Edaghese Matthew is a member of Peter Obi’s Presidential Campaign Council. In this interview with OJIEVA EHIOSUN, he spoke at length about the February 25 presidential elections, why INEC must hold free, fair, transparent and credible elections. He also spoke about why Nigerians should reject monetary policy and vote against those who have kept the nation in this perpetual slavery.
There are different views of people on the presidential elections next month. As a major stakeholder in the Labor Party, do you think the elections will be free, fair and transparent?
First! I would like to believe that there will be no problem. The election will take place as scheduled by INEC and Nigerians will cast their ballots on the appointed day. The President made a proclamation that he is going to work assiduously so that his party may triumph; he spoke like a president belonging to a political party. There is nothing wrong with him working very hard to convince Nigerians to choose his party’s candidate.
He was first a party man before becoming president. His political allegiance is to his party when there is a contest between his party and other parties, that is natural, what would not be acceptable is for him to do anything to compromise or undermine the process. Which means that the election’s credibility and impartiality must not be undermined by the president using his executive powers or his vested power. I don’t think he wants to do that because he has told the whole world and Nigerians that he has a legacy to pass on to the nation as a parting gift, which is to ensure that there is a credible poll ushering in the successor to he.
And if it does the opposite?
He cannot and never will be able to do such a thing. The Nigerian people own the votes and each Nigerian is only entitled to one vote in the process of electing or selecting who would be their leader. So, more than 98 million voters who are going to cast their vote that day will do so individually, not collectively. The President cannot force anyone to vote for his party or any other candidate. All Nigerians have the right to the freedom to select or choose their leaders, that choice cannot be forced by the president or anyone in authority, except we are saying no to democracy. As long as we are in a democratic regime, the will of the people must prevail. The elections on February 25 would be a revolution that will usher in real change in this country. We are tired of the old order.
Most Nigerians find it difficult to collect their PVCs, don’t you think INEC is committing a crime by denying people their right to vote?
The media are supposed to be the vanguard of society, when there are complaints like this what the press men should do is approach the INEC officials in the particular place and find out the true situation of things. If the accusation is true, also find out what the challenges are and why this should be the case. Let the people who are responsible for issuing voter cards say something. They could also be experiencing logistical problems. So let’s not start trading blame just yet. I think INEC is committed to doing credible surveys because they cannot afford to let Nigerians down. Your integrity is at stake if you don’t practice what you preach.
Are you comfortable with Presidential Party candidates verbally attacking each other rather than an issue-based campaign?
I don’t understand why we are concerned that issues have been raised that upset the credibility of those seeking elective office. If there is a dent in the character of an applicant, who aspires to hold public office, to hold such office in the confidence of the people, I believe that the issue of competence, credibility and trust is paramount. You should not wish it to disappear. If we eliminate those issues, what issue are we going to consider to be superior to the issue of credibility, character, competence, responsibility, and trust? So I think it’s okay for the three candidates from the political parties to wash the dirty part of their lives in public. When such an issue is raised, it is something Nigerians should take a keen interest in, not something to be brushed aside because it affects the well-being of Nigerians.
The state chapters of the Labor Party complain about the shortage of funds to run their offices, isn’t that going to work against the party, particularly in this crucial period of election campaign?
As the main actor of the Obedient Movement, and as a member of the National Presidential Campaign Council, I want to clarify some impressions and notions. We are not in a competition with other political parties using their standards. The Labor Party is traveling in the opposite direction, we are downplaying monetary policy and we are not going to rely on financial strength to win the love and support of the Nigerian people. We believe that we are on a rescue mission to take Nigeria back from the clutches of the APC and PDP. That is the wish and will of Nigerians. So if you don’t see the Labor Party with tons of money, I think Nigerians should celebrate. It’s not about money, Peter Obi is marketing vision, hope and solution to our many problems through the Obedient Movement. While other parties flaunt money, we in the Labor movement flaunt vision, ideology, sincerity and credibility. This is our selling point and we are not going to deviate from it.
Some Nigerians advocate for the military to be returned to power due to the massive suffering in the country. Do you agree with that call for the military to return?
I think it is an abnormal wish, a sinister and very undemocratic bad aspiration for anyone to reason along these lines. The first question we should ask those people who are feeding these undemocratic thoughts in a democracy is to explain to us the background of the current President of the country. Not a retired general? Wasn’t he a military Head of State? Has he not acted more like a military dictator in most of his decisions even as a democratically elected president? We are suffering now because there are some military tendencies in the character of the occupant of the office of the president. I don’t think they know what they want, we should make a total exit from the dictatorship and militaristic tendencies. We must embrace full-fledged democracy.
Nigerians say they don’t want old breed politicians, Obi isn’t an old breed politician?
When we talk about old generation and new generation politicians, we must be realistic. We are not looking for the people who were giving birth today to come and be chosen as leaders to govern this country, it is from among the people that we choose our leaders. The important thing is the character, the trajectory of the person we are choosing to guide us. Your vision and aspiration must align with our expectations of a new Nigeria. And Obi perfectly fits that expectation by every definition of the term. Obi is a perfect breed, he represents what we expect from those who want to get Nigeria out of this precarious situation.
Do you envision a crisis before, during and after the elections?
There is no need for anyone to feed such anticipation of a crisis, the election schedule has been released by the electoral referee and February 25 is D-Day, and we all expect the election to be held on that day. Power belongs to the people. They are the owners of the ballot. Pretty good, the demographic of those who are registered to vote in this election are young people. So it is the young people who must tell themselves if they want to choose Obi or not.
Do you think that the election cannot be rigged despite the new innovation presented by INEC?
Honestly, my answer to this question is no! This choice cannot be rigged except with the innovations introduced to the system by the INEC. It is as good as infallible. The worst thing they can do is try to buy votes, which are left to the people to choose freedom or trade and end up sinking more into captivity. Those who sell their vote have settled for self-inflated captivity and political slavery. And any sane human being who sees what Nigeria has become, who sees what they are going through with pain, agony, hunger and poverty with devastating looks on millions of faces they see every day, no prophet will tell them to take heart and vote for Peter. obi regardless of his ethnic origin and belief. This old order is no longer wanted in Nigerian politics. Again, keep in mind that the few people who ratify in the East on Obi’s popularity have only one vote, they don’t hold the votes in the East in their fixed repository where they can withdraw and deliver their preferred candidate.
Do you see Buhari surrendering to the opposition if the elections were reversed?
I don’t see where the PMB will have the power to stop the choice that Nigerians have made. It is up to him to carry out that democratic delivery ceremony to his successor. He’s not doing us any favors, he had no power not to. He emerged as the opposition candidate, defeated the incumbent, Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, who ultimately handed him power. So whoever wins will automatically receive the power from him. It is not the power of Buhari; they are the powers granted by the people of Nigeria. So PMB is constitutionally required to have power over the winner on May 29. It is not negotiable.
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