Chief Great Ogboru is the Governorship candidate of Labour Party in Delta State. In this interview with CORRESPONDENT, FELIX IGBEKOYI , the governorship candidate of Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), in the 2011 general election talks about INEC, and its Card Readers. He also talks on the election postponement, PVC, UPU, his chances and other issues. Experts:
Do you believe that Independent National Electoral Commission is ready to conduct the 2015 general election despite the postponement of the election by six weeks?
We have all heard from the INEC Chairman and he has told us that INEC was very ready but that some of the agents involved in security advised otherwise. We believe him that INEC is ready, we still have pertinent questions to ask and one of such questions is if INEC indeed is prepared, why have we not had a pilot or a test run of the Card Readers. As you know for you to use any new technology in the magnitude that is expected, that is, in this case the card readers, there has to be a test run of the machines, of the equipment to check whatever deficiency, efficiency, effectiveness, poor outage and things like that. I am not saying that INEC haven’t done simulations with these machines, yes simulations have been done in the offices but that is not enough. The type of simulation that is required in these circumstances is one in our view that must be done under election conditions and the sample population will be such that it is reflective of the size of the populace. It has to be large enough and wide enough to give a view of the workability of those machines. And if those machines have not been tested, then what it implies is that we live within the risk of having a situation where on Election Day those machines will malfunction and then we will ask ourselves how ready was INEC. The sensible thing for anybody to do is to at least test run it to give confidence to those who are going to use those machines. To the electorate, to the Nigerian society and to the whole world such that everybody will have confidence that those machines are not only going to work but will run efficiently and we are going to do what are we supposed to do but if that is not the case, the question is that why has it not been done? Nevertheless, since we have six weeks window to have this election conducted, it is an opportunity for INEC to do a test run in at least two local governments in each state before that election that is only when we can put our faith in those machines.
Should we actually use the machines or we look for an alternative?
If the test run fails, the question we will ask ourselves is whether to use the machine or find an alternative. Now, very huge implications, not financial only, but the equipment may malfunction on Election Day. We may have a situation where some parts of the country may be using the machines while some other part may conduct manual elections which are to say that, the election cannot be said to be free and fair because there is no uniformity in the conduct of the elections. To me and to some of the people in this school of thought, it is important to run a pilot first with those machines before we can put the faith of the Nigerian people on it. Otherwise, we may have turn Nigerians faith into the Philippines on Election Day.
We know that this is not the first time you are vying for the governorship position. Why is this election going to be different because you sound optimistic?
Well, I think every Nigerian and every Deltan knows that Ogboru have never lost any election. We are not here whether I will win election or I am confident in my chances of winning, we are talking about how the conduct of this election coming will be and what level of confidence should we place in the card readers? There are not tested and untested equipment is not what we should place our confidence in. This is what I am trying to point out and that is where I want us to emphasize on.
You have not been able to explain to us from my understanding whether you are in support of the postponement or not. We want to know whether you have any issue to join with INEC over the postponement.
This is not the first time elections have been postponed. Whether I support it or not is not the issue, we are talking about how election can be conducted free and fair an election which will be credible and which everybody will say so. What I am saying is that until we have to test run it is very doubtful. What are we talking about? We are saying that INEC told us that they are ready and that we are to conduct an election with card readers and they are ready to do so but I am saying that those card readers that you want to use have you tested them on a sample population that is reflective of the Nigerian state? If that is not the issue why are you putting so much confidence in them and if they malfunction on Election Day what will be the consequence? But to answer your question more directly, I am saying that though he has told us that they are prepared but without this pertinent and important exercise done, that level of preparedness is doubtful.
If INEC fails to do the test run, what will be the options open to you? Are you going to go to court to get them to do the test run or to stop the use of the card readers or people with the old cards should be allowed to vote?
Yes, I do not intend to go to court to stop the process, which is not my job. I am only making a point that we may be putting the cart before the horse. Go and do the test run and find out if those things will actually work. If the security agencies are saying that the commission is not ready for the elections and the commission is saying it is ready. How can you say you are ready when you have not tested the equipment you want to use for the elections? I am not trying to place my judgment on this matter but any reasonable person will tell you and to be frank with you, it is only in a place like this that you invest N90 billion in a process and you will not test the equipment before you will use them. I listened to the chairman of the commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, when he was asked if the postponement was going to have financial implications? He said he didn’t see any financial implication. I am saying that if we are to come up with a new technology in an electioneering process must we not test the process before we put our faith in them and by this six weeks postponement why don’t we sieze that opportunity and do a test run so that we can see if this card readers can work on election day because if they don’t work on election day it will be a different matter.
What if these card readers are proven to be okay and the security matter addressed but the PVC issues have not been addressed what will be your option B at that point?
If the card readers are proven to work properly, let me underline, under election conditions. Election condition simulations are quite different from simulations in the office of the INEC. Election conditions are very different. You have several people vying, trying to vote at the same time and then transmission of those information to the database simultaneously taking place probably in a thousand units at the same minute and second, there are other issues that have not been put to bear on these machines. So, why are you putting confidence on it? One machine can be tested and can be proven to work in the office but when a thousand or two thousand to about four thousand units when multiplied by either thirty you have about one hundred and nineteen thousand units. And if you are conducting elections in 119, 000 units and the transmission of that 119, 000 units are leaving for a database, you must check that database reliability. You just cannot assume that because one of them worked in the office, then 119, 000 of them will work at the same time and I say it is too risky and it is a gamble to do so but let us try 19, 000 as it is the 10 per cent of it and for that we can see the type of problem that will emanate and base on that we can extrapolate that if we have this kind of problem or X number of problem with 119, 000 units we should be expecting to have X number of problems. It is a simple extrapolation that is what a pilot is, that why nobody will want to undertake a project of this magnitude without having a pilot. In my view, it is either too optimistic because you cannot leave the 119, 000 units in the hands of the people who are using those machines for the first time though they have been trained in the office but not under election conditions. That is my fear and if that happens, you know what is happening in the country today, there is mutual fear and distrust and if you must conduct an election in this country today we have to be doing it in such a way that we will have the confidence of the entire electorates so that nobody at the end of the day will say Jega has rigged election even before the elections started because if these card readers don’t work that is where you will have the conclusion that the elections were rigged before it started. And because of the possible consequences, that is my fear and to ensure that we take diligence to make sure that those machines will actually work. I believed that those machines should be actually used, all I am saying is let them function; let us ensure that they will work on Election Day.
