By Banji Ayoola
The Coordinator of the Atiku Presidential Campaign in Ondo State, Mr Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, has listed the expectations of his principal and their party, on the preparations and performance of the electoral body and security agencies as regards the February 16 election.
In this interview, the former PDP governorship candidate and former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, expressed confidence that Nigerians are prepared to elect Atiku as their next President because of his vision to address the security, economic and other problems confronting the nation and indeed rebuild Nigeria,
His words:: “I would say first and foremost that Atiku is a household name; and speaking for myself personally I believe he is also a person and a candidate whose time has come. The brand itself is quite positive and people are receptive of his name despite all the wild unfounded and untrue allegations against him. Nigerians are ready to accept Atiku. And with my experience from the field, Nigerians are prepared to also vote for him.’
He spoke of what the people of Ondo State especially, and the country generally, stand to benefit with an Atiku presidency, and other issues. He spoke with Banji Ayoola of The Radiance
What are you doing to ensure victory for your candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in the coming election?
We are trying to educate our people on the need to have in the saddle, somebody who is prepared for the job. We are trying to educate our people on the need to have on the saddle again a person who has a clear vision for this country.
The position we are right now is that we need a person that has a business experience, a person who is able to understand the economy and how to correct any gaps therein; a person who is able to provide jobs for our teeming unemployed youths; a person who is able to prepare a clear vision that would enable our industries to grow.
We believe that that person is the candidate of the PDP Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; and we are hopeful that in a free and fair contest, he would emerge as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Could you share your experience of going round campaigning for your candidate?
Yes. I would say first and foremost that Atiku is a household name; and speaking for myself personally I believe he is also a person and a candidate whose time has come. The brand itself is quite positive and people are receptive of his name despite all the wild unfounded and untrue allegations against him. Nigerians are ready to accept Atiku. And with my experience from the field, Nigerians are prepared to also vote for him.
But the APC is saying that President Muhammadu Buhari is performing wonderfully; and that he is prepared to take the nation to the next level, while Alhaji Abubakar is saying that he wants to make Nigeria work again. So they are saying that Nigeria does not need anybody else apart from Buhari…
I think that question should be directed to the citizens of this country. We should ask our people what has been their experience. And I believe that the answers you would have from them would be quite revealing.
The truth of it is that we need to improve our economy; we need to provide jobs; we need to provide security all across the length and breadth of this country. We need to compare what was happening three years back down the line and what is happening now.
For professionals like us and those who are in the mainstream of what is happening in this country, we have varied experiences. But I think you should go to the market, the schools, our unemployed graduates, our industries and find out how they are performing now and judge for yourself.
The 184-page manifesto entitled “The Atiku Plan” which enunciated how your presidential candidate is to rebuild the country, if elected, has not been given wide publicity as expected. If it has been widely published, a lot of what his opponents are saying to discredit him would have paled to insignificance; and many Nigerians would have appreciated him better. Why are you not giving it wide publicity?
I think it is being given wide and positive publicity. The reason why Atiku is a special brand now is because people have seen his vision and plans for this country. The truth is that a good number of stakeholders and our people have keyed into it.
I agree that there may be need for more publicity; but I also believe that the essence and purpose of the campaign, and the various structures within the party is to ensure that we sell the candidate as much as possible, and let the people know his plans for this great country.
The APC today is composed of many former elected and appointed office holders. Yet they keep condemning the PDP. Do they have the moral standing to do so?
I think Nigerians are there to judge. And again I would tell you that at every point in time, our political space keeps redefining itself and you would find those who are genuinely interested in the progress of this country. You would also find a good number of people who are interested in power for the sake of power. And you would also find on the other divide a good number of people who seek protection of the long arms of the law.
All said and done, I think it is important for us to know that leadership is very key. In whichever political party our people are interested in, it is also important that we look at the leadership of that party and what they are bringing on board.
I believe that at this point in time in our country, we need to provide jobs, we need to fight corruption, we need to provide security for our people, we need to let the economy grow.
And I think that is the leadership that the PDP is providing. As to the movement of politicians from one party to another, it also defines our political experience in this country where ideology has been practically driven into the background and opportunism is what is now prevailing.
Could you give a picture of a new Nigeria to emerge if Alhaji Abubakar is elected President?
I foresee a Nigeria that would provide security for her people. I foresee a government that would make welfare of the people the primary purpose of its being. I foresee a presidency where Nigerians would be able to move from the North to the South, from the South to the North without any fear of attack or kidnap.
I foresee a Nigeria where the existing security challenges imposed by Boko Haram would be a thing of the past. I foresee a Nigeria where there would be opportunities for jobs for our teeming population.
I foresee a Nigeria where the economy would grow, where our farmers would be happy, where our traders, market women would also be happy. I foresee a Nigeria where there would be genuine provision of assistance for both medium and small scale entrepreneurs.
And I foresee a Nigeria where there would be established structure to provide funding and finance for our market women who are prepared to engage in legitimate businesses and trading. And this is what I see and foresee would happen with the emergence of an Atiku presidency.
I say this because I had contested an election before now. I say this because I belong to PDP. I say this because I am also a professional in my own field, and I want the best for this country.
Are you satisfied with the arrangements by the authorities so far for the election?
You know it’s till about eight days to the election. (The interview held on Friday.) From what we are seeing, it’s too early to form an opinion. Let’s wait and see.
Do you have any message for the people of Ondo State?
