By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Hon. Wale Oshun is the leader of the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG). In this interview, he shared his thought on the issues of electronic transmission of results, reasons for the dwindling fortune of the opposition, as well as the prospect of a Third Force as an alternative to the two leading political parties.
The issue of electronic transmission of result has been generating lots of controversies in the polity. How do you see the position of the National Assembly on this matter?
The most intriguing part of it all is the fact that they have not told us the reason for taking the decision they have taken on the electronic system. Is it for lack of confidence in the electronic system; after all, the Independent National Electronic Commission (INEC) has insisted that it will aid the delivery of results? Of course, they have the power to make the enabling law, but what exactly is the problem they have with electronic transmission of results? If it enables efficient delivery of results as well as efficacy of the process, I cannot understand the reason for the position they have taken. Of course, there is nothing that cannot be manipulated because it is what you feed in that it is given out. But the point is that party agents will also be there when electronic transmission is being done and they will have the physical documents to crosscheck later on. So, who is afraid of electronic system? And why are they afraid of electronic transmission? We need to know the reason.
There is insinuation out there that some powerful cabal outside the legislature might be using the lawmakers to achieve their selfish end. Isn’t that possible?
What end will they achieve? If the results are transmitted electronically, what it presupposes is that by the time those who have the hard copy of results sit down to crosscheck their data, INEC would have released their own results and it will be easy to correlate. There was a time when people used to lineup at NITEL stations to make international calls. I used to look back to the time when we used to do faxing of messages. It takes time and sometimes when it comes out, it will not be clear. But now, you don’t even need that anymore because electronically it is already on the other side thousands of kilometres away. So, what agenda can anybody outside have since the INEC has stated that it will aid in delivery of results?
How then do you see the renewed effort by the National Assembly to amend the constitution vis-à-vis the agitation by different ethnic nationalities. Will it quench the rising waves of these agitations?
What the lawmakers in the National Assembly are doing is arrogating to themselves the sole responsibility of amending the constitution. Well, that is the position of the constitution. But that constitution itself is now being challenged for its validity because it is a creation of the military and, therefore, does not have the people’s buy-in. You cannot build something on nothing. That is why everybody is saying let us draft a new constitution. Since the regime of former President Obasanjo in 1999, can you tell me how many times have they amended that constitution? Yet, every clause of that constitution is crying for attention. They (lawmakers) themselves know, but they will keep on wobbling with it. By so doing, they are playing with the health and safety of the country. The insurgency as well as insurrection that is now almost visible, affecting the lives of everybody, is getting progressively worse because of the lopsidedness of our constitution. That is enough indication that Nigerians want to talk to themselves. During the 2014 confab, we established that for any group of people who, for instance, prefer the American constitution can do so, while another federating unit can decide to adopt the British parliamentary system. There is nothing stopping the Yoruba people, for instance, from adopting the British parliamentary system and the Middle Belters or the Igbo because of their republican nature adopting the American mode of constitution. We will still be part of the same country, but each federating unit would have been able to exercise their rights. Everybody can now see the evidence of massive failure of centre police force to guarantee the security of the country. Farmers can no longer go to their farms to farm. This is not politics anymore, it is a reality. Something fundamental is wrong with the whole structure. Even the party in government came to that conclusion when its committee went round the country, saying that Nigerians are asking for a wholesomely review of the constitution. That is not something the members of the National Assembly can do.
Both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are enmeshed in one crisis or the other. How does the race for the 2023 look to you?
When you talk of contest for power, there will always be a struggle for supremacy. What is important is the guiding rules of the parties. Are the rules being respected? If the rules are respected, the crisis will be minimal. It will just be ordinary interactive problems. But where there is no respect for these rules, where there is impunity, there will always be crises. Taking a cue from the failure of governance, there is a great penchant now for impunity to put the rules aside. And this is not about politicians alone; it also affects every facet of our national life. The people within the populace are equally breaking the rules, whether it is traffic rule, market rules, weights and measure et cetera. And that is why impunity by politicians can continue to grow because the people themselves want to partake in it.
Do you subscribe to the idea of a Third Force as an alternative to the two dominant parties?
The people prospecting for Third Force are not different from the people in these two political parties. Democracy is about governance and the opposition. When we talk of opposition, it has to be virile opposition. But now everybody is aspiring to be a part of government to share whatever comes out of government. That is the problem. What we need is to strengthen the opposition to make the government curtail itself. What you have in well-developed climes is a functional opposition party. They aspire to put the government on its toes all the times. But what we have in Nigeria is that everybody wants to be a part of government. When the PDP was boasting of being in power for 60 years, you find a situation where even the chairman of opposition party was being paid monthly by the presidency. That kind of subjugation weakens opposition. So, for those who are talking of Third Force, in what way are their own practitioners different? If there are really serious, why don’t they join the government to strengthen it or join the opposition to stream jacket the government? That way, we will have two solid parties.
Insecurity in the land is not abating. How would the next election look like if the trend continues?
It will be in our interest that insecurity reduces. And it can only reduce when you restructure the country. The fact that those bandits, Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers are resilient to this extent borders on the failure of governance. And governance across board will only succeed if the structure is appropriate. That takes me back again to the issue of restructuring. Let us have an appropriate structure where federating units can benefit based on their efforts and contributions to the centre. But where the government mops up money everywhere and then share it, nobody will want to improve the capacity to generate revenue because they are sure that something will come from the centre. If they know that it is their sweat that they will eat, they will be more productive. Sometime, people were talking about Zamfara gold. Is it true that the proceeds of Zamfara gold are being kept by Zamfara, while oil from Bayelsa is being taken to the centre? This kind of cloudy parametres need to be sorted out. Absolutely, nothing is wrong in Zamfara keeping it proceeds from gold and paying tax to the centre and Bayelsa exploring it oil and paying its own tax to the centre or Agrarian state of Ekiti making its money from cocoa and paying its tax to the centre. That way, all the states will be aspiring to develop their potentials. That kind of capacity is what can diminish the dissatisfaction in the society where people take up arms against the state. People talk of unity as if we must all walk and talk the same way. It is not possible. If the issues of restructuring and constitutional reform are not attended to, we cannot, but continue to have insecurity that we are talking about.