IDEAS Radio 8 November 2019

Gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa & Kogi States

Rotimi Sankore: Right, and welcome to the Public Square on Nigeria Info 99.3 with me, Rotimi Sankore.  Aghogho is on leave and we miss him. Ayo Obe is with me on the IDEAS segment, and Georges MacNobleson-Idowu will be joining us for the special preview of the Bayelsa and Kogi elections coming up on Saturday the 16th.

Ayo Obe: Well but – Good afternoon listeners – but Rotimi we’re also going to be looking into the IDEAS components in those two gubernatorial races.

RS: Yes, yes.  Yes, because, I mean, not just for the elections itself, but also in terms of Governance: whether the IDEAS issues Integrity, Democracy … 

AO: Ethics, Accountability …

RS: … Ethics and Accountability have featured, and how much they have featured in the governance process, but also in the electoral process.

AO: Yeah, I think that … the first aspect of it, because obviously when you are having an election, whether the same person, the incumbent is running for office, or whether the incumbent’s party is hoping to be re-elected, or whether somebody else wants to get in; it’s in some ways a verdict on what has gone before, the previous four years.  And I guess that from … as I’ve always said, that in the Public Square, the Public Square of IDEAS is the square of Accountability, because this is the point at which the voters effectively are telling you to Account for the way you’ve governed the state over the past four years. And so I wonder. I mean, I hope Georges is going to be able to tell us the extent to which those kind of issues are featuring in the election, or whether it’s a simple … it simply boils down to: “I like this person’s party, I don’t like that person’s party” and that’s what I’m voting for.  I mean, although I can see from the lists, that each state has quite a … I mean, in Bayelsa State you have 45 political parties contesting for the governorship, which suggests that there’s no consensus, even among the opposition, about who would do better, whereas in Kogi State you also have a fairly large number which is slightly more manageable, 23. So I just wonder: Are these … Is it an issue-based campaign, or is it just: My party against your party my party at the centre, your party at the State, kind of election?

RS: Georges?  Issues based? Or, ethnic, religious?  Personality?

AO: Party?  Party-based above all

Georges MacNobleson-Idowu: Of course, what we’ve noticed is that for the campaign just started recently for Bayelsa that makes, I think they launched their mega rally yesterday, and the major political … the major political bigwigs in the State, like the former President Goodluck Jonathan, was absent at the mega rally.  Governor Wike was also absent at the mega rally. So, and even the person that came second, Timi, I can’t remember his surname now, Timi …

AO: You mean the runner up in the …

GMI: Yes, in the primaries.

AO: … this is of the incumbent party at the state level.

GMI: Yes, at the state level.

AO: PDP, People’s Democratic Party.

GMI:  … did not turn up at the mega rally as well.  So to a large extent it tells you what is happening in the party, that even within the party, they have issues that have not been resolved amongst themselves, and that may actually play against the sitting Governor.

AO: So then we’re looking more at an issue of politics, rather than the people’s verdict on the .. actual performance of the ruling party in power …

GMI: … in the state.  It’s like it’s more of the power block in the party, one having the upper hand than the other.  I think the Governor, the sitting Governor’s candidate is emerged as the winner of the primaries.  And the candidate of the … that is being supported by the former President and PDP Governors across the country, were not … was not the choice of the people of the …

AO: But is that decision …

RS: The choice of the delegates

GMI: Not … not …

AO: Is that … let me ask you, because you see, I mean, I don’t know if you recall, when we were discussing the State of the State report last week, and we were noticing that Bayelsa State was one of those states which – despite the presumably huge amount that it gets from the fact that it is participating in the 13% that is set aside to be shared among the oil-producing States of Nigeria – it is still a state that is unable to balance its books, whether from the internally generated revenue and from the money that it gets from the Federal Government.  And I wonder, is this …

RS: There also isn’t a lot of transparency regarding the State budget.

AO: Well I mean, the thing is, I would say, there’s the lack of transparency, and then there’s also the lack of visible delivery, you know, the output.  So I’m just wondering, is this withdrawal of support, or apparent … let me not call it “withdrawal of support”, let me just call it ‘this failure to enthusiastically support’, 

RS: The lack of presence.

AO: … this failure to support on the part of the party leadership, I mean, when your … a former President is not there for the party and … 

RS: And it’s also his state.

AO: It’s his home state.  It says something. But is that because … is that their own verdict on lack of performance as reflected in these figures that we saw from the State of the States, or is it just, as I was asking Georges, is it just internal politicking …

RS: I think they are still talking up the PDP, they are probably just not enthusiastic about the winner of the primary.

