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NOTHING SAYS PDP ZONING CAN'T BE DISCARDED – PROF. ANIFOWOSE

By NBF News

Remi Anifowose is a retired professor of Political Science with bias in violence in politics and electoral violence. He spent 36 years at the University of Lagos teaching. To justify his academic excellence, Anifowose never paid school fees throughout his days as a student.

After his service years, he had a rare opportunity to hit it big and have an assured money-filled retirement age, but strange enough, he turned down the offer. He declined to be the Independence Electoral Commission (INEC) boss; what others would have considered as an opportunity long awaited for. But he treated it with 'no, thank you' attitude and moved on with life since.

But Anifowose does not regret the action because he took the decision on his own volition. He recently spoke to Saturday Sun on the INEC dilemma and the elections of 2011.

Do you think the present INEC leadership will deliver in 2011 elections?

Let them have free hand to operate. If the commissioners know themselves, they should resist all manner of temptations; because the temptations will always be there. The politicians seek for power at all costs, wanting to buy up the commissioners. If the commissioners should resist all these, maintaining their integrity, this is the only way we can talk of one man, one vote. Again it is the only way every man's vote will count. This is also the only way the integrity of the members of the new INEC commission will be measured. They should also resist the temptation from the government and refuse to be used.

Can Prof. Jega, who heads the commission, deliver?

I have absolute confidence in Professor Jega. I know him very well. He is a fellow political scientist. We have met at conferences and other forums. I have interacted with him before he was appointed INEC boss. I know very well that he is a strong willed person, he is a man of high integrity, a very reliable person, and I know that when he is set to do something, he will do it. He cannot be an easy prey to the temptation of corruption and the temptation of embarrassment from politicians.

To that extent, I think the country is lucky to have such a personality. Just like many people have remarked, the choice of Prof. Jega is commendable. Given his antecedent when he was the President of Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) under the military regime, he stood his grounds. He demonstrated courage and determination, he provided good leadership. So, I think if he carries out the same quality to his new office, the country will benefit from his wealth of experience as a leader. There is no doubt in my mind that Nigeria is going to witness a new electoral regime because of this new leadership. I also know two of them on the committee. From Southeast and Southwest, these two men are also gentlemen.

Olurode, who represents the Southwest is my colleague. We have worked together for many years. He was even my student before we became colleagues. I am proud of him because he has never let me down. We have carried out researches together, published some books together. I have confidence in him that wherever he is, he will always demonstrate the kind of commitment he has always demonstrated in his academic life. He is a no-nonsense person, not somebody you can easily buy over. He believes that things have to be done properly. I believe that anybody with that kind of attitude to life could be relied on. I think with this combination, we will have nothing to regret. Besides, Olurode is very hard working, intelligent and clever. He would be found very useful in his new office.

The issue today is Jonathan running or not and the PDP zoning. What is your position?

Personally, I do not see anything wrong with President Goodluck Jonathan if he wants to contest for the 2011 election. The constitution does not bar him. It is his fundamental human right, which I think he can exercise.

Talking about zoning, it may be a private arrangement within the party. But, nothing also says that it cannot be waved. It is not sacrosanct. So, to that extent, if President Jonathan shows interest, there is nothing wrong with it. I also believe that he has all the qualifications, the quality of one who can move the country forward.

If you also listen to some of his utterances, like laying emphasis on electoral reforms, speaking strongly that everybody's votes count, you would take him seriously and for real. There will be imposition from him as a leader on the contestants. He is also committed to ensuring that what matters to the people especially the energy sector is sincerely improved. This is uppermost in the minds of the people, so from time to time when he has the opportunity, he has also repeated that he would work vigorously ensuring that the power situation improves. He knows that without power, not much could be done in the way of development. We all know the rate of unemployment in the country and we know that once the power situation improves, any industry that has been shut down will be revived. This also means reduction in the level of unemployment, reduction in poverty, reduction in the crime. I think that he is zeroing in on that particular item. Many people will be fully engaged.

But the North is not supporting Jonathan?
That is expected because of the existing situation. (The Yar'dua factor). The expectation was that Yar'Adua (which means the North) would be there for eight years. But he did three years plus. So, the North believes that they should be allowed to complete those eight years before it will go to another zone. But I believe that since Jonathan is part of Yar'Adua's government, if he now shows interest, I think the North also has to realize that the South-south people also believe it is an opportunity for them.

Ordinarily, this kind of situation would not have arisen, a situation in which somebody from the South occupying that office, so I believe that since that fortune has smiled on the South-south, the North should be sympathetic to their situation. As one of there people is aspiring to occupy that office.

What do you make of IBB's plan to come back to power after eight years?

I do not know. But just like many people have remarked, I will say that we have seen the best of IBB. How many years did he spend? People believe that in nine years, if there was anything he had to contribute to Nigeria's development, he would have done it because that was a long period. For him to show interest in coming back, I think it is an unnecessary ambition and again, one will also say that he has the fundamental human right, nobody can also stop him.

