Prince Favour Reuben is the Rivers State chairman of the Labour Party. In this interview with EDITH CHUKU, he urged the Rivers State government to practice what it preaches, by asking the ruling party, the PDP, to excuse themselves from the April 17 LG elections in the state.
He believes that PDP should be disqualified for failing to adhere to electoral guideline by not conducting the primary as stipulated by RSIEC.
How ready is your party for the LG election scheduled for April 17?
Very, very ready. We are through with primary, we are submitting the list of our candidate, we are set and we are very ready to go in.
Many people don’t have faith in the ability of RSIEC to conduct a free and fair election. Where does the Labour Party stand on this?
Certainly we as political party, if not that we are a political party, I don’t think we would have participated in this local government election because the process that is leading to that actual election is faulty; they are making it look so stupid that even a blind eye can tell you that this election will not be credible, this election will not be fair, this election will not be transparent. So, actually, outside me, my party does not have confidence in RSIEC presently. The RSIEC we are seeing today, our confidence is in doubt. So, we are doing it because we are a political party and want to see the end to it. We can’t pull out of election, the purpose of a political party is to participate in election and to win.
Opposition parties hardly win election in the state. Do you think this one will be different?
Certainly, that’s why we are crying that SIECs should be taken over by INEC, because every SIEC outside Rivers State, any state that is controlled by the governor, they decide to write the result and announce it for themselves, they have never allowed election to be free, fair, credible, election of any state has never been conducted in a free and fair atmosphere. So that’s why we have been proposing, even from the national, for electoral amendments that INEC as a matter of urgency and sustainers of democracy, INEC take over SIEC elections.
You think your party has what it takes to fight PDP government in the state?
We are not fighting the government, we are only selling our project, our vision to the public, if it is a democracy, whether the government there is not there, is the people that decide. So, it is the people that will decide the fate of any candidate or any political party, not the government, that’s why we are saying that the SIEC is controlled by the government and that question is showing that there is no democracy, there is no election, because if you say the PDP government, PDP government was in power before, today APC has taken over the nation. No boby believed that PDP will lose but today they lost. So in this state, PDP can also lose. What we are saying is that the election should be free, fair and transparent; let the will of the people prevail, let the people speak in the ballot box, and not the government that will decide what will happen. If they allow it to be free, fair and credible, I am assuring you that outside Labour Party that will win so many seats, other parties will always win.
You have consistently queried RSIEC for favouring the PDP in the conduct of primaries. What is the latest on your plans to go to court to stop PDP from taking part on the election?
Certainly we are going to court, we will be filling between tomorrow and Monday, PDP does not have candidates. I repeat, they do not have candidates in this local government election, because they did not go through the primary.
There is a timetable that stipulates time for primary. PDP decide not to do primary because they feel they are the owners of the election. PDP did not go through primary and as of Tuesday, the primary ended on Saturday, PDP asked for extension and when we started shouting, they secretly take through the back door and submitted the name of their candidates to RSIEC on Tuesday, and yesterday they completed submission of counsellors, where they did not go through primary just because they feel that they are in charge, RSIEC accepted all their candidates, which is why we are going to court to say PDP should not be part of this election.
You had among other parties threatened to announce to the world that RSIEC wasn’t ready to conduct a free, fair and credible election, during their supposed refusal to meet with your party, does that still stand?
Yeah! They are not ready to do free, fair and credible election, they are not, but we want to force them to do it, and we know that if PDP is not part of this election, RSIEC will sit up, they will do free, and fair election, that is why we are making sure that we go to court and say PDP you must obey the law.
The governor of this state has been shouting, that we need credible election, we need transparent election, we need democracy to take roots in this country and it is at his own domain now to show to the world that what he said yesterday he can stand by it today, that’s why we are dragging the governor, we are dragging the RSIEC to court, so that the world will know that what the governor is saying, he said something in the morning and he’s saying something in the evening. If he is fighting that there should be credible election in Nigeria, he should demonstrate it through Rivers State.
If today 2023 election comes, APC themselves decide not to participate in primary and allow PDP to finish primary, at the end of the primary, APC applies to INEC to extend their own primary, PDP will be the first people to be shouting. If they will be shouting, they should do the needful today, PDP should excuse themselves, they should tell the truth to themselves that we want to set an example, since we were not able to participate in the primary election, we are excusing ourselves from this local government election, other political parties can go ahead and do it, that will make the election to be free, fair and credible.
PDP excusing themselves from this election, can that be possible?
Why, why not? Because we are living in a lawless situation, because we are in a lawless society, that’s why it’s not possible. But where there is law, that’s why we are calling on the press, we are calling on civil society to make sure this thing because when a politician is doing things, no penalty is attached to them; that’s why they are doing whatever they are doing but if people rise up against this that they have done, everything will be sorted out and no other politician will try it, no governor will try it. We are calling upon all the civil society, all the lawyers in this country to ask Wike to excuse himself from this local government election.
What is your definition of free, fair, credible and transparent election which you expect from RSIEC?
Once PDP is out, RSIEC will do a free, and fair election because nobody will give them money again, nobody will give them police, nobody will stay in Government House and call them on what to do, they will now on their own, they will do free and credible election but with the present of PDP certainly they will dance to the tone of PDP.
Are you threatened by the presence of the ruling party in the state in this election, you sound like if PDP participates in this election, Labour Party stands no chance of winning?
You said it here, you have already said it that there is no state government that does election that any other party wins, you have said it, no party. They don’t allow you to win. We are not threatened by PDP because if PDP is in the ballot and they will do free and fair election, nobody is afraid of them. We did last local government election, anywhere PDP sees that labour was winning they will use piece of paper to write result instead of result sheet, why, because they are in charge and because they are in charge, they decide to do any other thing. If PDP wants to see free, fair credible election, they should excuse themselves out of this election because they have failed. They have violated the guideline of this election, and anything they did is illegal and we cannot stand on illegality and justify whatever we are doing and that is why we are calling as labour party and other political party in Rivers State that PDP is not qualified to run this local government election, therefore they should not be part of this local government election.