GMI: Exactly

AO: Now is that because as an incumbent governor he had not shown the requisite degree of … I don’t know … forelock pulling or dobale-ing for them?

RS: Well, I think these issues of Democracy, Ethics, Accountability apply a lot to the primaries, because in a scenario whereby the incumbent governor prefers a certain person to succeed him, and the party big wigs, being the Governors of the party and the former President being a leader of the party, not everybody is agreed on the best candidate to represent the party, it says a lot about the confidence in internal democracy and how it’s been handled; because if all of them were confident that their candidate won or lost based on clearly accepted rules and process, I don’t think they would stay away, unless it is what we call bad belle here.

AO: Well, you can’t rule out bad belle the bad belle factor in Nigerian politics.  And … well let’s look at the other parties as I say, there are 45 parties in all: there’s the incumbent People’s Democratic Party;  the party which is in power at the centre which is the All Progressives Congress, is obviously trying to talk up its chances in an area that is so not known for supporting the APC in any elections, and let’s face it, that it would be one thing if we were facing this sort of situation in Rivers State where at least you had a former Governor who is now a leading member of the APC, but this is Bayelsa State, where there doesn’t seem to have been any such personality on the APC side.  So why do they feel … or is it because they too have some decampees who used to be big in the party. Is this politics rather than the issues – it seems to me? 

RS: There are some significant decampees  in the APC that are now Ministers …

AO: But from Bayelsa State?  Yes.

RS: Yes, from Bayelsa State,  and Ministers in positions that influence South-South politics so I suspect very much that not everybody is quite comfortable that everything will go their way.

AO: Ok, let me also ask from this point of view because, as I said, from the perspective of the voters, it ought to be: calling those who have held power to account.

But when we look at the actual conduct of the election and the preparations by the Independent National Electoral Commission, then we’re talking about the Integrity of the elections, and you know, we’re just coming out of the verdict on the presidential election petition, and I find myself wondering: Has the, is there anything that INEC has done which suggests or shows that it is listening to the … even if they have won the presidential and many other election cases –  is there anything that suggests that they are listening to the demands for openness and transparency about their own processes?

RS: Well we’ll have the INEC …

GMI: INEC Chairman’s Secretary …

RS: Press Secretary.

AO: From on the ground, what has been seen?

RS: He’ will join us on the phone to explain what INEC has been doing, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi.  But we need to take a short break for ads. When we come back we’ll try and answer this, and then talk about Kogi State as well.  So please stay tuned. Remember, you can follow details of today’s programme @PublicSquareNG on Twitter. You can also engage us @NigeriaInfoFM.  And you can tweet at me @RotimiSankore, Ayo Obe is @naijama and Georges is @St …

GMI: @Stmacnobleson

RS: @Stmacnobleson.  Alright, please stay tuned 99.3, we’ll be back in about four minutes.

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RS: Welcome back to the Public Square on 99.3 Nigeria Info.  Ayo Obe is still here with us …

AO: For IDEAS radio.  We just want to wrap up the IDEAS radio.

I mean Rotimi, I mean obviously we want to talk about Kogi, but I wanted to just … still focusing on INEC, because I know you’re going to have somebody from INEC on the programme in the Public Square later, just to say that when we talk about whether INEC itself has imbibed anything from the last elections, the continued demand of civil society on behalf of Nigerians, is for transparency about the results of elections.  And that means that however they get into the hand of INEC, as I say, whether it’s by server, whether it’s by express messenger or even carrier pigeon; at some point, INEC has it on its computer and we should be able to go to its website and find out what was the result from my polling station. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. And if INEC could not organise that for a nationwide series of elections, they ought to be able to do it for a governorship election, so that anybody can go and check: Was the result that was at my polling station the same one that INEC got.

RS: The point you are making speaks to the Integrity of the process

AO: Exactly!

RS: Because if posting …  And also to Accountability.

AO: And allowing people to be carried along with it.

RS: Yes, because if people can’t go – I remember, even the Kenya elections …

AO: Oh, I’m always talking about …  People are tired of me talking about the Kenya elections!

RS: We can go on the website of the Kenya electoral commission

AO: Here in Nigeria!

