PROFESSOR Sam Oyovbaire was Minister of Information during the military administration of President Ibrahim Babangida. He is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the Pro-Chancellor , Chairman, Governing Council of the Delta State University. He is also the Chairman Delta state Advisory and Peace Building Council .
In this interview he speaks extensively on burning national issues, flaying the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC for talking excessively. Breaking:
What is your response to the Osun state governorship election that was declared inconclusive?
First of all, for me, I am very happy about the performance of the PDP, we have become a party to beat .This was clear in Osun state. The inconclusive decision of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, was not fair but if the rules did say that the margin of majority which should have obviously made PDP be declared winner , for example in one local government PDP was denied one thousand votes if this had been added to the votes I am sure the PDP would have won completely. The important thing is that PDP has performed very well contrary to the expectations of many and it demonstrates what is ahead of us.
Again if the decision taken by INEC to suspend the election had not kept to the rule, then it is unfair.
What is your reaction to the new trend of vote buying in our politics?
This is unfortunate; vote buying has become a new aspect of rigging. The vote is a commodity; this is unfortunate, this is not what democracy is about. In the late 60s, the practice was to give food items to the women so they could queue behind some candidates. We are getting better, but there are those who would always want to truncate the system. What happened in Ondo, Ekiti and some in Edo State is most unfortunate. But it is an unfortunate phenomenon; it will gradually disappear. It is rigging the people, undermining the rights of the individual, exploiting the poverty of the people Vote buying is a very negative commentary on the Buhari administration as it tells the level of poverty in the land. Dangling five thousand naira, one thousand naira had become what people cherish to vote; it tells you what the administration has reduced Nigerians to.
Do you have confidence in the Buhari administration giving Nigerians a credible General Election next year?
I do not have confidence in Buhari. I say this not because he is President, grant me the privilege of saying I know him from his records. The Shagari election was overturned by Buhari. The coming on board of Buhari as Head state, the record of the government is in the public space it; is what any scholar can look at to speak authoritatively on Buhari. He is still very much a dictator. I had advised military rulers in the past. I was there with President Ibrahim Babangida, he (Buhari) has not got the profile of Babangida to listen to arguments. You can see his carriage, he enjoys not talking, but acting according to what he believes in whether it is within the democratic frame or not. He is a dictator. If Buhari has all the instruments to conduct elections alone, nobody will win elections other than those he wants
What is your opinion of the INEC ahead of the general polls?
Let me not rule out INEC completely. INEC is composed at the highest level by highly respected gentlemen and ladies. The military, SSS, Police and some other ad-hoc staff are part of the election process, and I hope they will not be compromised. You know INEC does not have more than one-third of the staff that actually conduct elections, many are ad-hoc, they are motivated by all kinds of things, including poverty, opportunity to take advantage. So INEC is not in total control of those they have brought in for the election.
This country has enough problems; for goodness sake, we should not have a President whose own profile adds to the problem we have . This is what Buhari is to the country; he is a problem; I say this with all due respect. When you add him to the problem, Nigeria already had you can see why the drifting in focus. Buhari is a problem because he does not have the capacity, he lacks the capacity to grasp. I have made reference to Babangida; I do not believe Buhari has that kind of time to listen over an issue. I saw this in Babangida when the country went through what I call a paradigm shift when the country moved from being driven by government. This was a time the private sector started driving the economy of the country. With all due respect, I do not see President Buhari being able to listen to advice; I might be wrong.
What would you say to the attempts by the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole to compel Senator Bukola Saraki to step down from the office of Senate President?
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki has behaved very well in my view, not provoked even when agencies of the state pushed him to be angry. The action of the security agencies on the day they sealed up the assembly complex was very unfortunate. The head of the DSS then should certainly not have acted alone, but failure is an orphan. The role of the security agencies had been very unfortunate; they tried to embarrass the Senate President at his residence the other time.
Well, I am not surprised. What do you expect from Somebody who goes outside his country to abuse his people?
The media too has a role to play. There is this confusion between Parliamentary and Presidential system. The media should let the people know this. In a parliamentary system the party in majority produces the Prime Minister, produces leaders, but that is not presidential system. In 1976,77 leading to 79 when Nigerian completely moved from parliamentary to presidential system in the country, I was privileged as a lecturer at Amadu Bello university to be among those selected to go round the country to sensitize the people on the difference between the presidential and parliamentary system. The presidential system does not say that the party with the majority in the house should necessarily have the Senate President or Speaker, it does not say so. That is why in the United States you find a President elected by the people, but both arms of the Congress are in the hands of another party. Actually in a better society that brings out the best in the President. My good friend, His Excellency Adams Oshiomole just talks, you don’t say because we are in the majority, you must produce this or that. The issue of the presidency of the Senate is a business of the Senate so if they choose to pick somebody from another party so be it . But in a parliamentary system, it is expected that the party with majority produces the leaders. Again in a parliamentary system the Speaker is just a moderator, go and see the House of Commons. It is unfortunate that we seem to be operating a presidential system from the lens of the parliamentary system.
How prepared is the PDP for next year’s General Election in Delta State?
I have four units in my village, the task to all PDP leaders is hold your unit. Ensure that the election goes on smoothly, no manipulations. When an opposition party knows they can’t win in an area, they try to destroy the process but this we will not be allowed to happen. In terms of performance, the PDP is ready. There is nothing in the state that will suggest that the party will not win the election. PDP has consistently won election in the state.
Former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan recently dumped your party for the APC, will it affect your party in any way?
He is a young man I respect. I felt bad he left, I kept saying it is unfortunate. He knows why he has left. But you are important because you can win elections. I know his local government, whether he will win his local government I don’t know, but he knows I can win mine. Here is a man who built his political profile within the PDP right from when he was Commissioner of Health. Before he joined the PDP, he was nobody in public space. Uduaghan had been in government for 16 years running. What is it that made him to leave? I don’t know. But if it is because he wanted to go to Senate “they did not give me the ticket, did he give anybody ticket, did he give Okokwa ticket himself, we all went through the primaries. Like I said I don’t know why he left. Or is it the ego that he was not told that you are our candidate, that was what angered him, I don’t know.