Ikenga Ugochinyere is the First Spokesperson of the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, an assembly of 45 registered parties which recently adopted Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as its consensus Presidential candidate in the 2019 election. In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, Ugochinyere unveiled reasons for the launch of Code 20, a strategy aimed at checkmating incidences of electoral manipulation in 2019. Excerpts!
By Dirisu Yakubu
You have made a number of agitations and calls recently pointing to concerns about how the elections are going to look like in 2019. Are you scared of losing?
Ugochinyere: No politician is scared of losing in the general election. Every genuine democrat must know that in politics, there can be only one winner at a time. Once you have that feeling, once you have that understanding, there would be no need to nurse any fear. I think the problem lies with people not wanting to play by the rules. As long as the rules of the game are set right, if you lose, you lose in a free and fair atmosphere. So, you are bound to accept the outcome of the process.
But if before you start the process, people are already changing the goal posts in the middle of the game, then, there is a problem. So the question is, is it because you are afraid of losing that you would not complain? So the ruling government is actually the one that is scared of losing the election and are no longer operating within the ambit of the law that regulates the process.
That is why we witness ballot box snatching, police harassment, police connivance with established powers to orchestrate outcomes. If the ruling government is not scared of losing why are they in such a panic mode that is increasing the tension in the land? So I can tell you categorically that in the game of politics there can only be one winner at a time and that once the rules of engagement are spelt out and followed, the loser is always compelled to accept the outcome of the process, like the PDP conceded in 2015.
The All Progressives Congress, APC believe President Buhari cannot lose this election but they should allow us go through the process of a free and fair election but they would not do so. The opposition is now saying instead of resorting to violence, arms carrying and so on, we will use the available options within the ambit of the law to draw attention and increase public pressure so that the rampaging army of election violence promoters in APC can have a rethink and know that this is not about PDP or APC or the opposition but about generations yet unborn, and that the foundation we set up today will be the foundation upon which those generations will operate.
So if we set up a foundation of election violence like we have in Congo, in Gabon, in Burundi, that is what we are going to inherit. It is going to be the rule of the mighty. So that is why we are raising the alarm within the ambit of the law.
That is why we have launched Code 20, which is to mobilize our people not for violence but to apprehend, quench and stop the violence promoters that are in the APC, and not to allow them overrun us because if you are saying the opposition should go to sleep let them shoot their way through the backdoor, then there is no need having a democracy.
We are going to train our people to act within the ambit of the law with enough physical power to apprehend anybody seen to be committing offence in their presence as spelt out by Section 20 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA.
Are you not bothered about the timing for training people for this and aren’t you concerned that this could be a call to anarchy?
Are you saying the framers of the ACJA and the 1999 constitution that gave room for people to exercise their policing right of arrest without warrant, are anarchists? They are not anarchists.
The Constitution and the drafters know that the police may not have the manpower to be every where, they also know that in the middle of the night when armed robbers or criminals knock on your door that the police may not be there. That is why the law empowers us to protect ourselves.
If in your presence somebody is committing an offence, do the needful. The law did not say arrest him and keep him in your backyard, but instead apprehend him and take him to the nearest police station.
One of the offences that the Electoral Act forbids under section 90 and 91 is buying and selling of votes. Anybody who buys or sells votes is for the purpose of changing the will of the person so the law has called it an offence with the maximum punishment of about two or three years.
So if our men see anyone sharing money at a polling unit, we are saying grab the money, grab the man and deliver him to the nearest police station. How do you now call that anarchy?
Plans are underway to increase the earnings of men and officers of the Nigerian Police Force. Don’t you think this is being done now as an incentive for them to work in favour of the ruling party?
First of all, the increment has not taken effect. If the President thinks police officers who have been subjected to harsh working conditions, will shield and support the government to continue it’s reign of impunity, he is mistaken. In any case, of what importance is the increment if it does not affect purchasing power positively and significantly?
Lets talk about CUPP, few minutes before the memorandum of understanding was signed, recall that the chieftain of the coalition, Chief Olu Falae pleaded that the end point was not just to rally around a sole candidate that will oust President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 but also to cut across board, across all elective offices.
The elections in Ekiti and Osun states saw the APC carrying the day even after signing the MOU, so people are curious to know what the CUPP will be doing differently in 2019.
When we were signing that MOU, it was clear, what Olu Falae said was just a suggestion because at the time he was saying that, the decision had been concluded that most political parties would prefer to retain their flags at different states in governorship, Senate and House of Representatives. They were prepared to sacrifice their Presidential ambition because they thought if the country can be fixed, it has to start from the top.
Now that you have adopted Atiku as your consensus Presidential candidate, what will you say to other Presidential candidates within the coalition who might want to disagree with the move?
I want to make this categorically clear that no political system is perfect anywhere in the world. This is the biggest coalition but do not expect hundred percent compliance. At every stage, we are enjoying a majority and if we are enjoying a majority support at every stage, that is what matters. I am telling you now that majority of the members of the coalition are united and are solidly behind Atiku who will go on to inflict defeat on President Buhari in 2019.