Comrade Mashood Erubami is the President and Convener of Coalition for Democracy In Nigeria (CODIN). In this interview with YEMI OLAKITAN, he speaks on the 2023 general election, Oyo State governorship poll and sets agenda for the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, among other issues
There were different views on the conduct of the 2023 general election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). What is your assessment of the elections?
My candid assessment of the general election is that of a realist! I saw the election as one of the best that has further taken us above in our quest for democratic elections, which started since 2011. The election is a reincarnation of the June 12 election except that the 2023 election was counted, with results declared and a presidential candidate was declared. The 2023 election process was complete and concluded, not inchoate. It was relatively peaceful, free, fair and free. In the 2023 elections, the stakeholders played their roles very well, though there are still gaps of knowledge between the election umpire, its technological deploy- ments, laws, rules and regulations and the politicians. In all respects, the security agencies, particularly the police and the Army performed creditably and profes- sionally. Those who are not fully satisfied are stating so without justifying reasons but they have done well by packaging all their grievances to the tribunals and the courts for judicial adjudication. This is allowed in our laws. The irony, however, is that why the elec- tion is credible in the sense that the par- ties considered to be weak defeated highly rated parties, including even incumbent in their dominant areas. Senators, gover- nors and Assembly men and women, who thought they will retain their positions lost in the elections, a sign of the freeness and fairness of the elections. In my opin- ion, the election is relatively perfect with thumbs up for INEC and the police.
Do you think INEC and the security agencies really met the expectations of Nigerians?
Without any iota of doubt, INEC im- proved on its activities through technol- ogy and surely overcame the teething problems associated with the noticeable deficiencies with the use of Bimodal Vot- ers Accreditation System (BVAS). It is the same story with the police, they were not found wanting in the performance of their electoral duties. Indeed, either by the error of commission or omission, nobody died through accidental discharges.
However, the police are yet to open his books for public scrutiny to justify the figure of their officers deployed into the field against the claims of huge money from the government, accounting for the actual deployment against police monetary claims.
You said the 2023 general election is free, fair and credible but at pres- ent, there are legal cases by different political parties and their candidates, especially Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, who are challenging the victory of the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu?
From what has been presented to the tribunal so far and without prejudice to the pending cases in the courts, it appears that the legal cases by different political parties and their candidates align with the normal expectations. Legal cases after election are usually expected from litigants, who are not satisfied by the outcome of the elections. Under- standably, Nigerians are usually not eas- ily convinced on freeness, fairness and credibility of election results that did not favour them. In the present dispensation, those who took matters to court did not complain in constituencies where they won. The win- ning parties complained about where they won overall. Most parties only complain where they lost, yet they collect Certifi- cates of Return for winning in the same election, where they ironically won. It is normal that Atiku and Obi, who expected to win but failed, would challenge Tinubu, who not only secured majority of popu- lar votes of the people but also secured 25 per cent of total votes cast in about 29 states of the federation. Such results caught them unaware not knowing that their participation in the election helped the Tinubu election train to victory. Ordinarily, not much was expected from Obi’s Labour Party but he became a phenomenon. If he had not turned phenomenal, Atiku would have won handsomely from the states that Obi won. Also, if not for the infractions between the PDP and its G5 governors, Atiku would have won all the same. The game plan of the G5 worked against Atiku, reduced his votes and increased the votes of the APC. Of course, the ef- fect of the anti-Muslim/Muslim poli- tics, which was irrational, played a major role in reducing the votes of the APC in most of Christian dominated states in the South-East and the North Central. In the end, most of the clerics, so-called legal luminaries and ethnic nationality leaders without electoral values cried home after Tinubu was declared the winner despite their satanic political antagonisms. God was there for Jagaban but against those who claim God called them. On that platform, Nigerians are still waiting for the time that one of them will change country, park his baggage and leave Nigeria freely.
How would you react to the way the polity is being heated up by some politicians after losing the 2023 elections?
It is not unexpected but who are they? Atiku whether he confirms or not knows he is finished in politics because the kind of government that Asiwaju will deliver will be such that will not make Atiku a preferred politician again in Nigeria af- ter the eight years of Jagaban in power. Also, Obi would not be able to garner the formidable forces of progress that can make him a good preference in Nigeria. In fact, Nigerians will not wait to weigh him for the presidency of the country. The youth, who believe in hi, would have been convinced about Tinubu being an issue for progress and development in Nigeria politics unless the voting patterns of the Igbo changes dramatically.
What is your view on the recent revelation by the Department of State Services (DSS) on a plot for an Interim National Government?
The revelation is quite apt except that the disclosure should not be limited to mere disclosure. We know legal luminar- ies, so-called elder statesman and clerics of known churches, living in glass houses but kept throwing stones. These elements are not entitled and should not be walk- ing freely and still pastoring. By now, they should be in different security cells after their arrests but for the weak nature of our criminal justice system. Honestly, it’s quite worrisome and such and anarchical. However, I do not believe that their evil demands can annul a concluded election in which votes were counted, de- clared publicly with a winner. The DSS should go further to invite all identified culprits found to be behind the calls for cancellation of a concluded election process with its result and winning candidates. These elements in the parties, among the youths, elders and in the churches should be investigated in the view to carry out their unsparingly diligent prosecution. The motive behind their nefarious calls is to scuttle, subvert and truncate the swearing- in process by suggesting the constitution of all retired vice president, governors and some selected people into an interim government, instead of swearing in the winner of the pres- idential election, who legally contested and won, whereas interim government is illegal, unconstitutional and an absolute nonsense. Nobody can call on the government of Presi- dent Muhammadu Buhari to set one against a government in which he is a midwife.
