Debo Adeniran is the Executive Chairman Centre Against Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL). He says that while foreign election observers can air their opinion, they must not take side or compromise the sovereignty of Nigeria.
The presidential election is barely five days away. Do you have any fears regarding the poll? We do not have any fears. As far as we are concerned, the election will not be any different from what we have had since the return to civilian rule in 1999. We believe the election this Saturday will not be worse than what we have had since 1999. We know a few of what we have been saying determine whatever the government is doing now, that is ensuring that the votes of Nigerians count and that their programmes reflect the wishes and aspirations of the citizenry. So basically, we have no fears, we only ask the electorate to be prepared the same way they have been preparing for elections since 1999.
As a civil society organisation, are you satisfied with the preparations so far made by the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC)?
We do not have detailed inside knowledge of the preparations so far made by INEC. But they have said they are very much prepared. At the level of getting the sensitive materials for the election down to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and contracting of ballot papers to the printers, we are satisfied with that. That they have also scheduled elections from now to years ahead of 2019, we are satisfied. They have also delineated voting points such that you are not likely going to have more than 500 people per voting point is a good development. The only snag is in the way the collection of Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) was arranged. So many people are not likely to collect their PVC before the election. The fire brigade approach and the way they postponed the collection of PVCs could have been put into consideration since the beginning of 2019. The printing of PVCs should not have been such a herculean task that it will take such a long time. If we can get our ATM smartcards in 24 hours, why should voters’ card take eternity? Some people registered since 2018 and were not able to get their PVC till February 2019 that is unfortunate. The only concern is that a lot of people cannot vote because they were unable to collect their voter’s card or that their voter’s card was not dispatched to the voting unit closest to them by INEC. The commission could have also deployed technology like finger prints in dispatching the voter’s card to the owners at their places of work or residence. This could have made the distribution easier and ensure that more people collect their PVC. This has created some fear that there may be some ploy to prevent some voters from collecting their PVC before the election and thus subsequently deny them of their franchise.
The Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai was recently quoted as saying that foreigners that interfere in Nigeria’s election will leave the country in body-bags. Do you think the statement will threaten the credibility of the polls?
Governor El-Rufai was not talking about foreign election observers and there is no reason why the election will not be credible because he said people should not interfere with Nigeria’s internal affairs, and that is true. The western countries should not forget that Nigeria has attained flag independence. Even if we have not attained flag independence, they pretended they granted us independence in 1960 so we are supposed to be a sovereign country and they should allow us to manage our internal affairs. They should not say they want to intervene, they can observe, they can make their opinion known, but they cannot interfere in our internal affairs. If they come to intervene in a way that will compromise the sovereign state of Nigeria, then there is nothing wrong if they have to leave in body-bags. But if they are just here to observe, then we should do everything to ensure the security of their lives and property and ensure that they come and leave peacefully. But if they come to take sides with any political party or bring it as a matter of war then they should be ready for the war. Nigerians should be ready to fight to finish in defence of the sanctity of the country.