WITHOUT ELECTIONS, IT'S EITHER INTERIM GOVT OR NO GOVT â€“ OGBORU
At a time when some people are expressing doubt over May 29, 2011 handover date, following the shift in dates of the forthcoming elections, business mogul and politicians, Mr. Great Ogboru, has said that there should be no compromise on the inauguration of a new government in the country next year.
He said that the constitution does not make room for shift in handover date, adding that only a constitution amendment could make this possible.
Ogboru, who is still in court challenging the 2007 governorship election in Delta State, said however, that if there were no elections before May 20, 2011, there would be an interim government or the invocation of another 'doctrine of necessity.' He, however, believes that Nigerians would not accept any doctrine of necessity.
He said: 'I think the date is sacrosanct. That date, as far as the Nigerian constitution is concerned, cannot be changed without an amendment and I don't see the National Assembly amending the constitution on this score. So, the date is sacrosanct. If there are no elections before May 29 next year, then we are going to have an interim government or we will have no government at all. Maybe, the doctrine of necessity will come in again, but I don't think we are going to welcome the doctrine of necessity and that message has to be loud and clear. No doctrine of necessity for May 29, 2011. The Nigerian public will not accept it.'
Ogboru spoke on these and other things.
Since your many battles at the election petition tribunal for the governorship of Delta State, you have been silent. Why?
In life, when you find yourself in the midst of circumstances that you cannot attribute reason to and you believe you are rational, you must be calm. Our silence is borne out of the fact that, like many Nigerians, we are traumatised at the type of society that we now find ourselves. One would have thought that a matter, as the governorship of a state, is important enough to be given speedy determination, but that's not the case. In Delta State, millions of people were disenfranchised in an election that did not take place. That matter has gone to the Appeal Court and come back to the lower court and now still pending in the Appeal Court and nothing has happened; yet another election is just by the corner. Against this backdrop, I think a rational man must wait. That is why we are quiet. But we are still determined to remove those who rigged the 2007 elections from elective offices and we trust the judiciary to do justice.
Even when the four-year tenure is almost running out of hand?
The four-year tenure notwithstanding, the fact that an injustice exists is enough impetus for us to do something, which means we will not say because the tenure of the so-called governor is about to lapse, the fraud and the malpractices committed against the people of Delta State and, in fact, Nigeria should not be questioned, even if it is one day to the end of the tenure. I think the court is still bound by the laws of this country to make sure that justice is meted out.
How would you describe the kind of society you now think you find yourself in?
Our society is becoming more like the society which Hobbes found himself where life was short and meaningless. Today, not many care about the citizens of this country. Whatever happens to their lives is immaterial. That is why you have cases of kidnapping, rape, armed robbery; all of them on the increase and prominent citizens are taken out and nobody can find the culprits. There is no solution. If prominent citizens are dying and nobody is accounting for them, what about the millions of innocent people unknown? That kind of society, I think, is becoming too dangerous for normal people.
We are approaching election year. Are you going to take another shot at Government House, Asaba or maybe you are going to look at other positions?
Well, 2011 is around the corner, we understand that, but as I told you earlier on, we still have a case in the Court of Appeal. We want to see what the outcome of that case will be - good, bad or indifferent - and thereafter, we will take an audit of our experiences thus far and look at the expectations of our people, and then come up with an agenda, which might be, continue the struggle or let some other person take a shot; but at this point in time, we are solely bent on trying to make sure that the injustice of 2007 is corrected and until we complete that assignment, we are not able to say what we are going to do next.
You've consistently said that you were robbed of victory in 2007. Do you still maintain that position to date?
There were no elections in Delta State in 2007, on April 14. This is a statement of fact. Every living soul in Delta State knows that, except, of course, the chief beneficiary of that atrocity, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who, on one hand, raped the people of Delta State by becoming governor without an election and at the same time, preaches one man, one vote. What a contradiction! Such is a mockery of the leadership that we have, which has become the bane of the Nigerian people.
But he has just declared his intention for second term. How do you see his chances and that of the PDP this time round?
The Delta PDP is not known for doing anything that is credible and if they continue with their usual tactics, they will attempt to declare pyrrhic victory as usual. But if we are to hold Mr. President to his words, that is, that there would be free and fair elections and there would be one man, one vote, I see a sounding defeat for the PDP in Delta State and in so many other states, because the truth of the matter is that if we are ready to have free and fair elections, the PDP will get less than 15 states.
How do you see the call by the PDP national chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo that politicians who have enriched themselves while holding public office should be banned for life?
