Former President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) Prof Kimse Okoko has said that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar has better understanding of Nigeria than President Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC).
In this interview with VINCENT KALU, the erudite Professor of Political Science, and member of the Southern Leaders of Thought, pointed out that the 2019 elections must be seen as a referendum for restructuring, and implored INEC to save Nigeria from impending disaster.
The two leading candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), President Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar are from the North, what is its implication for the South?
I guess that is the way the two parties wanted it. I learnt they have understanding that their candidates must come form the North, otherwise, I don’t think it’s just mere coincidence. Again, Nigerian politicians can be very strange sometimes.
I wasn’t surprised because some may argue that lets allow them to have eight years, as it doesn’t matter which party wins; let them complete four years. Some may have thought it along those lines; it is possible if some other person wins in PDP, he may insist on spending eight years. It is just from the point of view of politicians looking at the best options for them and what is going to be in their best interest.
Does Atiku or PDP have what it takes to defeat Buhari or APC?
I said before, this administration has woefully failed. Under normal circumstances, if elections are won or lost as a result of performance, this government has no business coming back again.
We are confronted by the chain of rigging that you cannot be sure that even though an individual or government has performed woefully, and if it rigs massively, you can’t be sure that he would not win again. The tragedy of the Nigerian situation now, is that they have enough money to buy votes, manipulate the entire system whether they were performing or not; it doesn’t really matter, that is the reality of Nigerian politics now, otherwise, APC as far as I’m concerned has failed woefully and a complete disappointment.
They have no business coming back to power especially with Buhari, who has proven himself to be completely incompetent, ethnic and a religious bigot, highly nepotistic, who plays around with the lives of Nigerians. How can such a person come back to power again under a normal situation?
As an Ijaw leader and a member of Southern Leaders of Thought, you heard the acceptance speeches of the two candidates, where do you advise your people to vote?
We must as a nation be led by a leadership that is ruthlessly prepared to wage a just war on corruption with the determination to tame the monster in two to three years to achieve the greatness we all deserved.
To be sure, Buhari has humbly demonstrated that in the last three and half years that he cannot play that critical leadership role because of his love for cronyism, nepotism and above all, his bigotry, ethnic and religious biases. But more importantly, I would argue that we cannot succeed in this critical war on corruption if we continue to operate the present 1999 fraudulent constitution imposed on us by the military, which confers on the centre the over concentration of power and wealth. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
This leads me to introduce the most crucial issue that is restructuring if we must successfully tackle the enormous challenges thrown up by the 1999 Constitution.
To restructure, we need a new peoples constitution drawn by an elected Constituent Assembly to be ratified in a referendum to return the country to a truly federal system contrary to the present quasi-unitary system we are operating.
Buhari will be of no use because he doesn’t believe in restructuring and he has said so in so many words and he is not even prepared to understand its essentiality or is he ready to open it for any discussion. Atiku on the other hands has been consistent since 1995 in calling for the restructuring of our potentially great country. It is most likely that he will set in motion to first of all establish an elected Constituent Assembly within six months on assumption of office that will be the starting point for him if he wins 2019 election.
The 2019 elections must be seen as a referendum for restructuring. The 1999 Constitution serves as a breeding ground for the purpose of grabbing power and wealth at the centre. Weakness of the constitution is the dictatorial trend Buhari has shown in some of his many policies pronouncements and decisions. Example, the recent arbitrary withdrawal from some states the Paris Club refund monies already disbursed to them without any problems at all, to put it mildly, is perniciously evil.
There are quite a number of such nauseating dictatorial actions on the part of this government, usually carried out without any regards to the rule of law; it is vindictive, petty and done with impunity, and is responsible for the unprecedented divinises now ravaging our nation.
Atiku has also spoken severally on his aversion to corruption and his readiness to wage war on the ravaging monster. But he must demonstrate not only in words but also indeed that his war will be totally different from the dubious and discredited one currently being carried out. To do so, he must publicly commit himself ab initio to a comprehensive public declaration of his assets, and in truth too, to put together the building blocks to establishing trust, which is one of the key elements in good governance along with an early declaration that he would put to an end the constitution and process to the current obscene criminal salaries and allowances paid to the members of the national Assembly. This is one of the pernicious forms of corruption.