We have also known in this country that machines when they are been used for elections initially will malfunction. Have you put your men on ground in case such machines malfunction?
It is not for the electorates because I am part of the electorates to have a plan B. It is for INEC to tell us the plan A and B and for us to follow suit, because I cannot have a plan B. What I am saying is that if we are going to use those machines then they have to work. If they are not going to work and INEC is saying there is a plan B, then let us settle for plan B. Also, we are talking about the security conditions, if the machines are working and the security tells us that it is not ready, then it is a question of time to wait, let us know if the security conditions will improve, if they improve and if the security men say the condition has not improved what can we do? Jega cannot conduct an election without security.
Are you still a progressive politician because of your alliance with the supposed people that robbed you of your victories in previous elections especially your endorsement of the PDP Presidential candidate?
Let me tell you not all politicians that called themselves progressive are progressives, as a matter of fact today I am the last progressive standing in Delta politics. Our support for President Jonathan have to do with our politics in Delta State. As you know, the Urhobos and the Ijaws have had an age long relationship over the years. So, for a man of my caliber, if I move today over a million people are going to move with me and for us we want to keep the good relationship that have existed between us and the Ijaws. This is their son contesting an elections, we are not prepared to denounce him or to make them feel that we are working against him. After all before an Ijaw man will contest the Presidential election in this country again it may be so many years to come, may be another 100 years to come who knows. So, we are not ready to jeopardize that relationship, in our own case it has nothing to do with politics.
It has been alleged that PDP is sponsoring your governorship race and you have not really told us what you will do if at the end of the day INEC refuse to listen to you.
Well, if PDP is sponsoring me I don’t know about it. PDP has a candidate in this election as you all know. How therefore can PDP sponsor me and sponsor its own candidate? It is not correct to say so.
What will you do if this test run or pilot run is not done?
There is need for it to be done and if it does not work let our words be on the map that is all we are saying. If Nigerian state can afford to take such a risk, such a chance and to put the fate of the Nigerian state in machines that are not tested then it tells you that something is definitely not right not only with the commission but elsewhere. I want to believe that as seriously minded Nigerian people, whatever it be that we want to use to determine the fate of the Nigerian state must be seen not only to be working but should be working and for us to put our faith on it, we must test it, we must try it over and over again so that we all have confidence in it but if what I have said is not taken to mean anything, good luck! Well, what I am trying to let you know is first and foremost INEC should go and do the test run. Plan B will be determined based on the result of the test run. If at the test run we can have confidence on the machines to be reliable, very efficient and effective, then we have hope and we will be very happy because one man one vote, we will chase our enemies out of town. And that is what the machines are designed to do. But we are putting so much faith in these machines that it will be one man one vote and we don’t know if it will work. Don’t forget that Gobadia told us about computers, even when Prof. Jega came four years or five years thereabout, he also talked about electronic voting and nothing came out of it, now we have come with card readers. Have anyone of you seen a card reader? Is INEC conducting election for INEC or for the Nigerian people? No, before the Nigerian people can put their faith in it, they have to see it that it is working, they have to test it, they have to come and queue and all of them will put their thumb print on it and it will reflect then they will say yes indeed this thing is working. But if you come out on Election Day and it doesn’t work, you are using the general election as an experiment and that is what I am saying. The general election is not a day for experimentation that is the day to vote and to decide what happens in Nigeria.
You have enjoyed a lot of support from Delta North but you have picked your running mate from Delta South without considering them for Deputy Governor. What is your reaction to this?
You know I contested this election before and the various times I contested my Deputy came from Delta North. But today, the political configuration is quite as it was. The dynamics have changed, the complexity has changed and the expectations are different with different actors. So, we cannot do the same thing we did before. The best way for them to take part in the government is to join in the government that works and when that Deputy is part of the government that is working naturally it will continue but when I come from outside, it turns the entire nation to turn by turn event which has desecrated this state for the past 16 years.
On the issue of UPU, umbrella body of Delta Central where you come from. You said you were adopted by the group , but some claimed the group adopted the APC candidate. What is your view on these?
On the UPU, it is untrue that the UPU has endorsed two candidates, if you read in the newspapers in the past few days, you will see vividly, clearly that the Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, came to the decision to make me a consensus candidate after very assiduous, consultations, discussions and what have you. Several interest groups, stakeholders and others came to the conclusion that I remain still the best person to run that mantle of political leadership in Urhobo land and so I was endorsed by the President-Generals of the kingdoms and the voting was 16 against three, sixteen in my favour and three to the other candidate. When the youths (Ighele) of Urhobo met, their decision was unanimous and when the women (Ewheyas) also met, their decision was unanimous and when the executives of UPU met, it was ten to five and those five from what I have learnt so far, about three are already with me. So, it is already thirteen to two as we speak, if anybody has told you that he is endorsed by the UPU that is not correct. The UPU endorsement is very good because it gives me confidence.