New Telegraph

It’s absurd for anyone to call for interim govt – Umenzekwe

What is your assessment of the general elections? 

As far as I am concerned, the elections went well. But before I comment on the election generally, we must as human beings created by God give the almighty God the glory for His infinite mercies upon us because without Him, we couldn’t have conducted the elections. 

Then I must congratulate Nigerians for coming out to participate in the election. It shows that voter education is permeating. It also means that we have started to know the importance of participating in governance by speaking our mind through the ballot. 

While congratulating Nigerians, let me congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari, for making sure that our democracy is deepened. He gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) unfettered hand to conduct the elections. 

He never interfered in any way, even when people were accusing him of supporting Mr. A or B or being against Mr. A or B. He kept quiet and ensured that the elections were free and fair. INEC is however at the receiving end; many people said so many things both the ones that are true and those that are not true. It is not easy to con- duct elections in a country where you have more than 200 million people. So, I must congratulate INEC and Prof. Mahmood Yakubu for a job well done because everything must not be perfect, but when you get near perfect, you are already there. 

When you score 70 per cent in an examination, you are already making A, so I congratulate INEC for a job well done. Yes, there may be some irregularities here and there, but that is human nature. We are in a learning process. You see, some people will come and tell you in America, in London, in France, forgetting that those super powers passed through our present stage for hundreds of years, and Nigeria is just about 60 years plus. Incidentally, this social media thing, where every- body has become a journalist, has created a very big problem in this country. 

I don’t rely on it but there is a need for proper regulation of our social media conduct. It has created a lot of problems, people conjure whatever they like and push them out. Nobody is querying them, nobody is asking them questions and they get away with such. 

That ushered in rancor, unwarranted enmity among brothers, political parties, ethnic and religious groups. So, I want to use this opportunity to call on the Federal Government to please step in and regulate our social media conducts. I know people will say the media is being gagged but let us regulate and filter whatever we push out, so that this country can be at peace. 

Do you think that the presidential candidate of your party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu deserves the victory he had at the polls? 

As far as I know, Asiwaju Tinubu is a politician of note, he is a political giant, he knows when to strike, he is a master strategist and he has paid his dues by helping to deepen our democracy. He put in his life to make sure that we have unbroken democracy; he fought for it and I think he deserves to win the election. 

Looking at the election it- self, a lot of things were said to be wrong. The opposition is of the view that INEC was compromised as election results were not uploaded real time. 

Everything is politicized in this country and it is very unfortunate. I am not holding a brief for INEC or for anybody, but the way I see it as a person, the BVAS is man-made and it is part of our learning process. 

Technology is not sacrosanct. Given the level of preparations we had for the elections, I don’t see anybody intentionally sabotaging the process after all the whole results are there now. Anyone who is complaining can now compare what he has with what is in the portal. 

So, whether it was uploaded that day or a day after, the most important thing now is that the whole results are there and everybody, all political parties, winners, opposition, the government in power too, they should compare what they have with what is there. If it is not the same, then they have the right to contest. 

But in doing that contest, they should follow the legitimate way, and not all these inflammatory statements that are heating up the political space. I want to call on supporters of the various parties to be cautious and allow the candidates to fight for themselves through the legitimate way because each and every one of them put up a very good fight. 

Yes. Tinubu won but I congratulate the other candidates because they made the contest interesting. Everybody was on their toes, even the electorate and party supporters. The 2023 presidential election is simi- lar to that of 1993, which its annulment drew us back and such a thing should not be allowed in this present election. 

Do you think it is right for the opposition to go to court or are you advising them to withdraw their cases and join hands in moving the nation forward? 

The constitution is there, so they have the right to go to court. It is their right and nobody should harass them or vilify them for that. That was why I said that the supporters and the electorate should allow them to fight for themselves or adjust to retrace. You know, at times you might not want to do something, but people behind you will be nudging you until you make a mistake. 

But if I should advise them, I will urge them to retrace, so that this coun- try can move forward. They really tried and I must commend them, especially the Labour Party. Within the short time they came into the contest, the whole arena charged, every- body was running helter-skelter and they proved that they can do something, and it is good for our democracy. 

But then, let emotions, sentiments not cloud the sense of reasoning. What happened during the elec- tion was that a lot of unwarranted emotions and sentiments crept in and some people are taking some steps that might blow ill wind for everybody. We need peace because we have had a lot of distractions in this country. 

Ebola distracted us, Covid distracted us, #End- SARS distracted us, cash swap distracted us, then election 2023 is about to distract us again. It seems that we have forgotten that if anything happens in Nigeria it will affect the whole of Africa. As the giant of Africa, we shouldn’t allow such things to happen. 

That is why I must commend President Buhari, who said that elections have come and gone, that he will not stay a day beyond May 29 and that he is going to hand them over while other legitimate agitations can go on in line with the law. 

Some people are calling for an Interim National Government; do you think such a call is justified in anyway? Are those calling for interim government candidates in the election? 

It is absurd for anybody, for whatever reason, to call for an interim government or military takeover. We have passed that stage long ago. In some African countries where the military took over power; Nigeria went there and stopped them. 

So, it doesn’t sound normal that somebody is calling for military takeover in Nigeria, the giant of Africa. That is why I keep congratulating all the candidates for taking the legal way to address their feelings. 

If you are to set an agenda for the incoming president, what are those things you would want him to tackle immediately he assumes office? 

The President elect is a Nigerian; he knows the problems of this country, he knows the problems of each geopolitical zone, he knows the problems in our economy, he knows that we have serious security issues, he knows that there are so many agitations here and there. So, the most important thing he is going to do is to try and unite this country. He has to do everything possible to make sure we live in peace. In governance, he should not look at the opposition as lesser human beings, he has to bring them into governance, both those who voted for him and those who did not. After all, he got votes from every part of the country. We have been talking about the number of votes. He got votes from every part of the country, so the onus is on him to recognise all of them. And he has extended hands of fellowship to everybody and I congratulate him for doing so. I know Tinubu, he has a large heart and he is focused. He was able to rejig Lagos for better and any person that handled Lagos can handle Nigeria. If Lagos collapses the country will collapse. So, I believe he will do well, having done so in Lagos. The primary thing is to unite the country, let everybody have a sense of belonging, let there be peace. Once we achieve peace, everything will be okay.


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