Well, that maybe his wish but is that what the constitution says? You have to tailor your wishes and your desires to the dictates of the law. If the constitution says so, so be it. But if it is not, then it is wishful thinking or it maybe considered as grandstanding, trying to please the public. I don't think that is in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, though that is not to say we condone corruption. If he is serious about that, then he should take advantage of his party's majority to work with the National Assembly to ensure it becomes law. Then, we can take him seriously.
He also said that his party would not allow corrupt politicians to emerge as winners at the primaries. Do you think that's possible?
We shall wait and see.
What is your take on his other statement that the present crop of politicians cannot be compared to the First Republic politicians?
I think, to a great extent, the statement is true. The sagacity of the Awolowos, the Ziks, and the Ahmadu Bellos is not in today's politicians. Of course, Awolowo was his own man. He was not a hireling of any godfather. He came to liberate his people; so were Zik, Bello and Balewa. However, what you have today, in terms of leadership, are just semi-glorified errand boys to some former military leaders, like one of the former governors who is today somewhere in Europe or Dubai. What was his job? What were his antecedents? He was a serial ex-convict and briefcase carrier to a former military despot and these were the qualifications he had to become the governor. He raped the state. He raped the people. He looted the treasury with his cohorts, like some of his other colleagues. He introduced a culture of impunity and that is why there are no elections anymore and results are being churned out. With such a strange leadership produced without election, would you compare them to the rigours, competitive leadership that was given by people like Awolowo and Zik? No!
Chief Nwodo is right on that. I think something has to be done about it urgently. A society without true leaders is bound to fail because leadership is the most important ingredient in all the factors of development. It adds synergy to all other factors. So, we have to do something about it now. And let's hope that the one man, one vote talk will come to reality and good leaders across the length and breadth of Nigeria will step out to take the mantle of leadership. And let us see what changes can come into the development of our nation. Until we get that right, I doubt if we will not be turning round in circles.
There has been the call for the EFCC, ICPC and other security agencies to screen politicians for the 2011 elections. What do you make of such a call?
Whenever I hear or read any sweeping statement, I refer myself either to the constitution or the relevant law. If the Electoral Act says so and the Nigerian constitution permits it, then it is good. But if it is unconstitutional, then it is ultra vires and should not be encouraged. We don't want a situation where people break the laws of our country, in the quest to do good. Two wrongs don't make a right. So, let us insert that in the Electoral Act first before they do so. If not, then they should not do what is unlawful in the quest to do what is seeming good.
There is also clamour for a generational change in our politics but one of the presidential aspirants, Gen. Gusau, says it does not guarantee good leadership and performance. What is your comment on this statement?
Ideally, age gives experience and it is not how old you are that makes you a good leader and vice versa. That is, it is not how young you are that will make you a better leader. But having said that, against the backdrop of our experience where we have recycled politicians, then the call for generational change becomes one that has to be looked at critically. However, the call for generational change, for the sake of it, is, in my view, utopian. We have to look at the credentials of these specific individuals. If against the backdrop of elderly politicians who can no longer perform withstand the rigours of leadership, then the call for generational change is unnecessary. But if we have a younger generation that could do better and we are sure, why not? Then it becomes a better alternative. So, I am neither for nor against generational change. I want to look at the critical issues and the persons involved before such a sweeping statement can become cogent. So, it is neither black nor white; rather it is situation specific.
Some people said that President Goodluck Jonathan shouldn't contest the 2011 elections but he has gone ahead to declare his intention and submitted his form to his party. What do you make of his candidacy and the politics of zoning formula, which is a major issue in PDP politics?
First, it is an absurdity to ask a sitting president, constitutionally enabled, not to run for office. I think that it is unthinkable. But when you want to look at the PDP constitution, you now ask yourself which is a better alternative? Should we go with an absurdity and ask our president not to contest an election because he is from a particular zone that is not in favour with the rotational principles? Another question you must ask is, if the president is not favoured, so to say, and there are other candidates from a particular favoured zone, against the backdrop of those persons and the president himself, who will be a better president? It is not enough to ask a good president to leave office and for someone else to come and take his place. It is worse. In fact, this is the nemesis of zoning. A time comes when you have to question the underpinnings that made those assumptions necessary. At this point in time, the candidacy of President Jonathan is questioning the zoning principles of the PDP and for very good reasons.
