* ‘Jonathan not winning at first ballot risky’
By Simon Ebegbulem
Former Director General of the Center for Democratic Studies (CDS), Prof. Omo Omoruyi, bares his mind on the April presidential election and warns that the nation may be plunged into crisis if President Goodluck Jonathan does not win at the first ballot. He also accuses Igbo leaders of being unserious in their bid for the presidency, declaring that it may be difficult for them to achieve it even though they have qualified candidates. He speaks on the crisis in North Africa and other national issues.
I saw you spoke passionately about the uprising in Libya, Egypt and other Arab nations. What do you think is the problem and where are the Arabs heading to?
There are two Berlin factors in Africa. There is the Berlin that led to the partition of Africa and that itself applies to African South of Sahara. It did not affect the Arab sector, which is in the Mediterranean.
Consequently, the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, which led to democratization in the continent, did not apply to Egypt , did not apply to Tunisia , did not apply to Libya or Morocco. That is why they continued as if nothing happened in Europe to change the nature of government in that part of the world. So, the fall of the Berlin wall only applied to Africa South of the Sahara which is Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania and others. These were the ones who subjected themselves to the principle of one-person-one-vote. Nobody, whether America or the European Union, ever applied that principle to Egypt , Libya , Morocco or Tunisia. They were not factors to be governed by one-person-one-vote, mind my words, one-person-one-vote because there was no voting going on there. And the votes were not really counting.
Therefore, what you are seeing today is a primitive development which has nothing to do with one-person-one-vote because we do not know how what is happening in Egypt will end or that of Tunisia or Libya. It might take the form of Iran where, after the sacking of the Shah of Iran, the world thought that we are now getting to democracy only to find that Khomeini came to power and there was another wave of development. So we don’t know.
Now you find the military people in Egypt talking about a constitution within ten days, that is not possible. America gave them one hundred million dollars; that is rubbish because money cannot buy them a democratic order. What is happening along the Mediterranean is what we call people revolution. It happened in the Philipines, it is also provided for under the American constitution, that when a government is bad, they can be removed by a revolution. It is different from a government that is not doing the will of the people but it changes by vote. The Americans were able to overthrow King George through the people revolution; then, what happened? They were able to bring about a constitution, to bring about 13 states to form a more perfect union. But we do not have a situation like that in Egypt, in Tunisia or Libya. These are European countries; don’t make the mistake of calling them African countries. They are well developed. These are white men’s countries. In America, if you are filling a form to apply for a job, Egypt is taken as a European country, Nigeria is taken as Africa. So we don’t know where all these will end. Benghazi, which is the home of insurgents, is burning now in Libya . That was where Museveni of Uganda trained, Charles Taylor. Libya provided that school, where they train people how they cut people’s finger, cut their ears and all of that. But it is catching up with them now.
Do you think this kind of revolution may happen in Nigeria?
It cannot because we have passed that stage. We have passed the stage where change of government is going to be by revolt. We are not going to change an order. What you have in many of these Arab countries is a change of regime and it is different from change of government. Change of regime is that you root people out, then you now begin to sit down to think of what to do after.
If you look at all the soldiers in Egypt , they are as old as Mubarak. They just sit down there; they don’t know what to do. If you apply what we had in this country, Murtala Muhammed, of blessed memory, overthrew the government of Gowon, in effect, he overthrew the regime of Gowon which was rudderless. Gowon did not know what to do about his government and about the military after the civil war. Then Murtala and his group came, over threw Gowon and started a new order. Then, you had a transition programme. What Egypt needs now is a transition programme and it is not there. I don’t know whether parties can ever emerge in the street
s of Libya or Egypt . People need to come together and discuss to know what type of government they want. They need a debate and that debate will not come from the streets. We have passed that stage in Nigeria, we are well developed politically and that is the situation today.
The INEC is saying they may not use the electronic voting system in the April polls even after the nation spent over N85billion importing DDC machines. How do you explain that?
Let us hear from Prof Jega (INEC chairman) first on that matter because, no matter what we say, election, internationally, is taken as a process which must have three parts: Pre-election activities, election day activities and post-election day activities. I am a little worried that the pre election day activities have problems. To get even voters register is a problem. To get nomination is a problem. I have also said, once the pre-election day activities are faulty, election day activities are doomed.
