By Chidi Obineche
Chief Kenny Martins, brother-in-law of former President Olusegun Obasanjo was the chairman of the defunct Police Equipment Trust Fund, PETF.
Martins, an active political player in this interview with Sunday Sun, reviews the just concluded presidential polls, claiming that the two major political parties: APC, PDP rigged in the election.
He also previewed the forthcoming governorship and state House of Assembly elections. Excerpts:
The presidential election has come and gone, but the ripples it generated are yet to settle. What are your general impressions on the election?
You know that in every election there will always be a loser and a winner. I believe that what has happened so far, democracy has been the winner. In all that happened, we know and have shown that give and take, there must be some level of disagreements, disharmony, and violence in some cases. Rigging, as I have always said, is universal and is common to all the participants.
Are you suggesting that all the political parties rigged in the election?
I did not say so. There are reports that the PDP and APC were involved. In fact, the Internet is flooded with reports of the PDP thumb printing, APC thumb printing. To that extent, the two leading parties have issues and one of them should not play the ostrich.
Was it all over the country, or in some targeted areas?
In all areas across the country. In all the areas that PDP and APC participated. Accusations of malpractices have been flying around. The umpire, INEC has received various reports where the PDP governors were seen undermining the elections, where APC governors put up themselves as INEC senior personnel and where some INEC officials were put under duress to announce results. That is why I used the word universal. The rigging was universal. That is why I said that at the end of the day, democracy has been the winner. We were able to conduct an election that was peaceful to a very large extent; an election where there was no universal violence; an election where there was no breakdown of law and order.
But the candidate of the PDP, in rejecting the results of the elections described it as the worst ever in Nigeria. Do you share that view?
That was President Buhari’s view when he was contesting elections and losing in those 16 years. If he had said anything different, I would have been surprised. He said what was expected of him. As a major contender like him, he must have his views. No election in Nigeria has actually been free and fair and I do not know if there is any free and fair election anywhere in the world. Even in America today, there are contentions about the elections that brought Donald Trump to power. There are issues about Russian involvement or not; and there is a national inquiry on the integrity of the election in that respect. So, what has happened? America has moved on. They have accepted the outcome of the elections. It has not stopped the inquiry from going on. It has not stopped the government from functioning. Democracy is intriguing and that is why I said democracy is the winner in our last elections. If the loser is not happy about it, we have a viable, vibrant judiciary. You take your case to the judiciary. That is the expected line of action.
But the PDP has expressed lack of faith in the judiciary accusing the government of tampering with it by removing and replacing the Chief Justice of Nigeria days before the election?
But their candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has said he is going to court. It is all over the place, even in the traditional media that PDP is going to court. So, what you’re saying holds no water. That is the place to go when you’re not satisfied about the outcome of elections you head to court. You see, nobody is 100 per cent happy. You’re never 100 per cent contented with every situation in life. Even billionaires have issues of discontentment. They have problems; paupers have problems, church leaders have problems; congregations have problems; no one is happy with everything that comes his way. We should only be happy with God.
But do you believe the lingering allegations that in the insurgency afflicted states of Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Zamfara that the results were inflated?
What were the numbers that were available and said to have registered for the election? Who are those people who registered? When the numbers that registered for the elections were counted, compiled, what was the tally? Did anybody raise objection that those people do not exist in those states? All the parties went into the electoral contest agreeing that those numbers existed in those states. It is incredible that they are coming now after the elections to say that those numbers never existed. I believe that they should have raised objections ab initio before they went into the contest. The objections should have been raised when people were registering and INEC was pasting the list of registered voters. When they say that in the North east you don’t have such numbers, but the northeast has such huge numbers Ascribed to them from the onset. I believe that these are matters for the courts. It is not for me to say they existed or not. The right place to go is the court. It is left for the court to look at it objectively and pronounce whether those numbers exist or not. I believe that largely, the Nigerian courts have done Justice and we have seen precedents. Genuine evidences are established and are used in dispensing justice. You remember the Rotimi Amaechi case in Rivers State where in a PDP intra- party contest he was disqualified from contesting. The same Amaechi came back, went to court and got the whole thing upturned and was sworn –in. PDP has won all the legal challenges of President Buhari earlier. Don’t forget that. It was the same judiciary. I don’t think anybody changed anything. It was the same judiciary. I would find it very difficult to condemn the nation’s judiciary just because we are holding elections. After the elections, what will you say about the judiciary?
