Barr Chukwunonso Daniel Ogbe is the state chairman of African Peoples Alliance (APA). He was also the party’s chairmanship candidate for Enugu South in the just concluded Enugu State Local Government Elections, which he lost. In this interview with LEADERSHIP, Ogbe gives a vivid account of what happened on November 4, 2017, saying the election was anything but credible, free and fair.
What is your take on the just concluded Enugu council polls?
The just concluded 2017 local government council election of Enugu State embodies nothing short of the desecration of democratic ethos. It is my opinion, founded upon what I personally witnessed on the 4th day of November 2017, and the information supplied to me by party agents of African Peoples Alliance in Enugu State, that the 2017 local government council election was not free, neither was it fair. What happened in Enugu State on the 4th day of November 2017 in the name of local government council election, was an affront to the sensibilities of rational thinking men in Enugu State. It did not come to me as a surprise anyway, because some weeks back, I did assert that I will not give ENSIEC a pat on the back, just because the Commission is being headed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in the person of Dr Mike Ajogwu, not until ENSIEC must have proved me wrong by conducting a free, fair and credible election.
You contested for the chairmanship position of Enugu South Local Government Area and lost. What actually happened?
The chairmanship candidate of the PDP, Mr Sunday Ugwu was declared winner of Enugu South Local Government Council by ENSIEC. That does not mean that I Mr Ogbe C. D of APA was actually defeated by the candidate of the PDP in that election going by the eligible votes cast by the electorates of Enugu South on the 4th day of November 2017. So, I reject the status of being described as a loser in the 2017 Enugu State local government council election. ENSIEC actually lost, by declaring a man who never won any election the winner of the chairmanship position of Enugu South Local Government Council. If ENSIEC is of the firm view that Mr Sunday Ugwu of the PDP won the election for Enugu South Local Government Council chairmanship position, then I challenge ENSIEC to bring out the ballot papers which were made use of by the electorates of Enugu South in purportedly electing Mr Sunday Ugwu their chairman, hand same over to forensic experts for scrutiny, and if at the end of the day, those forensic experts do not come up with cases of multiple thumbprints in favour of the candidate of PDP and in which case if the questionable ballot papers are removed and we are left with the genuine ones with myself having the highest number of lawful votes cast in Enugu South, then I will tender an apology to ENSIEC and also write a book, eulogizing ENSIEC as the best thing that has ever happened to democracy in Nigeria.
Are there any bitter lessons you would say you learnt in the course of electioneering?
There are many lessons which I learned of course, both the pleasant and the unpleasant ones. I discovered in the course of my electioneering campaign that many people no longer believe we have men and women who venture into politics for the purposes of working for the people, because of the manner in which many leaders at the local government tier of government have failed to bring good governance to the grassroots in recent times. I also came to terms with the fact that electoral violence is far from being over in our political clime. It is by the grace of God that I am alive today. I narrowly escaped being murdered the day my campaign team visited Akwuke Ward 10 on the 1st day of November 2017. Some members of the PDP who were having their rally on the said day, without any form of provocation attacked my campaign train. The worst would have happened, but as God may have it, the situation was brought under control and my party men who were physically manhandled did not resort to violence.
Have you accepted defeat or will you be heading to the election petitions tribunal or court in the coming days?
The situation here is quite unfortunate. I have applied for the Certified True Copy of the result as released by Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission, but same is yet to be delivered to me even as I speak. I have forwarded a message to the mobile number of the Chairman of ENSIEC Dr Mike Ajogwu in that regard, but his mobile number seems not to be going through. So, we have a situation in which ENSIEC may frustrate my plans of challenging the outcome of the result of the November 4, 2017 local government council election in court, as getting the pieces of evidence needed for me to assert my right, seems to be a herculean task.
Do you in any way think that you could have been betrayed by your supporters and the electorate at the last minute?
To the very best of my knowledge, I was never betrayed by most of my supporters. Most of my supporters believe in me, and they exhibited serious determination and sense of commitment towards ensuring that I emerged the chairman of Enugu South. I reached out to men and women of Enugu South when the electioneering campaign was ongoing. They scrutinized me, and discovered that I may be a bit different from what they have been seeing. I advised them to approach people who have my records when I was a student and when I occupied some leadership positions in time past, and ask questions about my person. Moreover, I challenged them to pray and inquire from God Almighty, who sees the heart of every man, to know if I have very great and wonderful plans for Enugu South. I believe many of them prayed and based on the result they got, saw that I was out to salvage Enugu South from the shackles of agents of retrogression and consequently voted APA. In my own ward, being Ward 13 Maryland, voters openly refused pecuniary inducements and voted based on their convictions. Amidst open intimidation and flagrant provocation in which some officials of ENSIEC in broad daylight embarked on the thumbprint of ballot papers in favour of the PDP in Ward 13 Maryland, being the one I personally witnessed, the electorates were never moved.
What is your message to your supporters and the people of Enugu South?
I would like to plead with my numerous supporters and the good people of Enugu South never to despair. It is sad that they were not proved wrong with regard to the fears they expressed as to the sincerity of purpose on the part of ENSIEC in conducting a free, fair and credible local government council election. I plead with them to keep hope alive. Enugu South Local Government definitely shall never remain the same.