Senator Domingo Obende represented Edo North Senatorial district in the Seventh National Assembly. He was the Publicity Secretary of the National Campaign Council of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) during the recent governorship election in the state. In this interview with CAJETAN MMUTA, he speaks on the poll and sets agenda for the incoming government in the state
What is your take on your party’s victory in the recent governorship election in Edo State?
If you take your mind back to the interview I granted before the election, I said we are going to win but that I had reservation in about three local government areas in Edo Central, and that is exactly what happened.
So for us, we are happy because it is an attestation to the fact that Edo people still love good things and of course we have always said that sharing the money will not be an issue in the election, but who can deliver. For me, a dog cannot beget a cat; a lion also cannot beget a goat.
So, the indices that we have seen in the Adams Oshiomhole government bringing out Godwin Obaseki presupposes that a lion must beget a lion and that is why I believe by the grace of God that we are happy, and we want to encourage the people on the other side that Edo is one.
Although we will have our political differences, we must come together and it is only when we have positive criticisms that Edo will be able to move forward and good governance will come to stay. In a nutshell, we are very happy and we give glory to God for the victory.
But there was heightened anxiety and propaganda before the election?
There are a couple of people that when they are going to do a few things that probably could give them comfort, they will advertise it, but for Africans that I think we are, even the air can be obstacles sometimes.
So, for us, we were strategic; we didn’t go on the part of propaganda because we believed that propaganda does not bring the strategy you need but rather, their own propaganda gave us the confidence to be able to work around what they perceived and we strategized to be able to decode them and get the result that today we are happy about.
How do you see the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State rejecting the governorship election result that produced the APC candidate, Mr. Godwin Obaseki ,as the Governor-elect?
Rejecting a result is their perception of what happened. But in the election, I saw one of the gubernatorial candidates destroying ballots papers. They are also calculating that about 600,000 votes are missing; I don’t know where they are getting those figures from. They can contest the result of the election if they like. The people used their thumbs to send them packing and we are burying them forever in Edo State.
What agenda would you set for the Governor-elect?
I am happy for one thing; the Governor-elect is not somebody that is coming to learn on the job. He has been the chairman of the Economic team and Godwin as we know, is a practical person; he knows what boardroom politics is all about and that is what we need for Edo to move ahead.
Our agenda is simple; development, development and development, because without development and creating an enabling environment for development to thrive, then of course the people of Edo will be miserable. Because of what we see in these days of recession, assuming there were no structures today, Edo wouldn’t have gone to this level.
Comrade Oshiomhole has done his beat and he is exiting, but I can bet you that he is exiting well because there is nothing as good as when you bring somebody, who you are handing over the baton to, and you are sure the person will take the race to an advantageous position. That is what we are here for.
The PDP accused your party of monetising the Edo State governorship election. How would you react to that?
I saw on television where the PDP candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, talked about inducement. I don’t know what kind of inducement he meant, but we know they brought serious financial inducement to the system. We knew what happened during the 2015 presidential election and how they shared money on the streets.
So, how then do you now say a leopard would change its skin, it is not possible. It is the practice of the PDP to share money. It is the practice of the PDP to induce people with money because they believe that power can only be gotten by money. For us good, power is from the people because when the people vote you in, you will be answerable to them but when you pay to be voted in, the people will have no moral justification to ask you questions in the face of failure.
They led us for almost 10 years, they failed us; the eight years we have led, I do not think we have failed Edo people and for the four years mandate we just got; by the special grace of God, we are still not going to fail Edo people.
How would you assess the roles of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies and other electoral actors?
I will dwell on areas that I personally covered. In Akoko-Edo for example, there was no incidence of any sort and the soldiers that came were civil. At a time, they were seizing motorcycles saying election riggers normally use motorcycles to snatch ballot boxes, but I told them not in that area, not in Igarra, and they agreed with me and attested to the fact that it was peaceful.
For us, security was okay, where we had flash points, security was adequately provided and to the glory of God, we had a hitch-free election; no life was lost and that shows that the reign of Godwin Obaseki will bring real good because there was no blood stain. I must commend INEC because materials got to voting centres as early as 8:00am.
In Akoko-Edo, as at 12 midnight the vehicles were loaded and parked at INEC office, so in the morning, they moved to their locations after inspection. But in my unit, after the breakdown of the card reader, we still had over 200 that couldn’t vote. So, my advice to INEC will be that anywhere registration is heavy; they should deploy more than one machine. If they do not do that, a lot would be disenfranchised.
There have been calls from different quarters and APC leaders for restructuring of the party. What is your take on that?
Our party has no structural defect, so why are you restructuring what is not defective? You see, some people always believe that if it is not their way, it will not work. People must learn how to give and take in politics. It is not everything you wish for that you get. So, for me, I don’t see anything wrong with the party and don’t forget that there is shock of victory and shock of failure.
Honestly, we came to streets, talked to the people that we needed change and the government has been changed, so we will now need to orientate the people to function properly in their various offices and you will agree with me that President Muhammadu Buhari is getting things right.
I watched him recently when he was giving his Independence Day broadcast; honestly I have never seen him in a calm nature. He was so relaxed as if he was talking to his family members so we are getting it right.
Of course, the chairman of the party will surely have issues with some people, who lost out in the governorship ticket, but I don’t think that calls for restructuring; the party on its own should evolve to perfection. Whether some people worked for us or against us during the governorship election, the people voted for us and that for me is what is fundamental.
Are you now saying that even in the PDP, people did not work against themselves? They did. I saw a political party that scored just one vote, it means only the candidate voted for himself, yet the party had members that voted for others so it is a normal thing.
What will Edo people miss in Governor Adams Oshiomhole?
We will miss his tenacity, his ruggedness and strength to carry people along. We are going to miss his zeal to confront every challenge. Oshiomhole is a rugged man; a labour man to the core, a man who is never scared. Sometimes, he annoys you but you just wonder what specie of human being he is.
We will miss him but I know that whenever we have elections, he will still be with us. We will keep praying for him and we will tap from his experience, his strength and pray that God will give him peace and make him live longer.