There are some who believe that he is arguably the best candidate for the PDP to win in the election and they have the constitutional right to express this conviction. And the PDP, in the quest to win an election, would want to go for its best candidate to win the election, irrespective of where the person comes from and that is why the party is being ambiguous. If not, the zoning thing is well entrenched and recognised, though not interpreted with one accord. But if we are to follow this zoning, as it were today, what will be the result for the PDP? That is the question. On my own, I support a North-South zoning arrangement for the presidency and it is for national stability, cohesion and mutual confidence in nation building, derived from our shared past. I think it is good and we fought for it but we did not fight for zoning for the sake of it. Lately, there is another compelling argument for zoning based on the six geopolitical regions. I also think it has merit, but that was not the basis for the struggle to share or rotate power between the North and South, which culminated in the emergence of Chiefs Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae as southern presidential candidates, albeit of South-West extraction.
If zoning would give us a bad leader, we will not accept it and I think that is a question for the ruling party to answer. It is abominable and unthinkable to ask a sitting president not to seek re-election, but then it is common happenstance for a sitting president to lose re-election. That is what franchise is all about. But when the mindset is to undermine franchise, then the quest to hold unto the federal rigging machinery becomes a do or die affair, which is where the PDP is today. Therefore, those who are in the PDP who insist on zoning should move out and organise themselves to challenge President Jonathan if they trust their argument has sufficient public appeal that guarantees electoral victory. The people will decide.
Many presidential aspirants have emerged from various political parties, but perhaps, the spectacular one is Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. What do you make of his entry into partisan politics?
Nuhu Ribadu is a man who loves this country without question and he fits into the new mould of a new generation, especially coming from the North. So, his entry into politics is welcome. His ability to campaign and to convert votes to himself will be a function of the party platform he will stand and the support that he will get and the message he will give to the people. I think he is a good material. I think if given the chance, he will do well, but then the Nigerian electorate, once again, will decide the best. I will hope that the elections will be free and fair, so that we will see who the Nigerian people think is the better candidate between him and all the other candidates that we have. I think that is the way to put it.
Today, our Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, is national chairman of a political party. What do you make of that development?
I think it is a mistake.
Some people have said that those who have ruled the country before should not be allowed to contest. Do you think so?
That is against the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It can't be right so we can't support that.
General Babangida, General Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar are now serial presidential aspirants. How do you see this development?
They are leaders and they still believe that they have a role to play. The truth of the matter is that you could never stop them from aspiring to lead their people. The question is: Do the people want them to lead and will you be able to go through the rigours of organising for elections? So, they are welcome but the final word will remain with the electorate and we hope, for the sake of posterity, that this election will indeed, be free and fair so that we have one man, one vote and then when some of the candidates are worsted, then their ambition will die without the pains of being cheated.
Many Nigerians have hailed the appointment of Professor Attahiru Jega as INEC chairman. Do you think INEC under him can conduct credible poll in 2011?
I very much appreciate the wisdom and boldness behind the choice of Professor Jega. From testimonies, he appears a rare breed of leader in contemporary times and we look forward to transformational leadership under his watch as INEC's umpire. Having said that, the fact is the INEC can conduct credible elections under any chairman. As electoral actors, our experiences so far in this country have shown that the president of Nigeria determines the credibility or otherwise of the elections, not the INEC chairman necessarily. And this is because the paraphernalia of security is in the hands of Mr. President not the INEC chairman. If Mr. President directs the Inspector-General of Police today that those elections must be free and fair and that directive goes down the chain of command, I can tell you that those elections will be free and fair. If the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria instructs the National Security Adviser, service chiefs and the director-general of the State Security Service, the Nigerian military and the entire national security apparatus must not partake in the disenfranchisement of Nigerians, that instruction will go down the chain of command and they will not participate.
Election rigging is not by touts or by thugs. The type of rigging we have been talking about is by the Federal Government. Unfortunately, the Federal Government of Nigeria became the master rigger of elections in this country because it gives security protection to INEC, party officials, touts and thugs who violate clean processes. So, they forge and announce false results and get away with it. That is not something Professor Jega can control with the power of character and goodwill alone. Unless the Federal Republic of Nigeria has a responsible president who ensures that the right of the Nigerian people must not be abused, there will be rigging of elections even if you have Professor Jega as REC in all the states. So, the power of Mr. President, and of course, the will of the Nigerian people, is the key to free and fair elections. That was why, in 1993, General Babangida allowed a free and fair election and then annulled it. Only the presidency has that power but the Nigerian people have to wake up because that power in the hands of one man is too much. Something has to be done about it. If not, the future generations are going to be left at the mercy; at the whims and caprices of Mr. President and that is not right.
But Prof. Jega has called for extension of time if he must deliver credible elections and the call has generated controversy. What's your take on it?
