Comrade Simon Ebegbulem is the Chief Press Secretary to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. In this interview, Ebegbulem says the results of the general elections have put to rest the pyrrhic popularity of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
How do you assess the results of the 2019 general elections particularly as they affect the decisions taken by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led by your boss, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole?
The APC victories so far, starting from the presidential election, the sacking of the PDP and the Bukola Saraki political dynasty in Kwara State and the dominance of the APC in the National Assembly are glaring evidence in the elections. When Comrade Oshiomhole got this job, many of us who know him very well, know he is the right man for the job and that he will deliver. He is a dogged fighter, a man who believes in democracy, a man who believes in the rule of law, a man who believes that candidates must earn their votes democratically and not through rigging.
That is why he introduced one man one vote while he was governor of Edo State. With the victories we got in most of the states, you could see that the APC NWC got it right especially in areas where we conducted direct primaries. And looking at the results of the elections, you could see political godfathers in the PDP falling by the wayside. When the Comrade Chairman was insisting that Saraki will be impeached, people thought the impeachment was only going to be at the floor of the Senate.
You can see he has been impeached finally by the people of Kwara through the ballot. Oshiomhole has the strategy of killing the career of political godfathers and that is why there are attacks against him some times. He is one of the political leaders I know who hates godfatherism in politics and he actually ended it in Edo and today Edo is free. He believes that people and not leaders must lead. And that is why in every election, Oshiomhole campaigns vigorously just like he did in the presidential election. While the PDP was busy strategizing on how to rig, Oshiomhole and President Muhammadu Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was busy canvassing for votes from Nigerians. So we are very glad that, with the victory, the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, came second as his name suggests, while Comrade Oshiomhole took first as his name connotes (laughter).
But the APC was embroiled in crises before and after the APC primaries. How was he (Oshiomhole) able to cope with the pressure particularly as he was able to deliver the President despite stiff opposition
from the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar?
Yes, it is true that the Oshiomhole-led NWC inherited crisis arising from the congresses held by the past NWC. In fact, that problem affected the conduct of our primaries and actually led to the exit of some leaders of our party to the PDP immediately Oshiomhole assumed office as National Chairman. That is also why we had the sad situation in Rivers today. Oshiomhole did not create those problems, he inherited them. But my boss is one person who does not sit down to lament a situation, rather he finds a solution. Oshiomhole excels during the crisis, that is when you see the best in him. What you feel is a difficult situation may not be a tough situation for him. When he assumed office, there was this issue that the party had been hijacked by some persons. He knew if something drastic does not happen, the party was going to have a debate and Obaseki won.
So the tension you mentioned during the primaries were as a result of the governors who tried to play god and that set the stage for a confrontation between them and Oshiomhole who believes that the people and not the godfathers must lead. To answer your question, you could see that what you described as pressure did not affect our victory at the polls. After the primaries, the NWC embarked on a massive campaign for all APC candidates and I am happy that today we emerged victoriously. At least the PDP social media men and women have gone on holidays.
So what is your general assessment of the general elections?
The results of the general elections have cleared the air on who owns papa’s land. The results show that the majority of Nigerians, not the elite that ganged up against the President, appreciates the reforms embarked upon by the Buhari administration. Reforms don’t come easy, they come with pains, but I am glad that despite the blackmail by the opposition, the lies against the Buhari government, Nigerians still went to the polls to re-elect the anti-corruption guru. Today we no longer import rice, toothpick, our railway system is working, there is massive construction and rehabilitation of roads across the country, our power sector is improving every day.
The APC has also won more governors and we have a majority in the National Assembly. We are looking forward towards winning more states in areas where governorship election was inconclusive. Nigerians are going to experience a National Assembly that will work for the good of Nigerians and not like the outgoing leadership which was working for its selfish interests.
Let me also say that I am not impressed with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the conduct of the elections. It is obvious that we had many electoral officers working for the PDP. I recall that the APC made several complaints about these people but nothing was done to correct the situation by the commission.
We discovered that some of the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), who were employed by the former PDP-led administration, worked for the PDP during the elections. The REC in Imo State is a good example. The Imo APC had earlier petitioned the INEC calling for the removal of the REC but the calls were ignored and you could see how the REC declared results written by both the PDP and AA governorship candidates, ignoring the results from the units which gave victory to the APC.
Talking about Imo State, the APC has lost the only state it has in the South-East, what happened?
I think you should take this question to the governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, and Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP, who were writing results for the Action Alliance and PDP respectively when they knew that the APC governorship candidate, Senator Hope Uzodinma, was coasting to victory.
The results which were read by the REC and his cohorts as results emanating from the exercise was actually fake results written and handed over to the REC to read. But when you check the actual results from the polling units, APC’s Hope Uzodinma won the election with a large margin. It is now a common knowledge how Governor Okorocha was declared a winner in the senatorial election in Orlu zone; according to the Returning Officer, he declared him winner under duress. That will tell you that there was no way the AA candidate and son-in-law to the governor, Uche Nwosu, would have won an election anywhere in IMO, not to talk of defeating Senator Uzodinma who is the incumbent senator representing Orlu zone.
The APC in Imo has rejected and condemned the result of that election as the result did not represent the actual wish of the people of Imo. Prior to this election, Uzodinma was the face of the opposition in IMO, the leader of the opposition and is generally referred to as the lion that brought Rochas to his knees in IMO. Anybody in Imo will tell you that but for Uzodinma’s doggedness and opposition towards the decision by Okorocha to install his son-in-law against the wish of the people, Uche Nwosu and his father-in-law would have had their way.
IMO people were looking for liberation and Uzodinma was the face of that struggle. I can tell you that the election in Imo was a charade and should be cancelled. Elections did not hold in several local governments due to violence; Ohaji Egbema, Oguta, Ngor Okpalla, which is where they even burnt down the INEC office, the REC agreed earlier that the results there were tampered with, yet he declared results in this area. In Nkware where Uche Nwosu comes from, a politician there shot somebody dead and there was fracas which led to the end of the election, yet miraculous results emerged from this local government. You could see on national television when the REC was announcing the results, he was instructing ROs to reduce the number of voters where he felt there was over voting as if he was allocating lands.
When in actual fact he should have ordered for the cancellation of the results in those areas. The election in Imo was a complete sham. He declared Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP winner without noticing that the PDP candidate did not meet the required 25% in 2/3 of the 27 local governments in the state. They all knew that both Ihedioha and Uche Nwosu cannot match APC Uzodinma in any election, so there was the conspiracy between the governor and the PDP to stop Uzodinma. But unfortunately for them now, the results we have from the polling units, APC has the highest votes and we are going to prove that in court.
But there was this spontaneous celebration in Owerri even before the announcement of Ihedioha as the winner, it shows the people already are happy with his emergence?
That is true, youths, market women thronged the streets of Owerri celebrating the ouster of Rochas family from office. Their billboards were destroyed and in fact, people were heading towards their property such as their hotels, estates in Owerri but soldiers were deployed in those areas to stop them. The truth is that Imo people were tired of the governor and couldn’t wait for them to leave. They just wanted somebody else but it must not be anybody close to Governor Okorocha’s family. Though the declaration of Ihedioha as governor was a mistake, at least it is clear now that by May 29, this year, another man will be packing into Douglas House Owerri and that person will not be a relation of Governor Okorocha.