NIGERIA CAN'T SURVIVE WITHOUT CREDIBLE ELECTION – OMO OMORUYI

By NBF News
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Two years after he was diagnosed of suffering from prostrate cancer, former Director-General of the defunct Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS), Prof. Omo Omoruyi, has announced a turn-around of his health condition. The Professor of Political Science, who was treated in the United States confirmed the good news to Daily Sun during an interview in Benin.

'The talk, all the fears about cancer spreading to my brain does not exist. It did not. MRI of my brain up till few weeks ago is very positive. There is no spinal compression, which I had before 2008 where eight tumours were removed. By January this year, there is nothing called spinal compression.

MRI of my brain also shows that I am mentally sound. My heart is very good, my kidney is water-full. so, I have nothing to worry about. I am surviving and thriving', he said.

Prof. Omoruyi, who was in church for thanksgiving, declined to speak on the disagreement between him and former military President Ibrahim Babangida over the General's failure to honour the terms of an agreement they both entered into in 2003.

He had in a previous interview with Daily Sun last year disclosed that one of the terms of the agreement was that Babangida would foot his health bills in any hospital of his choice in any part of the world if he fell ill in the course of his managing the former president's presidential bid in 2003, but that Babangida allegedly reneged on the agreement.

'Well, the matter between me and General Babangida is very, very private and I would want those matters to remain private. We spoke some days ago on telephone. I am not going to tell you what we discussed. We spoke at length. I do communicate with him. So, they remain still private, personal and on a friendly level. So, I would rather stop there', Prof. Omoruyi said, when asked whether he has had contacts with General Babangida ever since he spoke to Daily Sun.

He also spoke on other issues, including allowing President Goodluck Jonathan and all those seeking elective offices to contest, process of ensuring the emergence of a two-party system and the need for a credible election, saying that 'no country survives if it doesn't have free, fair and credible elections'.

Excerpts:
Sir, recently, Alhaji Maitama Sule advised both former Heads of State, Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Muhamadu Buhari not to contest the 2011 presidential election but should play the role of statesmen. How do you see his advice?

You know I didn't read that. Madasami Kano is a very reasonable man, a good friend of mine, and whatever he says he must have said it from experience. That is the way he believes that the country should go, that the country should look for a young man or young people to run it.

But again, that is his judgment. There is no time in this country where we said that age, remember, I organized the first press conference of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe when he came out in 1978. People were talking that he was too old, he was too this, he was too that and Chief Awolowo on the other side, was also doing his own thing.

So, we don't have age as a determining factor. But we have a minimum, but we don't have maximum and therefore, let the country judge. Let the people of Nigeria judge.

I think we must believe that Nigerian people are fair- minded. They would determine whether A is old enough or young enough to shoulder the responsibilities of this country, and with that I would say let the Nigerian people be the arbiter, the judge of who is credible candidate, who can solve their problem. What is your view on calls on President Jonathan to run for the Presidency as against the zoning formula of his party?

You know, I will use two answers that I got from various persons. One is by Chief Barnabas Germade. Gemade, is a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said that there is a divine zoning. Somebody else, that is, Chief D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha said whether Jonathan could or cannot run is a just natural design and so on. So, again that is the way I see the matter. It is not for me to predetermine whether he should run or not. President Jonathan himself has to tell the country why he wants to run or not. Let me tell you one issue of discourse.

That is, the Americans. In 1776, they never anticipated that they would have a ticket of un -elected president and the vice-president. So the Nigerian Constitution never also anticipated that we would have a ticket of un-elected, president and vice-president. So, this situation has arisen. So, what we have today is what the Americans had in 1974, un-elected president and vice-president, i.e. Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller, who was my governor in New York State at that time.

If you want the full story, I will tell you. Richard Nixon's Vice-President, Spiro Agnew was to be impeached because of the problem they had. The point is that he was part of the builders of the United States. He resigned. Spiro Agnew resigned and Gerald Ford, who was the Minority Leader then in the House of Representatives, was picked as the vice-president to Richard Nixon. Nixon then ran into problem with Watergate and of course, he too resigned instead of being impeached, and Ford became the President. Ford, then picked Rockefeller, then Governor of New York State as the vice president.

So, that is what we have today, the same situation of unanticipated. The President fell ill, he left the scene, the vice president took over, the president picked Namadi Sambo and you now have two un-elected presidents who have never fought a national election. Just as Ford and Rockefeller had never fought a national election. That is number one. Number two, when it came to nomination, Reagan wanted to challenge him. He said, you should not run because you were just there as a stopgap.

