Olufemi Aduwo is the national coordinator of a coalition of 45 civil society group under the umbrella of Rights Monitoring Group (RMG) and was the only civil society leader from Nigeria that attended the just concluded World Bank/IMF Boards of Governors meetings held in Washington DC. In this interview with DARE ADEKANMBI, he speaks on preparations for the 2015 elections and the political parties, among other issues. Excerpts:
I have been with the INEC to the United States, United Kingdom and a couple of other places to observe elections. So, I have been very close to the commission . When Professor Attahiru Jega announced the need for new pooling units, it became a kind of issue. But, some of us who are aware of the overwhelming problem INEC is facing, know the new units are necessary and a welcome development. But like every other issue, it has become politicised. The Electoral Law stipulates that each polling unit must not have more than 500 voters. In some units, there are clusters with each having more than 2,000 voters. Not only that, the issue of proper delineation has come into focus too. For example in Lagos, the total human population in Lagos West Senatorial District is larger than the figure for Lagos East and Lagos Central. This is abnormal. When INEC said it wanted to do proper delineation that would remove some local government councils from A to B, all these politicians and some stakeholders and even royal fathers who benefit this inequality stood against INEC.
For me, I have seen that Jega means business; he’s serious and ready to conduct free, fair, credible, acceptable elections in 2015. But, the problem is that we are in a country where, even if the election is free and fair, the loser will still tell you heresy and say anything just to tarnish the image of INEC. There are no good losers in Nigerian politics.
By this time in the last election your group had taken up the responsibility of conducting voter’s education. It’s less than five months to the next general election and nothing of such is happening.
In the last elections, we had an agreement with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) where we gathered all the Christian leaders at Sheraton. All the Christian denominations were there. The issue of voter education should not be taken as a classroom matter or roadside discussion. It should be taken everywhere- to the pulpit, to the church and mosques. They should not only preach about offerings and tithe or holiness alone but also preach to the people about their responsibilities and civic duties to the nation. The church leaders really took up the issue and it affected the last elections positively.
In the last two months, we have been doing the same collaboration. We have an agreement with the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), where we have been sensitising the people about the power of their votes. This is necessary so as to address the issue of voter apathy which is usually on the high side at every election. In the last election in Osun State, the total votes cast were about 500, 000 in a state that has about 1million voters and more than three million population. The recent referendum in Scotland recorded more than 75 per cent turn out. As a group, we are talking about information to the people and education. This has nothing to do with whether somebody gives the voters rice or what is now called stomach infrastructure. It is about the people’s future and the future of their children and the need for them to vote to design a positive future based on what they believe is right for the country.
Beginning from next month, we are starting to collaborate with some state governments and our target is to focus on the education of youths and women because these are the groups that really participate in elections more. We want to educate them on how they can use their demographic advantage positively in next year’s elections. We are also availing ourselves of electronic platforms to engage the elite on why they should not stand aloof during elections. The elite are the most vocal in criticising governments but they hardly participate in elections. In places like Ikeja GRA or Maitama in Abuja, on an election day, it is the maiguard of the elite and their cooks that go out to vote. Most of the elite who understand what micro- and macro- economic policies of government are do not vote. We are using SMS, email and other e-channels to reach the elite and galvanise them for the election so as to enable them elect a government that they want. They don’t have to be member sof any political party. In many countries in Europe, non-participation in voting is considered any offence. As time goes on in Nigeria, we may have to consider criminalising non-participation in voting. We should make a law to that effect because voting at election is a civic responsibility that must be discharge by every eligible voter. To do otherwise should be an infraction of the law that deserves to be punished. We have got to that point as a country.
What is your assessment of the preparations by the various political parties in the country for the election? How ready are they for the polls?
Talking about parties, I will say we have only two in the country now, that is, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). Other parties are mere appendages of the two or they have been swallowed by the bigger parties. For instance, the Labour Party is dead with the defection of Governor Olusegun Mimiko. By now, the PDP has crossed a major bridge with the unanimous endorsement of President Goodluck Jonathan. In the United States, whose democracy we copy, a sitting president is given the right of first refusal.
