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Why INEC should ignore National Assembly on e-transmission of results – Adeyeye, former Senate spokesperson – Punch Newspapers

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A former senator, Adedayo Adeyeye, who previously served as the spokesperson for the 9th Senate, shares his thoughts with SUNDAY ABORISADE on the controversy surrounding the proposed electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission, 2023 presidency and power rotation
The governors in the north have challenged politicians in the south to negotiate with political leaders in the north if they want to produce Nigeria’s president in 2023. What do you make of that?
I agree with them. You don’t just sit in your house and expect that power would come and land on your laps. You definitely have to make moves and negotiate with other stakeholders across the country. That was why we came out with the idea of the South-West Agenda so we could begin to work for the candidacy of the person we want in 2023. Negotiation is the food of politics. We must make alliances and deal with opinion leaders because we need to persuade everyone to accept our candidate. We cannot be shouting here and expect others to fall in line. We need to meet them so we can reason together. It is a matter of give and take. For example, we in the South West Agenda, known as SWAGA, are already doing that. We are politicians and we know what to do. President Muhammadu Buhari did not come to power without negotiation. He made deals with other great politicians across the country. They all came together to form the All Progressives Congress. We are aware of this and we don’t need to be tutored by Governor Nasir El-Rufai. It is what we are doing already and will continue to do until we achieve our objective. We are making alliances with all the groups in the country. Every geopolitical zone matters to us and we are not taking any of them for granted.
If you are already making alliances with other stakeholders across the country, why is the northern governors’ communiqué seen as hard on southern presidency?

I have written many communiqué in my life. Some of the governors might not even be there by the time the communiqué was being read. Some communiqué are written even before the meeting starts and some people prepare communiqué from their houses. So I don’t want to attach much importance to that. I think actions speak louder than voice. I want to judge people by their actions not by what they say. I want to see what they are doing and the actions they are taking. By demanding negotiation from the south, the northern governors have obviously admitted that power cannot be retained in the north after Buhari’s tenure. They want us to talk to them which is normal in politics.
But some people consider that communiqué and the stance of some other leaders in the north as opposing the south producing the next president, do you sense any gang-up on the south?
Power should definitely shift to the south in 2023 because that is what is just and proper in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Nigeria. You need to give everybody a sense of belonging. You cannot say we are together and retain power in one particular place. We know the power in many cases has not been used judiciously to satisfy all the groups in the country equally. Some people are not comfortable with the current arrangement because they believe their area has been marginalised.

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What do you make of arguments by some persons that from 1999, former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan were in power for 13 years whereas the late Umaru Yar’Adua and Buhari would have about 11 years when Buhari leaves office?
Are those people saying they (north) should do another eight years to make theirs 18 years? Where will the south be at that time? We cannot have a long stretch like that. If I have my way, I will demand that the Nigerian constitution be amended so that each region would have a single term of five years. Once the president completes his two terms, in the interest of equity and justice, and to give everybody a sense of belonging, the power should shift to the south particularly now that there are so many centrifugal forces pulling the nation apart.
To you, how serious is the agitation for secession in the South-East and South-West geopolitical zones?
It is very real. Some people say it is being championed by hoodlums and miscreants and I laugh. In the minds of many elite in the south, they prefer that their part of the country should secede from Nigeria because they are frustrated for now. One of the things that can remove that frustration is to give them a sense of belonging that would make them feel important in their own country. Let power rotate to their own part of the country because people are really frustrated. The elite in the south are even more committed to the agitation for secession than the masses because they were the ones being denied positions in high places while a section of the country is having the big laugh even with less qualified candidates. The elite in the south see themselves as second class citizens because less qualified people from a section in the country are taking over positions meant for all parts of Nigeria. People say all these things and we hear them loud and clear.
Do you think the next president coming from the south could douse the current agitations for secession?
I believe the fire of the agitations would be doused a little if power should shift to the south in 2023. A former head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar, applied wisdom in 1998 when the National Democratic Coalition was fighting the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election. The situation was taking a dangerous dimension then. I know because I was directly involved. Abubakar and his people agreed that power should shift to the south since the winner of the election, the late Moshood Abiola, was not allowed to rule. They arranged it in such a way that two Yoruba contested against themselves. As at that time, we had drafted the constitution of the Oduduwa Republic. However, power was shifted to the South-West and it automatically doused the tension. It is only reasonable to allow power shift to the south to douse the current tension.
Governors Babangana Zulum, Abdullahi Ganduje and El-Rufai previously advocated power shift to the south, why do you think they are now singing a different tune?