The Republicans said, no let him run. So, he ran in 1976. So, we have the same situation today where we cannot really prejudge. The PDP must look at history and forget about their zoning. You see this situation that has arisen. It is their best bet. It is up to them, it is not up to me. So, this is where I will say, behave like the Republican Party of the United States in 1976 that stopped Reagan from seeking the nomination. But when Ford left after he lost to Jimmy Carter in 1980, Reagan came into the picture.

The fact that you are nominated does not mean that you are elected. So, Jonathan knows what to do to seek the mandate of the people. If he is to do that, he knows what to do and he can win. Mark you; the PDP is only one party. There are 50 other parties. So, if they are talking about zoning, they did not say that there is a constitutional matter, there is nothing called the Nigerian constitution supporting zoning. No. That is my honest view.

The last time before you travelled to US, we had some issues over the agreement you had with IBB when you managed him during the 2003 presidential election, which he eventually did not participate in. Ever since your press interview, has he made contact with you or have you reached him to see how he would react to the agreement you had with him earlier?

Well, the matter between me and General Babangida is very, very private and I would want those matters to remain private. We spoke some days ago on telephone. I am not going to tell you what we discussed. We spoke at length. I do communicate with him. So, they remain still private, personal and on a friendly level. So, I would rather stop there.

What is your reaction to the National Assembly's decision to vote against two-party system and open ballot voting system canvassed by Nigerians in the electoral reform process?

Well, my history is associated with the two-party system and Nigerians have always supported a two-party formation. That is our history. If you go back to 1964, UPGA and NMA. If you go back to 1978, you also had the NPN and the progressives. So, this has always been but that wasn't by law.

So, you can have a two-party system because Nigerians want it. You don't need to go to National Assembly to do it. If people follow my writings, I have always talked about PDP and non-PDP parties. Non-PDP parties should get together and challenge PDP. So, if you are going to challenge PDP who cares? That remains the position. So, we do not need to go the route we adopted before of legislating the two-party system. Circumstances have changed. Interplay of political forces as I said can produce two-party systems. You do not need a legislation to bring that about.

There is no legislation, which brings about the two party formation in the United States – the Republicans and Democrats; there is no legislation, which brings about the three- party structure you have in UK today – the Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal something. if you know the way they were originated it's not because the House of Commons decided one way or the other.

So, I still believe that you can have a two-party system. All these factions you are finding in various parties are actually calling for a re-alignment of political forces. I think re-alignment of political forces can be pushed further to lead to a two party system or three party systems depending on the way you want it.

I also believe that PDP means something to some people in some states. It doesn't mean anything in some other states and some factions in PDP are closer to Labour in some states and so on and so forth. So, there would be re-alignment of political forces. That is where we should be pushing for. We shouldn't use National Assembly, mark you, the Assembly people are people seeking office.

Whatever they do with respect to parties would be something that would be advantageous to them individually. So, you don't know why they are voting one way or the other. This is the picture. Whereas, people who are not seeking elective offices, who are not in the National Assembly, who are seeking elective offices, who are challenging the Assemblymen they have a different view about how they want parties to be. So, leave that to chance.

What is your advice to Nigerians as they prepare for another round of elections?

My view is that no country survives if it doesn't have free, fair and credible elections. So, we should go for that. The election could be free, it could be fair, it may not be credible. Credibility is at the root of democratic election, whether people believe that what they are seeing is true. That is credibility. Therefore, I would urge President Jonathan to work for a credible election, not necessarily free and fair. Free and fair must be taken as given but credibility is not taken as given and that is what he should work for.

Why I say so is this. A credible election for a man in office who is also a candidate is a different ball game from a man in office who is not a candidate. So, one of the things we talk, which sometimes we ignore with respect to June 12, 1993 was that Babangida was not a candidate. But there are ways, which you call credibility enhancing mechanism. I don't want to discuss those ones here. Credibility enhancing mechanism that Jonathan must introduce in other to make an election credible if he turns out to be a candidate. I want to start advising in the media on what he should do or should not do.

I delivered a lecture in Vienna, and I said election could be free and fair and may not be credible. I still believe that is the position. What we should go for is a credible election.

We understand you gave a testimony about your health condition in church, we would like you to share that with us sir?

Having gone through three major surgeries, having gone through 10 radiations, having gone through about three months of rehabilitation, having gone through 12 chemotherapy, I have cause to be thankful to God that I am what I am today. The talk, all the fears about cancer spreading to my brain does not exist. It did not. MRI of my brain up till few weeks ago is very positive.

There is no spinal compression, which I had before in 2008 where eight tumours were removed. By January this year, there is nothing called spinal compression. MRI of my brain also shows that I am mentally sound. My heart is very good, my kidney is water-full. So, I have nothing to worry about. I am surviving and thriving.