Olufemi Aduwo is the Executive Director of Centre for Convention on Democratic Integrity (CCDI). In this interview, he speaks on the executive/ legislature rift and the menace of underage voters, among other issues.
The crisis of confidence between the executive and the Senate appears to be degenerating on a daily basis. What is your take on that?
This Eighth Senate is nothing but a big disgrace to the nation and it has reduced the value attached to the hallowed chamber. Under this Eighth Senate, the Senate President will be in the dock today and tomorrow will come to preside over the chamber.
In an ideal society, he should have excused himself from the office or ensure that the case gets a speedy trial and get to the end of it. We are now seeing a situation where a senator is being arraigned for allegedly supplying arms and ammunition to criminals.Aside from the looting, more than 40 per cent of the senators are not physically and psychologically fit. Many of them are old, especially after ruling their respective states for eight years. They are not in touch with the realities and they can’t even initiate any meaningful bill on the floor of the Senate. Seriously speaking, the Senate President should have ensured that his case with the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) was speedily dispensed with and by that, he would be above board.
So far, the current Senate has ridiculed that hallowed chamber and it is a disgrace to the nation. However, there is no way we can talk about the shame in the Senate without going back to the way the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) came on board. The party wasn’t formed on the basis of any ideology; all the major players in the birth of the party had one interest or the other. That is why we are seeing what is playing out now.
What do you make of the recent alliance moves by former President Olusegun Obasanjo ahead of the 2019 general elections?
Former President Obasanjo is a man who is passionate about Nigeria. In his talks, actions, and ideas, it is Nigeria first. He doesn’t get himself involve in sectional interest, but always after national interest. I think Nigerians should be dispassionate about Obasanjo’s message.
Is his message authentic and good for the nation? The answer is yes. I think his movement is a good one, we need a robust opposition. President Muhammadu Buhari should follow the yardstick of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan; he shouldn’t allow anyone to shed blood on the altar of his political ambition. Many of those following Buhari don’t really love him; in fact, some of them have openly abused him before the consummation of APC.
The more we have opposition the richer and deeper our democracy becomes. Obasanjo’s Movement seems to be gaining grounds by the day, we learnt they have about three million registered members and they are bringing a lot of opposition together.
When people condemn Obasanjo, I laugh. President Buhari had contested election for three times and didn’t win, but when the forces including Obasanjo supported him, he won in 2015. The question is why did they go and meet Obasanjo in 2014 if he is inconsequential. The truth is that Nigeria politics revolves around individuals who have what it takes and they are everywhere, they are many.
But many feel that he is turning himself to be a moral compass of the country?
You see, God creates some people in special ways and Obasanjo is one of those in this class. When other people are quiet, Obasanjo will always talk; some people are born like that. We must learn to take the message and sometimes ignore the messenger.
Are you satisfied with the preparations of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies ahead of the 2019 general elections?
By the grace of God, I have been observing elections since 2003, I was a member of INEC’s delegation to the United States (U.S.) in 2009. I served in INEC as a board member in 2009-2010; I was one of the two Nigerians invited for the first time by the government of the United Kingdom to observe election in 2010; I was also the only Nigerian invited to monitor the Brexit election. I said all these for Nigerians to know that I have ample knowledge when it comes to election process and management.
You can quote me, this INEC will not conduct the general elections in February 2019, and they will postpone it. There is a likelihood of crisis because the political temperature is getting high on a daily basis.
Also, the security is always overwhelmed on the day of the election. Those in INEC are human beings and they are vulnerable to corruption. I have not seen anything different from what the current INEC is doing from what others did. I was surprised the other time when the INEC chairman said there are no underage voters in the North.
I know that those who have been in INEC for a while won’t agree with the chairman’s assertion because there are child voters in the North. In my Observer’s report after the 2015 elections, we saw it on the field and it is there in our report. When INEC say things like this, politicians will just be laughing at our electoral process. The underage voters are everywhere in the North and some INEC officials even agreed that these people were registered because INEC officials were overwhelmed.
INEC should carry people along on the consequences of this dangerous trend. The issue of underage voters is a serious menace to our electoral process and by extension, our nascent democracy. Most of these underage voters are even very violent because they are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
The trend makes a mess of the very of democracy which is about choices. How can a minor be able to reason and takes a decision? The politicians are the beneficiaries and they are across all the parties. That is the reason why they are not talking and move against INEC, they are benefitting from it. You will see them in the 2019 elections, especially in the North.
What is your take on the usage of Electronic Voting machine during the Kaduna State local government election?
I think it is a very good innovation and we are compiling a report on that to the United Nations political department. It shows that electronic voting can happen in Nigeria, especially in an area where you have high literacy level. Secondly, regardless of what the other parties say, it is a shift from the old system of winner-takes-all. I think Governor Nasri el-Rufai has made a good stride with it. Even if there are some irregularities, I think the device has limited it.
Are you worried about the killings in the Middle Belt and some other northern states?
The killings in the Middle Belt are neither tribal nor ethnic. What we are seeing is the implication of climate change. I am a representative of my NGO and the United Nations. If you have been to Lake Chad, the water is gone. So, that area that is twice the size of Ibadan is one of the reasons for the problem.
When people talk about the Fulani that carry stick in the 90’s, I tell them that the population is not the same, but the land is not expanding. If we don’t tackle this, it will stay with us for long. These people need green environment and they have to move. I think ranching is the solution. These cattle don’t belong to the herdsmen. Can the owners afford ranching? Yes they can.
What is the best way to fight corruption?
I think the best way to fight corruption is we the people. When you say a system is transparent, it is the people. That is why I love what the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is doing by being proactive. The consciousness of EFCC everywhere is a big strategy as well.
It is just like when a dog barks; it scares thieves away. The truth is that Nigerians now know that though President Buhari may be slow, he is not corrupt. But EFCC under Buhari is barking and biting. Can’t you see how much they have recovered under three years and compare it to what was realized under former President Jonathan. Don’t also forget that the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, is also getting jabs from the Senate, but he is still doing his job. It is better to be late than never.