Thursday, 21 November 2019

INEC Should Stop Using Professors As Returning Officers - Ebenezer Babatope

Chief Ebenezer Babatope, a former Minister of Transport, is a member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, he speaks on the just concluded governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa and other issues. Excerpts:

Following the outcome of the Kogi and Bayelsa elections, some members of your party have been calling for the resignation of Prince Uche Secondus, the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). What is your take on that?

I do not think we should blame Secondus for what has happened. It is the APC that we should blame for shamelessly and brazenly rigging the elections. I know certain things are wrong with the APC but I also believe that we should not wash our dirty linens outside. Nobody should make Secondus a scapegoat at all. It is the APC that shamelessly manipulated the election particularly in Kogi. Look at the number of lives that were wasted in Kogi and Bayelsa; human lives means nothing to them. They killed innocent people before, during and after the elections. Even a PDP woman leader was allegedly burnt alive by APC thugs after INEC had declared them the winner. We should hold APC responsible for all the negative things that are happening to democracy in Nigeria today.

Are you not worried that Bayelsa which has always been a PDP state since return of democratic government in 1999 is now in the hands of APC?

In the case of Bayelsa, I hope it is not true that former president Goodluck Jonathan worked against the party and supported the candidate of the APC in the election. If he did so, I am sure that he is going to regret doing so. It has happened before in this country. A leader of the PDP went to rig the election for Adams Oshiomhole in Edo state. He voted and got many PDP supporters to vote against our party’s candidate. Eventually, he died regretting what he did. So, anybody who worked against the interest of the PDP will regret it. But we should not use that to single out Secondus for blame or punishment.

However, I believe that if Bode George had been elected the national chairman of our party, there is no way the APC can be doing what they are doing to our party today. The Bode George I know will not allow them to have a field day manipulating elections like they did in Ekiti and Osun and now, Kogi and Bayelsa. The way Kogi was shamelessly rigged makes me very sad.

Now that the elections are over, what do you think is the way forward for the PDP?

I think the PDP should go back to the drawing board and start restrategising for future elections, especially the 2023 general elections. Like I said earlier, the PDP also deserves some blame for what happened, which I don’t want to mention here. But I believe we should begin preparations for subsequent elections now and ensure what happened during the Kogi and Bayelsa elections do not repeat itself again.

How will you assess INEC’s performance so far, especially when you compare Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the current INEC chairman to his predecessor, Prof. Attahiru Jega?

Before the elections, I already predicted that INEC cannot guarantee a free and fair election. My views about the current INEC chairman are terrible. Jega was by far better than Prof. Mahmood Yakubu. We should stop using Professors for elections. Let us make use of people who really believed in democracy and who are honest enough to uphold the truth and allow the people of Nigeria to elect leaders of their choice. I am not saying all of them are bad, but there are some of them who are perpetrating intellectual fraud to rig elections. As regards Prof Mahmood Yakubu, that man is endangering our democracy.

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