Former President of the Ijaw National Congress, Prof Kimse Okoko, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari has killed the economy, and destroyed the electoral process. In this interview with VINCENT KALU, the erudite Professor of Political Science, said the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar will be doing a great disservice to Nigerians if he doesn’t go to court to challenge the presidential election result.
What is your reaction over the just concluded presidential polls?
It was a national shame, and there is no doubt in my mind that the election was massively rigged. One must argue that there is no election in this country that has not been rigged, but it appears that it is getting worse and worst. In this case, it got worst with the unprecedented militarisation of the electoral process and the attendant massive rigging in most parts of the country, let alone the killing of innocent Nigerians, which is also one of the greatest tragedies of our political history.
As if that was not enough, we now have the same elite, the self-centred and opportunistic class whose only joy is the primitive accumulation of wealth through the unabashed looting of our common wealth.
I call on Atiku Abubakar to challenge a clearly rigged and manipulation of the last presidential election.
How can we as a nation hope to grow a democratic culture and rule of law, if we allow such blatant desecration of electoral system to stand?
Atiku must go to court to ensure that this kind of satanic act in the electoral system will not happen again in the future. It is the only patriotic option for him and history will vindicate him.
In a multi ethnic and religious country like Nigeria, do you think that the court will muster enough courage to upturn a presidential election, knowing the after effect?
We can now see why the former Chief Justice of Nigeria was treated the way he was treated. Don’t get me wrong, if he is found wanting, for goodness sake, he should be tried and if found guilty, should go to jail. But the obscene heist in which it was done is what I cannot accept.
Despite the multiplicity of ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, the point is that whether the courts are up to the task, let Atiku go and let the courts say that he lost; let them say so. Nigerians are no fools, even though the courts say he lost, but we are aware of what happened. We still have our opinions, but he should go to the court of law to prove his case if the judges are not strong willed enough to stand the pressure, so be it.
But at least, he would have gone to court, so that next time, people would not be taken for granted and there is a possibility that one day, one strong judge in the system can say no to this illegality or massive rigging in the system.
To do otherwise will be a great disservice in Nigeria. He has to go to court, win or lose, at least to show the world the evidences he has; if the court says the evidences are not good enough, so be it, but then, he has widely challenged the satanic result in the court.
As an elder statesman, one would have expected you to prevail on Atiku to accept the result and congratulate Buhari instead of heading to court that will continue to overheat the polity?
It is not about overheating the polity; I would have done a disservice, if I have to, like the others, the opportunistic class and politicians we have in this country, prevail on Atiku not to go to court, that will be a wrong thing to do, because he has to go and prove his case. Many Nigerians say the election was massively rigged; Atiku is also saying the same thing, let him go to court and prove that. It is unpatriotic for anybody to say that Atiku shouldn’t go to court. It is a shame that people are now reading ethnic or religious meanings into it; some people are saying after all, both of them are Hausa and of the same religion, and so, Atiku shouldn’t go to court. This is not a question of Hausa; Nigeria is not made up of Hausa alone; other Nigerians went to vote, so Atiku must go and make a case in court and he will be vindicated, win or lose.
The foreign observers said the election was credible, how do you reconcile this with your position?
Obviously, if you read their statements, they didn’t have the guts to say that over 50 innocent Nigerians were killed; they only said that the elections were peaceful; elections were peaceful in some areas, while not so in many other areas.
How can elections be peaceful when over 50 persons were killed?
Frankly, I have never taken these foreign observers very seriously during the electoral process. For one thing, they will not be able to go to all the places, especially in this case where they were threatened with body bags. So, I don’t take them seriously at all.
We are only talking about the foreign observers, what of the Nigerian observes. The Nigerian observers alluded to the fact that the elections were rigged, and they saw violence in many places. Why are we quoting the foreign observes and not taking interest in the local observers?
That is why I was so ashamed of myself as a Nigerian, when with the slightest things, Nigerians will call on the UK, US and other European countries to come and save the situation; can’t we do something else, do these people have interest in us, can’t we see what is happening all over the world; haven’t they heard that America always says, it is America first. They think that America will get into a local situation like this. I was ashamed when many politicians were calling on UK, US and other European nations to come and intervene and take note. If they were calling on the United Nations, I can understand, but to appeal to these individual nations was a disgrace. This sums up my position with external observers, I don’t take them seriously.
