INEC should address areas where Internet connection is poor before next ELECTION – OGUNDIWIN

An Associate Professor of Political Science, Dr. Aaron Ogundiwin, has advised Nigerians to consider the profile of presidential candidates in the coming 2023 general election and should not vote on basis of party sentiments. He also queried why democracy in the country is developing at snail’s speed.

How would you rate democracy in Nigeria compared to what’s happening across the world?
If you look at Nigeria as a country, though we are not stationary, we are not making swift progress as the giant of Africa. Our politics is still monetised and there are pockets of vote buying, ballot snatching, political thuggery and the INEC is not backed by law to bring those people, who engage in those acts to book.

But with the promise that votes would count and making sure that when you cast your cast your ballot it goes to the Central unit where INEC and everyone can access, to that extent we can say we have taken a step further and we have seen how that was deployed in the last governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states. But that is not the progress that we should jubilate about.

Kenya just conducted the general election and there was litigation and within few days judgment was delivered. It did not need to spend months or go through other delayed processes because as far as technology is concerned they have gone ahead of Nigeria. Though Kenya is the biggest economy in Eastern Africa, but we are the ‘giant’ of Africa and we also have intellectuals in all areas of endeavor. But because of some things that are subjective, many things are not at the disposal of Nigerians to benefit from.

I don’t see any reason why there should be a public holiday because of election. I shouldn’t see reason you cannot cast your vote on your way to work and send your ballot by courier? There is no reason for the kind of state of the emergency that we impose from Friday at about 6p.m. to Sunday, with movement restricted until the following day after the election is conducted. All of these things are not good for Nigeria and we need to improve on that. We are making progress though, like a snail that is not static. We should run faster than what we are doing at least to launder the image of Africa as the giant as far as democratic politics is concerned.

Looking at the presidential candidates for the coming general elections, will you say Nigeria is fielding our very best?
We don’t have the best anywhere, not anywhere in the world. The world was caught in surprise that the leading vanguard of what we call democracy could throw up somebody like former President Donald Trump of America.

We need to profile the candidates and also hold them accountable by asking them what they intend to do in the key sectors of Nigerian economy. We should ask these individuals what they want to do for Nigerians and how they want to do it and where they want to get the resources to do it? These are what I think we should be looking for.

If we take APC as a political party, there is no reason the ruling party should win the next presidential election, because the change it promised is here actually but we thought it would be positive, but it has been negative. The only thing the ruling party has democratised is insecurity, unemployment, abnormally higher exchange rate, strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities ASUU). So, as a political party, that should have been total failure but we don’t throw away the baby with the bath water, we must look at individuals and what capacity they have.

I personally support individuals as against political party, because I am well educated now to know my civic responsibility and not to yield to the discouragement our political elite bring our way.

So, we must look at individuals and ask them some critical questions that ought to be deliverables. Do not come and say we will give you this and that, things that are not achievable. So other than look at political parties, I would advise Nigerians to look at candidates and see whether the ideal one can be selected among them.

You said we should look beyond gains in Ekiti, Osun; in which areas do you want INEC to improve before the next general elections?
INEC may not be able to do more than the law allows as far as vote buying is concerned. I think it will need to partner with other bodies – the police, civil defence and all other uniformed agencies. They should be deployed to see who is sharing money. What they (politicians) are doing now according to the stories we got from Osun and Ekiti, is that where you know you have supporters they actually do not need to spend so much money. You go to where your opponent is stronger and voters there are illiterate and you pose to be their own political party. Imagine party A is going into party B’s stronghold and pretending to be party B and asking the electorate to submit their voter cards, pay them with assurance that the cards would be returned to the voters on election day. Some people were said to have done that, from the news we got in Osun and Ekiti.

You know that politicians in Nigeria are next in rank to Satan when it comes to craftiness. As you put a law in place they are 10 miles ahead of you to ensure they get what they want.

But what they cannot do now is to snatch the ballot or set it ablaze after people have voted. That one has been curtailed and I would want INEC to stick to that and ensure that the electronic transfer of results is also well secured.

Something should be done to places where there is no strong Internet network because it is not everywhere you easily can make use of your gadgets that depend on Internet. All of those things should be done now. INEC should ask for whatever is needed now to conduct free fair and credible polls. But because of Osun and Ekiti, we will give kudos to the Commission for how far it has gone, it just needs to improve upon that. So if INEC can deploy some DSS and intelligence people to mingle and find who is buying vote, by the time such people are arrested and prosecuted some sanity would come.

And then also political parties need to improve membership. Today, anybody is a party member once you come to meeting. That should be corrected.

Looking at Oyo governorship come 2023, 18 parties are contesting and the more the merrier, they say. Do you also think so?
Since we are talking about my state, indigenes and non-indigenes can see that three horses are not running anywhere. It is only one horse that is running from 2023 to 2027. That horse is healthy and not tired and it is from the strongest breed. It is not political party per se but it’s an individual and it is Governor Seyi Makinde.

The other horses should go and wait, not even till 2027 because Governor Makinde would have been so popular that to install a successor who would also spend eight years won’t be difficult. Is there anything the governor is not doing right that they want to correct?
What can these horses point at which the incumbent is not doing right? Let’s see areas of employment, prompt payment of workers’ salaries and other notable things, Makinde has done well.

He has secured the security of the state as well tackled the volatile system of chieftaincy titles in Ibadan land and others. What exactly do these horses feel they want to come and do that Makinde is not doing well now.

I am sure that the voters in Oyo are wiser than before and this has nothing to do with political partied. It has to do with the individual. We need to begin to profile anybody who is contemplating to come to power. What has been the person’s antecedent?

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