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IT'S NOT GOOD CHANGING INEC LEADERSHIP FEW MONTHS TO ELECTIONS

By NBF NEWS
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National Coordinator, Rights Monitoring Group and Executive Director, Probity and Ethics Society, Mr. Olufemi Akinbule Aduwo, has said that there is no point changing the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) few months to general elections. He said INEC chairman should be allowed to conduct the election.

The human rights activist said that the conduct of elections needs experience, as he recalled that the leader of Ghana's electoral body had said that Nigeria needs voters' education, continuity and experience.

He spoke on the last Anambra election and other things related to the polity.

You collaborated with the EFCC in fighting corruption. How was the experience?

We worked cordially with the former EFCC Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu. We handed about four cases to him and we also worked with Lamode and after they left, we backed out because we do not understand the present structure of the EFCC. Ribadu is a friend and they were open in their dealings. We sent them petitions concerning fraudsters we knew and they invited us for discussions, which gave us the opportunity to give more information. We handed more than seven cases to Ribadu out of which four of them were taken up and the suspects convicted.

I don't have anything against Farida Waziri, but I was not comfortable with the way Ribadu was removed. I thought if somebody worked for his nation, he should not be humiliated. He was promoted and suddenly somebody decided he should not be decorated and then we just backed out. We are still watching Waziri. I don't have anything against her, but we want to know her better before working with her.

How would you access war against corruption after Ribadu?

The war against corruption should be a continuum. Take, for example, Italy. Italy is a G8 member, one of the most industrialized countries in the world. The level of corruption in Italy is monumental. There was a time they had to remove two prime ministers in one year because of corruption. One thing is that the system works. Even though you are a prime minister, no matter how highly placed you are, the law will catch up with you. It is a process. Not one single agency or agencies can fight corruption if people are not united to fight the cankerworm. It's a cancer. Somebody somewhere knows a director in a ministry that is looting. Somebody somewhere knows a director in a place that is living above his income. So it is a process, but the beauty of the EFCC is that it has come to stay. The fear is there that yes, somebody is watching me, not even the police, which has the constitutional mandate to prosecute, arrest and interrogate.

The fear so far is that we discovered that the Bar and the Bench have tried to bend the laws. For example, I know a former governor who has a case to answer and he went to court and the court ruled that the EFCC should not interrogate, investigate or arrest him. In other words, he is still enjoying immunity. If a judge could grant such injunction, what is the hope for the country?

What is your assessment of Jos crises?
I don't know much about Jos crisis. In fact, the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), North Central, Rev (Dr.) Yakubu Pam, is my friend. We talk on daily basis. Recently, when we spoke on phone, he broke down. I had to call him again. He told me what was going on, what happened. I believe that it is politically motivated. People call it religious. I think people behind it should think twice. I don't think there is any religion that preaches violence and no matter how many years you stay in a place, if you are a settler it does not make you a slave. No matter how many years my children and I stay in Enugu, for instance, I cannot turn into an Igbo man overnight. People should not force themselves to be leaders over people who own the land in Plateau State. It must be clear regardless of how small they are or how few they are. The owner of the land must be established and the settlers must agree they are settlers, so that we can coexist and cohabit in the same nation.

When an earlier crisis occurred, two panels were set up, one by Governor Jang and the other by President Yar'Adua. What happened to the reports? We have not seen the reports, let alone implement them. What happened to all the intelligent agencies? These are the areas we should work on. I believe that if government is determined and willing to do what is right, the problems will be solved.

What do you think about the February Anambra election?

For the first time, INEC established Monitoring and Observation board for Anambra election. Under section 160 of the constitution, INEC has the power to constitute such a body. The board members, under the chairmanship of Akara Iwe, vice president of NBA, met. Two weeks to the election, we moved to Enugu. Government also gave us police protection. On a daily basis, got opinion polls. A day to the election, we moved into Anambra and stayed in Awka. Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, invited us. We met with him.

When you talk about election being free and fair, you are looking at an angle where the voter was allowed or able to access the polling station, cast his or her vote and the votes counted without molestation. That gives confirmation that the election is free and fair. Another one is credibility of election. It has to do with how the candidate emerges. We can x-ray them one by one because these are the issues that hit the polity. Now look at the issue of Soludo. How did he emerge as the sole candidate of the PDP? Was he really the authentic, elected candidate of PDP in the election conducted in the Anambra PDP congress?

The answer is no. He was imposed by Ogbulafor and co in Abuja. So this one created a kind of crisis within PDP. Look at how Andy Uba emerged as a candidate of Labour Party. He went to Labour less than two weeks to the election and emerged. But somebody was there before. Ngige has been parading himself for the past two years as the sole candidate of the Action Congress.

People said that the Anambra election was a litmus test, but for me, regardless of their success, people were disenfranchised here and there. However, it was credible, very fair and acceptable.

What do you expect in 2011?
INEC is prepared. About four months ago, the Senate invited the Ghanaian electoral board chairman for a retreat and the man said if Nigeria would progress, we should do the following three things: voters education, continuity and experience. The man who said that knows what he is talking about. He has been chairman of the electoral body in Ghana for the past 18 years. He has done election more than six times.