RS: Yes, we in Nigeria can go on the Kenya Electoral Commission website, and find out what the votes were in every polling station.  In fact, for the places where they have 3G, they scanned copies and uploaded. So you can see what was signed by all the parties, you can see what was agreed, so we should be able to do it in Nigeria …

AO: That’s what I’m saying

RS: This is the only way we can  end the: Did it go this way? Or did it not go that way?   And if people go to court, you can actually bring the figures, I mean, not putting the onus on the contestants to go and bring …

AO: It’s INEC that should bring the figures.  And in fact, it’s one of the changes that had been proposed to support the Integrity of elections, that the burden  of proof to show that the election was regular, and to display everything, should first of all be on the INEC and then the parties who are challenging, can bring what they want to bring that would say why it wasn’t there.  

But I suppose that that’s my perspective with the … that’s my IDEAS perspective.  But I think we also can’t completely overlook the fact that some … the same issues are going to arise in the Kogi election.  But from my point of view, although I talked a little bit too much possibly, about the politics, I think that the same issue of Accountability comes up: whether the voters in Kogi State are saying:  This is what the Governor has done, this is what the party in power has done, and whether we want to support this party, or this person, or not, or this is what this person is promising and we want to change  and so on. But it does seem to me that I don’t’ hear enough about the issues, performance. And Kogi is another of those states that does not – on the State of the States – is not doing all that well.

GMI: You you  … with the kind of political terrain that we have, and the kind of campaign that we run, we will understand that it is only the incumbent or the sitting Governor or the government, the sitting government that always try to say “This is what we have done” “This is what we have done.”   But the opposition, perhaps the major opposition parties are always the ones that are always saying: “Look, this is what we are going to do

AO: Well they should also have been critiquing what has been done as well.

GMI:  You know … I don’t even think that, as much as we want issue-based campaign, I don’t even think it is, that is … it’s what the political parties should be telling us during campaign.  Because if you have actually done certain things, the people should see it, they should be able to know it, not you coming to tell us that, oh we did this, this and this, that the people cannot even attest to.

AO: Well the thing is, some things are obvious like roads, but others, if you are not going into a hospital, you may not know.  So the state has to bring out its its indices, whether it’s maternal mortality, infant mortality, passes at national elections and so on, and I do feel that while that may not yet be the situation in either of these elections, the reality is that politicians will never really feel that they have to be held Accountable to the voters, if the voters continue to fall for this idea that it’s all about personality and party, rather than performance …

RS: And zoning and ethnicity …

AO: Yes.

GMI:  And from what we are seeing in Bayelsa now, we know it’s all about personality, Oh, who is my person?  Because already the political big wig in Bayelsa are already having these divergent opinions, differences, misunderstandings

RS: The same thing in Kogi, but Georges, let’s save most of that for the …

AO: Yeah, I mean … I agree, I want to wrap up the IDEAS segment, but it is the point that I think I need to emphasise that if we as voters fall for this continued smoke and mirrors of personality, party, ethnicity, religion, zone and all the rest of it; then the people who are campaigning for our votes will not feel that they have to show that they have performed, or that they can perform.  Rather, they will say: Well, it doesn’t matter what we’ve done, we’ll just say that the other person is worse, they come from this place, or they come from that.

GMI: And that is what is happening!

AO: Yes, so with that, I want to thank you all for listening and for joining me on the IDEAS segment.  And I hope to be with you next week, although I will be … I should perhaps drop a word in, because the Minister of Works had mentioned that the roads in Nigeria are not as bad as portrayed, and I’ll be coming from Ibadan next week, so, if it’s still going to be ‘Shake, Rattle ‘n’ Roll’, then I may not be able to get here …   

RS: Well, you can report live from the road … 

GMI: On the road!

RS: We will take a live report from the Lagos Ibadan Expressway.

AO: As I say, it’s ‘Shake, Rattle ‘n’ Roll’.

RS: He’s been invited to take the road challenge …

AO: No, as I was coming here, quite frankly, my Google maps advised me to come through Ikoyi Road, and I just thought to myself: Can you even do 10  metres of road …

RS: Is that a Federal Road?

AO: It doesn’t matter.  I mean the point is that I come from my office at Boyle Street, through Ikoyi Road, on to Kingsway Road, and then on to the … Ozumba Mbadiwe, and at every stage, there are very few stretches that you can do up to 500 yards … metres and say that you didn’t have to encounter some galloping … 

RS: Or that you didn’t have to choose which pothole …

AO: Exactly, that’s just the sad truth about it …

RS: It’s like a video game now.  If you choose the wrong one and lose a tyre … 

AO: Well, you just have to hope that I choose the right one next week, so that I can join you.

RS: … or you just lose a few points.  Thank you so much Ayo. We’re grateful.

AO: Bye-bye!