I want our people in Ondo State to know that this is the time where we must have somebody who can provide solution to our problems. It is not about change alone. Change can be positive or negative. But what we need now is a person who is prepared for the job and a person who can provide solutions to our problems.
And I urge our people to give their votes to a person who would ensure that we have peace and security to grow our economy, and that person is Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of PDP.
And to the people of Nigeria?
To Nigerians, let’s be hopeful. Let’s believe that elections would be free and fair. Let us also not be discouraged by whatever we see now. Let us believe that our vote is our weapon, and we should all come out in good numbers to vote for a party that is prepared for the job, and is ready to find solutions to our challenges that exist now.
In a country where we have security challenges all over; in a country where we have an economy that is comatose; in a country where we have a good number of our youths still looking up for job opportunities, we need somebody who can provide the solutions. And that is my admonitions to my fellow citizens, that we should look beyond the propaganda that is playing out now, and look for a solution provider. And that is Atiku Abubakar.
Specifically, what is in it for the people of Ondo State with an Atiku presidency?
We would first of all have to ensure there is security. You would recall that of recent, there have been incidences of kidnapping for ransom in area where you never believed this could happen, Akure, Owo, Ogbese, Akoko area. We need to tackle those challenges. We need peace in this state.
Secondly we need the economy to grow. Our various mineral resources must be developed. And this can be done only by a Federal Government under the leadership of a person who has a clear vision on how to grow the economy and provide jobs for our people.
A good number of our people, because of our inclination towards Education, we have a good number of our youths who are unemployed. There is need to make provision to provide employment opportunities for them. And Atiku has the experience.
He himself is an employer of labour. And interestingly, he has done it in his capacity as a businessman, and we believe this would be translated into governance itself to ensure that our people in Ondo State have the full benefit of good governance.
In Ondo State, we need to exploit the strategic position of the state. Coming from Lagos, there is hardly any traveler who would not pass through Ore which is central in Ondo State, whether you are going to the East or the North. It’s a commercial hub and I believe under an Atiku presidency, it would be developed.
We also need power in this country. The southern part of the state has had issues with power for quite some time. The presidency under the leadership of a person who believes in the growth of the economy would impact positively in ensuring that our people in the southern part and even those in the northern part of this state have access to power and electricity.
And I also believe that with the information I have and my relationship with him that the issue of access to power apart from generation, and I am talking here about the prepaid meter. It’s something that he is determined to solve by ensuring that there is mass production of prepaid meters for our people, so that once you have power, you should be able to have access to it; and you determine what level of power you are using, and how you are paying for it.
The experience we have at present where people are estimated, the estimated bill, is a thing that can dampen the morale of even the small scale industrialists and entrepreneurs. And even for those who are in their own houses as residents, the need to be able not only to access power but also to ensure that they are not cheated. In other words, consumers’ interest is Atiku’s interes, and I think it’s important for the people of our state.
As regards arrangements for the election, specifically what are your expectations from the security organisations, INEC, etc.
First of all I expect that they should ensure that the materials that are needed for the election are available. Secondly there should be peace. There should be security at the polling units.
Thirdly the processes of election and accreditation must be thorough and there must be no incidences of the failure of accrediting machines like we had before now where you had malfunctioning machines that would dissuade or prevent legitimate voters from voting.
The votes must count. The processes leading to voting, that is accreditation, the actual voting itself, tabulation of the results, the counting and the declaration must be seen to be fair, thorough, honest, credible and reliable. That is the basic minimum requirements for a free and fair election. In other words the election must be free, must be fair and must be seen to be so.
What of the security angle?
It’s important that our security agencies must behave professionally. The allegiance is to the constitution, and not to any individual. The expectation of our people is that law abiding citizens must be protected; and we must play the game according to the rules.
There must be neutrality on the part of all the security agencies; knowing fully well that the country belongs to all of us. It’s an opportunity for them to demonstrate their professionalism once again; and I hope and pray that they would be able to do this.
The riverine area of the state has been the most problematic as regards elections? What form of security arrangement do you want there?
I believe that the creeks, the riverine area are challenging spots. In this state we have the longest coastal zone, and that has its own challenges. But I believe that all our people in the riverine areas are law abiding citizens, they are prepared to comply with the rules. They just need assurance that the security agencies would also be fair to them also.
And I believe that our security agencies, professionals, the military and the police are also up to the task of providing security in those areas. And they should also ensure that there is adequate security; because I can imagine the challenges in those areas.
The creeks are sometime inaccessible. A good number of our people live on water. They live a life regulated by the environment. In other words, they are mostly fishermen and they move around on water. It’s part of this country, part of this state. That’s also our assets base. Our resources come from that area. There must be extra effort to provide security in that place; and I hope they do that.
Do you have any further comments?
I just wish our people to go out and vote without fear. It’s important that our votes must count. It’s also important that a good number of our elite who are armchair critics should come up now and ensure they participate in this democratic process. Those who are traditional critics are also enjoined to come out openly and cast their votes for whom they want to ensure they add value to our democratic process. That they can only do by ensuring that they are part of the process.
And to our security agencies, like I said earlier, their allegiance should be to the constitution of this country. The country belongs to all of us. And to each and everyone of course, Nigeria cannot be an island on its own.
The international community is watching. They are seeing what is happening. It’s important that we demonstrate that we can deliver a democratic government; t any point in time. It’s been done before. It can be done again.