I have taken time to show the difference between the two; I’m not talking of parties now. I’m looking at the two individuals from the point of the most critical elements confronting this nation. In three and half years, Buhari has failed to understand it and he is not ready, and if you don’t understand the problem, you cannot solve it. That is the problem with Buhari. If Atiku wins, we would hold him again to what he has been saying since 1995, which gives the impression that he understands the critical challenges confronting this nation; at least from the point of view of restructuring, and equally he has said that he abhors corruption, and is ready to keep it on if he wins.
So, we cannot say at least, from his own declaration, from his own constituent position on restructuring, ignore the fact that he may be able to do it. Atiku understands the fundamental problems of Nigeria better than Buhari, who has been ruling for three and half years.
We have seen INEC conduct elections in two states recently, do you see the electoral umpire delivering credible polls in 2019?
Lets hope, but what they have demonstrated so far in Osun, Ekiti, etc has been a disaster, and you cannot call those elections fair, free, obviously, they have failed. One is hoping that they will learn from their failures, but if it has been a deliberate act, obviously, they can’t change, they will repeat the same thing.
Like you said, INEC outings in Osun and Ekiti election were disastrous, what will it portend if it is repeated in 2019, which is a national election?
I see very bleak future for this country if INEC carries on with the way it has done in the recent past elections.
INEC should consider it critically if it wants to leave any legacy behind; for now, it has not left any legacy behind the way it has conducted these elections recently. If it wants to leave any legacy behind and to save this nation from impending disaster, let them please in the name of God commit themselves to conducting a free, fair and violent free elections.
PDP has started crying over the APC presidential primaries held across the country, where President Buhari had over 12 million votes. The opposition party said it was a ploy to rig the election. For example, Lagos gave Buhari about 1.8 million votes, while the contestant for the governorship primary scored about 1.1million votes. The same scenario played out in other states. Where does this lead us?
That is what I have been saying. I don’t take them serious, it is part of the grand design to rig the election. If it is carried over to the 2019 general elections, it will be a disaster, and that is what we are pleading with INEC, let them wear the toga of unity, if not they would drown this country. I wouldn’t waste my time to discuss the figures they are quoting because I don’t believe in them; they are not true figures.
The ruling party is accusing Atiku of carrying a heavy baggage of corruption, and that is what it is selling to Nigerians. What is your view on this?
We are all witnesses to what is happening in this country. How come that almost all the high profile cases of corruption that they have not been able to prove anything; they have been in the courts for years because it is difficult to get the proof within the time frame we want to resolve the crises in the country.
The politicians have the money, so they can delay the case for about seven years while they are still in office.
We have a big problem. How can any party for goodness sake come up with this exorbitant amount to buy forms to contest elections? Obviously, that is supporting the continuous growth of corruption in this country, and we are going to leave the political field to only those who have enriched themselves by looting the treasury, which most of them have done because there is no ordinary descent man who is committed to service to mankind with that N45 million to pay for a ticket. That is absurd; obscene and the parties are not seeing anything wrong with it because they are not running the parties in the interest of the poor masses of the country; if not how did they come up with this kind of obscene payment for ticket.
If you allow this kind of situation to continue, and it will continue unless we change the system and it is the constitution that creates the political system, and if you do not change that constitution, you will continue in this madness of asking somebody to pay millions of naira. How do you expect somebody who is committed to service but has no money to get the N45 million? If he gets it, then when he is in power, he will try to get it back, and that begins corruption again.
We need somebody who is going to prove himself within a period of six months that he can withstand the corrupt pressures of this society.
If Atiku is challenging them to prove that he is corrupt, it is also true that somebody can repent and change his ways as it is in the Bible; such a person can repent and save mankind.
But, we are in a situation where given the two candidates, and given the importance of restructuring, I will choose the person who has over the years been consistently advocating on restructuring of this country. It is Atiku that has been saying so; Buhari does not want to see the essentiality of it; he doesn’t even want to discuss it. So, how can I waste my time to vote for an individual of that type? I would rather vote the person who has promised that he would do it.
That is the only reason I’m supporting him because I know without restructuring of this country, we are not moving anywhere.