2023: Too late to go back on electronic voting — Onyebeadi

Posted by News Express | 30 November 2022 | 1,904 times

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•Prof. Onyebeadi


. . . Says Peter Obi’s chances very bright

In this recent interview, Prof Echefuna Onyebeadi, a United Nations Fellow and an Emeritus Professor of Engineering Economy, speaks on the state of the nation and the preparations for the 2023 general polls

Nigeria is preparing for a general election next year and the campaigns are about to start. What are your general impressions on the preparations? 
Well, let me start by appreciating your news media for this opportunity to interact on the state of the country, Nigeria. 
The level of preparedness by those concerned is still being monitored. The president, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, has promised Nigerians free, fair and credible elections come 2023. A new electoral act that allows for real time electronic transmission of election results has been signed into law. The electoral umpire INEC has also been reassuring Nigerians that 2023 elections wouldn't be business as usual. 
The unfolding events that will lead to the forthcoming elections will show how prepared those concerned are to deliver on their promises.  
Do you think that the INEC is prepared to deliver free, fair and credible elections given its handling of issues like voter registration and so called clean up of the voters register? 
The spokesperson and Chairman of INEC have continued to assure Nigerians that they are prepared to deliver free, fair and credible elections come 2023. To promise is one thing but to fulfill the promise is yet another thing.
However, the manner the voters registration exercise ended abruptly and the fact that those who have registered are yet to be given their voters card raises some concern. Voters registration ought to be ongoing as people become eligible and not to wait until another election is around the corner to start registering voters.
It was widely reported in the news media recently that some foreigners, under aged, fake names and dead people's names were identified in the INEC voters register. How did this come about? I think it behoves on INEC to produce fool proof and unencumbered voters register that will be used for the forthcoming elections and continuously updated for subsequent elections.
The electoral umpire has been accused of  bending the rules with respect to the nomination of some high profile candidates whom records show didn't participate in primary elections. Don't you think this is an ominous sign? 
If the accusation against INEC in this regard is correct, then it is unfortunate. So far, INEC has been observed to be conscious of and obeying Court orders. The onus is on those accusing INEC of bending the rules to prove it. INEC does not nominate candidates for election, the political parties does. Besides, the new 2022 Electoral Act is clear on how candidates for elective positions can emerge with appropriate sanctions for defaulters. 
There are also reports of attempt by politicians to use the courts to frustrate the deployment of digital technology especially BVAS in the forthcoming elections. How do you see such moves? 
I think it is now too late in the day for anybody to stop the deployment of digital technology in the forthcoming elections. The new electoral act of 2022 is already a law of the federation which provides for a digital election process. It will be an abuse of court processes and waste of time for anybody to try to or want to use the courts to scuttle the deployment of digital technology particularly for the forthcoming elections. Attempts at such will surely be an exercise in futility. 
Do you think that the security situation in different parts of the country will allow for free, fair, credible polls? 
The security situation in the country is highly worrisome. If nothing is done to curtail the wide spread insecurity in the country, it may even be difficult to hold any election not to talk of having a free, fair and credible elections.
What about the political class?  Do you think they are prepared given the ethnic, religious and regional narratives they are promoting?  
Election is about getting the right people to provide leadership, deliver on their promises and the desires of the people. So, giving any ethnic, religious and regional colouration to the electioneering process at this point in time isn't the way to go! 
Luckily, the Nigerian electorates are getting more aware and sensitive not to be deceived anymore on those narratives of some selfish politicians whose only credentials are ethnic, religious and/or where they come from.
The feelers one is getting is that, come 2023, there will be a major paradigm shift in our electoral processes and elections. People are tired of the promises of politicians that are observed more in the breach. This time around, politicians should showcase what they have done in the past to justify our confidence in what they say they will do after being elected. Many of our politicians have serious trust, integrity factor, competence and credibility deficiencies that are difficult to overlook. In this dispensation, I want to believe that competence, how to and not what to, shall drive the electioneering process.
As the campaigns begin, what do you think are the salient issues that should be discussed for Nigerians to assess the candidates and make the right choice?
Ordinarily, the first thing to have been sorted out before the 2023 elections is for us to have effectively decided on the governance model we should adopt that will be a win-win situation for all. 
The present mode of governance is a military fraud that is predicated on a fraudulent document styled 1999 constitution as amended which is alien to what was discussed and agreed by the founding leaders of Nigeria.
This country has been on a wild goose chase since January 15, 1966 when the military usurped power by force and derailed our agreed type of governance model. 
The founding leaders of Nigeria agreed and operated a Federal System of governance which worked well for us prior to the military interregnum and not the present imposed and unjust military unitary system that deminishes our values, limits our development, retards our growth and tends to erode our primary identities. 
It is imperative to *restructure* Nigeria to align with the vision of the founding leaders of Nigeria if the country Nigeria as presently constituted is to remain one united country, make any meaningful progress and/or be relevant in the comity of nations. 
