Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Prior to the 2019 general elections, former President Olusegun Obasanjo adopted the African Democratic Congress (ADC) as his preferred political party for the 2019 general elections. In the aftermath of the adoption, the party was perceived as one of the political parties that will cause major upsets at the polls. But that was not to be.
However, in this interview, the ADC National Chairman, Chief Okey Nwosu blames the party’s poor outing in the 2019 general election on the commercialisation of votes amongst other reasons. Nwosu, who described the exercise as a “sham”, stated that President Muhammadu Buhari- led All Progressives Congress(APC) administration has devalued the country’s democracy within the four years it has being in power.
How would you assess the conduct of the 2019 general elections?
The process from the engagements of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the various stakeholders were very well conducted. The process leading to the election went on very well. Things started to change the week of the first election, which resulted in the shift of the election. After the elections were shifted, the INEC leadership became completely compromised. The INEC and the various agencies of government all colluded. To them, it was like a fight between them and the people of Nigeria that they must return President Muhammadu Buhari to power. Like if Buhari as the president was only serving them and not the entire Nigerian people. The collusion between INEC, presidency security agencies that were beholden to the APC destroyed the preparation. The 2019 election will remain a sham and could derail our democracy.
We will wait to see what the court does. There has been uneasy calm since after the election. INEC is in quandary; they have destroyed documentations from the elections and claim they do not have provisions to safeguard results of elections with the entire budget at their disposal. But if you recall during the many lectures and seminars and meetings with political parties and various local and international stakeholders who invested so much in the elections, INEC were emphatic on capturing the results from the situation room as they happen. I am sure everyone will see through the deception and fraud going on. They made clear that the election results will remain intact and that what happened at the polling booths will be electronically captured because of the sophistication of the card readers and data capture systems. Now they are singing a different tone.
The chairman and some of the INEC Commissioners ab-initio felt beholden to the executive instead of upholding its independence. Atiku won the elections. Eighty percent of Nigerians are aware of this. The streets of Nigeria would have gone agog, had the right election results were announced. But what we see now are increased aggression, violence, and protests across the country. Now INEC and all the agencies that colluded to cause this national embarrassment are in hush-hush mode. They have belittled themselves and our nation by their brazen and fraudulent acts. I do not see the big deal that an incumbent president did not win re-election. It has happened in this country before. President Jonathan lost election and made himself a global statesman by his ennobling conduct.
He was not selfish about power; but mindfully used a bitter situation to promote and leverage democracy and country. People in high position should try to stay very careful, no matter how things turn out in a tenured, constitutional democratic system, how we end says a lot.
Prior to the elections, your party was seen as a political force after it was adopted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. But the party did not make much progress in the 2019 general elections as expected. What exactly happened?
ADC is being packaged as model political party that will save Nigeria. When the rubbish started as far as the last election was concerned; the critical stakeholders, including President Obasanjo, made it clear to the ADC, ‘if you join them in vote buying’, they will disown us. That if we ever join in vote buying and any form of electoral malpractices, they will disown us. That we better distinguish ourselves, as a quality party that can defend the nation’s democracy, moving forward. We have to stand on our principles. If you remember, prior to the election, we were the only party that floated a civil society course, Coalition for Electoral Integrity. Therefore, our party stands for complete integrity.
In the last election INEC only awarded votes; because we stand for electoral integrity, the moment it became as cash and carry affair, the moment it became clear that it was no longer what the electorate wanted, we had to stand on our principles. ADC is still the biggest force as far as creating a model for Nigeria is concerned, before and after election. It will be wrong for anybody to judge the party based on allocation of votes, especially, when the presidency and APC machinery were out to undo all the big wigs in ADC. They deliberately marked all our big wigs, that they must lose elections; because some of them left APC to join ADC.
By May 29, the country would have had 20 years of uninterrupted democracy. How would you assess the journey so far?
We give credit to Nigerians, especially former President Obasanjo. His administration in 1999 started the process of consolidating what we are enjoying today. If he didn’t manage it with care, it could have ended up the same way other republics did. That we have had 20 years of uninterrupted democratic process, uninterrupted civil government is a good development.
Before this last election, we have had four previous elections. No matter what happened; you can say that things happened for national interest. We were able to build something in the first 16 years to consolidate our democracy. And what Goodluck Jonathan did, whatever gave him that wisdom, to say country first, the system first and he called Buhari to say congratulations, which again did a wonderful thing for the country. If APC was able to handle that transition from a different party, a strong party, in government to an opposition party skilfully, our country and our democracy would have witnessed the greatest turn around. Unfortunately, what happened within the last four years has devalued us and decreased the outcome of the great journey. However, if the judiciary is able to deal with this matter, then our democracy will have become somehow permanent. And the quality of governance will increase, because those in power will know that if they don’t govern well, they will be removed. So, whether the consolidation of our democracy will now become super, is dependent on the judiciary.
You gave so much credit to Obasanjo for consolidating democracy in the country, but a lot of persons blame him for most of the ills associated with our democracy. According to them, under Obasanjo’s administration there was alleged lack of respect for the rule of law. Elections were allegedly rigged repeatedly, so much so that in 2007, late President Yar’Adua admitted that the election that brought him to power was flawed. What do you think?
I tell people that leadership is in context. Every leadership happens within a context. We have had transitions before. What happened to Shehu Shagari second republic? People should appreciate that former President Obasanjo, however way he handled things to be able to move from one government to another government, then to another government, we should know that that leadership style was needed.
Did we achieve the result, we wanted? Yes. Since independence, all our democratic government have been cut down with the first term, and when Obasanjo became the president, he may have bullied some persons or so, but you know, you have to be foresighted to achieve something for the country and so on. He has done that work. He didn’t do it for himself. He did it for the country. What happened from moving from first term to second term and moving from one leader to another leader was done for country, so that we consolidate on the system. Nobody has ever done it. Leadership happens in context. Leadership doesn’t happen in vacuum. Now, you need statecraft and patriotism to navigate certain things for the county. The context from 1999 to 2007 is very different from the context now. The political environment from 2015 to 2019 is much different from the political environment of 1999 to 2007. So, people who look at 2003, 2007 and 2019 and compare them in the same way are myopic. There is no way, you can justify after 20 years, what is happening now. What is happening now, they are doing it for themselves. By 2015, civilian government has already gained the rhythm of a stable democracy. There is no way to explain what Buhari and APC have done with the presidential election, rather than self-serving, egocentric, and abuse of presidential power. This brings our democracy and country to a shameful crossroad after the statesmanship display of President Jonathan. The only saviour we look to is the judiciary.
To continue our democratic journey, the Judiciary now has a chance to assert its powers just as the National assembly did. Although they have done so at the state governorship and legislative levels, where Governors Adams Oshiomhole, Peter Obi, Olusegun Mimiko, Rauf Aregbesola, and Kayode Fayemi recovered their mandates in 2005, and 2007; the Judiciary must exercise due power in presidential election without fear to make our democracy stronger, and earn its rightful place in the governance tripod.