It’s not enough to merely extend the exercise. By design the exercise is intended to deny the rights of eligible voters the opportunity to register
Babatunde Gbadamosi hails from the renowned political family of the late Alhaji Sule Oyesola Gbadamosi who was fondly called SOG in his days as one of the leaders of Action Group. The former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirant speaks on the Voter Registration Exercise and the 2019 poll.
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2019 is gradually approaching, what are your thoughts?
My thoughts are that if the coming election are conducted under the current climate, we will see the vast majority of Nigerians disenfranchised and unable to exercise their civic duty and their civic rights to choose those who will lead them because of the way INEC is conducting the voter registration exercise. They have changed it from the previous system where you had registration units at every polling centre across the country. In the southern part of Nigeria, registration units have been restricted to one per local government, so that in a local government like Alimosho, where we had over 1,000 registration centres in the run – up to the 2015 elections, we now have just one. When we had over a 1,000 centres, a large number of people still could not register to vote, and today, we have one registration centre to the entire teeming populace and the same thing is replicate all over Lagos State. One can only imagine the degree of disenfranchisement that Nigerians are been visited with by INEC.
Are you not satisfied with the two weeks extension?
It’s not enough to merely extend the exercise. By design the exercise is intended to deny the rights of eligible voters the opportunity to register, so the whole design of the exercise needs to be changed, needs to be overhauled now, not tomorrow. The two weeks is not enough. It should be extended to December so as to match the level of registration we saw in 2015. A situation where a certain part of the country will decide for the other parts of the country is untenable. It will be resisted, of course through legal means. As I speak, briefs are been prepared for some counsel to go to court to stop INEC from conducting the next election unless Nigerians who are eligible to vote are all registered. It is possible for it to be done. If banks can issue debit cards on the spot as you apply, what is stopping INEC from issuing PVCs as we apply? Why do they not have the infrastructure despite the huge funds that have been given to them? We need to start asking question about how they are spending the money. We need to start talking about accountability and transparency in the use of funds allocated to them.
Don’t you think continuing registration may hamper INEC preparation for 2019?
I don’t buy into it, if it will affect it then it’s an admission of incompetence. That means they lack the intellectual capacity to design systems that will make it possible to register people before the elections in a credible and fair way. As it is now, the elections are already tainted, even before they are held. They are already tainted by the gerrymandering that INEC is itself doing. Who needs politicians to rig if the umpire can rig for you? If INEC can rig the system, right from inception, no one needs politicians to rig anymore.
Are you saying INEC has not witnessed the much touted change?
Did you call this government, government of change? I don’t think they themselves call themselves government of change anymore. It is obvious that instead of being a government of change, they are a government of retrogression. An example is the way the former INEC retained the PVC registration down to the polling booth and they have come with their so – called change, mantra and they’ve introduced a massive bottle neck. How is that any form of progress? How is that any form of useful change?
Why do you think vote buying was much prevalent in Ekiti?
INEC did not allow people to register. They centralised the registration process. If most eligible voters had registered in Ekiti, massive vote buying would have been impossible. It would not have been as rampant and it would not have been as brazen.
In 2015, the election had to be shifted; don’t you think the FG needs to step in to further-shift PVC registration?
I doubt it very much. The PVC registration date needs to be shifted to December in my opinion. That need not affect the time table for the election proper.
Are you optimistic of a free, fair election despite observed hitches?
There is no evidence in the posture of INEC to suggest that the election is going to be free and fair. I have no confidence of any sort in an INEC in which the niece of the president is a major player. She is a commissioner at the federal level. It’s been alleged that she is the chief operating officer at INEC and the good professor who is the chairman is just a figurehead. Of course, these allegations are emanating from INEC itself. I have no confidence in INEC conducting a free, fair and credible election.