SDP won’t challenge Tinubu’s declaration as president-elect – National chairman
National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Shehu Gabam, shares his thoughts with DIRISU YAKUBU on the party’s decision to challenge the National Assembly elections in some states, among other issues
What is your general assessment of the February 25 presidential election?
The party has issued an official position as regards the February 25 presidential election. We stand by the law that established the Independent National Electoral Commission. We acknowledge that INEC is the only institution that can conduct an election and declare results, and they have declared Senator Bola Tinubu as the winner of the election. We stand by that declaration. We have advised political parties that are aggrieved to go to court, and we equally said that as the SDP, we are going to challenge the parliamentary elections because we disagree with the processes. We conceded the presidential election. We did not win it, but we know certainly that we won some senatorial and House of Representatives seats. These winners have been issued certificates of return by INEC.
Politics is about showing what you can do and try to build up opinion around what you are going to do. For that reason, I am not going to make any comment because those who are not satisfied with the outcome of the exercise have gone to court. Let us wait and see the outcome of the judicial process.
Nigerians expected much from your party, the SDP, in the presidential election. Will you attribute your poor outing to the activities of the parallel executive led by Alfa Mohammed?
We, the leaders of the party, were part of INEC transactions. The people you are referring to were not part of anything. We, the leaders of the party, were elected at a convention. Forget about those seeking empty opportunities or vultures seeking dead bodies to feed on. We have outgrown that, and I don’t want to elevate any nonentity, but these people are free to keep on doing their impersonation. That era is gone; they tried to de-market the party and it didn’t work. It’s a shame on them that we have fought and won, and we are among the parties that have succeeded despite the heavy interference from other parties using certain individuals to suggest that the political party endorsed someone else for the presidential election.
We did not sacrifice anybody because having spent their resources, energy, and time campaigning; we couldn’t have suddenly dropped our candidates for other people. It doesn’t make sense for any decent person to sacrifice those who have been campaigning for chicken change. I have outgrown the chicken change struggle in my life. Those that are looking for chicken change are the ones going around, saying they are the leaders of the party. They are impersonating us and some of them are already being investigated by the police.
Are you satisfied with the performance of your party?
The SDP did very well in the presidential and National Assembly elections. In terms of performance, The All Progressives Congress is the party in power. They (APC) have the government and every resource at their disposal. The Peoples Democratic Party has governors, senators and members of House of Representatives and other streams of revenue. The presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, was a governor twice. He is the chairman of many establishments, including banks. He was a former vice-presidential candidate. So, he had the advantage of resources available to him.
Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party was a two-term governor. He was a minister; he was on the board of many establishments. He also had resources available to him to spend. If you look at what the political parties got out of the very chaotic situation, the votes got by SDP were the only heart-loving votes because we had no money to buy anybody. People voted for us because we defended the credibility of the party; we defended the image of the SDP. We changed the narrative of the party and we revamped the party. We are one of the best and we were everywhere. We were in every media space, talking about issues.
The SDP is the oldest party among 18 others that participated in the election. Perhaps, this is why some people thought you could have done better.
If the Nigerian media wants to encourage political parties to grow up, then it should recognise genuine efforts. We won some senatorial as well as House of Representatives seats. Coming from zero gravity to where we are, given the level of corruption and inducement, vote-buying and all sorts of influence around the election, we were able to win some Senate and House of Representatives seats. The media should encourage political parties that are doing well. We don’t have access to government or free money at all. We relied on our credibility and everything we must promote to project the SDP. Like I said, we are getting our facts together. We are going to challenge some of the parliamentary elections. We are going to challenge some results that are extremely controversial. At the end of the day, we do hope that our judicial system will do justice to all the parties that presented their facts before them.
How will you rate the performance of INEC?
The INEC has declared a winner and some other parties have said they are going to challenge it in court. I think it is fair to allow the court to determine whether the decision of INEC was right or wrong. We have admitted outright that there were lots of flaws on the part of INEC even when we met with them. We said that the process would not stand because it (process) was against the assurance of the President to conduct free and fair elections. The presidential election cannot be categorised as free and fair. However, the country must move on, some things have to give way. Decency, patriotism must prevail and based on this, we want peace in Nigeria; we don’t want any elements to disrupt the peace in the country. Election is a continuous exercise. Anybody can be president at any given time, but we should allow the judiciary to settle the scores rather than taking the laws into our hands. As patriotic Nigerians, we don’t want to overheat the polity.
I am not sure anybody is happy with the controversy surrounding the performance of BVAS in the presidential election. The device itself has no problem but those put in charge by INEC did what they did. I think the commission itself agreed that BVAS could have save the nation of the needless outpouring of emotions that we are witnessing today. In Rivers State, from all we heard in the social and print media, BVAS was not used in the presidential election and there were scandals all over the place.
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