So, as the 2023 elections gets nearer and electioneering campaigns are on the ascendancy without first restructuring Nigeria, this issue of restructuring Nigeria  should become the main campaign issue for which those aspiring to rule the country must make their position known, how they intend to achieve it and over what period of time. This, shouldn't however erode other burning issues as the safety of lives and properties in the country, the economy, fight against  corruption, human capital development, infrastructural development and so on.
The campaigns leading to 2023 elections should be issues based on the way forward for Nigeria. The politicians shouldn't just roll out promises, they should tell us in concrete terms how they intend to accomplish their promises if voted into office. 
The opposition in the National Assembly threatened to impeach President Muhamnadu Buhari over his poor handling of the insecurity. The seven weeks ultimatum has elapsed and no action has been taken. Why do you think this is happening? 
The President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, appears to be the luckiest but the most incompetent President Nigeria has ever had. He is on record to have wasted the very generous goodwill the people invested on him. There is no doubt that he has committed a lot of impeachable offenses which includes but not limited to single handedly spending Nigeria's hard earned money in billions of hard currency without appropriations of the National Assembly eg the billions purportedly expended on military equipment outside the budget approved by the National Assembly, without any prior appropriation of the National Assembly and without any corresponding de-escalation of insecurity in the country arising therefrom.
The president has been travelling on medical tourism which period were indeterminate without informing the National Assembly and wothout handing over power to the Vice President as required by the operating constitution. 
Kidnappings, banditry, terrorism, crimes and criminality and the general insecurity in the country has assumed dimensions never before known or imagined hitherto in this country. Under the watch of this Major-General Muhammadu Buhari's regime, Nigeria became the poverty capital of the world. Nepotism has since brought the country to her knees in the midst of hunger, poverty, diseases and untimely deaths among others that have since become the order of the day. 
Governance under the watch of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari appears to be on autopilot while corruption has taken dimensions far more than can be imagined. The safety of lives and properties which is the primary purpose of Government and even guaranteed in the operating constitution of Nigeria appears to be a mirage in this Major-General Muhammadu Buhari's regime.
Never before has the country Nigeria been this hopeless, hapless and helpless like we have it in this regime of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari.
It is on record that this Major-General Muhammadu Buhari's regime has been borrowing money that Nigeria and Nigerians will continue to pay for generations with interest to develop Niger Republic to the detriment of Nigeria. What can be more impeachable offenses than these?
Besides, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari has been more of an absentee president, relishing more in the pecks of office than the discharge of the responsibilities of the high office.
As we speak now, the public doesn't know how much the president's often medical tourism in foreign land has and/or is costing the country!
Major-General Muhammadu Buhari appears to only be reigning as president while other unelected people are the ones ruling!
In a sane clime, the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari should have since thrown in the towel and retired to his Daura village to mend his permanent '150' cows!
The truth be told, the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari has committed a lot of impeachable offenses but it is very doubtful if the National Assembly as presently constituted can make true their threat to impeach the president as they threatened.  
The Nation Assembly as presently constituted is not just a "rubber stamp" Assembly, it is also an "anything goes" National Assembly which makes their threat to impeach Major-General Muhammadu Buhari as president very laughable.
To many people, the impeachment threat on Mr President by some members of this National Assembly is like an empty threat that leads nowhere and a joke of the century going by their known antecedents. 
However, that is not to say that there are no people of conscience in the National Assembly but, they are so few to make any meaningful impact.
President Buhari has  told the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting that he will ensure free and fair elections. Can he be trusted given his antecedents and  the mood in his party to retain power at all costs? 
He promised same for the the 2019 general elections but did it happen so? Let's watch and see if he would keep his promise this time around to ensure free and fair elections come 2023 without any duress.
On the issue of whether the president, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari can be trusted to keep his promise this time around, it is very doubtful going by his past records of failed promises. Should the president, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari keep his promise this time around without any external pressure, he would have become the very first leopard in the world that has changed its spots!
It will be in the overall interest of Mr. President and the country for him to keep this one promise to ensure free, fair and credible elections come 2023 at least for posterity. This is one thing Mr President should do for himself that can make Nigerians to tell him to go home in peace and sin no more after his tenure in office as president.
What is your candid assessment of the record of performance of the APC in the last seven years? 
Let me start by reiterating that though I am politically active, I am not a partisan politician. I am not a card carrying member of any political party.
Having made that clarification, my honest assessment of the performance of the APC as a party and in government in the last seven years is very unsavoury, abysmally woeful, highly  bloody with the highest waste of human lives in a supposedly peace time, corrosive rulership, absent leadership, very corrupt such that what was know as corruption hitherto is a child's play, most nepotistic and most incompetent government in Nigeria's history with perchance of never keeping to its promises just to mention a few.
It is on record that this Major-General Muhammadu Buhari's APC regime has not fulfilled any of the 62 promises they made to Nigerians. Not even one! No wonder that they have acquired the acronym of "All Promises Cancelled" (APC)!