President Buhari has secured a second term under very controversial circumstances. Some are happy, others are not. The grief of those that are not happy centers mainly on his style of leadership. Do you believe he will use this second term to alter his style and carry everyone along? Should people expect better days ahead, especially on the economy?
Now that President Buhari has returned to power, what Nigerians expect from him is to address those glaring, obvious deficiencies of the APC led government at all levels. You know in Nigeria, People always take a cue from the deeds, actions and inactions of the Federal Government. There is no doubt that there are so many areas where the APC government was not doing well. So if people have voted and reconfirmed their confidence on the government, it is a rare opportunity to address those issues and deficiencies. To be able to have better days ahead, I now want to plead with President Buhari that it is now his own duty; his challenge to prove to the people that putting him back in office for second term will not be in vain. We have seen the views of the foreign election observers and some members of the international community, in particular the British government where they expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the elections, saying there was no violence and the outcome was a reflection of the wishes of the people, that not withstanding, whoever that is aggrieved should go to court. But for the people, they expect and deserve some level of vibrancy. They deserve more commitment to their aspirations. The days of blaming PDP’s 16 years in government for everything should be a thing of the past. From now President Buhari and the APC will be held responsible for the delivery of democracy dividends.
With the situation in the country today, what is uppermost in your mind that the APC-led government should do to calm the nerves of the restive citizens?
There are a few key areas. In think that instead of 11-point agenda, 10-point agenda, this government should key in to two or three issues and concentrate on them. Things like infrastructure, especially roads. The foremost is power i.e. electricity. Take a good look at power, roads infrastructure, health and also education and security. If these areas are taken care of; that is why I extended it to 5, they will definitely impact on the lives of the people and elevate the appreciation of the people on the government. If these 5 critical areas are taken care by the government as a quick action or rapid response mode, it will be gratifying to the people of the country. The security situation must be addressed in the south, in the north, everywhere and people can earn their living freely and in an unfettered manner. There can be no economic improvement without electricity. It is a sine- qua- non. Everything about the economy is tied to power. There should be no excuses this time around. There should be no blaming of the past government. I expect them to take responsibility and get down to the business of governance to lift the people from squalor, poverty and despondence. The consultants and contractors in the power sector should be scrutinized. If they can’t perform they should be relieved of the contracts or jobs and competent people appointed. It should not be the time to keep deadwoods that are not performing. Even if it means increasing the cost of the delivery and meeting the set objectives, we don’t mind. What is important is performance and delivering power or electricity to the people. The premium on power sales can be reviewed to take care of the situation. The emphasis should be on a radical improvement on power delivery.
Your man, former President Olusegun Obasanjo stuck out his neck against the reelection of President Buhari. Now that the elections are over and Buhari has bounced back to power, what do you have to say to him?
It is nothing new. There were people who stuck out their necks against Obasanjo himself when he was in power. The spirit of sportsmanship always prevails. They would just make amends and embrace themselves, forget about what happened and move on. That is the spirit of the game. All those vitriol, election campaign talk, I don’t think it is something anybody should take to heart. Political campaigns are generally like that and after elections people brush aside everything and become friends again. Parties will find middle grounds to meet. President Buhari and Obasanjo should be ruled by superior consideration and the superior consideration is the betterment of the lives of the people. I believe they should look beyond their personalities or personal issues. Their followers should also take a cue from them. They must not begin a fight that no one sent them. I repeat that their disposition should be based on how Nigeria can move forward. I personally believe that they have their own ways between them and ways of resolving conflicts and no one should begin to fight their battles.
But Buhari during the campaigns vowed to probe Obasanjo over the power projects where it is alleged that Nigeria lost over $30m.
I also know that the Minister of Power, former Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola also told an advocacy group when they went to court to demand names and details of the execution of the power projects, that he cannot find any shred of evidence in the files on the alleged looting. I don’t know when Buhari said what you just said.
It was widely reported in the press
I didn’t see it. But Fashola said all he knows is that those who took money for the projects delivered and not one of them absconded. And the minister who is on top of the files said I don’t know what else there is to probe. Everything is well documented. Don’t also forget it was a subject of National Assembly probe some time in the past. Most of these things are campaign discussions. These diversions are not what we need now. We need to focus on how to address the fundamental problems of the nation and execute people oriented programmes. We have to reorient ate ourselves on how to forge harmony, peace and progress.
