•Says nobody can resist restructuring
•Why INEC can’t de-register parties
•Backs conduct of election in one day
•Nigeria must never tolerate dictatorship of the judiciary
DR. Wumi Bewaji, former Minority Leader in the House of Representatives, is the chairman of the Coalition of Electoral Democrats, CODER. In this interview, he bares his mind on burning national issues ranging from the state of the nation, the need for restructuring of the country, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s recent de-registration of political parties among others.
By Dapo Akinrefon
On the INEC’s de-registering of political parties that performed poorly at the 2019 general elections?
INEC’s position to de-register those political parties is unfortunate and undemocratic and it is very worrisome. It means that those who are running INEC are illiterates of democracy because the existence of a political party is not solely to contest elections. By definition, a political party is meant to be a platform to mobilize public opinion, warehouse it and give leadership. Running for offices is okay, but that is not the sole job of a political party. So for INEC to de-register them is undemocratic, it shows that those running INEC are less informed about democracy.
Do you think the setting up of Electoral Offences Commission will stem irregularities during elections?
I don’t support it. At the end of the day, everything still boils down to the administration of the justice system. We have seen the justice system in Nigeria, so even if you have an agency, you still have the same justice system, the matter will still end up in court.
What we need is INEC rising up above primordial sentiment. The long and short of it is that INEC has refused to grow, these electoral offences we are talking about they can create a department within INEC. There are a lot of lawyers out there who are looking for work, you can have a very strong legal department in INEC and you do not need to prosecute 1000 cases to make your point, all you need is to stake through some flash cheap cases.
But at the end of the day, if you create an agency, you are only creating a useless bureaucracy because you are still going to take it to court. The case will still queue behind all those criminal matters that are already in court.
So I’m not an advocate of creating bureaucracy every minute there is an excuse for it.
His take on the Federal Government’s proposal to have elections in the country held in one day
Sure, it is the best thing, it was part of the recommendations that CODER made, post the 2019 elections. What is the reason for having staggered elections? There is no reason for it because I remember when the National Assembly was working on the first amendment to the Electoral Act, I am talking about the 2006 Act, the idea of which election comes first was politicized because people are talking of what we call the down-ballot syndrome. I think it will save us time, it will save us a lot of money.
On agitation for restructuring to save the country from disintegration
I am in support of restructuring; I started my political career in the South-West, which we call Western Nigeria.
The restructuring was the number one agenda of Afenifere and also the number one agenda of the Alliance for Democracy, AD. Without restructuring, Nigeria will collapse.
We have to come together, sit down and discuss, do it amicably with all maturity and understanding. But if we allow situations and circumstances to do it for us, then, we will not have control over it.
I think the first option is better, whereby we are all able to come together and discuss, that way, at the end of the day, it will preserve the love and unity under whatever arrangement we come up with.
On proposals that the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference should be a starting point
It may be a starting point, but you know a lot of things went on with the 2014 conference, but at the end of the day, I think what is important is sincerity.
The All Progressives Congress, APC, itself set up the Nasir el-Rufai committee and it submitted a report. Where is the report? Why is that report not being implemented? So, you need sincerity, whether it is the 2014 or the el-Rufai committee report, you need sincerity.
The APC campaigned in 2015 on the platform of restructuring, so what has the APC done on restructuring? Why is President Muhammadu Buhari keeping quiet? Why is he not giving leadership on the issue of restructuring which he used as a platform to power? This is the sincerity factor I am talking about. Nobody can resist restructuring, it is either we do it by ourselves or we allow situation and circumstances do it for us.