I take people by their actions, not by their words. I believe Zulum and Ganduje are still standing firm on their position that power must shift to the South.
What of El-Rufai?
I don’t know about El-Rufai. I don’t count him as one of the supporters of my candidate (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu). If the communiqué issued by the northern governors is merely seeking negotiations, Zulum and Ganduje may not see anything offensive in that. The communiqué is not ruling the south out, they are saying we should discuss with them.
There are people who believe the latest from the northern governors could be a way of fighting the southern governors over their clamour for restructuring, resource control and state police among others?
For me, any reasonable northern governor would want power to shift to the south because having a northern president succeeding Buhari will lead to either the restructuring of Nigeria or at worst, the country will break into pieces. I can guarantee that. Forget about the arrogance of the guy from Mauritania, Baba-Ahmed. Since he is not a Nigerian, I don’t want to make him feel any important. He had benefitted immensely from Nigeria by being a former federal permanent secretary and secretary to Kaduna State Government, a foreigner for that matter. He is now trying to make a statement that would tear the country apart. His only country as far as he is concerned is Mauritania. If anything happens in this country today, he has a country he can claim.
There are also people who believe northern political leaders are fighting back following the stance of the southern governors on restructuring and open grazing?

Let me tell you, restructuring is inevitable in this country if Nigeria must have a sustained unity, stability and development. We just have to face the reality. This country is diverse. There are lots of differences. Let us go back to the constitution that our forefathers negotiated with the British. That constitution created real federalism for the country. We can go back to something close to that. Let us operate a real federal system. The constitution we are operating right now, to all intent and purposes, is a unitary constitution masquerading as a federal system. It is unitarian masquerading as federalism. That is why there is tension all over the place.

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Some have argued that the current system favours the north and that it’s the reason a number of them are not very committed to it?
It is better for us if each region or federating unit is self-sustaining using the available resources at its disposal than to rely on a commonwealth that would barely be enough to meet their responsibilities when they get their own share. In the First Republic, we had true federalism; Obafemi Awolowo in the western region, Ahmadu Bello in the north and Nnamdi Azikiwe in the east. All of them engaged in healthy competition among one another. As soon as Awolowo established the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Nnamdi Azikiwe established the University of Nigeria in Nsukka while Ahmadu Bello established the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. Also, when Awolowo established the first television station in Africa, the other regions were making moves to establish their own before the military struck and took over the whole system and reduced everything to nothing. Sardauna sent many northern students abroad for further studies and Awolowo joined by sending the first 200 students from the western region including the late Chief MKO Abiola, who went to England to study. As at that time, the western region was growing faster than Singapore and Malaysia. The British government even told Malaysian leaders to emulate the western region. The northern region was not moving as fast as the other regions because they had disadvantages in terms of education but they were still making great developmental moves and it was better for them. If the military had not truncated the arrangement, the north would have been better developed than what they have now. The current situation is not in anybody’s favour because no region is developing. That is why we need to revisit the agreement we had with the British and negotiate everything at a round table.
How united are APC members in the South-West and will you say they are embracing the SWAGA project?
There is no crisis in SWAGA. There could be a crisis in the APC set up in Yorubaland. There could be some people who don’t agree with the objectives of SWAGA and we know some of those individuals. That is not unexpected anyway because there is no way we could achieve 100 per cent support particularly in a highly politically sophisticated environment like the South-West. With highly enlightened people like ours, we don’t expect everyone to support us. Even the late Awolowo didn’t enjoy 100 per cent support from the Yoruba. We are however satisfied that we have the majority of the people behind us in the South-West and events would prove that. All the major critical stakeholders in the South-West especially the traditional institutions, religious leaders and various groups too numerous to mention and different professionals including youths and women have embraced SWAGA.
Some people are raising concerns about the health of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, whose candidature SWAGA is canvassing for the 2033 presidential elections…
Let us not make his health a major concern. The health and the life of a man are in the hands of God Almighty. Even a person who seems healthy today might collapse and die tomorrow. So, issues beyond the realm of human beings should be left in the hands of God. Some people thought Buhari would not survive his health challenge about four years ago but look at him today. I won’t react to those who want to make the health of Asiwaju Tinubu a subject of politics. I was the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP when Buhari was sick but I never made issues with his condition, despite being in the opposition party then because as a practising Christian, I know such matters could only be determined by God Almighty.
How soon would he return to the country?

