By Nseobong Okon-Ekong
Presidential Candidate of People’s Trust (PT), Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim has congratulated the candidate of the All Progress Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari on his declaration as the winner of last Saturday’s presidential election.
Olawepo-Hashim, however, called on the President to be mindful of numerous lapses identified in the electioneering process.
Olawepo-Hashim who ran a robust campaign harping on issues and preferring solutions to them, stressed that not a few gaps including card reader failures, thump printing of ballot papers, allocation of results, violence and killing plagued the polls, but he is congratulating the declared winner for the greater good, peace and progress of the nation and also in compliance with the peace accord, which all the aspirants signed.
In a detailed press statement where the usually cerebral politician articulated his positions, he expressed his gratitude to the team of supporters who broke the bandwagon and showed loyalty to him, making him one of the frontrunners beyond the dominant party candidates.
He went on: “I am particularly thankful to the people of Yauri Emirate and Zuru in Kebbi State who spoke through their votes that family ties cannot be easily broken by politics. While the APC and PDP remained the dominant parties in Kebbi State, the great people of Kebbi State showed loyalty to the bloodline by making sure that People’s Trust emerged third in most of the State. “
Usually calm and collected, Olawepo-Hashim was clear in maintaining that his party went around the country in the campaign season and were one of the few alternative candidates to the two dominant parties, APC and PDP, who organized rallies and engaged in commercial advertising both on the print and the electronic media right to the last day of campaigning.
Their messages, he noted were clear that Nigeria can indeed build a US$4 trillion economy within 10 years, and that the country can be united and secured, besides the ability to employ youths by creating 4 million jobs per year and paying workers a living wage of not less than N50,000.
According to the business mogul turned politician: “We passed a strong message that a ‘new and better Nigeria is possible’. Now the election has been won and lost. It is my duty, as a matter of honour as all contestants signed an accord to keep the peace and congratulate the winner. I, therefore, offer my felicitation to the winner of the 2019 Presidential election, President Mohammadu Buhari. I pray for God’s guidance for him and wisdom as he steers the ship of state further in the next four years.”
He explained that the nation cannot pretend everything has been smooth in the processes leading to the election and the election itself. Some of the ugly realities are assignments for political leaders and the entire citizenry to fix in the immediate future with a view to resolving them so as to building a stronger democracy, a more united and prosperous Nigeria.
The candidate with a rich history of activism alleged an attempt to politically delegitimize the People’s Trust (PT), its presidential candidate and other platforms. Pursuant to this, the series of ridiculous votes in the region of 40, 90, 100 in different states allocated by Professor Yakubu, the chairman of the INEC and his team does not in any way reflect number of votes obtained by the People’s Trust in the elections. The total votes announced in many states and FCT were in fact less than votes recorded in some and most of the polling units.
To the gallant contestant, while People’s Trust cannot claim to have out-performed the APC and PDP in any State, in most states of the North-Central and Kebbi State, it recorded votes that placed it in the third position.
“Unfortunately, the handler and fixers of the current exercise will rather choose to ridicule the People’s Trust while allocating huge figure to shadowy parties that were deliberately registered to give support and legitimacy to the ruling party. The whole idea was started earlier in the campaign season, by scheming the People’s Trust out of the Presidential debate and electronic media channels controlled by the ruling party.”
Rather unruffled, he continued: “These political forces who are not simply contented with rigging elections in 2019 alone, also want to determine the set of political platforms to promote for the future. They want to play God over our destiny. These forces are unhappy that the People’s Trust submitted the highest nominations into offices during the nomination exercise. They are unhappy that we won the online votes amongst the alternative parties. They have done everything to attack and destroy our platform, but we are undaunted and not intimidated”
He alleged further that, “the odious scheme of this anti-PT forces finally came to the fore when one of the private stations controlled by the ruling party quickly assembled some proxy analysts to lampoon the ‘bad showing’ of some young parties, they immediately launched a deregistration of these parties,even only after the results of only two states had been officially announced, this is how petty, ugly and low, the electoral and political process in 2019 has descended.”
On electoral irregularities, violence and killings, the business magnate stated that it was noted in many locations and the unusual large numbers of cancelled votes in Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa and other areas. “Incidentally, these States fall within the catchment areas of the People’s Trust (PT). In many States, we have received reports of ballot snatching, delayed arrival of voting materials or deliberate non-distribution of materials and wide spread irregularities. We hope the managers of the process will address these problems and stop further bloodshed in the land.
Other than this, he said in the build-up to the election, following the initial postponement, they envisaged the present scenario and the reason why they requested in their letter dated 17th February, 2019 for a four week postponement of the polls to allow for a properly audited system and a cool-off period from what was obviously a desperate election scenario. Unfortunately, the major parties appear to be interested in having the election anyhow and not properly.
“The outcome of the 2019 Presidential elections, even though we have accepted it in the interest of peace and stability of the country, fall short of international standard and the standard established at the 2015 election. President Mohammad Buhari must, soon after the Governorship and State Assembly elections, probe the inefficient conduct of the INEC. It will be time also to have a national conversation on how to unbundle the INEC and have a more efficient and transparent Election Management Process”
On vote buying, he said they “saw massive voters’ inducement with cash especially by the two dominant parties. Whatever support therefore, obtained by them has been immorally and illegally acquired. Cash deployed have also been above the threshold set by the electoral act. One unfortunate dimension of the vote purchase market in the just concluded Presidential election is that the practice was not just driven by unscrupulous politicians desperate for votes but by the demand of about 60% of the voters who turned for financial gratification before voting. Candidates who refused to offer cash-for-votes were generally referred to as ‘unserious candidates’ and severely punished at the polls. Nigerians as a people must have a honest debate about vote buying and its impact on the electoral outcome and governance”
Concluding, Olawepo-Hashim said the election showed that the victor has secured a massively tainted victory that lives behind ‘a sour taste in the mouth’ and a broken polity. It is his responsibility to pick the pieces and heal the wounds that have already been inflicted in the land.
“On my part, I consider it a rewarding participation in spite of the outcome. It is always honourable to stand up for duty to one’s country, regardless of the outcome. I remain undaunted;I remain solid in my faith that a better Nigeria is possible. I pledge to you that you will find me always a willing partner in the unfinished assignment for the peace, unity and prosperity of Nigeria, even as the future bekcons.”