Chief Rafiu Balogun is the immediate past National Legal Adviser of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). In this interview with YAQOUB POPOOLA ,in Ado-Ekiti, he spoke on the outcome of the Presidential elections and other issues. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of the Presidential and National Assembly elections ?
The election is okay and we must give kudos to the INEC, that in spite of the pockets of violence, the electoral body still gave Nigeria one of the most credible polls in the recent times .
Agreed there must be human errors but that does not mean that we should score INEC low. For me, I think they have tried their best to give us this election . INEC has been transparent enough .Just look at the rigour of bringing results from different parts of the country to Abuja. This is something that can be done electronically. All these risks are taken by INEC to ensure that the process was transparent. This is so because our law does not accommodate transmission of results electronically. That is not to say that INEC cannot do better, it can learn from its mistakes and improve upon the process in the subsequent elections.
Surprisingly, we have seen some senior lawyers advising Atiku Abubakar, the PDP Presidential candidate not to seek redress in Court over the alleged flaws in the poll. What is your take on this ?
For me, Atiku and his party has the constitutional rights to challenge the results of the elections in Court, if they have evidence .But it would be very stringent for them to establish cases of electoral irregularities. As a lawyer who has immense experience on tribunal matter ,it would very difficult for Atiku and his party to establish these incidences of violence or fraud .It is not sufficient for anybody to claim that the process was flawed you must go extra mile by linking the allegations to the winner .The nexus must be established that the winner actually authorised it and you only have about 14 days or so to prove that .Even the governorship election cases that we normally prosecute ,this aspect has remained the biggest task for the petitioner to prove. The way they now structured the procedure for tribunal, it would be difficult for the petitioner to establish this.
Before ,the law allows the petitioner to keep on proving his or case. Like what happened during Segun Oni and Kayode Fayemi’s case that lasted for three and half years .
My advise for Atiku,as a Nigeria and lawyer is that he should try another time. Maybe this is not his time.
What agenda would you like to set for President in the next four years ?
First and foremost, I will urge Mr. President to focus more on security .Because it is not yet uhuru for us. When you look at what is happening in the Northeast and some parts of Northwest too. There is killings here and there and kidnappings .I think the government needs to intensify efforts at getting rid of the menace.
What lessons do you think politicians could learn from the outcome of the poll?
The lesson to learn is that we should not be arrogant in whatever position we found ourselves. Nobody is an island. I think the menace of godfatherism is over in our political system. Integrity and track records will now speak for the candidates .I am particularly happy that some perceived heavyweights have fallen .I am from Kwara State and I am glad about the latest political development in the state. It is an eye opener “Enough is Enough ‘ is the slogan now in Kwara because, the people are not satisfied that their fate shall be determined by one man. So, it is a big lesson to the upcoming politicians. Forget about the allegations of irregularities .Election can only be rigged where the candidate is not popular.
Are you comfortable with the long list of political parties in Nigeria?
You see the law allows formation of political parties .It was the late legal icon,Chief Gani Fawehinmi who fought the battle .And that was what led to the floodgate of political parties in Nigeria .But there are regulations .If any political party cannot win two or three elective position ,then there is no justification for such a party to exist .So, let INEC makes use of the constitutional provision or electoral act to prone down the number ,because it is becoming too embarrassing.
I think, in my own opinion, we only need maximum of five political parties in Nigeria .So others can come together and form a mega party .This will surely strengthened the opposition .If there is no strong opposition ,the country is doomed .The APC emerged victorious because ,it was able to muster enough strength to tackle the PDP. So, let the PDP too go back to the drawing board and restrategise .The PDP should engage in constructive criticism .And not to be attacking every policy of the party in power .
They should give us alternative policies .We don’t need any opposition that will bring the government down .
On a large scale ,I will implore the losers to imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship , accept defeat and congratulate the winners .The winners too should be magnanimous in victory .The government can invite the brilliant ones among the opposition to form committees .That is where they can also play their part. Winners must not take all now.
But Alhaji Atiku has described the election as the worst in Nigeria’s political history ,even against the verdict of some international community .Do you agree with him?
That is not correct. I think our leader should be honest whenever they are reacting to issues .We have had elections in the past supervised by the PDP and we know how they all ended .Many of such elections were upturned by the tribunals .Even during the era of late President Umaru Yar’adua who was a member of PDP ,he publicly acknowledged that the election that brought him in was fraught with irregularities .So, how can Atiku tell us now that the last Presidential election was the worst in Nigeria?
Except Atiku and his party have other evidences .Let them bring it out and show it to the public.