By Christy Anyanwu
Former minority leader of the House of Representatives and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Wunmi Bewaji in this interview speaks on the state of the nation, 2023 presidential election and why there must be urgent reforms for Nigeria to survive.
How did you receive the news of the approval of the electronic transmission of results by the Senate?
It is a welcome development. I am not in support of the clamour for mandatory electronic transmission of election results at this time. Do we have infrastructure? We are talking about having hundred percent of election results electronically transmitted and I believe we don’t have that infrastructure yet.
So, if we have that provision that says it is mandatory, that means any election conducted other than that method can be declared illegal. But what the Senate has done in its wisdom is to say; INEC if you can do it, go ahead.
There is a difference between making it mandatory and what they have done; it should not be because I want electronic transmission of results; I am going to jeopardise the entire electoral system. What the Senate has done is to give INEC the liberty to transmit election results.
Look at the electronic accreditation, there was a time the issue came to the Supreme Court and it was interpreted that there is no law backing that. So, we have to be careful.
If we make a law that all election results are transmitted electronically, then if the election is conducted in a remote village where there is no infrastructure for results to be transmitted electronically, some people can go to court.
With this, INEC can now look at the infrastructure it has and see where it can transmit election results electronically. In a place where it does not have the infrastructure, INEC would not do so, and it would not be a ground to nullify elections.
We should not be putting ourselves in a position where somebody that has lost an election can turn it into a nullified election even in a whole state.
What would be the impact on our democracy and election?
The impact is obvious. In 1999, we did not have provision for electronic accreditation, we now have. I think we have connected both ends from accreditation to transmission.
In between the two, you still have voting, which you are going to do manually and room for manipulation still exists. This software is designed by human beings; when these professionals brought electronic stuff for us; we were also shown how possible it is to be manipulated. That is why in Europe today, you do not have electronic voting, even in the US where there is electronic voting they do it with manual voting; what we call paper and manual trail.
As we are investing in technology in our elections, we should invest enough in energy, in securing technology and it has to be transparent. INEC should not be given the monopoly; the process must be transparent, the electorate, the civic society organisations must be involved.
INEC alone should not be given the prerogative, because minor rigging can mess the entire result. We are in Nigeria, it can even be on ground scale, if someone is able to manipulate in a polling unit; meaning that a transmission that is not transparent can be manipulated because the entire technology is going to be operated by human beings.
The process to amend the 1999 constitution by the National Assembly has started. What is your take on that?
I am not interested in the amendment of the constitution; there is so much insincerity in the process. Where is the leadership, where is Buhari on this? The APC campaigned on the basis of restructuring of the country, have they delivered on this? The lawmakers that came to Lagos are not members of the APC? What you need is sincerity in this process.
What is Buhari saying about restructuring? The APC set up a committee on restructuring and the governor submitted the report to Buhari. What is the outcome? Buhari signed the executive Order 10; against the independence of the judiciary; it was a way to undermine and subjugate the state, turning them to glorified local governments. Because you are saying you would set up a body and you are talking to Governor El-Rufai on the need to restructure the judiciary.
When the Supreme Court was founded, it was called Federal Supreme Court; when the Court of Appeal was founded, it was called the Federal Court of Appeal. Today, we now have the Supreme Court of Nigeria and Court of Appeal. If we do not restructure, the country would collapse on its own.
When you have such an insincere gathering, I cannot be part of it; because the main issues are not touched. But whether you like it or not, the main issues are the same issue causing the economy to collapse. So, it is either you address those issues or you pretend that they do not exist and continue to borrow money even to pay salary.
There is no way out of it. It is either you provide good political leadership, which would then lead to economic prosperity and political stability; if you don’t do that, then any other thing would collapse. You can’t amend something that has collapsed. The Nigeria federation has collapsed. By virtue of events that happened since 1960, you had that amalgamation of 1914; you have a federal constitution of 1954, Richardson constitution and constitutional conferences that were held.
Also, in the MacPherson constitution of 1953 and the subsequent constitutional conferences that were held, the idea of bringing Nigerian leaders between 1957-59 into the conferences that was put together was to determine what would be the best for multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria. The 1960 constitution was a federal constitution and subsequent decree that nullified that constitution was the beginning of Nigeria’s problems and that is why nothing has worked.
And I have come to the realisation that until we go back to address that, nothing can work. Nigeria is not one nation and Nigeria can never be one; Nigeria would be a commonwealth of several nations; that common wealth must then be regulated under a consensus through a dialogue.
Because the North has more states, this advantage they are not willing to throw them away. They feel they have all these, but you don’t have a united country and until we have that dialogue, then I think nothing can work.
What is your take on the implosion in APC; are you still in the party?
I can’t be a member of the PDP but I have sympathy for the APC, because it is my political family and all my people are there.
What is happening is not strange; it is not abnormal, we have always had parallel congress in Lagos State. They are a bunch of clowns who gather themselves under one canopy. They know what they are trying to do is to embarrass the main political family and they know by just gathering there, they have done that. There is only one APC in Lagos, which is the one that has a secretariat on ACME Road, Ikeja.
Do you think Lagos4Lagos is gaining momentum across the state?
They don’t have grassroots support. I was a ward secretary as far back in 1990, ward D1 in Oshodi. Some people can gather themselves together and make noise. Why can’t they come out? In politics, people can be aggrieved but there are many ways the grievance can be sorted out. We have GAC to look into some of these issues.
They allege that GAC is just a mouth piece of Bola Tinubu. Is this not so?
I don’t think so; let me tell you, a lot of the time, some people would go to their LGAs and do certain things and attribute it to Bola Tinubu when Tinubu does not even know the person.
It is not every party member that has access to Tinubu, but since they would go to see him, they go back to their people and say Tinubu has endorsed this man on us. A lot of things have been done in the name of Tinubu without his knowledge. The party is a family in Lagos. He is like a father now. You cannot go outside the party structure and start attacking the party, because we know who you are working for.
What is your take on agitations for Tinubu to vie for the Presidency in 2023?
It is a reality waiting to happen; in spite of what is going on around us now, the one hope I have is that Tinubu presidency can give us a prosperous and peaceful Nigeria and I say that with all sense of responsibility. In Nigeria now, all the agitations are centred on good leadership. You want a leader that can lead in the front and not hiding in the closet and would not talk to his people for years.