Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Ogbueshi Paul Odili, a journalist, was the Communications Manager to former governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. He was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Ndokwa/Ukwani federal constituency in the just concluded election. He relives his experiences during the election which he lost to the incumbent and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ossai Nicholas, decrying the huge impact of vote buying in the nation’s electoral process.
What was your experience as a candidate in the just concluded general election?
Sadly and lamentably, our politics is buying and selling. That is the honest truth. As a society, there are certain incongruities in our thinking, and I am dealing with it at every level, whether at the elite level or at the level of the masses, where for you to win power, you will have to buy power. In Delta State, you simply have to buy power, it is not about your vision, it is not about your competence, it is not about your programmes or objectives, you simply have to buy power and that is lamentable.
I am sure you must have heard about the famous vote buying thing, it is real. People actually bargain for votes, ‘we will vote for you if you give us money,’ is the popular language. Even when I was campaigning, I knew it was going to play out, I knew that people were going to ask for money but my question to them was always that the money you collected from politicians in 2015, is that what you are surviving on till date? Not one person told me yes. I said how much did you even get? Some said N500, N3, 000, N250.00, common! A society that can pauperise the people to the extent that they actually give up their rights for N250.00 or N1, 000 what kind of society is that?
To engage with the elite, you have to bring money, they don’t hide it. If you don’t bring money, you are on your own. Unfortunately, the state structure is deeply compromised. You have to bribe security and INEC. We are dealing with an extremely monetised system. The democratic system in Delta State for instance, is a process where we have to buy everybody – governmental structure, state structure, the voting populace, the elite, you just have to buy, and the only thing is that their prices differ. If you buy the ordinary man for N3, 000 you have to buy the elite in millions. So everybody is for sale. You need to bargain, negotiate with them, it is about money. Everything about the democratic process that I know about is about money.
Are you saying that it took you to go into this election as a contestant to know about these happenings in the system?
No! You know in 2007 when President Yar’Adua was declared winner, he said the process that brought him to office was questionable. I am not trying to tell you that I was not aware of all these, my point is that we have been in this for 20years, so the rhetoric that our political process is changing is not true because I have engaged in the process. I am dealing with this issue as a practical matter. You see the thing about democracy ultimately is about change, after 2007 and over ten years later, you would expect that we would have made some progress in terms of how we appraise some persons who offer themselves for public service. In my own example, the record of the PDP candidate was extremely poor. He was a two-term House of Assembly member, majority leader, two-term House of Representatives member, now he is going for the third term, his record was poor in terms of having a vision, having the competence to deliver on the promises he made. People just did not want to see him, his campaign was opposed by the people, they refused to see him in many places, and he had nothing to campaign with because he had nothing to show. He was a failure and a disaster, and the people did not hide it. Now, if a man is so unpopular amongst his people, how did he win? If you need to go back to an office, there must be something you have done. In my Local Government Area, Ndokwa East, there was actually nothing on the table. When he came for campaigns, he was asked simple question, can you tell us what you have done? He could not answer because there was nothing to say. In his Local Government Area, there was no answer. In Ukwuani Local Government Area, he could not answer. How do you then return somebody who has absolutely nothing to show? Is that not showing that there is something wrong somewhere?
Maybe it was a case of dealing with the ‘devil you know’. What do you think?
No! That issue came up. Devil is not known for giving you anything good. I would rather deal with an angel that I know can bring something good. Devil is a devil; he cannot come and give you anything positive.
Can you contrast your practical experience with that of the president-elect who is widely touted as someone not giving to vote buying?
Everybody knows Buhari; he is a stickler for rules and regulations. He is the last person who will give money to buy votes. His reputation for integrity is impeccable. You need not to even compare Buhari with the guy I contested against who had nothing to show. Mind you, President Buhari has done excellently well; there are a whole lot of things that he has done well. And across Nigeria, in four years, he keeps saying this which is true, a lot of people are governed by their emotions and mass hysteria especially instigated by the elite. The man has said, ‘look, the time PDP was in office, this and this did not happen, I am in office for four years, this and this happened.’ There are visible records that you can examine. To the extent that he is able to deliver on his promise in four years is enough for him to win his election. And the votes are there to see. If you say Buhari should take visceral responsibility for vote buying, will mean that we don’t want the problem to be solved. It is impossible, he will set the policy and demonstrate with personal example, and it is now left for people to follow his example. I keep talking about the rhetoric from INEC, there is no policy in Nigeria that you cannot undermine if you are determined to. It is not necessarily about Buhari saying ‘I am clean,’he is doing his best but we should also cooperate with him, buy into his vision for a better society. If we desire a more efficient, less prone to violence electoral system, we should all come together and collaborate. Only Buhari cannot deliver a true Nigeria of our dreams. We are all just abdicating our responsibility if we leave it to him.