can accept that but like I’ve been saying, the fraud was all over. They were stealing here and there. There were gunshots. So, in this regard, it’s not possible for me to now say we were defeated in any senatorial seat or in any part of Nigeria. It was not free and fair. Notwithstanding that we won here, it doesn’t mean that all other actions in other places were correct.
To say that INEC obeyed the rules in the National Assembly elections, what rule did they obey? I can tell you that BIVAS was expected to transmit to the INEC server but that didn’t happen. It was also required that right from the unit, the result you got must be sent to the wards of that unit, but that didn’t happen.
The central server for INEC was tampered with, it was not working at that point in time. INEC gave excuses that the server had technical problems. So, why were they able to encounter technical problems at the time of the election? Was it that they were not checking? There was also online information that there was a parallel server loaded by APC such that the workings of the original server that belonged to INEC was made not to work. So, whatever information that was going to that parallel server was what INEC was using. In all of these, very clearly, the electoral system in Nigeria has not started, and I’m afraid Nigeria can’t even continue with them.
So, Yakubu must begin to think of resigning now because the BVAS was glowingly spoken about, it was extolled by Yakubu and his gang that this was going to be the solution but it was a fiasco. Therefore, the Labour Party was saying that the INEC must be reviewed and we must find more solutions that will help Nigeria out of this political doldrums so that every other time we won’t complain about elections that were marred with fraud.
From the experiences of many voters in some states, they said that the National Assembly elections was free and fair because electronic transmission of results was adopted for the Senate and House of Reps elections, as stipulated by the Electoral Act which even probably made your candidate win a senate seat, and an Okada rider, a Rep candidate in Kaduna also from your party, won another National Assembly seat. Can you also testify that electronic transmission was used for the National Assembly elections in your state?
Well, without necessarily conceding to this, I was at the local level to vote. What do they mean by that? If that happens it should have happened right there, the result in the BVAS should have been transmitted right there, that’s what we were told. Was that what happened? In some cases, the BVAS machines were abandoned.
The INEC officials did not even put anything to the server because the server itself was already disconnected, they were put in a situation that it cannot even work because they knew what they wanted to do. In Edo State, that (electronic transmission) didn’t happen, I don’t even think it happened anywhere. Look at it, Nigeria voted for the Labour Party, not APC or PDP, but we didn’t get that.
So, they are just trying to make up and do explanations. Peter Obi had a press conference on Wednesday rejecting the outcome of the presidential election. He said he was going to court to challenge the election result, as he has evidence to prove that he won the election. What are your expectations regarding this move?
Well, what he is trying to do is when you are aggrieved, you go to court. That’s where we are supposed to go. Let it be that our courts will be upright because sometimes, we are beginning to think that it’s neither here nor there. But that’s the place we should go to when we are aggrieved and my principal has said so.
We have nowhere else to go. We’ll go to court to contest because we have reasonable evidence to prove that something happened negatively, so the court needs to take a look at that. So, my take is that we are taking the right step by not going into total rampage and causing total chaos within the sovereignty of Nigeria and then make life terrible for some people because that will be very uncivilized, hence we have to go to court.
We appeal to our people that yes, this is a very bad moment for us, but we cannot take the laws into our hands, like other political parties will do. Of course, I can assure you that if this happens, APC will tap into it, nobody whether PDP or APC will be resting in Nigeria now. So for us, we are civilized as a political party, so we will go to court.