I also heard somebody saying that anything that will give us a good election, including extension of time, is good. I come from that school of thought. I think that if we are to extend the date of the elections to April 2011 and we have free and fair elections by that extension, it is better than having a rushed job and then ending up with flawed elections. Three months in the life of this nation, in the context and purpose, is absolutely nothing.
There is this palpable fear that the hand-over date of May 29 may not be realistic, though Jega and the president have said the date is sacrosanct. What do you say?
I think the date is sacrosanct. That date, as far as the Nigerian constitution is concerned, cannot be changed without an amendment and I don't see the National Assembly amending the constitution on this score. So, the date is sacrosanct. If there are no elections before May 29 next year, then we are going to have an interim government or we will have no government at all. Maybe, the doctrine of necessity will come in again, but I don't think we are going to welcome the doctrine of necessity and that message has to be loud and clear. No doctrine of necessity for May 29, 2011. The Nigerian public will not accept it.
How do you appraise the electoral reforms?
The reforms that were carried out by the National Assembly are still controversial and as a matter of fact, it is like scratching the tip of the iceberg because they were not far-reaching and they didn't show seriousness and commitment to change. They left the candidates in the election at the mercy of the courts. The constitution of Nigeria is very clear on how succession takes place in our country. It says that when you don't have a president and you don't have a vice president, the Senate president takes over. Is that not so? And I think after that, if the Senate president is not there, the Chief Justice of the Federation will take over. Is that not so? So, why do we go and swear in a president in the name of saying that there is going to be a vacuum? How can there be a vacuum when the Senate president can act? How can there be a vacuum when the Chief Justice can act? But we go ahead and install unelected people in offices; we swear them into office and they use the resources of the state to punish us. That is why my case is in court for three and a half years now, in a state where there were no elections, where even a child of five years old knows that elections didn't take place.
We are in court for three and a half years! You see that?
If what was right was done, the Chief Judge of Delta State would have acted as governor until those litigations were over and if that were the case, it would have been accelerated because both parties would have been in tandem to making sure that the dispute is resolved one way or the other. But in this case, one man is using the resources of the state; the powers of state to ensure that justice is denied. So, in my view, the amendments to the Electoral Act are hogwash. They don't go far enough. The Uwais report, which was the basis for the reform itself, was thrown away and then, they did what they had to do. They picked and chose what was good for them. They even went as far as telling the INEC, which is an independent body, the sequence of how elections should be conducted. Why? An independent body like INEC should be free to determine how the sequence of elections can take place. That is not the job of the National Assembly. So, they are actually making laws for themselves and not for the Nigerian people. So, those reforms, I'm sorry to say, are not good enough.
Some people say that the recent change of service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police as well as the director-general of the SSS is political. Do you think so?
I'm not the first person to say that at the pinnacle of service, that office becomes political. So, if an office is political, don't you know you will need political means or measures to control that office? If the people there today are not suitable to the powers-that-be, unfortunately, and they are all political people, then they must take a political decision that can protect them. So, I think it is political thing. Yes!
So maybe, it wasn't needful?
No, it is political in the sense that that is what is good for the current government, to be able to carry out functions that have been assigned them by the constitution. If they saw that these people are the ones that they need to use to do that, then they would retain them. Those offices are political offices.
And recently, the GOCs were also moved. Is that one also political in your opinion?
They were not moved by Mr. President. They were moved by the Military High Command. That was reshuffling; not retirement. They are still in service; so it is different. The first one is political. This one is a professional routine exercise.
Nigeria is 50. Do you think it is worth celebrating?
We had a civil war; we survived it. We have had many interventions in our polity, we have survived. I think the mere fact that we have survived and we are still talking about Nigeria, as an entity is a gain in itself. Come to think of it, we came from a diverse background. Some of the people who were with us originally, like Cameroun are no more with us. They left even before independence. Those of us who stayed at independence have remained one till today. I think we should celebrate that irrespective of the imperfections that we have in the system. The truth of the matter is that Rome was not built in a day. The Nigerian project is not going to be completed in one day, but we need good men and good women who will always come out and say the truth and put the issues in the burner and be the conscience of the Nigerian people to make changes and make sacrifices. But we must celebrate this country, for whatever it is worth. With all the name calling internationally, I am a Nigerian. I have no other place and for me, this is home. It is a great nation.
Do you think Nigeria's foreign image is better now than before?
Without question, it is! Without question, it is!
What future do you see for Nigeria?
You see, we have come from a very far place and there is no place to go to anymore; so Nigeria has only one place to go now and that is the positive side. I see that great nation coming out of all of these.