If you look at the report of the ECOWAS observers, it is not the same thing as that of the foreign observers; they noted the killings. So, Atiku has to go to court, he said he has the evidences, let no one stop him; let him go to court and prove his case.
Most people have raised eyebrows over the voting figures that came out from Borno and Yobe; two states that were under Boko Haram attacks on that election day. What is your view on this?
Look at the fantastic figures of a number of people that came out to vote in a war- torn areas. It could be parts of the evidences that Atiku has. So he must go to court. It will be a great disservice on the part of Atiku if he doesn’t go to court to challenge the outcome of the presidential result. We cannot grow a democratic culture under this kind of satanic desecration of the electoral process.
What agenda do you set for Buhari?
I will be very surprised if Buhari will change; I will be pleasantly surprised if his nepotism is not going to continue, if all the service chiefs will not come from one part of the country. I will be very surprised if his appointment will not be lopsided. I will be very surprised if the man is going to change.
Restructuring, which you clamour is not part of his agenda?
He doesn’t support restructuring, so how can I support somebody like that. I have always said, without the restructuring of Nigeria, nothing good will come out of this country because it is the over concentration of power and wealth as made by the 1999 Constitution that is creating this problem in the country; it is a system that is generating corruption, it is a system that creates disunity and Buhari has made it worse. Nigeria has not been so divided as it is under Buhari. If we don’t restructure Nigeria, don’t expect anything good to come out of the next four years.
After the presidential and National Assembly elections, INEC insisted that it is card reader or no result, what could have led the electoral umpire take that decision?
It is strange. Why would it apply double standard; why didn’t it object to voting without card reader during the presidential and National Assembly elections, only for it to insist that without card reader, no election result. INEC has created confusion and has made the electoral process more suspect by applying double standard in the use of card reader. How can somebody take the election results seriously? You can’t blame those who are accusing INEC of being part of the manipulation process. This is a double application of its own policy. It is incredible.
Why didn’t they carry out that policy in the presidential and National Assembly elections? That means many people voted without the use of card readers, which is against its policy. It is very suspect. It is part of rigging.
The turnout for the governorship and the state Assembly elections was very poor, as some people were disappointed over the presidential election result. Will this not affect the electoral system in future?
Obviously, if the fundamental things required to change situations in this country are not done, it will affect future elections.
If the president had assigned the amendment to the electoral bill, we would have avoided some of these malpractices.
Secondly, what they have done obviously will impact on future elections in this country. If we continue with the present system without the electoral reforms and without restructuring, elections will be meaningless in this country, and the level of apathy will be even worse come next time because people will ask the changes that have taken place since the last election; that there will still be violence, there will still be rigging, why bother to go and vote when our votes don’t count.
This is killing the democratic spirit, and as we don’t have genuine elections, it is leading to dictatorship already; this is more or less a dictatorial government.
Look at what is happening in this country; at the moment, the EFCC decides who to go and attack at any minute. It has robbed the very essence of democratic practice in this country; the last election was one of the most terrible elections in this country.
Based on the outcome of the general elections, some people say that Buhari has killed the economy and the electoral system; do you share in that sentiment?
The economy has been virtually decapitated by this administration; there is no doubt about that if you consider the unemployment in this country; the excruciating poverty in this country; if you consider the fact that Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world, if you consider that direct foreign investment has been reduced, businesses have been closing up because of harsh economic environment they operate.
The economy has been completely emasculated. Now the electoral system has been desecrated by this administration by creating these massive riggings witnessed in the last elections; if you cannot conduct free and fair election, which is the heart of the democratic process; if you cannot conduct credible election, how can you say you are promoting democratic practice in this country. It is not true and nobody will take you seriously.
To make matters worse, Buhari has created the greatest divisions in this country; this country is hopelessly divided.
I do not see any meaningful change that will take place in the next four years. He would still be as nepotistic as he has been, and his cabinet will have no clue as to turn around the economy and generate employment.
We are facing a terrible situation in this country. If this election result is allowed to stand, we are going to face more terrible situation in this country and I hope we can somehow come together and salvage this country from the present situation we find ourselves as a result of the debilitating incompetence of this administration.