With barely 48 hours to the decisive governorship election in Edo State, the state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Tony Aziegbemi, in this interview with ADEYINKA ADEDIPE, talks about his expectations, concerns and the chances of his party at the poll
The governorship election is in two days away, what is your expectation as the PDP Chairman in the state?
Well, we are prepared. We are ready. We have campaigned in every nook and cranny of the state. Our party faithful and everyone in Edo State is energised and everyone is waiting for Saturday. We just signed a peace accord on Tuesday. We are committed to the accord and we expect that the Independent National Electoral Commission and the security agencies will keep to their oath of conducting a free, fair and credible election as well as allow the people’s votes to count. Once that happens, I think it will be the beginning of democracy being deepened in the country and it will be good for everybody.
Also, the security agencies saddled with the responsibility of providing adequate security on election day must be ready to discharge their duties in accordance with the law.
What is your greatest fear on the day of election?
I wouldn’t say it is fear; I will rather talk about things that can go wrong.Things that may not go wrong and things that may not fit into the bill. For instance, when you start hearing ballot boxes being snatched, you hear gunshots and collation officers as well as SPOs disappearing. Those are the things one will be apprehensive about, but once the INEC officials do what they are supposed to do and be at places they are supposed to be at the right time and do not engage in anything to undermine the process, there will be nothing to fear. Our hope as a party is that everything goes well because that is what Edo people deserve and that is what they should get.
Do you think the defection across party lines made by both leading candidates has contributed to heating up the polity and what are you suggesting should be done a few days to the election?
We just signed a peace accord on Tuesday and that should help. Our revered Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, called the parties’ bigwigs to the palace the other day and requested that we play by the rules of the game by avoiding violence and reducing tension in the polity. Of course, it is the nature of the Edo person to be disciplined and carry out his normal activities peacefully. But they show resentment when people want to interfere or dictate to them.
For instance, we were disgusted on Tuesday morning, when Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was talking as if Edo State is a local government in Lagos. Edo State is not Lagos and we are too intelligent and sophisticated for anybody to dictate to. We are capable of doing what we want to do and on Saturday, by the grace of God, the election will be peaceful and the PDP will win.
Some days ago, there were insinuations that you had dumped your party. How did you feel when you heard this?
While I will not want to dignify the harbingers of such news with a response. I will say such insinuations are from the pit of hell.
As the chairman of the ruling party in Edo State, how challenging is it considering that you have had to lead the PDP to different parts of the state to sell your candidate, Governor Godwin Obaseki, to the people?
I think I signed up for it when I was campaigning to be the chairman of the party in the state. I told members of my party that the main task was to get the party back to the Government House, which I did even without an election. So, now that we have an election, I want to reaffirm that I will get the PDP to the Government House. Going round the state for the campaign was tasking and difficult. Most times, we leave the house as early as 9am and we don’t come back until after 10pm. And within that period while on the road, we have to avoid things that can slow down our progress.
So, we go hungry and thirsty most times. It was equally interesting as we took our candidate and message to the people. Our message is very clear, which is, Governor Godwin Obaseki has done so well and he deserves a second term. We want to make it clear to our people that the governor is fighting against godfather influence. We have resolved that we do not want a godfather in Edo State. I am sure our message is well taken by the people of Edo State.
The other party, the All Progressives Congress, thinks that the Obaseki administration is all about signing MoUs without anything to show for them. What do you think about this?
What do you expect the opposition to say? The opposition will always say nothing has been done. But ask the pensioners and the civil servants, who get their pension and salary alerts on the 26th of every month, they will tell you the governor has done well. It is the first time in the history of Edo State that these two categories of people are getting this kind of treatment. Workers at the Ossiomo Power Plant and the Edo Modular Refinery in Ologbo will tell you the governor has done well. These are things you can see and feel. It is just a matter of travelling to see these places.
The Sobe maize farm is also there. There are human beings behind these projects and, of course, the massive infrastructural development in the state shows that the governor has performed. Edo State is not one of the richest, but the governor has not borrowed a dime and he is reducing the debt burden on the state. You can only tell such a person thank you by giving him your votes on Saturday.
The opposition has lambasted the governor for closing some schools that are considered important to the state and the region, what is your take on this?
If any school is shut, I can tell you that the reason for doing so will be overwhelming. The governor will not shut down any school for a reason that he cannot tell his God. He is learned, so he values education. He will not shut down schools to deprive people of getting quality education. So, I think such claims are the gimmick of the opposition, but I think the Edo people have taken their decision to return the governor to power. I can assure you that the PDP will get 75 per cent of the votes cast.
Looking back at the toxic and rancorous campaigns by the parties, is there anything the PDP did that could have been done better?
I think we were spot on. We knew what we wanted to do and how to take our message to the people. We were sure paying pensions and salaries as and when due was good as well as fighting godfather influence will help our cause. So, what we did and how we did it were spot on and I wouldn’t change anything if we are told to repeat the process.
What is your message to your supporters and the undecided voters?
To our supporters, I will say thank you very much. We are very appreciative of their support. Now, we are almost reaching the finish line; we expect them to come out en masse by 8am on Saturday at their polling units. They should bring at least 10 people with them to vote for the PDP. After voting, the elderly ones should be taken home, while those who are young should stay behind and make sure the presiding officers count the votes and the results declared at the polling units. The result sheet, the form EC8A, has to be photographed by our agents and sent to our situation room.
After that, they should not go home but wait to ensure that the result sheet is taken to the ward collation centre, where the result will be collated again. It is only after the result has been collated in the ward that they should go home. When the results get to the local government level, we have people who will take over the monitoring. It’s going to be a long day on Saturday and we expect everybody to be ready.
For those who are undecided, the decision to take is very easy, because it is clear that the governor has done very well, while his opponent has nothing to show. It is clear that the Edo people will want to return an achiever. So, the undecided voters still have two days to take that decision to support Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Is your optimism borne out of allegiance to your party or the conviction that your candidate has a better chance?
My allegiance to my party is undiluted. I am sure that it is very clear that the PDP will win on Saturday. We are happy at the level of support we have, which gives us confidence. Whichever way you look at it, we have the edge in the election.
Source : PUNCH.