|Barr. Kayode Ajulo|
Introduction: Barr. Kayode Ajulo, is a prodigious lawyer, civil right activist, Executive Director, Egalitarian Mission for Africa, and a Ph. D candidate at the The School of Law, Middlesex University, London. He is also one of the emerging politician in Nigeria having contested the FCT senate seat in 2011 as candidate of Labour Party, he is the new Chairman of the Board of Ondo State Radiovision Corporation. In this syndicated interview he shares his thoughts on the Nigerian electoral process and what to expect in the forthcoming 2015 general elections.
1. What is your assessment of past elections in the country?
It's unfortunate that since inception of this entity called Nigeria, we have unfortunate history of elections. This is not unconnected with our attitude that is principally defined by that monster, corruption. Corruption begat all other vices which I have termed end products, these range from, falsification, tampering of figures, officials connivance, stealing, thuggery, and violence
It is in the context above I wish to assess our past elections in Nigeria, much as I would love to be generous with my assessment, the truth must the told, the past elections have left much to be desired.
The re-advent of civil rule in 1999 opened fresh opportunities for democratisation; but those opportunities were progressively squandered through poorly conducted elections, leaving most Nigerians in a crisis of rising expectations. That crisis was perhaps most acute following the 2007 elections which many observers adjudged discreditable and has gone down in the annals of election history in this country as the worst conducted, most manipulated, and the most vilified. That election dashed many hopes for consolidation of democracy in our country.
It was such that, following the 2007 elections, even the winner of that election, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, acknowledged the need for electoral reforms. He eventually constituted the Justice Mohammed Uwais Committee, which made far reaching recommendations for our electioneering engagements.
It is in the midst of the quest for total reform of the country's election that Prof. Mohamed Jega a perceived upright scholar is appointed to oversee our elections.
However, amidst great expectations fueled by strong national expectation for free, fair and credible elections, more is yet to be achieved saved for the last two states elections in Edo and Ondo States
2. Which election in your opinion can you adjudged to be free and fair among the past elections conducted in Nigeria?
As I said the preceding paragraph, the two 2012 governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states are still the best so far since the transition to democratic government in 1999.
We need to commend INEC and our security operatives for ensuring a smooth, and credible elections, while doing that we mustn’t forget the laudable role played by President Goodluck Jonathan in ensuring a level playing ground for all parties who fielded candidates in those elections, inspire of the obvious risk, (of losing the election) his party, the PDP ran in those election.
It is also note worthy that he was one of the first persons to congratulate the winners of those elections. It is even rumored that he tried to dissuade his part's candidate the result of those elections.
In the case of the Ondo State gubernatorial election held on October 20th 2012 the build up and the permutation to the election highlighted the resolve of the people, the electoral agency, and the security agencies to do things right.
Inspite of the grandstanding and the open show of money by the then ACN now APC, and the sloganeering of the PDP the will of the people of State prevailed and was unanimously upheld from the Election tribunal through to the Supreme Court.
3. What is responsible for electoral malpractices in Nigeria.
it is a Nigerian thing, some called it the Nigerian-factor, it's about attitude of the society and the physic of the people. We have to be sincere if we desire solution to our problems as a nation, it all about corruption we all talk about.
All the agencies of government we use for our electioneering process from the INEC to the Security personnel, and even the electorates are products of the larger society. They are not brought from heaven. I am hesitant about saying they are not brought from the UK, the US or from other developed democracies because I dare say knowing our political class they will reach out to them and proceed to corrupt them with money that will tempt even the angels from heaven.
It is therefore important that the monster called corruption which this present administration seems to treat with kid-gloves, be given the serious it calls for.
The National Orientation Agency must step up to its responsibilities if we are to make a dent in the psyche of our people. We must have a Prof. Jerry Gana's MAMSER like revival.
4. Has Prof Jega performed up to expectation as an election Umpire?
As far as I am concern, given the many adverse circumstances surrounding the man, some as highlighted above amongst others, the man has performed creditably well.
Yes, things can be better, o yes, they can be. I believe his intention and his integrity are unassailable, if the man went to the National Assembly and sought to be further empowered to have a special court to try election offenders and was turned down what would you have him do? It goes to show the importance our political class with their entrenched interest attached to the evil of electoral offenses.
Obviously they are the one promoting and leading the imperfection in our electoral processes being the first beneficiaries of the fall out of the discredited process.
5. What do you expect from the 2015 poll?
I am no seer. I do not want to be a prophet, particularly one of doom, but the level of escalating desperation that is gradually becoming evident among our politicians leaves one with the fear that 2015 may become a negative watershed in our election history. However, I believe it is not too late to begin to reorientate the members of electorates as to their right and duties before, during and after the election because when push gets to shove regardless of the antics of the political class, power ultimately resides in the people.
The electoral officers that is the presiding officers, the pool clerks, returning officers, party agents etc must be encouraged to shun all forms of inducements while now is the time for the Inspector General of Police and the heads of other security agencies begin to prepare their men and trained them as to the expectations of the civil society for a fair, free and credible election.
If the above is properly done and achieved the political class will have no option but to fall in line?
6. Do you foresee an improvement from the past elections.
I think the my answer above has dealt with this question. Ensuring an improvement from our past elections I know won't be a tea party but where there is a will there will always be a way. I am optimistic, it is possible to get our election right, it has been done in Ondo State and same could be replicated in the entire country but what matter most is the will from the entire stakeholders in the election, including you the media to inform mad orientate the populace on the road to chart in ensuring the election we will be proud.