Mr. Olufemi Aduwo is the Executive Director of Centre for Convention on Democratic Integrity (CCDI). In this interview with WALE ELEGBEDE, he speaks on the 2019 general elections and the conduct of the INEC, among other issues
The 2019 elections is done; a lot of bashings came to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) about the way they handle the election. What’s your view generally about the conduct of election?
There are many stakeholders involved in having a robust and true picture of what happened on the election day; the electoral management, political parties and government in power, want to know how reliable the people in the electoral body are and then the security. The remaining things are beyond control of INEC management. The only time we didn’t hear this issue of logistics is during 1999 general elections which was conducted by the military. As far as I am concerned, logistics has to do with materials and movement of materials and as far as I know, it is not money that is INEC’s problem but it looks embarrassing if the chief electoral officer would appear early morning of Election Day to cancel the election.
That cancelation cost us Billions of Naira and it looks embarrassing how the chairman of INEC could just announced at 2am that materials are not available because of logistics. Today, most of the rural areas have banks and money is kept there. Who says those materials cannot be moved to the banks a week to election. Today, it is becoming embarrassing that there is no more public holiday in Ghana. Did anyone care to know how much the nation lost when the election was cancelled? Based on what INEC was telling us, money was not their problem. The major job of INEC is to conduct elections every four years.
It looked embarrassing for us to prepare for an election and then heard on the election that we can’t go ahead with the election. All these things give a room to those of things that come and I know INEC is not magician. Nigerians expected better performance this time around and the security really messed up; whenever Police and Army say we are on top of any situation, you should run away. What could you say about what happened in Kano where a DIG with three AIGs run a supplementary election whereas when a Commissioner of Police was alone in the state during the general election, he performed extremely well. Why did you have to send a DIG and three AIGs and look at the mess in the supplementary election?
Going forward, how do you think INEC can get itself right and there are many calls from some quarters that the president should probe INEC and that the current INEC chairman should be excused from the system?
For me, some of the way forward may be very crude. One is to reduce monetization in the electoral process in the voting process; maybe we should try Option A4. People may say it is crude because we are very crude. Since we are very crude and we don’t want to be civilized, we don’t want to move forward, maybe we should go back to the crude method via Option A4. In Option A4 system, candidates pictures will be placed there and whoever is voting for them will line up behind his candidates. Even though the thugs may still come and disrupt, it will reduce the issue of money, because you cant collect money from candidate A and collect from candidate B, on the day of election, somebody will know where you are going to stay.
Secondly, many countries have done it before where it becomes a duty and obligation for citizens who are supposed to cast votes. Maybe we should try it and make it a law, immediately you are above 18 years it has become a duty and obligation. How could you believe that out of a population close to 200 million, only 27 million people would come out and vote after we registered 78 million people? I know voters’ apathy is across the world, even in America but it is even worse in Nigeria. Maybe there should be a kind of regulation that will make it punishable offence if you don’t carry it out as a duty and obligation. In case of punishing or investigating INEC, is it not only to investigate INEC because of election, it is a government agency.
But it is independent…
Leave independent, INEC is an agency under the Federal Government; quote me anywhere. What is independent? Even today’s INEC is not even better than the FEDECO of Ovie Whisky. Did they attached independent there? The word independent is neither here nor there; it is an agency under the supervision of the SGF office. I think they need to be probed because they were given so huge amount of money. INEC is a peculiar place, we should now be looking forward to some of the directors who are credible and that can be appointed in the future as a director, Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) or national commissioner. Not to just go out and bring any person; people in INEC are all Nigerians, many of them are put forward by politicians.
That raised an issue where people are saying is it a matter of constitution or innovation to always appoint a professor as a chairman or returning officers?
This professorial attachment was introduced by Jega and then it was just to give a sense of belonging to some of his colleagues. He just wanted to find money for them because they are not always there when they are collating; many of them would be in hotels sleeping and they are not on the field. Some of the professors cannot even collate and tally the numbers. I have many of my friends that prefer to observe election than to be a collating officer; it is a mess. I told some of them that you spent so much money before you became professors, so don’t allow people to rubbish you. Are we saying only professors are credible in Nigeria? Are we not seeing many of them who are sleeping with children in their schools? We have many Nigerians who are credible. I served in INEC as a board member before and I followed INEC to US and London for election, who says I don’t have experience about election matters.
Another issue is this when people like Apata, Dr. Ogunbadia, Ovie Whisky were there, are they professors? The reason I think we put professors is because of innovative ideas but what we get now is primitive. The INEC chairman said in this past election that if the card reader does not work in the governorship election, election should not hold, why didn’t he say that in presidential election whereas in many areas where we observed, card readers did not work and he knows that card readers are unknown to any law in Nigeria.
Some of the losers in the elections have approached the tribunal and the candidate of Ogun State governor, Adekunle Akinlade is one of them. What is your take?
The problem of APC started when John Odigie-Oyegun was removed by certain forces as national chairman of the party. Oyegun is mature, educated; he was a former governor and a former party secretary. He is a veteran in the area of administration but people wanted to turn him into a puppet and then they went for Adams Oshiomhole and he forgot that running a party is not the same thing as ‘we no go gree’ where we put waters on road and tell them a can of lies that they are going to die when those workers are producing at an optimum capacity. He tells them all kinds of beautiful lies because you are making money from them.
In politics, you must engage people; you don’t talk to people, you talk with people. When you talk to them, you talk as a leader, you talk to them to discuss and you give people room to talk and discuss issue. The primary election of Ogun State was done by APC and then APM candidate, Adekunle Akinlade emerged but along the line, there are some forces, external and within Ogun State who went to Abuja to convince Oshiohmole and said the primary was not done and picked Dapo Abiodun as the candidate. Amosun is entitled to be annoyed because what happened was a conjunction of people within and the outside. To me, Amosun performed well in terms of infrastructure. If APM goes to court, the election was not free and fair even the APC knows that the election was not free and fair, it was manipulated in Ogun East area. A lot of things happened, we observed the election; we saw it.
Are you saying Tinubu and Oshiomhole have agenda?
Tinubu brought back Oshiohmole and before Oshiomhole became the national chairman of the party, Tinubu had told him his agenda. If Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had gone to court, what happened would not have happened in Lagos State? The National Working Committee (NWC) that was sent from Abuja where Oshiomhole said only the constitutional body can conduct primary, those committee members were sleeping in the hotel when they heard the announcement of the primary that some area boys had done the APC’s primary in Lagos at Acme, the party’s secretariat. The committee talked to journalists that the primary is kanganroo, less than two hours, the tone was changed maybe they were threatened. Ambode only wanted to play calm; it was an insult for a sitting governor.
What did Ambode do? He was doing a lot of marvelous jobs, too much work at the same time; those in APC are the ones that destroyed the jobs. I can tell you that it is APC that jeopardized the efforts of Visionscape. They engineered LAWMA to be putting wastes on the streets in the night to give Ambode a bad name. Ambode wanted to work and he was telling them enough of sharing the money. The reason they were not happy with him was that he just want to work and I wish President Buhari will give him a ministerial appointment, because Ambode just want to work but people that have been sharing in Lagos didn’t allow him. Even Tinubu said Ambode is not a partyman but he doesn’t know how to play politics.