ADEGBUYI: making public offices unattractive is final solution
Mr. Bisi Adegbuyi is pro-democracy activist and legal practitioner. In a chat with KAMAL TAYO OROPO, he said getting the desired electoral process is a continuous exercise, even as he cautioned that the process would be difficult without addressing the attractiveness of elected offices.
The post-Attahiru Jega Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) seems not meeting up with expectations and there have been talks in the direction of electoral reform. What is your impression of the system so far?
I think this matter would be a lot more useful if we can weigh in from the point of view of prohibitive cost of governance. There is no way we can run away from this unfortunate situation, especially, when we begin to interrogate why the electoral system keeps experiencing hiccups. The situation has a destructive effect on the electoral system.
Therefore, I dare say no amount of electoral reform can stave off the do-or-die and reckless pursuit of political power in so far as public offices are functional equivalent of a gold mine.
Let the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) come up with decent, modest and moderate remuneration for political office holders, the President should forward an executive bill to the National Assembled based on the aforesaid recommendation; of course we know there will be resistance, but the people will have the final say when we get to the bridge and we want to cross it. Only when this is addressed that we can have serious look at our electoral system. A lot of work has been done in the past and so much effort put in place to ensure acceptable electoral standard. A couple of men of integrity had been assigned to head the INEC. But desperate forces against doing the right is overwhelming.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo spent roughly 24.6 per cent of resources available to the government on recurrent expenditure, what are we spending now? We must be able to draw our conclusions.
I’m, however, confident President Muhammadu Buhari is equal to the task of introducing sanity to the body polity; he needs time and support of all and sundry. There can’t be any gain without pain, let him clear the Augean stable and there will be light at the end of the tunnel. The system will shape up with time. What we are experiencing so far in terms of election, Bayelsa and Rivers states, specifically, are part of the new-found level-playing ground, where the presidency is not keen on imposing its preferred candidates.
To what extent does the character of head of INEC translate to a more effective commission?
You give honour to whom it’s due. Professor Jega discharged the functions of his office creditably well. To suggest that INEC as an institution has failed or not lived up to expectations, because Jega has left, is to do a great disservice to teamwork and other stakeholders, who were involved in the advocacy to reform the electoral process and the modest succeses recorded. For me, it’s a continuous process; a journey not a destination.
Again, if the reputation of the President is anything to go by –– his zero tolerance for electoral malfeasance is well known –– I’m sure the need to continue to reform the electoral process will not escape his radar of governance.
In what specific direction do you expect attention put to bear?
The locus classicus work is there: Justice Mohammed Uwais Electoral Committee’s recommendation. That said, I have my doubts if we will not be back to square one if we don’t drastically cut the cost of governance, emoluments and the perquisites of office public office holders.
Frankly, there is nothing to add to electoral reform, except for introduction of technology to increase capacity and improve on the electoral process.
There has been the issue of judicial fate of the electronic voting system, specifically the card reader. What should be done under this circumstance?
The card reader has become an essential, if not an indispensable feature of our electoral system. Those who want to drag us back to pre and post 2007 electoral anarchy are the ones advocating for its abandonment.
Assuming, but without conceding that the card readers have been largely problematic, a claim that’s untrue, do you throw the baby away with the bath water? Bell Graham, who invented telephone, didn’t get it perfectly right at the initial stages, the imperfections were improved upon until we arrived at the GSM stage. You don’t abandon a beneficial technology by doing away with it. You strive to identify the flaws and work on it.
The judicial bugbear about the card reader can be resolved by amending the electoral act and I think that’s on the agenda of the National Assembly.
But what should be the role of the Judiciary in this direction?
No judgment of any court in the land has invalidated the use of card readers in future elections, because card reader is not electronic voting, but to avoid uncertainty and judicial rigmarole, the electoral act should be amended to specifically make provision for it.
Do you buy the contention of the court that the card reader is not known to law?
It is simple: Let it be known to law by incorporating it in the electoral act as I affirmed. Let us not start the argument whether it’s known to law or not. Not all administrative actions that all institutions embark upon are expressly provided for by law, provided that law does not expressly and specifically forbid it. That’s jurisprudence as I know it.
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