The APC alleged that the PDP candidate tried to compromise institutions of state and rigged massively. How true is that?
I don’t know any thing about that. I don’t want to put myself as judge over such matters. I don’t know who tried to rig and who did not try to rig. As I said, those things are campaign matters. Rigging or no rigging are matters for the courts to adjudicate.
The last presidential election was fraught with violence tainted with sectionalism especially in lagos State. The governorship and state House of Assembly elections are imminent. How can we avoid the violence, thuggery and intimidation that characterized the presidential elections?
That is a practice that has to stop, and I believe that government of the day will be proactive to move back those practices because they do not augur well for democracy. There were reports of violence and related ills in other states. Lagos State is not the only state with such issues. There are also issues of intra –party crises here and there and unwholesome political gerrymandering. All those issues have to be taken care of as we approach the governorship elections. We appeal to all those concerned to retrace their steps. There should also be enforcement of the electoral laws so that there won’t be brigandage. People have to know that there are consequences for every action taken to forestall such ugly situations happening again. The constitution says that where you reside is where you vote as a Nigerian citizen. Nobody should query anybody’s citizenship or right to vote in any part of the country.
How do you want the composition or configuration of the federal Executive Council as President Buhari revs up his new term?
There is no doubt that the president will address the lopsidedness that has been the bane of his administration and the major cry across the nation. Even, some major northern groups have said that will not suffice this time around. Buhari has won in spite of that, winning votes across the country. I believe that will reflect in his cabinet.
Some “rebellious governors” in Imo and Ogun states have been having issues with their party over their choice of governorship candidates. How do you want the matter to be resolved as we head for the governorship poll?
The die is cast. They all supported the president and he won. Now they are pushing for their own candidates in the governorship elections. That is the beauty of democracy.
Is that not anti-party activities?
It is not anti-party. We were among those who fought for the enlargement of the political space. That is why if you are not comfortable in your party, you can go to another party. We started with three parties. We were able to increase it to 6. We stood our ground and increased it to 21. Today it is 93. So people have the right to choose a party of their choice. It allows the people to ventilate and allows democracy to deepen. If you are popular with the people, you can pick any political party to contest and win. Those in the fringe parties, if they contest and win, they may go back to any of the two big parties, APC, or PDP. Yes, when it comes to disagreements, you may use any of the smaller parties to contest for election and go back to the old big parties if you win. It is no big deal. It is a normal practice in Nigeria’s democracy today.
Are you happy with the use of the security agencies especially the military to conduct elections in Nigeria?
The constitution says that the military should not be charged with internal security least of all elections. In the just concluded election, they were only brought in to be at the periphery to safeguard the sanctity of the elections. But the Police, it is mandatory that they have to be there. They have to be there to give people, a feeling of stability, confidence, peace that will aid their voting. It is protected by law and the constitution.
Even as the police allegedly stayed at the periphery, they were alleged to have killed a number of people.
You see, there is no way you can keep them outside the polling units to keep peace. When there is a break down of law and order beyond the powers of the police, they can be called in. It is constitutional. But you also know that a lot of people came out shooting and over powered the police in so many places. If you have a gang of 30 armed thugs coming to the poling units how two policemen there can cope? The soldiers have to be called in to route them out. It is unfortunate that we are introducing violence into elections. Drastic measures ought to be taken to subdue the violence. As long as our politicians keep on arming the populace as thugs, then the presence of the military is needed, otherwise there will be no elections.
What role do you envisage for Legacy Initiative International which you head in the elections today and in the future?
We are involved in mobilization of the electorate. We have 20million voters in the Diaspora. Through them about 24m dollars is brought into the country every year. We want to make sure that there names are registered for the elections before the next elections. We will sensitize the federal government, the INEC, the general populace on why w3e should not have 20 million Nigerians in the Diaspora be part of our elections. We don’t think they should be disenfranchised. We also will be having a major outing for the Legacy Global awards for those that are deserving of our recognition, internationally and nationally. We had an observer status in the last election and we want to move ahead to be observers at Ecowas, Au, UN levels. We also have the challenge of finding credible leaders who fear God. It is not yet Uhuru.