Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has revealed how the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) experienced a defeat in a local government election in Ogun State in 1998 due to his refusal to endorse plans for bribing the police and personnel of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Speaking at a high-level consultation in Abeokuta on ‘Rethinking Western Liberal Democracy in Africa’ on November 20, Obasanjo shared that party leaders suggested allocating funds for the police and INEC. However, he rejected the proposal, emphasizing his belief that these officials were already government employees receiving monthly salaries.
Recalling the incident, Obasanjo underscored the impact of what he termed the ‘Nigerian factor’ on elections. He explained that during the first local government election, the party suffered defeat because he refused to embrace the so-called ‘Nigerian factor’ in planning.
“When things go wrong, you said the Nigerian factor. The first thing I learnt in politics was this thing called the Nigerian factor.
“In 1998, we had the first local government election. We had parties, and here in Abeokuta, we met in my office, and they came up and said, ‘look, this is money for INEC, money for police.’ At a stage I said, ‘what nonsense! Is the police not being paid, and INEC too?’
“They said ‘that’s how we do it. I said ‘you cannot do that.’ So, they didn’t do that. And of course, we lost all the local governments. We lost all. And then they came to me and said, ‘Baba, you see? If you had allowed us to do it the way we used to do it, we would have won.’ And I felt guilty.
“During the next election, which was the State Assembly, I just stayed in my house. I said ‘well, do whatever you want to do, I will not be part of it.’ So, I didn’t even go. But, the result was the same. One of the people who got money didn’t even distribute it to where he was supposed to distribute it,” Obasanjo recounted.