Chief George Moghalu is the National Auditor of the governing All Progresives Congress (APC). A seasoned politician and an administrator, he is one of the party leaders from the south east who fought day and night to ensure that President Muhammadu Buhari gets an appreciable number of votes from the region.
In this interview with Tony Akowe, he speaks on the outcome of the just concluded Presidential election and the need to streamline the large number of political parties in the country.
THE APC again won the Presidential election without a significant contribution from the South East. What went wrong
The truth about it is that we did not achieve our desired expectations. I would have wished that we did alot better than we did in this election even though anybody on the side line would say it is an improvement on the poor outing in 2015. Certainly, we should have done better than we did because the government has been quite responsive to the south east. The President has shown great love and has done so many great and strategic things for us in the south east that should warrant our doing better than we did. But politics is all about what it is and you can never predict. I feel personally disappointed and I am sure that some other leaders also feel disappointed. I really can not access whether it is because our people have not actually understood the political implication because we are trying to seize a platform that we can use to actualise our ambition vis a viz 2023. So, i thought that this election was an opportunity for us to take over the platform and move in aggressively and take over the platform. But probably it was because one of us was given the Vice Presidential ticket of the other party or whatever. I really cant explain what went wrong. But I think it was not a good political move for us. But I believe very strongly that with time, it will continue to improve. We, as leaders of the party from the south east have an added responsibility to work harder to get our people to understand.
What do you think that the re-election of President Buhari mean for Nigerians?
For me, it is a reaffirmation and an expression of confidence. It is like telling somebody, you have done well and it places greater challenge. If you listen to the speech of the President when he received his certificate of return, it will show you a man that understand the added responsibility this re-election has given to him, it show you a man who has really dedicated himself to doing better than he has done. He has done quite well especially when you look at all the promises we made when we were coming in in 2015 as a party coming into government. Even at that, he has done extremely well and he believe also that with this re-election, Nigerians have said thank you for what you have done, but we expect you to do more. It is about Nigeria and not about him. So, it is a very welcome development. Its a wonderful thing that has happened and I know since this has happened, our party and government will still do more to justify the confidence of the Nigerian people.
There are those who believe that they worked for they worked for the party in 2015 and were not rewarded. Many of them have made more sacrifice, expecting thing to be better. What is your message to them?
Let us all be patient. Mr. President has said that things will be better and we also have a national chairman we believe that there should be a way of appreciating those who work for you as a way of encouraging them. He believe that doing so will also encourage others to know that loyalty pays, hard work pays and commitment also pays. I am sure that these set of people will not be forgotten this time around.
There is the believe that the position of the President on the leadership of the National Assembly was a tactical error that hunted the government so much. How will the party handle this issue this time around?
I am sure that the party has a role to play. All these people coming for the first time and those who got re-elected contested on the party platform. So, there is a canopy under which everybody is sitting and that canopy is the party. I am sure that with the dynamic leadership we have now, headed by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the party will do what it is supposed to do. Once that is done, I am sure we will not have any problem. I am sure that all those elected believe in party supremacy and the fact tat the party has a role to play because it is the party that was elected. All the candidates are representatives of the party and i am sure they will subject themselves to the decisions of the party.
The opposition PDP said this election was a sham and their Presidential candidate said he was challenging the outcome at the tribunal. What is your view.
For me, every election must have only one winner and in this case, Buhari is the winner. Don’t forget that before Buhari was elected President, he lost election on three occasion and in all these three instances, he felt that a few things went wrong and he sought protection in the court. This is his right and he exercised it. If the PDP candidate has evidence of things he felt were not properly done, he has a right to either say this is the will of God, let us move on as a nation because Nigeria comes first before my ambition or I will go to court to prove my case. The two options are open to him. It is for him now to make his own choice. I am yet to see that election that would have been concluded and the loser comes out to say this is a wonderful election, except for our experience in 2015 when former President Jonathan conceded even before the final results were announced. For me, the election was not a sham, but a highly contested election and everybody knows that. Don’t forget that the President travelled to the 36 states of this country including the FCT. I don’t know whether the leadership of the other party did what we did by way of campaign. I understand how he felt. I have lost election before, so, I understand the feelings of the candidate of the PDP. My suggestion would have been, yes it has happened and the best thing to do is to congratulate the winner. If they don’t want to do that, they have a right to go to court to seek redress. As for the election, it was one of the freest and fairest in this country.
