DSIEC WILL GIVE LEVEL PLAY GROUND TO ALL FOR FREE, FAIR, CREDIBLE L.G. ELECTION–OGBODU
Chief Mike Ogbodu is a retired Commissioner of Police, is a Lawyer, a man with high integrity, a no nonsense man who commits all his energies to any task assigned to him, this could best be attested to by the fact that wherever he served across the length and breadth of the country as a police, he left his footprints in the sands of time, a refined officer, one of the good ones while in service . No wonder, when the position of the chairman, Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC) became vacant, all fingers and eyes pointed to and were on him as the most credible person who can do the job, and so Delta State Government under Senator Ifeanyi Okowa did not waste time in appointing the man who retired in March 2016 to pilot the affairs of the Commission. Chief Ogbodu spoke on the forthcoming elections. Excerpts:
QUESTION: Can you briefly tell us about your background?
ANSWER: I am Chief Barrister Mike Ogbodu, Commissioner of Police (rtd). I am from Oghara and maternally from Mosogar all in Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta state. I attended RCS Academy School, Zicks Academy Sapele. I attended University of Lagos where I read Economics. In my quest for further my education I attended Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where I read law, went to Law School and called to bar in 1991. After my Youth Service I was enlisted into the Nigeria Police Force as Cadet ASP and I was trained at the prestigious Police Staff College, Kuru, Jos where I was commissioned as ASP officer. Later I was deployed to Kaduna State and posted to Samaru on attachment where you have the Ahmadu Bello University. later I was DPO Sabon Tasha, DPO, Kurumachi, all in Kaduna State after which I went to law school in 1991 and after my law school I was transferred to Benin as DCO Adesuwa Police Station in Edo State.
When Delta state was created I was now moved to Delta State. I was now OC, General Investigation in the state CID. Later I was moved to Rivers State, I was DPO in Degema, DPO in Abonema and Obogoma. Later I was 2Ic State CID and Officer in Charge, Anti-Robbery. From there I was moved to Police Academy, Kano State. I was a lecturer in the Legal Department and was there for about three years, after which I was posted to Delta as a DPO in Agbor. After that I was moved again to Police Staff College as Director, Legal in Legal Department. From there I was moved to Sokoto where I was DPO Sokoto, Zamfara State. Later I was the Area Commander, Nnewi, Funtua, Awoda, Kaura Namoda (that is Zamfara State). Later I was moved to Adamawa as Second in Command as a Deputy Commissioner of Police and then to Anambra State and later I was moved to Imo State where I was promoted as Commissioner of Police and transferred to Force Criminal Investigation Department. I was Commissioner of Police, Homicide. In 2015 I was transferred to Ondo State as the Commissioner of Police where I retired 9th March 2016.
QUESTION: Looking at your background, you were enlisted into the Police Force after graduating from Law School and looking at the Police Force today it seem to have credibility problem. Did you go to law school to become a Police Officer?
ANSWER: No, I read Economics in the University of Lagos before I was enlisted into the Police Force in 1981 as Cadet Officer. It was when I was in the Force that my quest for education led me to read law at the Ahmadu Bello University before I went to law school and called to Bar in 1991.
QUESTION: What is your fascination with the Police?
ANSWER: When I was growing up I stayed with my uncle who was a constable back in the days (those who use to wear shots). I can remember cleaning the shoes of my uncle. I think that was how I developed interest in joining the Police.
QUESTION: In Nigeria it is believed that for you to have this powerful appointment as the Chairman of DSIEC, you must be highly connected. Is it the Governor that called you to give you this appointment?
ANSWER: Before this appointment, I have never met the governor. I just think its God that made it possible
QUESTION: What was your first reaction when you heard about the appointment?
ANSWER: I was surprised when I heard the news but then it was joy for me because I now have the opportunity to serve my people.
QUESTION: How far has the journey been for you since you took over this appointment?
ANSWER: The journey has been fantastic so far and arrangement has already being made, though there are little challenges here and there but they are not insurmountable.
QUESTION: Having known how elections in this country can be like and how the average politician wants to win election at all cost, are you afraid of tomorrow?
ANSWER: I am not afraid at all because I know that Deltans are very reasonable people, all we need to do now is to go round the twenty-five local government areas of the state and enlighten the people, meet our royal fathers, sensitize our youths so that they can embrace peace. And of course in my acceptance speech I remember I said that every political party will have a level playing ground. Once you do the right thing nobody will go violent and I am not expecting any violence.
QUESTION: What is the assurance that you are giving to all the political parties that there is going to be a free and fair election having in mind that you were appointed by a PDP government?
