Olukayode Ajulo, a lawyer, is the National Secretary of the Labour Party (LP). In this interview with newsmen in Lagos, he bares his mind on the just concluded election, INEC’s performance and other issues. Excerpts…
How would you appraise the performance of the Labour Party in the just concluded elections, and what are your hopes for cases at the tribunal?
Though I am not with the structure of our party, there are some states where we were hoping to win, like when you mention Oyo State, Delta State, which was very clear. Even in Ebonyi State, they did no election there. That of Ebonyi State they just declared their candidate the winner of the election and all these will be reviewed at the tribunal. In Akwa Ibom where they call it uncommon transformation whereas what we saw was ‘uncommon rigging and looting.’ Everybody wants to see in some months from now what will happen in that place because we have filed our petition already. There was no election and the entire election has to be cancelled. We are sure the tribunal will agree with us by the time we come with our avalanche of evidence and facts of what we have. In Cross Rivers, too, it is the same thing. It is just so unfortunate that that one was more of thuggery and banditry the way they did it. There were no elections there too. But all-in-all, we can’t say we are not disappointed, we can’t say we are not happy. And again as a lawyer, I am a little bit restrained to discuss particularly when one is a party in the case. You need not to do anything that will prejudice the case at hand in the tribunal. What I will say generally about the just concluded election is that I did not see it as an election; I see it more of a rigging competition where two opposing card choose to go on rigging spree, the smartest among the two got it. For instance, when you look at the north it was more of underage that took the permanent voters card (PVC). You can see on the CNN, TVC, which is one of the medium that belongs to one of the parties, showing in full glare how underage children were accredited and they voted. It is unfortunate that even INEC officials accredited them.
A lot of persons felt that what happened to parties like Labour Party (LP), All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), and the rest of them was because they didn’t present a presidential candidate, they chose PDP president and that, in a way, affected the other elections they were contesting in?
One thing we have to know is that we are so clear and this has to do with one’s honour. We tried as much as possible to get a presidential candidate but we have criteria for that candidate. Give me Col. Dangiwa Umar in Kaduna, we can field such a person as a candidate, even if it is Tunde Bakare, he could be a candidate, too. We don’t believe in presenting anybody as a candidate. When we realized that we could not, within the circumstances at the closing of the nomination paper, we had to endorse a candidate. In all ramifications, today Muhammadu Buhari is the president-elect and we have congratulated him, we wish him luck but if we must say the truth, particularly somehow Labour Party is made up of workers, it is called workers party. Between the two if you are to choose who is a pro-worker, it is Goodluck Jonathan. In his six years tenure as a president, not one, you can hear anywhere, covertly or overtly, that a single worker has been retrenched in this country. Look at this minimum wage for civil servants, Jonathan signed it into law and this is the fifth year anniversary of it, which even at that that minimum wage have to be reviewed because there is a provision there that every five years there must be a review and I believe if we do that, if we call ourselves pro-workers party when you know that this man is implementing what will help the workers in this country to survive, you will surely go with him. Let me talk about this employee compensation Act and the Pension Act. President Jonathan really revived the pension Act based on this there are sometimes that you have to follow policy; you follow what is reality. Even if tomorrow there is another election and we are given the same circumstances, we (Labour Party) will still go with him (Jonathan). But if tomorrow Buhari helps our interest, of course we will go for him but as of now, no regrets.
Do you mean you have no regrets in supporting President Jonathan?
Of course, there is no regret. Honestly.
How would you assess INEC’s performance during the election?
INEC performance gives me a lot concerns because I believe if me as an applicant has a rules and regulation and where that rules and regulations are flouted, aided by the members of the commission, then there is issue. That shows you that what happened in the north was the issue of underage while what happened in the south was the issue of under table and it shouldn’t have been like that. INEC is not prepared for that election. The card reader failed woefully to the extent that on the day of election the number one citizen of this country spent 35minutes just to be accredited. And again one has to commend him because had it been it was another person, which we all know, he could have walked away and that would have been the end of the election. Had it been we have somebody in the mood of who is very erratic and impatient, the person will just walk away and that would have been the end of that election. So, these are the things we have to look at. The card reader failed us. The question that we should ask is this, how can we tell ourselves that we had an election? Few months before the election we are told that we are going to use the card reader and at the end of the day card reader failed. And in some places you told us that you used card readers; like the case of Kano, if it could take only one person 35minutes to be accredited, and you have over one million voters accredited within some hours without a single void. In my unit, just a single unit, nine votes were void but in a whole state, in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, not a single vote was void. And when it comes to the educational background of the two states we need not contend which one is the most educated. But we as a party cannot cry more than the bereaved, the loser of the election has accepted, who am I, especially when we did not have a candidate?
By 29th May, PDP will become the opposition party. Some Nigerians are of the opinion that PDP will not serve as a viral opposition and by that the speculation is that your party, a fringe party, will kind of come together to support the PDP. What hope do we have for a virile opposition?
Let us be sincere that in PDP I did not and yet I don’t think there will be anything like opposition in the DNA of PDP. They lack the capacity to be an opposition party. And when you look at most of the characters that made up of PDP, even 90% of the characters in the party traditionally cannot be opposition. And mind you, most of them you can see they have been silence all these days may be precisely because they have lost the election, I don’t know. To really highlight the whole point, two serving senators within two hours when they were returned as a senator, they jettisoned that party. That one really signifies something. And I believe Nigerians and even the party need to take serious stand on that. Some of them are even afraid not that they lack words to say. They are afraid if they should say anything Buhari will come after them, so they prefer remain muted wherever they are. So, how do you expect such people to be in opposition? They are going to be there. By the character of the PDP, by the way they being formed it shows that there is no way they can stand to be in the opposition.