Former Ogun State governor and Chairman, Constitution Drafting Committee of the All Progressives Congress, Chief Olusegun Osoba fields questions from Shola Oyeyipo on the prospects of credible elections in 2019, former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s of antagonism against President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term ambition
What impact would the delay in signing the draft electoral act have on the 2019 elections?
The President is objecting to some language in the draft act. I hope there will be consensus between the executive and the legislature to have the draft act signed into law because there are so many provisions in that act that I believe will be of immense help and have great impact on the electoral system to the extent that it will give us a reasonably good outcome.
Which areas of the act do you hope can give good outcome to the 2019 elections?
The act says the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should use modern electronic system. That is fundamental to the success of any aspect of life in the modern day system. The implication is this, on the day of the election, it will mandatory for INEC to use card reader, and in the era of power bank and solar energy, there is no reason why anybody will say because there is no power supply card readers cannot work in any village. If you use solar, you can energise your phone anytime. I believe the introduction of modern electronic system is fundamental.
It is also mandatory for officials conducting elections to carry out pre – election accreditation and audit and the result must be immediately transmitted to the headquarters. Failure on the part of the electoral officer to do that is five years in jail. That is very serious. After accreditation, there will then be voting. If the person had accredited 50 people, you cannot have any result more than 50 because you would have transmitted that 50 accredited number to the headquarters. Scope of rigging is reduced. There could be less than 50 votes but it can never be more than 50. Anything more than 50 becomes null and void.
The third issue is that it attracts five years in jail for any officer not to transmit the result immediately to the headquarters. These three aspects, to start with, are major. It would create checks-and-balances on the attitude of those handling our electoral processes.
Your optimism is shared, but do you think it is possible to get the electoral act functional for the 2019 elections?
The election is still about six to go. If we are serious as a country, we should learn from the banking system in Nigeria. Our bankers are some of the bests in terms of digital banking. If you look at the newspapers, you will see advertisements everyday of all the major banks advertising electronic systems to check your balance, transfer money, pay bills, buy tickets. The applications you have in many of these banks are so flexible and so far reaching in terms of what you can use them for. I use Nigerian cards when I travel abroad. When I park my car, for example, in London, I use cards to pay online too in London. The system will tell me my parking has started on my telephone. Simultaneously, alert is sounding on my telephone to tell me that N25 has been taken from my account. Anywhere, I am around the world, any kobo taken from my account, alert sounds on my phone.
The Nigerian banking system makes it possible for me to do mobile transfer of money anywhere in the world so far there is internet service. I transfer money even in the aircraft. Nigerian banking system can use mobile banking for Point-of-Sale (PoS), Automated Teller Machine (ATM), applications on your phone that can do virtually all that you want. Nigerian banks can use satellite technology and digital technology and they are so efficient, I do not see any excuse for.
Looking at the crises in the National Assembly over reconvening and the lawmakers’ issues with The Presidency, don’t you think if these issues are not resolved on time coupled with the fact that the electoral act has not been signed into law, do these not point to danger ahead?
You can see that that there is danger ahead, but it is a danger you can easily overcome unless we don’t want to be sincere. The National Assembly has no choice and I will counsel them that they should make haste and pass the budget for INEC. Same thing, if they do their duties, the executive will perhaps sign the electoral act into law after the amendment/objection by The Presidency.
I think Nigeria is a country of pretense. If we are sincere, we should be able to implement anything; pass the budget, implement part of the electoral act for the next electoral process. I called Nigeria country of pretense because how can we be claiming to be 200 million people when we are not up to 200 million? If Google Map is operational in Kano, in Abuja, Ado Ekiti and Ajegunle, in Iyana – Ipaja and everywhere, why are we pretending that we cannot have an electronic voting system in Nigeria?
How do you react to the general fear that the only way your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) can win the 2019 elections is through rigging?