Considering the massive crowd that we saw at the campaign rallies of both parties, would you say the voter turnout was impressive?
The voter turn out was quite impressive because at the end of the day, we are looking at a voter turn out of about 28 million which i quite a huge number even though it did not meet up with our registered population. But you wont lose sight of the fact that we still need to continue voter education. Election is not a one off thing. Right now, notice has been given for the 2023 election because once you declare the result of a Presidential election, you have given notice of the next one. It require all of us, both the political players and the electoral umpires going back to the books to find out what we must do to encourage more voter turn out and what we must do to let our people know the importance of our PVC. As we get more people educated and politically aware, the volume will keep increasing. So, we need to sustain voter education. Like in our party, we are looking at doing things beyond the election, turning the party into an institution and not only just for election. We should have other roles to play and not only as a platform for contesting elections. We should go beyond that. Within this period that notice has been given, we need to keep up voter education and increase membership. If you look at the percentage of membership of the political parties, it is usually less than 20 percent of the population. Why cant we ensure that over 60 percent of registered voters in the country are members of our parties. So, we have alot of work to do. While we are doing that, INEC also have alot of work to do to perfect these card readers, perfect the voters register and other things that will help them so that we don’t start running from pillar to post one week to election trying to do things we would have done when we have time available to us. So, I think we need to sustain voter education and keep encouraging people to be part of the electoral process.
How would you rate the performance of INEC and the security agents in this election.
For me, there is quite an improvement from what happened in 2015 irrespective of the fact that INEC failed us when the postponed the election. But it was better for the election to be postponed than having something that is not worth the while. So, I think there is quite some level of improvement from what was done in 2015 which we all adjudged as reasonably ok compared to previous elections. So, what has happened now is that INEC did their best and we need to encourage them, we need to support them and build that electoral institution so that it wont be a one off thing. So, what we need to do is to support and encourage them and then address the areas of lapses critically. For example, the challenges of the card reader has continued to reoccur. We need to address that issue once and for all and get over with it. On the issue of the security, I think they did quite well despite the challenges. As we talk about voter education, you should understand that those who run he security agencies are also Nigerians and are entitled to good representation and good leadership. When people talk about security agencies, they speak as if they are come from the moon or as if they don’t buy from the same market. They also need to be part of what is happening and so, voter education and citizen responsibility, they should also be part of it because once you keep educating them, they become part of the system and then understand that there is a way you do policing during the election without military presence. Some people argued that we don’t need the Army to be involved and I said they should be involved to avoid threat to national security. They are not participating in the voting, but provide additional security. From what has been reported, when the Army arrest people, they hand them over to the police because it is the primary responsibility of the police. So, the Army is providing additional security because that is their primary responsibility. I think they did quite well and we need to support them.
We have so may political parties on the ballot and there is this argument that there is the need to streamline the parties and make them stronger. Do you think we should reduce the number of parties?
I think the number is becoming very unwealthy. In this last election, we had 73 political parties that contested the Presidency and some of them came out with very ridiculous scores in country where we have over 80 million registered voters. That goes to show that some people have turned it into a joke. I think we must create the base. For me, if you don’t have representation in the National Assembly, you don’t have a reason to exist as a political party. So, i am of the school of thought that the number is unwealthy and we must create opportunities on how the number can be reasonably reduced. If you notice the trend now, it is going towards a two party system. It is all about APC, PDP while the others re there in number. Some people may be excited being called National Chairman. That may be the basis for their satisfaction and so, you allow that to massage their ego. Other wise I don’t think it is necessary have political parties that year after year, don’t win even a councillor and are still being called political parties. There are some names I saw n screen that I cant even remember if I have seen them before or what they stand for. I think the number is quite high and something need to be done in that regard.
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