But in the case of the APC, I envisage crisis in the choice of the party’s presidential candidate because the party is an assembly of all kinds of parties and politicians with conflicting interests. Some are radical; some are rascals and some pure bandits who are hungry for power to feather their nest. The purpose of General Muhammadu Buhari joining the APC is to ensure he becomes the president of the country. He may walk out of the union if he does not get the ticket. There are also those who are drop outs from the PDP in the APC, people like Rabiu Kwankwaso and Atiku Abubakar. If they lose the ticket too, there may be some problem. From all indications, the APC leadership may pick the party’s candidate through a consensus arrangement which may not go down well for those not picked. Then , there is the factor of Senator Bola Tinubu, which will still determine where the pendulum swings. There will be crisis in APC soon because those who are there are not the real politicians who have the interest of the country at heart but those who believe in what they can get from the country by holding political power. After the APC primaries, many of its members will still go back to the PDP.
Given your knowledge of the country’s political terrain, who do you think will emerge from the APC among Buhari, Atiku and Kwankwaso?
Buhari may emerge, even though I am not a soothsayer, as the candidate. But, when I see the antecedent of Buhari, I disagree with those who go about saying he is a credible and an incorruptible leader. The definition of corruption should not be limited to stealing public funds alone. A book defines corruption as an act of illegality by people in position of power. Buhari’s overthrow of the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in the Second Republic constituted an act of illegality and it is corruption. People’s rights were flagrantly trampled upon by his regime and we had a lot of abandoned projects littering the country. How will such a person perform in a constitutional democracy? It is better imagined than experienced. Nigerians queued to get sugar and rice during his time and the country was reduced to the status of war-torn North Korea by the Buhari regime.
If Buhari went to bank to borrow money to pay for his nomination forms, it means the billionaires in the party do not believe in his ability to deliver. Talking as a Nigerian and not an election observer of the system, the PDP will win more states in 2015 because the APC will be thrown into crisis. I wish to alert the security operatives to be alert on some of the APC chieftains who have investments in foreign countries. I gathered from some of the stakeholders at the just-concluded World Bank/IMF meeting this month in Washington DC that South Africa alone is ready to bank one of APC presidential aspirants to the tune of $2 billion if he emerges as candidate.
What benefits will accrue to Nigeria from the resolutions your group and other world leaders reached at the just concluded Boards of Governors’ meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund?
The meeting holds twice in a year- April and October. All the ministers of finance worldwide as well as central bank executives, captains of industry, academics and civil society leaders meet to discuss issues of global development and to review and assess global policies on development. These institutions repose a lot of confidence in the civil society organisations. So, it was a privileged I was invited to the meeting by the World Bank/IMF as they did in 2012. What I did basically was to give our own assessment of the projects done by these global organisations in Nigeria.
RMG and the world organisations had a session where the need for the Niger Delta region to look beyond oil was deliberated upon. We believe the global economy should be de-carbonised. In other words, we should reduce emphasis on oil exploration and exploitation. These activities pollute the environment. IN our view, if the environment is not friendly and is degraded, global agenda for development like the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will not be achieved. During the session, the World Bank ensured that the press did not have access to the session with the civil society organisations. But we had access to the media. They want to know what the governments in our countries are doing and not what they read about governments in the press of what the central bank governors and ministers of finance tell them. They believe so much in us as no-state actors for the truth and the areas we know they can assist.
The deadline for MDGs actualisation is next year. What do we need the meeting for when we already have the United Nations coordinating the MDGs?
MDGS are eight goals and a lot of these goals evolved by the World Bank and the IMF but being warehoused by the UN. For example, the goal on unemployment is from the International LabourOrganisation (ILO); poverty reduction from the World Bank; and education from UNESCO. If the whole world can strive to achieve the MDGs, it will bring a lot of relief to humanity. At this month’s meeting, those of us who are civil society leaders were able to tell the World Bank/IMF to carry us along before disbursing loans to government. We will be able to tell them if the loan is necessary. The era of people sitting in the comfort of their offices in Washington and give out loan which is shared only for generation unborn to be made to pay for the debt is over. Now, they have agreed to fine-tune the process of giving out loan and grant. The opinion of the civil society organisations are now going to be sought before such request is granted. Issues of climate, good governance, transparency will now be included in the MDGs which are being reviewed. The Transformation Agenda and what state governors bandy about as development agenda should be stopped. Government need to adopt MDGs as their development plans. Chief Peter Obi adopted MDGs as governor of Anambra and he did extremely well. Let us forget all these vision-less agendas and embrace MDGs.
Culled from Nigerian Tribune