That is a very cheap blackmail for anybody to say APC is planning to rig. If the APC is planning to rig, they would not have cooperated on the electoral act up to this level. If APC is going to rig, it wouldn’t have allocated reasonable amount of money to INEC. Is APC going to spend the money for INEC or is the APC as a party going to collect commission from INEC? Give me some evidence that APC is planning to rig.
Are you not bothered by the amount of money that INEC requires for the 2019 general election?
If you want the best of the best, it costs money. If you don’t want any excuse for failure by INEC then everything should be done to have a free and fair election for the survival of this country. No money will be too much for me. I will not look at the aspect of money at this time because the election is very crucial. It is now left to INEC to ensure that it performs when it is empowered and funded.
I am very annoyed by two examples that I hope will not repeat itself. The two examples are Akwa Ibom and Rivers States. The card readers showed less number of accredited voters in both states. The Supreme Court then overturned the tribunal judgment that said there was too much discrepancy between accredited voters and the result announced. The Supreme Court gave the judgment to say card reader was not embedded in the electoral act and they are not going to take cognizance of the card reader accreditation. They took the totality of the result. I hope that will not happen again.
Are you not worried about former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who is standing as an antagonist against your candidate? And there is this perception that some clique of retired generals are not in support of the second term ambition of President Buhari.
The only person that has come out openly; I don’t want to work on speculation, as a journalist, I know is former President Obasanjo. He has raised objections, for which he has a right to. As much as I criticise him, I can’t deny him that right to say that he is for or against a particular candidate. The only thing I will deny him is that he cannot impose his own will and attitude on the rest of the country. I will continuously be critical of him where issues are concerned but I will not deny him his own right.
It is left for Nigerians to take him seriously and believe what he is saying. It is also left to him to prove that his decision can be binding on you and I.
For the benefit of ordinary Nigerians who may not be feeling the impact of the policies of the government, do you really feel a second term for this administration is the best for this country?
I am an APC man. You are asking me to campaign against myself!? You have virtually asked me to be in opposition to my own party. If I have issues with the party, I have access to the highest level. I will make my opinion known.
The APC has adopted direct primaries and there is this insinuation that it is a strategy specifically adopted to get at some people. Don’t you think the issue of direct primary in APC for 2019 election will create another crisis like the party witnessed after its national convention?
The first question you should ask is, is direct primary part of the APC constitution? It is only where there are no rules, regulations and constitution then it is free for all. I am the chairman of the constitution drafting committee. Our first choice is direct primary. The second, we said direct or indirect. We included the indirect because where there is consensus, delegates still have to ratify that consensus. I don’t know who is afraid of direct primary and saying it is targeted at a particular people. I don’t know that particular person that it is targeted at. Tell me. If for example, I claim to be a leader, what is wrong in giving the party members the opportunity to have a say in who becomes their representative in state house of assembly or local government area? These are levels that are closest to the people.
Direct primary means that party members who have PVCs in a polling unit can take part in choosing who leads them. If we are doing presidential system then direct primary is the most suitable. I expect any governor to like it, because the governor is the leader and he has the wherewithal to dispense favour. If the governor has picked reliable people from the villages working with him, at direct primary they will be his foot soldiers. It is when a leader has failed that he would be afraid of direct primary. The good thing about it, which is important for us in APC is that we must empower the party members to go all out on election day with enthusiasm. And they will do so if they have a say in whoever emerges. They will protect the votes and if new electoral act comes into force, every vote will now count.
As the chairman of the APC Constitution Drafting Committee, I recommend it seriously. If you have direct primary, the result will tell you how many members do not have PVCs who participated in your primary. You can now mandate your members to persuade other persons so that you can get the best result.
Some people have said restructuring will play a significant role in who becomes the next president. Is the APC favourably disposed to restructuring?
I can give you an insider information. The committee set up by the party headed by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai has produced a report. The committee was setup by former chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. Why blackmail? We believe in true federalism and true federalism is where power is devolved.
For example, if the Federal Executive Council (FEC) decides to decentralise the Nigerian Police. That is part of true federalism.
But some people have said decentralisation is different from devolution.
Let’s start from somewhere.