ANSWER: Section 197 of the 1997 constitution of Nigeria as amended, gave the governor of the a state the powers to appoint the chairman of the state Independent electoral commission. For me as individual everybody has his own conscience. With my conscience I make sure I do the right thing. Like I said in my acceptance speech, the independence of Commission is sacrosanct. There is nobody that can influence us. We are going to do the work according to the Constitution and all relevant laws and our conscience. We will give everybody a fair playground to campaign, vote and ensure that their votes count and ensure that the right person emerges as winner.
QUESTION: Do you think the political parties are satisfied with your conduct so far?
ANSWER: Yes, they are satisfied. So far, I have not heard any criticism from any of the political parties about our conduct. All the political parties are stakeholders and they are all carried along in the process and they are satisfied so far.
QUESTION: How many political parties are participating in the forthcoming Local Government election?
ANSWER: Sixteen (16 ) political parties will be participating in the Saturday, January 6, 2018 election.
QUESTION: How sacrosanct it the date for this election or is there going to be any postponement due to some unforeseen circumstances?
ANSWER: Not at all, we are not envisaging any postponement and that date is sacrosanct.
QUESTION: Why are you so confident about the date?
ANSWER: We are prepared and we are working hard, we have everything on ground and with God behind us, we shall deliver a very credible election.
QUESTION: What are you expectations from all the political parties that will participate in this election?
ANSWER: Well, my expectation is that they should have faith in us and like I said before we are going to provide a level playing ground for all of them. All they need to do is to go out with their manifesto and campaign. Nobody can interfere in our business because we are independent. I can assure them that all will be given an opportunity to test his/her popularity in the field. Political parties should just do what is expected of them and we will do ours to give free, fair and credible election.
QUESTION: How prepared are you for the elections?
ANSWER: We were sworn in on the 25th September 2017. On the 4th of October, we swung into action and interacted with all the political parties and stakeholders where we unveiled the timetable and guidelines. On the 11th of November we did screening for all the contestants and the results were out. No candidate has been disqualified so far. So far there are no significant challenges.
QUESTION: What has the Commission done to see that voters are adequately educated on how to conduct themselves during the election?
ANSWER: Like I have said before, we shall reach out to our royal fathers to help us talk to and enlighten their subjects on the need for them to comport themselves well during and after the election. We have reached to stakeholders too
QUESTION: Does the Commission have the staff strength to conduct the election?
ANSWER: No, we shall recruit credible ad hoc staff to help us in this election. We have already advertised for the positions in various media houses.
QUESTION: Who is qualified to be part of the electoral process as ad hoc staff?
ANSWER: Anybody who is not a politician and is above eighteen years can apply for the positions.
QUESTION: In terms of funding, how prepared is the Commission?
ANSWER: The Commission has no problem with funding because the government is fully prepared for the election. The government has made funds available in line with the Constitution and according to funds available to the state.
QUESTION: A lot of politicians in the country see elections as a do or die affair, what is your appeal to politicians as they prepare for this election?
ANSWER: Politicians should take it easy and go out and sell their manifestos to the people who will elect them? They should not engage in any act that will jeopardize the elections.
QUESTION: During elections, there are usually restrictions, what are you doing to ensure that those in the rural areas participate in the election?
ANSWER: We are sensitizing them on how they can go about the election. We have talked to the traditional rulers who will in turn talk to their youths and all their subjects to exercise their franchise to elect leaders of their choice in a level playing ground.
QUESTION: Are you assuring Deltans that there will be free and fair election in January 6, 2018 given the controversial nature of politicians in Delta State?
ANSWER: The way I see it is that when you do the right thing, the people will know that you have done the right thing and they will not protest but rather key into the process. We, in DSIEC will ensure that the right thing is done and the politicians are already seeing it, we have been transparent and will continue through out and after the election, so that nobody will be given the opportunity to doubt our transparency. So far there has been no criticism from any political party. Nobody has taken us to court.
QUESTION: What is you hope and expectation about the January election?
ANSWER: Our expectations and hopes are high and we are very sure, God being our side, we will succeed. So far, all the political parties have been cooperating with us.
QUESTION: What is your vision for DSIEC?
ANSWER: From what we have been doing so far, I believe that DSIEC will be one of the best in the country because that is our goal. At the end of the day when we come out, people will now be able to say that yes, we are the best in the nation.
QUESTION: What is your final word for Deltans?
ANSWER: As we approach January 6, 2018, I want to appeal to Deltans to be law abiding and go about voting for the candidate of their choice in a peaceful and orderly way. Since we are giving a level playing ground to all the politicians, I hope we are going to have a smooth election come January 6, 2018.