Olufemi Aduwo is the National Coordinator of Rights Monitoring Group, a body which participates in election observation and campaigns against corruption. In this interview with SHUAIB SHUAIB, he appraises the constitutionally flawed relationship between states and Local Government Areas and speaks on other topical issues.
Governors have been blamed for the absence of the democracy at the Local Government level. What do you think can be done about it?
I think it is time we either scrap this idea of a local government or we allow a single national electoral body to conduct all the elections in Nigeria.
The situation where by all the local government officials are elected and in less than three months, after a court annuls the election of the governor in the state, the new governor that comes in removes all the duly elected LG officials is wrong. He will sack the head of the State Independent Electoral Commission and then appoint a caretaker committee.
After two years, he renews their tenures. This has destroyed democracy at the grassroots. And then, all the members of SEIC are card-carrying members of the governor’s party. For example, why is it not possible for PDP to win at least a counsellorship slot in Lagos? Why is it not possible for ACN to win an election in Kwara for instance? All of it is a sham. In terms of fiscal independence, these governors have killed the LGs with the joint account.
Some LGs in the north just give the chairman of the LG a million to spend, pay the workers salaries and the governor keeps the rest - when the money comes. Billions are stolen from the joint accounts in the guise of joint projects.
Gone are those days when we believed that a trunk A road must be built by the federal government, a trunk B by the state government and trunk C by the LGAs. Today, do you see any road built by a local government? Local governments no longer pay salaries of teachers in the domain. They are not doing anything.
They are just appendages of ministries of local government and chieftaincy affairs. If we are serious about local governments being a tier in this federal arrangement, then it should have independence.
Why should a governor appoint a caretaker committee for as long as two or three years? We have to look at the constitution and make local governments to be independent like the states, have their own money from the allocation and account for it.
There are elections coming up in Ondo and Edo states and tension is building up in both states. Can INEC conduct elections in such an atmosphere?
I think Mr. President should be able to call the ACN to order. Ondo State is unique. It is my state. It has never happened in the history of the state for elections to be rigged. If you try to rig elections in Ondo State, you are not going to succeed.
It was done during the time of Ajasin/ Omoboriowo and also in the days Awolowo. People stood by their votes and their votes counted with Omoboriow being declared winner. It was a time when the judiciary was still credible.
Even when the case went to court, it took 27 days, from the High Court to Appeal Court and then the Supreme Court. It took 27 days. It is unlike what we are seeing now when it takes 3 years to thrash a minor election case. In last election in Ondo, the people that testified against Agagu, are from the same Agagu town.
I think the ACN are a little too confrontational. For example, an ACN member owns the radio station in Ondo State. The kind of information it disseminates, if it was in another state, the ACN would not accept it. Remember Oshiomhole nearly close down NTA in Benin for the programmes it aired.
Can INEC go ahead with the election?
I read somewhere that Tinubu suggested that Jega is no better than Iwu. I read from the CPC secretary that Jega is worse than Iwu. I laughed. In terms of elections, you have to identify the stakeholders and then apportion blame.
On the day of election, if politicians hijack ballot boxes, how can you blame Jega for that? He is not a policeman and the policemen at the polling unit don’t carry guns. These people that carry out all these things are criminals and they come from the political parties and then if there voter apathy.
How can you blame Jega for that? It is usually clear that the political parties do not do their homework. You have to put that in perspective. If the political parties play the role they are supposed to play, believe me, there will be acrimony in elections. I said it once before at the time Iwu was removed that the case goes beyond the removal of INEC chairman.
Sometimes, who is chairman may be relevant, but certain things must be put in place. If there is a lack of internal democracy, it creates acrimony within the party.
In a system where a party member works against the party’s interest; in a system where someone has to leave his party to another party and then use all means after spending so much money to bring down his old party. These are the kind of situations that have to be understood.
Even if you bring an angel to come and conduct elections in Nigeria, somebody, somewhere will condemn it. Someone will complain. It is either the police worked against him or the rain did not allow him to come out.
Take for example, the election in Kebbi, there is no basis for anybody to go to court. It was a perfect election, credible election and all the election INEC has being doing, there has been improvement in terms of the personnel deployed, in terms of the commitment from INEC officials and the NYSC officials.
I believe that if everybody within the system were able to play his or her own role; the judiciary does not delay a case. We will get there. In 2010, I was in UK for the election as a foreign observer. With more than 300 years of its democratic culture, the election was a mess.
Many people were disenfranchised because they could not cast their vote. Nobody expected that to happen in UK. So every nation has it peculiarity but Nigerians politicians should imbibe the spirit of good sportsmanship and concede to the winner. For me, Jega is doing a good job. He is learning form experience. There is no need of calling for his removal or saying that he is worse than Iwu.
The Oronsaye report is suggesting that a number of government agencies should be scrapped, including the EFCC and ICPC. What effects do you think it will have on the fight against corruption?
I think the government just likes to come up with different committees. I learnt that Oronsaye himself was indicted over a pension case when he was the head of the civil service. But the issue of merging EFCC with ICPC is fine. Ideally, if everybody is doing its own job, ICPC could have been relevant.
From day when ICPC was created, those that drafted the law did not want it to work. Before ICPC can prosecute anybody, it must get the approval of the attorney general. ICPC is strictly for public servants and there is some kind of power tussle between ICPC and EFCC.
We can have 100 investigative and anti-corruption agencies if they are working. But ICPC is not working. But you cannot scrap EFCC regardless of the poor number of prosecuted cases. If the police fraud unit was up to task and was working, nobody would be bothered about EFCC because we have a unit in the police that should be doing the job. But because of the corruption in the police, they have destroyed the place.