In this interview published in the Business Day Newspaper of Friday March 15, 2019 (page 33), Dumo Lulu-Briggs, the Governorship candidate of the Accord Party in Rivers State, discusses the suspended Governorship election in that State and finding a sustainable solution to electoral disruptions, and violence in Rivers. Excerpts.
How will you rate the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during the 2019 general election?
The greatest challenge we face with our electoral process is really not INEC, but on the legitimacy of the elected Government. The legitimacy of a Government is under threat whenever the minority of eligible voters decide the fate of the majority. The responsibility we now have as leaders is to increase awareness, improve participation and promote the power of the ballot box. INEC also has to rebuild its image as not only an independent electoral body, but an effective and efficient one.
There will be supplementary elections in some states, but Rivers is the only state that elections were suspended. What can be done to ensure that elections are free from violence?
Why do peace charters fail (smiles)? It is because peace does not lie in charters and covenants alone. Peace lies in the hearts and minds of all people. We should not rely on signed documents alone, there has to be a genuine desire for peace, a readiness to work and commit towards building peace in each family and community. I believe that we can achieve this in Rivers State.
Practical peace is enabling women and men to grow and to hope that they can build a better life for their children. This will not only create peace in our time but peace for all time.
In your pinion what led to the suspension of elections in Rivers State?
Let me make myself clear the elections were not suspended because of violence. The elections were suspended because Rivers People had made up their mind to vote for peace. Our women and men voted for a doctor who can cure the virus of violence. My vision for making Rivers State the number one destination for jobs and prosperity in Nigeria gave me the edge above other candidates. Now, the evidence before us suggests that the other parties had a contrary vision. What INEC need more than ever before is courage to do what is right.
Remember, elections are being funded with, tax payers’ money. Parties that fund and promote violence should be disqualified. When elections are suspended, rescheduled or cancelled due to violence, tax payers are punished by paying for the crimes they did not commit. Rescheduling elections due to violence is the best example of double taxation.
The evidence that is available shows that the AAC and PDP in Rivers State were complicit in electoral disruptions across all the local government areas. They should be disqualified. Let us not allow the bullets of murder shoot down justice.
Will it be fair practice for some parties or their candidates to be disqualified?
We need to adhere to rules and procedures. Every competition has rules. In Athletics if you jump the gun twice, you are disqualified. Usain Bolt, the fastest 100 meters runner, was once disqualified for breaking this rule. No party is above the law.
In Rivers State, we must not reward the perpetrators of violence with another opportunity. In football, when there is a handball in the penalty area, the referee gives a penalty. INEC knows the parties that ‘have handled the ball. I call on INEC to disqualify all parties that funded, promoted and participated in violence in Rivers State.
In States that have history of violence, shouldn’t the military be used to protect voters and the electoral process?
The law is clear on the roles of the security agencies during elections. Let us not subvert this. An election is not war. Let’s heed the advice of Malala Yousafzai (17 year old Nobel peace Laureate) – “If you want to end the war then instead of sending guns, send books. Instead of sending tanks, send pens. Instead of sending soldiers, send teachers.”
What is the way to guarantee peaceful election in Rivers State?
As long as people use violence to combat violence, we will always have violence. We cannot get peace through violence; it can only be attained through understanding. As Rivers State Governor, I will bring an end to the beginning of all violence. Remember, violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
Is this what motivates you to want to be the next Governor of Rivers State?
A Government that cannot create Jobs does not deserve to keep its Job. The Rivers people now need less of the same. Our future lies in ideas. Fresh ideas! I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for Rivers People.
Are you willing to work with all political parties and stakeholders to promote peace in Rivers?
There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. My campaign as Governor has been to spread light across all of the twenty three local government areas in Rivers. This is what the Lulu-Briggs family has always done.
Violence is not an option for me. But make no mistakes, peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.
So, what should INEC do next in Rivers State?
The Rivers people have voted. INEC now has to vote. INEC can either put their thumb on the ballot paper for the party called violence or peace. A vote for peace is to disqualify the AAC and PDP.
A wise man once said, “There is a higher court than courts of justice, and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.”