I don’t know. That is a decision that Asiwaju Tinubu will make by himself. Those who travelled abroad to see him came back with a very good report. They said he is hale and hearty and that his health hasn’t deteriorated in any way. They told us that he will soon return to Nigeria. I have not seen him physically but I don’t expect those who went there to see him to be telling me lies. I believe their report about him.
Not much has been heard from SWAGA in recent times, does it have to do with the health of your candidate?
No, it has nothing to do with his health. We don’t need him around before we do our things. We only had a break because of the APC congresses. It wasn’t Asiwaju who commissioned us, we are doing it on our own. He has never been present in any of our programmes. It is our project. Whether he is here or not, the project continues. Even if he is in Nigeria, there is no possibility that we will visit him in Lagos. We are not preaching to him but telling others to support him. We are not hypocrites.
The APC and its lawmakers in the National Assembly are opposed to the idea of electronic transmission of election results even when INEC says it is ready to adopt it. What is your reaction as a former member of the current Senate?
I am not in agreement with the position of the APC on the issue. INEC is in the position to determine by itself what it is capable or incapable of doing. Nobody should dictate to them (INEC) because the constitution gives them the latitude to determine the best way they can conduct elections. The matter is not even supposed to go for electoral amendment. INEC should be allowed to adopt the best method to conduct credible elections without interference from anybody. When we started in 1999, people voted manually without card readers for accreditation. Today, the card reader has brought more sanity to the system. My position is that INEC should deploy all the technology in its possession to conduct free, fair and credible elections for the good of Nigerians. If INEC says it can conduct a perfect election with electronic transmission of results, it should be allowed to do so.  I am absolutely in support of INEC and I see no reason why anybody should contradict it. What are those people who are against it trying to hide? What is their problem? If INEC fails to transmit results properly, it will affect all the political parties. Let us give INEC the benefit of the doubt. Let them use technology to do their work. Technology will surely help us to conduct a perfect election. INEC has really improved and it is capable of doing electronic transmission of results. What the legislature should address is the role of the judiciary after elections have been perfectly conducted. I am a victim of such miscarriage of justice and the Electoral Act should focus on that instead of dabbling in the affairs of INEC. The Nigerian judiciary is bad and rotten. INEC is doing its best but the judiciary is spoiling their good works. The focus must be on the judiciary and not on INEC. When there is electronic transmission, it will make it difficult for some horrible judges to concoct and manufacture non-existing results as they are doing now.
The National Assembly is expected to make the electronic transmission of results legal but the majority of the members are still opposed to it…
INEC should just ignore the National Assembly and go ahead with the arrangement it had put in place to conduct a perfect election.

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What if the National Assembly rejects the planned electronic transmission of results?
If the National Assembly decides against it, INEC should go ahead because there is a constitutional provision that empowers INEC to conduct elections in the way it deems it. It is an expansive and omnibus provision which gives it the latitude to use any method to conduct a free and fair election. If the National Assembly passes any law that is inconsistent with the constitution, it will be null and void because the constitution is supreme to any other laws. If the National Assembly is not satisfied, they should approach the Supreme Court. I am totally in favour of allowing INEC to conduct elections as it deems fit, using whatever technology it can deploy to guarantee a free and fair election.
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