Magnus Eze, Enugu
As the echoes of the 2019 general election settle; the African Peoples Alliance (APA) candidate for Enugu North/South Federal Constituency, Chukwunonso Ogbe has picked hole in the whole exercise. The Enugu-based lawyer shares his experience as a candidate; speaks on the role of the youth in the elections and also calls for the total review of the nation’s electoral system.
How would you react to the outcome of the recently held general election?
I believe that many people see the outcome of the election from different perspectives in the sense that some believe that the election was properly conducted and others believe otherwise and definitely it’s difficult to have an election that all the stakeholders will come to a consensus and say that the election was free and fair. Notwithstanding, I think the 2019 elections fell far beyond my expectation as a person because I thought the election would be free and fair but the otherwise happened in Enugu State. So, the election wasn’t conducted to the satisfaction of functional thinking members of the society in my own belief.
Why do you say so, when the thinking was that the election went smoothly in Enugu State and the outcomes acceptable?
There are some information supplied to me by our field agents who worked for my party APA in Enugu State, they were cases of vote buying; it was very rampant and secondly, people weren’t given the opportunity to exercise their right to vote under anonymous condition in the sense that in as much as the election was conducted through what we call open secret ballot voting system; we found out that the way the voting points were set up, made it difficult for people to vote the candidate of their choice without undue interference. So, the aspect of secrecy was not allowed. Most importantly, there were also cases of multiple voting and we have the allegations being made in that regard and very cogent and I put up as a challenge that if anyone says the contrary that they’re not cases of multiple voting then the ballot papers used should be subjected to forensic examination. Once that is done, you will see that my allegation of multiple voting in Enugu State is cogent.
People have complained about the militarisation of the process; what’s your opinion?
As a matter of fact, the involvement of the military during the election in my own opinion is an unfortunate development because we know that the members of the armed forces; the army in particular have their basic code which is the protection of the territorial integrity of the nation, so, involving the military in electioneering process is not good for our democracy even though it may be deemed that they were brought in to assist the Police in protecting the lives and properties of the citizens in the course of the process. But, basically here in Enugu State, they weren’t much cases of molestation by the members of the military and to the best of our knowledge the voters weren’t actually scared from exercising their franchise because of their presence in Enugu State. However, going by information at our disposal from reliable sources throughout the country, their presence in this election gave rise to adverse consequences in some places like allegations coming up from Rivers and Akwa Ibom states with regards to the role they played in subverting the will of the people.
As a candidate, what were the challenges that you faced?
I embarked on election campaign to the best of my ability but I discovered that there seemed to be much interest being accorded to the financial status of the candidates in this election; so many people weren’t willing to listen to what we had to offer. They’re much more interested in the financial benefit they had to make from the candidate and I’m not a money bag so that posed a major challenge for me but apart from that, so many rational thinking members of the society still embraced my political ideology and they stood by me. It wasn’t totally a very bad experience but I believe that the outcome would have been more positive if I were to have that financial backbone to execute my campaign; that was the major challenge I encountered.
Don’t you think that the youths who clamoured for the ‘Not-too-young-to run’ law would have made better impact if they congregated in two political parties than fielding candidates in the motley of parties?
Anyway, I beg to disagree in the sense that; one, without sounding immodest, I was even the arrowhead of the ‘Not-too-young-to-run’ bill because it was a court action that I filed in 2014 that spurred interest in that political activism when I sued the National Assembly for barring Nigerian youth who are up to the age of 18 from vying for political offices going by the constitutional barriers placed age wise. But that apart, the issue I think is, if you look at the voting pattern of most Nigerian youths, they’re not even after supporting their fellow youth rather they were much interested in supporting those whom, one, either have what it takes to salvage them from poor governance or secondly, those who they believe have the financial backbone to meet their financial needs. That’s the reality because just like juxtaposing what transpired with the clamour by women to be carried along politically when Sarah Jibril ran for the presidency under PDP, despite the fact that they were many female delegates in that party primary; the female delegates didn’t support their fellow woman. So, it’s a very complex scenario. I don’t think that the multiplicity of youths in this election had any adverse impact on the oneness of youths to support their fellow youth rather most youth voted based on their personal inclinations going by what they sought out in the various candidates that vied for these offices.