Comrade Razaq Olokoba, frontline activist and Public Commentator; is the Convener of the Campaign for Dignity in Governance (CDG). He was also the Convener, Civil Society Coalition on Ondo Guber Election held on Saturday, October 10, 2020.
In this interview with, the youth leader said, the free and fair election in Ondo State recently was a clear indication that Nigeria is also capable of becoming a mature country, where free, fair and credible election can be the order of the day like how it is obtainable in advanced counties of the world like America, United Kingdom and others.
As one of the election monitors and observers during the recent Ondo State governorship election, can we have an insight into what its conduct was from you?
The election, as far as I am concerned, was fine. It was an indication that the country called Nigeria is not different from other civilized countries of the world. This assertion was because the election in Ondo State on Saturday, October, 2020 has portrayed Nigerians, particularly the people of Ondo State, are civilized, organized and lovers of democracy. The election was peaceful, free and fair.
I therefore seize this opportunity to congratulate the people of Ondo State on their exhibition of posture of civilized electorate. I also want to urge the people of the whole country to emulate such. And I congratulate all the political parties that took part in that credible election. I also congratulate the winner of the election and all other stakeholders that contributed to the success of the exercise.
I have to specially mention the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu (BOS), who was the Chairman, Governorship Campaign Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC), for supervising a free and fair election. His political maturity has contributed immensely in the successful conduct of the poll. By and large, I will therefore whole heartedly say, the outcome of the result as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), is acceptable to us.
Why do you say so?
I say so because we were on ground. We were there. We got there on Wednesday and nosed around for useful information that could assist us in our monitoring duties. We discovered that there was apprehension that the election might be violent. But, interestingly, the day of the election, the initial apprehension just evaporated as there was no envisaged disruption of the exercise. The INEC officials were on ground and the voters conducted themselves in orderly manners. Their punctuality, I can say, was unprecedented in the history of election conduct in the recent time. The reason for that led to the conclusion of the poll early enough. Looking at the exercise in retrospect, I will say it was a cheering story.
Do you think President Muhammadu Buhari’s posture on fair election contributed to the peaceful conduct of the poll?
Well, I will say yes. His commitment to free, fair and credible election in the country manifested that day. The President behaved, not only as the President of the Nigeria, but also as the true father of the Nation. He saw all the contestants as Nigerians, whose interests are to be protected by him irrespective of political and religious leanings or tribal and ethnic affiliations. He promised equal treatment for all to vote and be voted for and allowed to discharge their franchise. He has exhibited that both in Edo and Ondo States.
That was very impressive and we must commend him for that. And we want to encourage him to continue exhibition of that posture in the subsequent elections in the country. We also wish to encourage all the political parties to also continue to exhibit the peaceful postures they displayed during the Edo and Edo States. They assured that, if the elections were free and fair, the outcome would be acceptable. They did that in Edo State and repeated same in Ondo State. If they accept the outcome of the elections that are free and fair, the nation would be saved the unnecessary stress and needless resources wastage in pursuing injunctions here and there.
I am not at all, saying that, if anybody sees reasons to challenge any infringement, he should not take actions to address it. What I am actually saying is that, it should not be handled in a way that would cause needless detractions. With what we witnessed in Ondo it would be needless for any political party to challenge the outcome because the exercise clearly showed that the APC candidate, who is the sitting governor, Arakunrinn Olwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), is a very popular candidate.
What is your assessment of the performance of the security personnel in the election?
The security agents deserve kudos for a job well done and I enjoin them to continue doing what they did in Edo and Ondo States. They behaved in a very civilised manner. And that shows that, if democracy has been on in Nigeria uninterrupted for long, we would have been more advanced democratically than those advanced democracies across the globe, either America, Europe or the rest of them. What I witnessed has shown that the country can guarantee security of life and property with ease.
They behaved maturely, they were so humane, and some minor cries that reared their ugly heads were handled in such a way that they never snowballed into noticeable breach of the peace. I therefore enjoin them to keep it up.
What do you think gave the All Progressive Congress (APC), victory?
What gave the APC victory could be majorly attributed to adhering strictly to the advice the analysts gave about closing ranks. Amicable resolution of its intra-party crises, I think saved the party the agony of defeat. Thankfully for them, the president, party leaders and notable stake holders stepped in and doused the tension that could have torn the party into shreads ahead of the election. But they closed ranks.
So, that success the amicable settlement of the crises brought on board should not be sabotaged by Governor RotimiAkeredolu. He should bring all the aggrieved members on board into an inclusive government. He should also continue to provide good governance to the generality of the good people of Ondo State irrespective of their party affiliations. If the governor brings everybody on board, it would be good for him, for the state and for democracy.
He must always put it at the back of his mind that, what happened in Edo and Edo was a build up to 2023. And that is what both the APC and PDP should recognise. What would happen in Edo and Ondo in terms of governance would be the yard stick the people would use to assess both the parties and people’s assessment would reflect on what would happen in 2023. So, everybody must be recognised, taken care of, and brought closer to policy making table.
Lagos example would suffice here where the Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu inaugurated 377 road projects recently across the state. The project cut across the state based on the need of the people and not based on the need of his loyalists, his constituency or party sympathizers. And some benefactors might not have even voted for him. That is how it should be. To me, governance must be universal, to reach all and sundry.
What influence has Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s been on the election as the APC Campaign Committee Chairman?
Sanwo-Olu has always been a rainmaker. He has done it again. His intervention in Ondo State poll, as Chairman, APC Campaign Committee really helped Akeredolu tremendously. I dove my hat for those individuals, groups, stakeholders and organizations that advised the APC to choose the governor to work for Akeredolu. Sanwo-Olu changed the pattern and the whole garmut of electioneering and the rest is history now.
And if you notice the tempo, immediately Sanwo-Olu emerged the Campaign Committee Chairman, towards the time of election, there was a surge in the rating of the APC candidate. That was a good thing for APC that they have performers in their midst who could be used to score their goals in the political football when elections come around. That is how elections are won in the whole of the world. Jefferson was campaigned for by the First Eleven in the Democrats while Trump was campaigned for, by the First Eleven in the Republican.
So, it is in order and not out of place for a performer like Sanwo-Olu to campaign for Akeredolu in Ondo State. And during the campaign, Sanwo-Olu assured the people that all the promises of the APC would be fulfilled. And if you know Sanwo-Olu, you will know he is a performer, who always keeps all his promises. People took him serious in Ondo and that attracted more votes to Akeredolu of the APC.
What is your take on the Lagos East Senatorial bye-election coming up later this month?
The coming senatorial by-election coming up in the Lagos East Senatorial District, Sanwo-Olu’s performance would rob on the APC candidate, Hon. Tokunbo Abiru to win. That is another interesting political event coming up this October in Lagos. And we have gone through the profiles of all the contestants in the race and discovered that, Abiru stands shoulder higher than the rest. He is a tested and trusted technocrat. And going by the success of the party on which platform he is contesting, victory appears a foregone conclusion.
The calibre of the chieftains of the party since 1999 like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Mr Babtunde Raji Fashola (SAN), and Babajide-Sanwo-Olu among others, this will also go a long way to attract people’s votes for the party through its candidate, Abiru.