National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mallam Lanre Issa Onilu has said that the party lost election in some key states controlled by it because the party and government controlled by it gave every Nigerian the opportunity to contest election freely without interference in the electoral process.
The APC lost the governorship elections in Imo, Adamawa, Bauchi and Oyo states, four states controlled by APC governors, while losing the Presidential election in Oyo, Ondo and Edo states.
Onilu told a group of Reporters at the weekend that before the 2019 elections, it was unheard of that the ruling party lost election in states controlled by it.
He said: “In Sokoto, we lost by less than 500 votes, but in Kano, we won by thousands of votes. Which one is narrow? Is it the Sokoto that PDP have claimed they have won with three hundred or Kano that we won by over 20,000 votes, so it is not narrow.
“But the important thing to note is that, and that’s my word. Being a journalist myself, I begin to ask myself, what has happened to us in the media? That our role is to interpret events.
“If we interpret these events very well, you will notice that you have a ruling party that is supposed to mobilize all the resources of coercion and all instrument of coercion to get what we want. You just said that we lost some States, major States.
“I will tell you that the only reason that happened was because this party has provided a platform for people to go and face the electorate and for the electorate to pass judgement on the people that have been put forward without anybody doing anything against it.
“We have just talked about Rivers State. Whatever was going on in Rivers State, as far as this party is concerned, belongs to people of Rivers State. Otherwise we will say okay, move in and do that. We have witnessed it in this country under PDP that the whole state would be locked down. Their own method is win by all means, let others go to tribunal. We didn’t apply that.
“You have seen major politicians in this country, big politicians in this country losing election in this country even in our own party. You saw a serving governor in Oyo State who couldn’t win one-third of the State. A governor who is governing the entire State couldn’t win one-third of the entire State to get to the Senate.
“You saw a struggle that is still going on in Akwa-Ibom State, with somebody of the calibre of Godswill Akpabio. Even though we know there are issues to that and it would be corrected but at the same time, we should have deployed, in such a way that we will want to arm-twist anybody or the system or manipulate the system.
“That question did not even arise at all and I think the media should step back from the millieu, so that they don’t get carried away by that kind of ‘flu’ politicians are going with so that they can see the issue clearly and say what is responsible for this.
“You could see that we lost Oyo in presidential election where we have a sitting governor. We lost Ondo where we have a sitting governor. But because we didn’t want to condone impunity, we did all we did in Imo in a way to undermine ourselves. The choice we had was to either to accept what would have amounted to the impunity, so that we could win Imo ordo the right thing. But we said no, we would rather do what is decent.”
On the chances of the party ahead of the 2023 elections, Onilu expressed confidence that the outcome of the 2019 elections has further increased the chances of the APC, saying “the chances are even now brighter.
“You know why? Nigerians have shown that they have also come of age and that no matter who you are, you can be rejected. See what happened in Kwara State for instance. With the behemoth status of somebody like Bukola Saraki whose opponent’s results nearly doubled his own, not a single person was slapped. He couldn’t even go to tribunal to protest.
“The only way this could happen was because voters have come up of age, and they now look at performance unlike sentiments that they’ve been following.
Speaking on the just concluded elections in Rivers state, Onilu said “we don’t have anything to do with the Rivers State election. APC didn’t have candidates in Rivers State and that is why from the beginning, we didn’t throw ourselves so much into it.
“You know what the Supreme Court did. They said we were not qualified to contest. So, on that basis, whatever happened in Rivers, whether a Local Government that gave 80% total votes during the Presidential election suddenly produced 320,000 for Wike during governorship election didn’t hurt us in any way.
“If INEC says that was correct, fine. It is up to the parties involved to take actions if they find it necessary. But for us as a party, we didn’t have the opportunity to contest unfairly in Rivers State.
On the adoption of the candidate of the African Action Congress by the party, Onilu said the APC as a party never adopted any candidate, but was quick to stress that the party also did not forbid any local arrangement that may have been made in the state.7f
He said: “What happened last time was whether what Amaechi did amounted to anti-party activities and I said No. Adopting any candidate in the state did not deny any of our candidates anything in Rivers State. So, I separated what happened in Rivers from Ogun and Imo where we had our own candidates and our own members worked against own candidates and worked for some other candidates.
“It is different in Rivers. Whatever local arrangement they had there, we were not aware of it and we were not part of it. I’m sure you didn’t see anybody there campaigning for anybody outside of APC.”
He also dismissed insinuations that the Kwara state governor-elect was enmeshed in a certificate scandal and therefore not qualified to contest the election.
He said “there is no any scandal. You see, APC is a party of due process. Once you comply with your own rules, things become easy for you. We have a process and they (the then governorship aspirants) went through the right process.
“We are confident and completely certain that our governor-elect has nothing to hide. The certificates are genuine. You see, it is laughable that of all things, they cannot come out to say the election was rigged because they were traced even beyond their own imagination.
“So, they think maybe they could find something to use at the tribunal because they can’t just walk away. But they need to wake up and face the reality of that defeat because it is an eternal defeat”.