AKINOLA: With Political Will, Nigeria Will Have Successful Election

Mr. Richard Akinola is a Lagos-based lawyer and social justice activist. Speaking with KAMAL TAYO OROPO, he contends that, despite known grounds of post-election petitions, nothing would disrupt smooth transition if those in leadership exercise the desired political will. 

There are noticeable grounds of electoral petitions that may squander the outcome of the general elections. Are the political parties involved doing enough to make sure the cost on the electoral process is not destructive?  

WHAT we need at this point is political will to do what is right. In this circumstance in our political situation, there are all manner of reasons bothering on how you can put spanner in the works. But the issue is that if someone has the political will to do something, he will do it. However, I am sorry to say that the feelers from the authority is such that gives one the impression that those entrusted with public trust do not want the elections; pure and simple. From all indications, some people are afraid that they are not likely to win and as such, they appear to be all out to put spanner in the works. It does appear to me that some people are working on the ‘June 12’.  

What gives you the impression that they don’t want the election, knowing that there are genuine grounds of litigation? 

   You don’t understand these people.  You know power is an aphrodisiac and the way you handle power is very crucial. Even before the National Security Adviser flew the kite in Chatham House, UK, over Permanent Voter Card (PVC), some of us already had the information to that effect.

But the recommendation was based on the security challenge

   No, not security. The first thing that the National Security Adviser said at the Chatham House was that many people don’t have PVCs. He had apparently gotten reports that if the elections held on February 14, it was not going to favour the present government and so they are looking for ways to postpone the elections. 

   But when he discovered that the excuse on the PVC was no longer tenable, then he came with the security report. on February 2, the security chiefs said they were ready. What happened in 72 hours that they now had to write to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that they cannot provide security. But it is not the military responsibility to provide security; it is the police. 

   In any case, the navy is not involved in the fight against the insurgency; they are in their barracks. it is mere subterfuge just to stop the elections. That is why you see all manners of litigations, at least there were about three or four litigations on (the All Progressives Congress, APC, candidate, Muhammadu) Buhari’s certificate alone. Two are going to be filed in the next few days; one on section 135 sub-section 2, which says that if the country is at war, elections can be postponed for six months. 

   Then they are supposed to go to court on card readers, which I must point out  is not a violation of the electoral act because card reader is not for voting; it is just for verification. So, they are look for various ways. The whole gamut is just ‘June 12’ template. There are reasons to believe that certain individuals are working towards a stalemate. 

   I understand that some principal characters in the process are saying that interim government is unconstitutional. Is there anywhere where interim government is constitutional? First, it is by a fiat accompli. Just like the doctrine of necessity that made (Dr. Goodluck) Jonathan an acting President ––it is not in the constitution. When you are faced with that kind of scenario, you are forced to take certain decisions. 

   When someone in the authority was asked if March 28 is sacrosanct, he said he cannot say it is sacrosanct, depending on what the security people would say and that the letter the security chiefs wrote to the INEC chairman, Prof Attairu Jega, said, at least six weeks. 

   There is a possibility of extension and if they do extend; latest they can hold elections 30 days to handover. But once you extend again and it falls short of 30 days, then it means we are in a constitutional dilemma and the interim government, some of people are obviously working on, comes in. 

   So, some people are not ready for election; pure and simple. But we are insisting that elections must go on because the danger is that we are unwittingly playing into the hands of the military. This is how the June 12 crisis started before the interim government came in, only for the General Sani Abacha regime to overthrow the interim government. And we can see what the country went through in the six years that ensued. 

   It is a dangerous game and that is why we call on the people, whether you are in APC or the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to make the interest of the nation a priority. We have to take a non-partisan approach to this issue. You may think that you want to stop an individual, but if the anti-democratic forces decide to take advantage, everybody will be the loser –– even the media and the civil society. That is why we have to ensure that this election holds; let somebody win or lose and we move on, pure and simple.

How do you perceive the role of the judiciary in all of these?

    Fortunately, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) has cautioned the judges, that they should not be used as instruments of truncating democracy. That should be enough to caution them. Even though, in this kind of scenario, if government is interested, they can arm-twist any judge. 

   Sometimes though, judges are so much under pressure that they give phony decisions. I doubt if any reasonable judge would do anything for any reason, at this stage, to give any ruling that would defeat the whole system. I doubt it.  In fact, I don’t know what laws you want to use. Also, sometimes you don’t look at the laws, but at political exigency. I don’t want to be pessimistic about that. Some of us are filing cases in the courts too. If the military comes back, even the military are in trouble. 

 



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