A former Minister of Transport and member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Ebenezer Babatope, speaks with JACOB SEGUN OLATUNJI and KOLAWOLE DANIEL on next Saturday’s governorship election in Osun States, among other issues. Excerpts:
How prepared is the Osun PDP for next Saturday’s governorship election?
We are working very hard in the PDP, believing that our hard work will produce result for our party in the election. Every ward, every village in Osun is being combed by campaign teams of the PDP and by the campaign team led by the governorship candidate, Iyiola Omisore, to ensure that we have total victory. So, apparently, anywhere we get in Osun now, you find that the PDP is not only fully on ground, but on the offensive and by the grace of God, we are going to win the election.
There is the alarm by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that the PDP is planning to rig the election.
It is absolutely false. People should understand the environment in which we operate and we must also understand the people, the custom, the culture and the behavioural pattern of the people. Yorubaland, as I have always said, is not a place, where anybody can manipulate elections. You don’t do that in Yorubaland because you won’t get away with it. Throughout the history of politics in Yorubaland from the First Republic, you will find out that riggers never escape the justice of the people which, in fact, is the grace of God.
In Ekiti and Osun States, we have not had correct electoral judgments passed by democratic institutions on who actually is superior in terms of having followership. A man manipulated the judicial process in a manner that Ekiti and Osun were lost by the PDP to the APC from court.
I want to assure Nigerians that the PDP will never rig election. The party believes that we must work very hard; we must get to the people; we must liaise with the people; we must deal with the people and ensure that on the election day, the people will be on our side. That’s what we are doing.
Although, you have accused the APC of bringing in strange faces into the state, the party leadership have countered that it was the PDP that was planning to rig in collusion with security personnel. Do we really need all this?
It is only mad people, who are thoughtless that will plan to take the lives of other people because of politics. We, of the PDP, have got very clear information that some elements in the APC are planning to eliminate some of our leaders. I have had reports brought to me that plans are being made to eliminate me and I asked myself what type of elimination is this. You want to eliminate a 71-year old man, for what? I’m not contesting governorship; neither am I contesting the Presidency or Senate or whatever. But this is what they said they are planning.
They are even planning that they will kidnap members of the PDP and that some elements of the leadership of the APC have arranged those who are to be kidnapped with a view of getting the Federal Government to prevail on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to suspend the election. But, we didn’t make any noise about this because we felt that, while we should be watchful, we should also be on our guard because we believe that August 9 should be a date that all the people of Osun will move to their electoral centres and vote in a free and fair election. I have always been a believer in Jega’s INEC and I have always said it that he has surprised many Nigerians about the way he conducts election.At the end of the day, the people of Osun are going to be the decider of events.
If many of the PDP governors were punished by the South-West electorate for being disorganised, then the APC leadership should know that any government that has fallen within this category will be punished by the people of the zone. Those of us in the PDP are not planning to murder anybody. We are not planning to kidnap anybody. It is what we are reliably told that is being done by APC that, in fact, is manifesting. I want to appeal to the INEC and the Federal Government that they must have their ears and eyes on the ground to ensure that trouble makers are checkmated. That’s why our people are very happy that the security as provided for in other states like Edo, Ekiti, Anambra and Ondo will be provided for us and the people will go and vote without having the fear that they are going to be machetted.
What is your reaction to the allegation again that you in PDP are arranging with the INEC to rig election and that was why you ensured the transfer of the former REC?
Let anybody say anything and let people go into what I said about the INEC since 2010. I don’t know Jega from Adam. Jega has done very well in electoral matters in this country. Secondly, President Goodluck Jonathan has shown that he wants to invest in the concept of one man, one vote; one woman, one vote-free and fair election. In 2011, he said so that as far as he’s concerned, he wants free and fair election and he has exhibited that.