By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Former Ogun Deputy Governor, Senator Adegbenga Kaka, who represented Ogun East Senatorial District in the National Assembly in the 7th National Assembly, is a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
In this interview, he examined the various presidential contenders in the coming 2023 general elections, as well as the possibility of a second ballot as is being anticipated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The threat of violence raised by the Chairman of the INEC has become a clear and present danger. How do you think it is not going to affect the conduct of the coming general election, bearing in mind the incessant attacks on INEC offices?
We sincerely hope it is not going to be. The aim of the people preparing to disrupt the coming poll, they will unfortunately be disappointed because when people are determined, all their threat will come to naught. I believe they are cowards. If not, they will face their campaign and go for the election. They believe that their threat will scare people away, but I believe it is not going to significantly affect the poll. The government has to be up and doing and ensure that security is guaranteed.
The Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu, recently expressed some skepticism about the electronic transmission of result. What is your take on the matter?
The truth remains that many centres are currently being powered by generator as an alternative source of energy because some of the equipment require electricity. If we can guarantee, at least, 80 per cent electricity supply, we can be rest assured that the improvement will reflect on the performance of the INEC on the transmission of results. Many rural areas don’t have access to power supply and there is no way it will not affect the overall results because of the facilities they will use in transmission of results. But whatever reservation anybody may have, the truth is that we cannot continue to lag behind as a nation in modern technology. Our population is still hovering between 200 and 215 million compared to India which is about 1.5 million and has been using electronic voting for nearly 20 years now. As far as I am concerned, we should go ahead with electronic voting. If there is any area of deficiency, we can redouble our effort to improve on it.
From what you have seen so far in terms of electioneering, would you say that the political class has conducted itself in a decorous manner?
The political class is part and parcel of the society. What we are seeing now is a reflection of the society. The fact is that many youths are idle and, as it is often said, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. So, there are bound to be ready hands in these heinous crimes. Only those who are idle can be used by the political class. Until we are able to create a more conducive atmosphere for issue-based politics, we will continue to drift. The security operatives have to be up and doing to nip the trend in the bud.
Looking at the array of presidential contenders in this coming election, are you expecting a competitive poll like the 1979 election as some people are already projecting?
To be sincere, the current electioneering is not indicative of any serious competition. INEC is even anticipating that there may be a second ballot. Objective viewers have already concluded that second ballot is not going to come to the fore. As I am talking to you now, 80 per cent of Nigerians have already made up their mind on where they want to vote. We cannot rule out the fact that ethnicity and religious factors are going to play a role in this election. These are deep rooted factors that anybody cannot change with sugarcoated mouth. So, looking at it, I can’t see the competitiveness of the election. It may even duller than the previous elections because there is no ideological differences among the political parties. The situation where people are moving from one party to another puts a question mark on the word competitiveness because the electorate are not being offered any serious choice. We are in a choice-less situation.
Then, what does the large crowd that candidates are pulling in their electioneering mean to you?
The political class understands better. The fact that you see a crowd of people everywhere is not a guarantee for competitive election. With the hunger lurking around every home in the country, it is very easy for candidates to call out the people with a little token. In most cases, you see the same set of people attending different rallies. I don’t think we can use the word competitiveness with what is going on in the country right now.
If you are jettisoning the word competitiveness, are you looking forward to a surprise?
If you can predict what will happen in the next two or three months, that is no longer a surprise. The loser is already aware that he is likely to lose. The winner is also known by virtually everybody. So, competitiveness is completely out of it. I don’t see any surprise coming out of the exercise. Are you going to tell me that a structure less party will spring a surprise? What surprise are you expecting?
According to INEC’s voter register, the youth constitute the bulk of the electorate in this coming election. Are you saying that a particular candidate who has the youth as his main supporter has no chance in this election?
People talk of the youth constituency as if it is a bloc. The youths are diverse. We have youths that are women, we have youths that are men, we have youths in different religions, in different ethnic platforms. We have youths everywhere. So, it is not going to be a strait jacket thing. No doubt, the youths are the most enthusiastic among the different groupings you can think of. They may make the loudest noise, but when it comes to the D-day, you find the youth being directed by the elders. And by our culture, respect for elders is still a factor to reckon with.
INEC has released some new guidelines in respect of the limit candidates can spend on electioneering, is it practicable to track politicians in the way they deploy money to fund their election?
It will be a herculean task for any government agency to track the amount of money politicians spend for their campaigns. We don’t have the statistics. There are people who will fund the parties without necessarily giving out money to the candidates because there are different ways of funding. So, we can only minimize the effect of over spending, but it cannot be totally eradicated.
What are the issues you would expect candidates to put in the front burner in their campaigns to guide the choice the electorate will make in the next election?
There is a choiceless choice for the electorate in this election. The tribal and religious effects will reflect in the choice of the electorate. The crisis within some parties will also reflect. Some cannot get their acts together and there is nothing anybody can do about it. If the youths say they want to have one of their own, tell me which of the candidates falls within the youth bracket. Is it the man of 60-something that continues to deceive and calls himself youth? Are we going to jettison experience, exposure and maturity? We have nations that have had younger president. We have had Obama, we have had Clinton in America which is the mother of the modern democracy. But right now, what do we have? We have 70 and 80-year-old on the ballot papers. This means the stone that was earlier rejected is now the one forming the cornerstone of the building. The elderly that had been rejected are now the ones being turned to for succour because they could not get the desired result.
When will Nigeria overcome politics of religion and ethnicity?
It is not far-fetched. Religion is supposed to be a private affair for individuals. But unfortunately, the clerics have made their churches and mosques available for easy maneuvering by politicians. Until we realize that governance is not a matter of chance, we will continue to grope in the darkness. Let politicians come out with issue-based campaigns to convince the people what they are capable of doing. Right now, they have all lost the trust of the people. The people no longer have trust in their leaders and the leaders too have lost trust in the followership. Over time, I think we will get there.