‘Some of us did not agree with Abiola’s declaration at Epetedo’ 

Chief Olusegun Osoba, Former governor of Ogun State


Former Governor of Ogun State and one of the founding members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Segun Osoba, says some of those who participated in the struggle to reverse the annulment of June 12 1993 election were not in support of Epetedo declaration. SEYE OLUMIDE reports
 
What is the significance of Buhari’s recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day?
The significance of June 12 is that the elections held on that day in 1993 created the current democratic dispensation that we now enjoy. It is the sacrifice made by Abiola who refused to compromise or surrender the mandate given to him by Nigerians. It is also a celebration of a lot of our heroes who lost their lives in the struggle for the creation of sustainable democratic norms in Nigeria. I say this because NADECO that is the parent of modern democracy was founded not just to claim Abiola’s mandate but the general philosophy of the coalition was to fight for respect for democracy in Nigeria. 
 
The second reason for the formation of the coalition was to fight the military out of politics and send them back to the barracks. These two fundamental philosophies of the coalition have been achieved since 1999. Abiola himself was not part of NADECO; 49 of us formed the coalition in the residence of late Major Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo. Abiola came back from South Africa from the inauguration of Nelson Mandela to join us and he pledged, after he joined, to stick by the philosophy of the coalition. He paid the supreme price, and that is one of the major reasons June 12 is of great importance to this country.

How would you comparing June 12 election with subsequent general elections held since 1999? 
There is no comparison whatsoever. The best election so far in the country is the one held on June 12, 1993. It is my hope that the Ninth National Assembly would revisit the Electoral Act to address flaws in our elections. 

What is wrong with the current Electoral Act?
If there is no reform of the current Electoral Act and there is no major reform of our electoral system, the next general elections coming in 2023 would be war and it would be dangerous for the country.

Why this assertion?
The reason is, modern electoral system should be digital and Nigerians cannot continue to be running analogue election when countries like Kenya and Ghana and other African countries have moved forward. For instance, Nigerian banks are one of the most efficient in the world. Alert on your telephone is working efficiently in Nigeria.   If Nigerian banks can operate digital system, there is no way our elections should not be digital. The most important thing is, until we go digital all the manipulations we think we can do in 2023 might be the beginning of terrible problem in the country.

Is the government not contradicting itself by accepting to honour June 12, declare it as Democracy Day and at the same time refuse to sign the new Electoral Bill into law?
President Buhari is just beginning his second term. I urge you to wait and see. First, the Eight Senate worked on the Electoral Bill; I think the Ninth Senate should start from there. There must be accreditation through electronic system; there must be transmission of accredited number of voters and transmission of elections result from all pooling booths directly to the portals of INEC. I am saying this because all those who are thinking about impossibility should take example from the Nigerian banks, how it was possible to operate transactions through electronic system successfully. Automatic Teller Machines (ATM) are working successfully in Nigeria. Nigerian banks can be a point of reference for the reform of the Electoral Act in this nation.

Is recognition of June 12 enough without the resolution of other critical national questions?
Let me be honest with you: the national question must be fully addressed and I am saying that as a chieftain of APC, the new government is just reelected into office a few months ago. There are many issues to be attended to and we will not shy away from our responsibility to ensure the continuity of the unity of this country.

What is your reaction when you heard that Abiola had died in incarceration?  
Never let us think about it again. We were devastated; it was total devastation. For several days, many of us couldn’t have imagined it happened. Even for years, I still think about Abiola and the circumstances that surrounded his death. 

But beyond declaring June 12 as Democracy Day, can’t government still go further to declare Abiola president posthumously?
We don’t need that anymore having given him GCFR, which is only conferred on presidents; it is automatically a recognition otherwise it would be an exercise in futility. Abiola is gone. Are we going to swear him in or whom are we going to hang the symbol of office to? The acceptance and awarding the GCFR to him is are recognition that he passed through and was a president of this nation.

Would you say that Abiola’s sacrifices had been in vain when you look at our democracy today?
It has not been in vain. Recall that in 2015, Nigeria was in serious economic trouble. If the TSA had not been created where all monies are going into a single account, the economy might have collapsed. But we thank God that we are still alive; but I belief this second term there would be major dividends of the sacrifice Nigeria made in the last four years. 

But beyond electoral reform, what else could be done to reduce the level of poverty in the land today?
Reason I am so passionate about electoral reform is that we have turned voting in Nigeria to selling and buying. It is now the case of the highest bidder and I am shocked that ordinary Nigerians are selling their votes openly. I must admit so as a politician, and unless we do all those reforms where the power is removed from the presiding officers and the electronic system takes over, we won’t achieve much. For instance, before now fraud in the bank was very heavy; even my driver now buys fuel at the station with credit card and as soon as he makes payment, I get alert on my phone immediately. In the same way electronic system will virtually wipe out selling of vote by voters.

Would you say that Abiola’s declaration at Epetedo was a mistake or a step in the right direction?
Don’t let us go back to it. Some of us didn’t support the Epetedo Declaration. There was military government in power and military rule legalises itself. However, I will not go into details of that because it is most unfortunate situation. We should not do any blame game, but to thank God that we have had transition, whether prefect or imperfect, for at least four governments since 1999. This is an achievement for having seen the military out of politics in this country.
 

In this article:
Segun Osoba
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