He has the right to contest. The constitution does not bar him from contesting neither is there any court restriction on him. That is the beauty of democracy, it allows for free contest. So, in a democratic environment, anybody can contest for offices. You can vote and be voted for. That is it.

After the fight in the House of Representatives over corruption, how would we assess the members?

That episode in the House of representative was a shame. What made it more shameful was the fact some school children were there at the gallery watching the proceedings of the house. It will affect them watching that kind of violence on the floor of the house, it was a very shameful act detailed by our representatives. I thought that before then, that there should have been a way of curtailing the situation to ensure that it does not degenerate into that kind of scene. There are more decent ways of protesting the opposition group should have explored. In Nigeria, such allegations are not new. But due process has to be followed by the accuser, and the people accused will open up and then see what could be done about the allegation and accusation.

Violence will not solve anything, rather it will add more injury. We were surprised that on the floor of the house, some people were seriously wounded, shed blood, some getting harmful objects to attack each other. So, I think that even though the protesters had a point, it was not the right way to protest.

Do you think Jonathan's contest has Obasanjo's backing or it's like his return to power?

I am sure Jonathan has his own mind. If it is true that people know he associated very closely with Obasanjo, and, therefore, it is right for people to assume that once he is back in power as president, it is the return of Obasanjo's policy; I do not see it like that. I strongly believe that as president, he will have his own policy and mind. Obasanjo installed Yar'Adua and Jonathan as president and vice president in 2007 and one would recall that gradually, the late president tried to distance himself from Obasanjo. In like manner, I think if the president succeeds in 2011, he will have his own agenda to pursue rather than Obasanjo's agenda.

You area of specialization is 'Violence in politics' and 'electoral violence', which of the political violence of Nigeria was your target?

The study was about the violence that followed the disputed Western Nigeria election of October 10, 1965. It is about how party politics degenerated into fracas in Tiv land, middle belt. It degenerated into widespread of violence. Coming back to the western Nigerian Election of 1965, the election was between two political parties, the ruling party and the opposition party. The ruling party was unpopular and tried as much as possible to woo all the electorate support from all the political parties, but the people were not prepared to support the new party. They rather supported the opposition, which was the old party in the western region.

The Action Group was in opposition while the ruling party was the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) with Akintola as the leader who was also the premier of the Western region. So the elections were contested and rigged by the ruling party and on the basis of that, the people became disillusioned to the government, because the results did not reflect the wish of the people.

The people questioned the legitimacy of the government of the premier that emerged from the rigged election. Because they believed that they would not get justice in going to court, they resorted to acts of violence or what was called 'operation wete' which means, during the violence, political thugs moved about with jerry cans filled with petrol.

With that they sprayed vehicles, people, houses and set them ablaze. These were aggrieved people who believed that elections were rigged, that the result of the election did not reflect the way they used their votes. So rather than go to court, they took to vandalism. They were mobilized by politicians of rival parties. It shows that if elections are not free and fair, it could lead to violence as demonstrated in the First Republic. This was also repeated in 1983 in South West Oyo, Ondo and present Ekiti. It is a sign that where people question the legitimacy of a government, the legitimacy that should have been brought by free and fair election, where such consent was not given, it could disrupt the entire system.

It can also be aggravated by the fact that there are many unemployed youths because those were the people that were easily recruited by the politicians to participate in this violence. They were the people that were causing havoc.

Instead of bringing legitimacy where people perceive that such elections have not been free and fair, the consequence is usually violence, people loose confidence in the court system.

Ordinarily there are provisions that electoral act which says that losers should seek redress in the court. When losers refuse to do that, there would be breakdown of law and order. Upon reflection, the consequence is always great, so we are saying that in 2011, such should not happen and to avoid a repetition of the ugly past, where elections were followed by violence, the solution lies in ensuring that election results should only reflect the way the people voted.

With your experience in political science, don't you think you would have been a good candidate for the INEC top job?

Well I love my personality. I do not believe that I am cut out for radical politics. I am not the type. Yes, my area of specialization is political science but that does not mean I am a politician. It is not compulsory that I will be a good politician because politics is the act of the possible. I do not think I can be a good politician.

As a political scientist, you want to think about the rules of politics and think of where those rules fit into the situation. But a politician will not follow the rules that way. He will have no time to think about the Machiavelli's political philosophies.

But then, the end justifies the means. That is why I think that though I am a political scientist, I am not interested in such a position, and infact, and I might not even do well because the rules matter to me. Some people who tried to woo him into politics invited him to a meeting. At that meeting, the issue of INEC job came up. That was even while Professor Maurice Iwu was still the boss at INEC, I said to them no, thank you. I rather stay aloof. That is the reason.