Therefore, all those who are involved, the stakeholders, let them sit down and come to terms with the reality about the pre-election day activities. What register are we going to use? How shall this thing be conducted, etc. If we are still debating the pre-election day activities, then we have problem. I will rather say let us err on the side of caution and allow Jega to come to terms with what electoral register we are going to use. It is too late to begin to debate that. Let us caution ourselves and stop imagining the doomsday scenario.
President Goodluck Jonathan is making frantic efforts to reconcile with Mallam Adamu Ciroma, IBB and Atiku. Do you think his moves are necessary?
Jonathan wants to avoid a stalemate, he is wise.They want to lay an ambush for him. Jonathan should do everything to win this election at the first ballot. It does not matter what it will cost him in negotiation with IBB, Gusau, Atiku and others. What those people are planning or aiming at is what we call stalemate. They do not want this election to hold. They do not want Jonathan to win at the first ballot. If Jonathan does not win on first ballot, we are doomed. This country has never withstood a second ballot election. Therefore, we don’t even have the advantage which the military had or gave us in 1979, when they technically gave that election to Shagari. Therefore, those who are in the category of stalematists in the north, the zonists, it does not matter, they are also working with Buhari and Ribadu. If this election is pushed to the second ballot, they will work together and they may deny Jonathan the victory in a second ballot. This is the doomsday scenario. That stalemate is the objective of the zonists.
Jonathan is a very gifted man and I love when he said he was going to spend one term. It is a beautiful appeal to the zonists and all those indirect zonists like Buhari and Ribadu. It is unfortunate that the ACN did not also pick a presidential candidate from Edo State. Why do they have to pick from Adamawa?; they too are victims of zoning by implication. So, you have Shekarau of ANPP, Buhari of CPC, Ribadu of ACN, plus the professional zonists, these six are aiming at the same thing to deny Jonathan a first ballot victory. A second ballot will be like Gbagbo and Quatarra, the end of which we don’t know as the late Anthony Enahoro will say.
Like you said, the president assured he is spending only one tenure. If he wins, after him, that is in 2015, where do you think the presidency should go? South east or north?
Interplay of political forces will decide. We should not allow many of these things to be decided as if Nigerians are not thinking. Let the south east play its card well. I can tell you Buhari made the Igbo lose the presidency in 1983. If Ekwueme had been allowed to continue with Shagari, Ekwueme could have been president after Shagari. If they had also supported the June 12, 1993 presidential election, they had equal chance with other groups, but people like Nwobodo, Nwodo and other Igbo leaders played into the hands of the annulists.
Igbo stood a chance of producing a president after MKO Abiola (the presumed winner of the annulled 1993 election) but they too became more royal than the king. Then it came to 1999, my good friend, Okigbo, phoned me in the early hours of one day. I was at Harvard then. He called by 2 a.m. and said, ‘ Omo, I got news for you. Obasanjo is going to be president’. I said ‘how’, because Ekwueme was in America that time raising money because he was leading the PDP. I was on my way to Philadephia to help Ekwueme raise money, but Okigbo said, ‘Omo, it is not going to happen, Ekwueme does not know what is happening in Nigeria’. And before he arrived Lagos, Obasanjo was declared PDP presidential candidate and the rest is history. So, the Igbo had several opportunities that they lost. If the Igbo had worked hard to deny the military the annulment and not play this game of hanky panky, they would have succeeded in producing the president. The Igbo are always selling out themselves. Now, the Igbo wanted Jonathan to commit himself that he will hand over to them, but Jonathan is a wise man. He said, look, interplay of political forces will determine who succeeds him and that is the truth. After all, Igbo could not run the Senate, you know how long it took them to produce a Senate president. They produced five in quick succession. If you can’t sort that one out at that level, does it mean that when you also produce a president, you will start impeaching and rotating? Nigerians will not g
ive you that opportunity. These people are brilliant people, Enwerem, Nnamani, Okadigbo, Wabara, Anyim, at one time, it was Ike Nwachukwu. If Ekwueme had agreed in 1999 to run for that office according to the PDP arrangement, Ekwueme could have been a solid man as Senate president. But they started saying that it will be improper for a former vice-president to be a senator. Huber Humphrey in the US was a vice-president, he was also a presidential candidate, he went back to Senate and died as a senator. A lot of people like that in the US. And if Ekwueme had become Senate president, Obasanjo would not have been rearing up his ugly head for a second term not to talk of elongating his tenure. Because Obasanjo did agree with the north he would only have one term. All that thing about second term was because there was no solid Senate president to remind him that his term was over after one term.