President Muhammadu Buhari will bow out of office on May 29, how would you assess his eight years reign?
Honestly, President Buhari tried his best and delivered in areas of development except that his achievements are not well publicised. Only the negatives were publicly presented by his enemies putting the party up every time. Look at how many news publications, radios and cable televisions have been against the government, presenting what they con- sidered the bad, the worse and the worst of the government without official cautionary measures. Notwithstanding, he delivered in major areas of his project models; security, social assistance, infrastructural facilities and anti-corruption. Before him, no govern- ment has carried anti-corruption war to the armed forces and the judiciary, succeeding in other known areas of impunities in politics and civil services. President Buhari will be living good lega- cies of the railways, a national carrier will be joining soon and of course the Niger Bridge will be finally opened soon. Pitiably, the initial attacks on his health and the dwindling of revenues from oil against expectation slowed down his achievements in other areas of eco- nomic recovery. He was nonetheless never a total failure in this area.
How do you see the victory of the APC candidate, Tinubu in the presidential poll?
The victory of the APC candidate is a pointer to the fact that his party is still a party of the majority. It also shows that the candi- date is most loved among other candidates. Undoubtedly, Nigerians believed fervently in Tinubu as most passionate, courageous, committed, and competent that can change the lives of the poor and move Nigeria from the state of poverty to the state of prosperity. I see the victory of the APC candidate as a pathway to a flourishing future for Nigerians, the youths particularly.
Why did you think Tinubu won the election, con- sidering strong opposition from some quarters, especially on the Muslim-Muslim ticket?
His victory is divinely prepared. Asiwaju is a study in management and economic development and a political averta, who is beyond and above Atiku and Obi in both sensible assessment and political reckoning. This is quite evident in his acceptability to the people of Nigeria from every political, so- cial, economic and religious divides despite the strong opposition from Atiku and Obi, as well as running on the Muslim- Muslim ticket. He did not only defeat the clerics who hate him, he also defeated those who had prepared arrows to be fired at him, to undermine his integrity and laid landmines for his defeat. God was with him all the way through, that he never tumbled.
What is your advice to the President-elect as he prepares to assume office on May 29?
I am sure he is already working with his team to form a multi- stakeholder government to be announced within a week of his assump- tion of office. My agenda setting for him will be to review the currents and consider com- pensations for those who truly worked for his victory. He must not forget his pedigree as a democrat in National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Pro-National Conference Organ- isations (PRONACO) and other democratic platforms in his government. Labour must be represented by nominees from labour. Professionals must be picked into cabinet by the members, the same thing with health, engineering, finance and envi- ronment, among others. The government should call on all sectiors and ask for their best representatives. Most ministers must be believers in the project models of the President-elect. Also, there must be an engagement platform between the APC, its government and the civil society. Given the high hopes of the people and the deluge of past unmet needs, the people will expect that the ministers will commence their duties with setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound project models to discourage the business as usual at- titude and orientation of work, devoid of goal targeting that must permeate the first term tour towards underscoring the implementa- tion of government policies in the spirit of prosperity and sustainable development. They should also set up a Project performance self-evaluation mechanism to review every project execution, quality and impact on the life of the people. Nigerians will expect the speedy implementation of newly gener- ated social allowances in cash and in kind, not minimum wage, to improve the quality of life for low-income earners. There should be a minister in charge of fighting corruption who will mobilize resources under his or her control to fight corruption head long, fight its menace strenuously and unsparingly in a nonselective manner. The anti-corruption agencies must be reformed to be more effective, proactive to respond to corruption issues in line with global best practices. All cases of corruption being handled through the police or so-called Justice Departments must not be compromised by using wrong charges that are easily knocked out by lawyers who do not necessarily know the law but are only familiar with judges. The Minister in charge of the law and the Justice System must be fair and work with an honest judiciary and incorruptible Bar, to en- sure transparent justice so that technicalities are not used most often against substantial justice to win cases. Immediately upon assumption of office and composing the cabinet, the minister in charge of law must review all court judgements yet to be obeyed and ensure that they are obeyed without further delay within the first three months in office.
As an APC chieftain in Oyo State, your party won the presidential poll and lost the gubernatorial election, what happened?
It is understandable why we won the presidential election. The governorship is a personalised election between the APC candidate and the other parties. The patterns of voting changed dramatically during the governorship. The APC had a vote deficit already from the Christians, the Catholics, and the Pentecostal churches. Also, the factors of regular payments of monthly salaries to civil servants and Pensions and gratuity to pensioners couple with the political fidelity between government and the Park Management Staff who made it clear to their members that if the PDP Governor, an incumbent failed to win, they will also lose their chances to be. All this plus the expression of hatred from some of the churches mentioned above culminated to reduce the votes for the APC substantially. The result was determinable at all the polling units.
How do you see the forthcoming national census and what is your advice to the National Population Commission and Nigerians about the census?
The Census will come and go and still leave on its trail the usual suspicions on the figures collated. My candid advice to the leadership of the National Population Commission is to set non- manipulated citizens, counting in accordance with the global best practices. Those to be deployed into administration and real census must be honest, transparent and accountable while the processes must be engaged with the fear of God in everybody’s heart.