Dele Williams is the governorship candidate of the Grassroots Development Party of Nigeria (GDPN) in Kogi State.
In this interview, he speaks about his campaign and his expectation for Saturday’s election.
PT: How are you engaging the people ahead of the election?
Williams: Our predominant message for now is they have tried PDP for 16 years and another version of the PDP called APC for four years which is now a disaster under the governor, Yahaya Bello. What do the people have to lose by giving another party and somebody with the mastery of experience the chance to govern and vote out the PDP and APC? That is our message.
PT: What are you bringing to the table for the Kogi people that is different from what we already have?
Williams: As you probably know, we are the only party, which is quite shameful, when considering the size and the reach of the APC and the PDP, that has published an official manifesto in print and online. It clearly outlines our programmes for four years and on. This in itself that the party and especially myself as the flag bearer, is somebody that knows the importance of planning. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. When I look at PDP, they have a list of what they will do and what they will not do, and they even border to do one. We presented a clear, very detailed manifesto.
For me personally, I have been an international trade lawyer for many years, almost two decades. I have been involved in initiatives on how to help poor people in Africa, not only in Nigeria. I know the programmes that are involved and why they don’t work. I am a publisher of a journal that is devoted to how to domesticate international development strategies for Africa. I have done a lot of research on how to ensure development strategies are adaptable to any community, knowing what works and what does not work. I am a prepared candidate for the job, to change the people of Kogi State in 24 months or less.
PT: Given the nature of Kogi State – the politics of regions, how do you intend to overcome this drag and get the people to vote in a new way?
Williams: Obviously what you have said is our biggest challenge. Because the identity politics of religion, ethnicity, and so on does not allow persons with the right pedigree to come on board. But we are predicting that it will be slightly different this time, because the people have suffered so much in four years of Yahaya Bello-led government. It is a level of suffering that we have not seen before in the state where even people from the central, talking about not following that ethnic minded. They have suffered a lot and they are talking about competency and the way out of the challenge that they found themselves. So, we predict that it is not going to be business as usual where people just vote purely based on identity or religious lines. Having said that, there will still be elements of that. My deputy is from the East. He is from Ibaji, we are attracting a lot of support from the East.
PT: But you are from Kogi West?
Williams: Yes, I am from the west. Based on what is going on, the level of violence both in the east and the west, it shows to us that as the election is fast approaching, people are realizing that this government of Yahaya Bello is not the way forward.
PT: The level of violence is on the high, why and how do we handle it?
Williams: The violence is an election strategy. It is designed by the ruling party to keep people from the polls. By escalating it so close to the election, because the lower the turnout the better their chances of winning the election. If the turnout is low, then the incumbent wins without a doubt. So, the escalation of violence ahead of the election is not a new thing. It played out during the general elections in the early part of the year so we know how it works. If you look at the voter turnout in the presidential election across the state, it was 40 per cent. If we have a voter turnout of less than 40 per cent in this election, then the incumbent wins. That is why they are unleashing terror. It is left to our people to understand that it is a strategy and not just an accident, it is an organized strategy to keep people at home. We really appeal to our people not to fall for that strategy. The INEC and the IG of Police have assured that they would make sure that the votes count. I believe that if people come out in large numbers and the promoters of violence see that, they will get the message that the game is up. But if people respond by not coming out of the house, then we have ourselves in a circle and things will not get better.
PT: Have you experienced violence and attacks during your campaigns?
Williams: We have been harassed, even yesterday,me were harassed. In fact we have been harassed even before the episode of the PDP and the SDP’s Natasha Akpoti. We get death threats so much so that our party officials – our state chairman had to relocate his family out of the state. He himself has not been able to stay in the state on a regular basis because he is being threatened. I also had death threats. What is happening to the PDP and SDP had also happened to us.
PT: Have you officially complained to the security authorities?
Williams: We officially complained to the authorities, we wrote press releases about the threat to life of our party members and myself. As we speak, we are being very careful because they are not happy that we are bringing out the atrocities of the government in social and traditional media. So, it is a challenge for us in Kogi State, but we have to stay together and be united to fight against the system that is currently ruling our state.