Dr Tunde Moses Elebute is a public affairs commentator, developmental economist and human rights advocate. He spoke to EJIKEME OMENAZU on issues relating to the 2019 general elections, including the worrying tend of inconclusive elections. Excerpt:
The 2019 general elections have come and gone. What is your general assessment of the elections?
We thank God that the elections have come and almost gone, but for the inconclusive elections. The elections have not divided the nation. People thought that the killings and crises would have been worse than what we witnessed. We thank God that the problems are not more than the people expected. But, in some states, people are not happy. The North is happy that President Muhammadu Buhari was returned. They trusted him. I am sure some other parts of the country are happy that Buhari won. But, if INEC had been truly independent, the result could have been different.
But, INEC under Attahiru Jega was more serious and more committed than this one headed by Mahmood Yakubu. Former President Goodluck Jonathan was not at Jega’s neck. If Jonathan had called Jega or met with him to do his bidding or changed Jega, which he had power to do, he would not have lost the 2015 election. These 2019 elections were not completely free and fair.
Would you say that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) performed creditably during the elections?
The elections were not 100 percent free and fair. INEC performed just above average. It was obvious. Even in Imo State, the Returning Officer cried out that he acted under duress. We saw what happened in Osun and Ekiti elections. They were not free and fair. Many people felt that PDP won in Osun. The only area INEC did well was on voter education, but, logistics distribution was poor. In Lagos, the NYSC members refused to work because they were not paid. Why should INEC not pay them? Even the last minute cancellation of elections was bad. INEC should have been sued. INEC discouraged the voters by that cancellation few hours to the elections. Although Prof. Attahiru Jega cancelled election in his time, he did not do so few minutes to the election. This INEC performed lower that Jega’s INEC. They should sit down and review their performance. No INEC should cancel elections few hours to elections in future.
People travelled to different places, some from abroad, for the elections only for INEC to come up with the last minute cancellation. The cancellation discouraged a lot of people. So, INEEC contributed to the voter apathy in the elections. Even the results of the Presidential election that came first discouraged a lot of people. If INEC had been truly independent, the results of the elections would have been different, both in the presidential and other elections, including the governorship elections.
President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected during the Presidential election. Going by his performance, do you think he deserved to be re-elected?
I can tell you categorically that Buhari does not deserve second term, but, some people, some cabals believed that he must be returned and they worked towards it. People are hungry, people are jobless and he kept on blaming Jonathan’s administration. A lot of companied have folded up. The herdsmen have been killing people. Yet, some people believe that he must be returned. Nigerians should leave everything in the hand of God. It is surprising that Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a legal luminary and revered pastor was going about openly distributing N10,000 in markets. This is questionable. Is the Federal Government now a micro-finance bank? What will N10,000 do?
Now that Buhari has won, who do you expect him to do?
Now that he has won, he should concentrate on the economy. The economic situation has never been so bad. He needs to attract foreign investments so that they can create jobs. He should tackle Boko Haram because it sent away foreign investors. The government should come up with a good economic policy. It should fight corruption with more seriousness by blocking all loopholes. There is still a lot of corruption under this government. There should be more transparency. Ministers and governors should be transparent. Due process must be followed, both at federal and state levels.
Buhari should stop media trial of people and end blame games. This government talks too much. It should concentrate on economic development. He should seek out Nigerian experts from every corner of the earth and place them in positions to change the economic situation of the country. Buhari should look beyond APC and seek out our experts for Nigeria to move forward.
The elections witnessed attacks against non-indigenes in Lagos, violence and killings in several parts of the country. How would you react to the development?
What happened was terrible. Government should not interfere in our elections. In the coming re-run, the soldiers should remain in their barracks. Involvement of the Army has led to the death of any people. We do not want military on March 23 during the re-run elections. During the elections, I saw the soldiers on television shooting anyhow and some slapping people. We do not want military in our elections. The Police and Civil Defence are okay to handle our elections. It was the military that ruined the elections in Rivers.
I condemn the attack on non-Yoruba in Lagos. We are working towards a one Nigeria. Do we say Igbo people do not have rights? Are Igbo slaves in Lagos? Is Jimi Agbaje not a Yoruba? Are there not many Igbo in APC who voted for Buhari and Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Lagos should take the lead as example for other states because of our special position in Nigeria. Lagos position as former capital of the nation attracts different people. And they have been contributing to the development of the state. People should not be so intimidated or stopped from voting whoever they like. Lagos should show example to other states on how Nigerians can exist together.
What is your take on the decision of INEC to declare elections inconclusive in several states in this year’s elections?
INEC should stop these inconclusive elections. It is a waste of resources. INEC should use its discretion when someone is leading and has got two-thirds of the state. In sports, people win by seconds. INEC should reduce inconclusive elections to the barest minimum. The National Assembly should review the section of the Electoral Act or the Constitution that deals with inconclusive elections. We ought to have forgotten everything about elections by now.
In Osun State, because of inconclusive election, someone who was leading suddenly became a loser. How many people will now travel to their home states or where they registered because of the re-run elections? In fact, before the next general elections, there should be substantial amendment of the Electoral Act. People should vote from where they are. There should be electronic voting. Even those who live abroad should be allowed to vote wherever they live.