By Remi Adefulu
Former Acting National Vice-chairman(South-West) of the peoples democratic party(PDP), Chief Adedeji Doherty was until recently a governorship aspirant in Lagos State. He speaks on various issues including President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war in this interview.
What do you make of the anti-corruption war of President Buhari’s administration?
In every society, there are a lot of corrupt people and I believe in Nigeria today, we can applaud the president on his efforts. However, I believe there should be a different direction in the manner the anti-corruption war is being fought, and I believe it is appearing gradually. The problem of corruption bothers everyone, but the net of the anti-corruption crusaders should be cast wider.
Having said this, I must say that the issue of corruption has always been fought by past administrations, maybe in a different way. But the way they have fought it has yielded results and we have seen what the monies recovered were used for. During the Obasanjo regime, Yar’Adua and Jonathan, you have a list of people that were being accused of corruption. We had the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, Joshua Dariye, Oransaye, James Ibori, amongst others, whom were victims of anti-corruption war in past administrations.
And most of the convictions that are happening now are cases mentioned in the Jonathan administration. I haven’t seen any new case of conviction in the last one and a half years of this present administration. The thing that stands out is they were mainly from the ruling party then, and there was nobody from the opposition. Remember that it was the ruling party then that created these anti-corruption agencies: EFCC and ICPC.
So, the instrument of attacking corruption and the processes were all created by the PDP; it is unjust to tag PDP as a party of corrupt people. The notion of PDP is we clean our house first before we clean others. But in this present administration, the reverse is the case.
How do you feel about the controversial raid on judges by the DSS?
The wave of Judges’ arrest according to the spokesman of the DSS was a sting operation. I totally condemn a sting operation on judges and the judiciary. This is a democracy. The police should have handled the assignment. Judges are not terrorists, drug traffickers and they don’t pose any immediate threat to the security of the state. Unleashing fully armed DSS operatives on judges is alien to diplomacy and democratic norms. However, I do not support any form of corruption by any individual, but fighting corruption has to be done within the law. In this case, I think extreme force was used and I think the
Judiciary was assaulted. The IGP should have invited the judges for interrogation. There should have been discrete investigation to have solid evidence like what was done in Ghana. The Presidency left loopholes that breed suspicion that the raid was politically and propaganda motivated. I also blame the NJC for allowing the judiciary to be ridiculed. Some Judges gave contradictory rulings on the PDP convention. A judge was involved in conflicting cases in a drug matter. The NJC should have stepped in to show that they are proactive.
What are the lessons from the incident?
Government must work on strengthening institutions instead of personalities. The President’s body language toward corruption is good but if institutions like the judiciary, ICPC, EFCC and the police are not strengthened,we cannot sustain the fight against corruption. If the fight cannot sustain itself, the fight will die with President Buhari.
Are you comfortable with the leadership of the current INEC under Prof Mahmood Yakubu?
INEC is supposed to be an independent body, but unfortunately, the chairman of INEC has always been appointed by the president and most of the time, there is no way the president won’t have a strong hold on the chairman.
The issues concerning INEC are very clear. As at today, if you compare the operations of INEC to what it has been just before the 2015 elections, you will see that the commission has totally transformed itself into an institution that is not independent. During the Jonathan administration, we saw that the former chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, had a free hand and was able to conduct elections in a free and fair manner.
Since Jonathan left, INEC has been in a barrage of inconclusive elections and we believe that the Edo governorship election would have changed the whole idea that we have had but unfortunately, even with the very good operational execution of INEC during that election, we could see visibly a total turn around and a repeat of the whole procedure again, and that is from the collation centres to where the results were announced.
Even on the TV, we could read the body language of those that were seated to announce the result, one of whom was not conducting himself well by eating biscuit on national TV. Perhaps, they are not following the president who says change begins with me. The man was eating biscuit while some others were chatting without proper etiquette. Some said ‘let bygones be bygones, we know you are going to end up in court!’ things that are not palatable. The set of people that represented INEC on the screen with all due respect lived below what Nigerians expected to say the least.
Are you saying that INEC was more credible during former President Jonathan’s administration?
Definitely INEC was more credible, transparent and competent under Jonathan’s administration than now.
Many particularly criticized the manner the INEC handled the Edo governorship election? What are your thoughts on that?
I am not comfortable with the outcome of the election. And my reason is predicated on excuses given by the returning officers that came from different local governments for the cancellation of votes. For instance, an average of cancelled votes in each local government was about two thousand votes and all of them had reports of violence and ballot snatching; one even said he had an accident and the results were damaged. So, I believe that coming from the report we had on TV and the expressions of the returning officers, it showed that there was a cynical, symbiotic relationship between INEC and those officers that came.
You could see the lady in the TV broadcast of the election talking to some of the returning officers. You could see a gentle man trying to tell the returning officers what kind of excuse they should give. It was a premeditated kind of development. It showed there was something going wrong. What it was I do not know, but definitely something was faulty and not transparent and I call on the Tribunal to do something about it.
Also, considering the level of preparedness by the police with a deployment of 25,000 officers and other security operatives, coupled with the postponement of the election by two weeks, there shouldn’t have been any hitch because this excuses of cancellation of votes and reports of ballot snatching made a mess of all the efforts put in place by the security operatives and INEC.
And we should not forget that these reported situations also negated the reports we got from observers and voters, who in their opinion revealed a peaceful exercise. To me, this cancellation report only undermines the preparedness and gallant effort of our police for letting all these happen and they were not able to prevent them.