Yet, this same APC with such a dismal record of non-performance still wants Nigerians to vote them back to power again come 2023 on a Muslim-Muslim ticket in a multi-religous, multi-ethnic, grossly polarised and highly divided country; with a presidential candidate that has several unsavoury baggages. I really wonder what these people think of Nigerians!
Do you think that the PDP can return to power given the wrangling in that party? 
Prior to the outcome of the PDP's Presidential Primaries and the failure of PDP to honour their own party's constitutional requirement on zoning and rotation of offices, not a few Nigerians were looking up to the PDP as a major opposition party to spring surprises in the forthcoming 2023 elections. 
Unfortunately, the wranglings within PDP arising from the aforementioned has greatly reduced the chances of PDP's return to power come 2023. 
PDP that used to be national in outlook has now become a regional party with all key organs of the party being controlled by a section of the country. For instance, just before the recent induced resignation of their BoT Chairman just a few weeks to the end of his tenure in office, the National Chairman, Presidential Candidate, BoT Chairman, Director-General of the presidential campaign organisation, to mention a few, are all from a section of the country, of same religion and of same tribe safe for one. 
The recent call by the presidential candidate of PDP that the North should vote only for the North and not other tribes like Yoruba, Igbo etc, while at the same time expecting the other tribes to neglect/abandon their own to vote for the North, has gone a long way to confirm the fear/suspicion of many Nigerians of the ethnic agenda of those currently at the helm of affairs of the present PDP and the denigration of PDP to a regional and/or ethnic political party. Ordinarily, by this new nomenclature, PDP has earned itself an automatic deregistration by INEC as regional party is not allowed in this dispensation. If INEC does nothing about this situation, I think Nigerians will speak on this with their voters card on election day! 
By the present configurarion of the PDP,  it will be very difficult to convince other sections of the country that collectively constitutes majority of the voters but have been excluded from the party's hierarchy, to have a buy-in into making PDP win the forthcoming elections particularly at the presidential level.
The greatest mistake PDP has made against the tide of expectations of Nigerians is to box themselves to a corner by producing a Fulani Northern Muslim presidential candidate to possibly take over from the incumbent Fulani Northern Muslim President after a straight uninterrupted 8 (eight) years misrule of the incumbent Fulani Northern Muslim President; in a multi-religous country of over 200 million people with more than 350 ethnic nationalities. 
So, it is a forlorn hope to expect PDP to win the next presidential election against these backdrops but, as you may be aware, in Nigeria today, anything goes! 
Besides, many people are seeing PDP and APC as the two sides of same coin! Those presently presiding over APC are PDP decampees while those presiding over PDP are APC returnees. In a way,  the present PDP can be nicknamed "apcPDP" while the present APC can called "pdpAPC"! So, there is some sense in calling both PDP and APC as two sides of the same political party system that have failed Nigerians! For many, perception is reality! 
Therefore, how PDP can swim against the tide to victory come 2023 remain to be seen!
What's your appraisal of the chances  of Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party? 
As a matter of deliberate policy, I don't discuss people. However, since you asked a pointed question on "Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party", my impression is that he is an embodiment of high integrity factor, intellectually savvy, highly humble, very simple with a spartan life style, highly focused and issues driven with uncommon perchance to deliver on electoral promises. 
He is the rave of the moment in Nigerian politics who is currently swimming against powerful tides of vested interests in ethno-tribal-religous and money politics!
He is like a David facing the Goliaths of decadence in the Nigerian space!
He seems to be the most talked about, most popular, the best among the packs and probably the only presidential candidate without any baggage of corruption in and out of office who appears set to upset known iron cast parameters in Nigeria's political history!
He is most unlikely to be an absentee president like is being experienced now and most likely to be in charge as the chief executive officer of Nigeria and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Nigeria. 
Peter Obi is a bad 'business' to the corrupt elites whether in civil/public service or political office holders.
The chances of Peter Obi and his prospect of becoming the next President of Nigeria come 2023 are very bright but, the challenges ahead of him are herculean, gargantuan and somewhat conspiratorial! 
The big question is whether "the powers that be" and the so called "owners of Nigeria" wouldn't fight back desperately to maintain their political dominance and continous poaching on our commonwealth? 
How far Peter Obi can or will go in the forthcoming presidential election will depend largely on how far his team are able to penetrate and break the blocks of resistance in certain critical quarters and protect the interest of their principal throughout the electoral processes in accordance with the law. 
Look at the crystal ball with the eyes of an elder, what are your predictions about the 2023 general elections? 
I am neither Nostradamus nor a crystal ball gazer but, I know for certain that the forthcoming elections in 2023, if allowed to hold against wide spread insecurity challenges and possible sabotage, will not be business as usual! It is most likely that there will be a very significant paradigm shift in our elections outcome in the forthcoming general elections that will shock many. 
President of the Senate Ahmad  Lawan is complaining of high turnover of lawmakers. Former  Speaker, House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole aligns with him. They believe it impedes progress and limits the capacity of the parliament to hold the executive to account. Do you agree with them? Please give us  your opinion on this issue.
On what record would the law makers across board since 1999 hinge their argument against the high turnover of legislators? 
How does legislative turn over impede progress and limit the capacity of the parliament to hold the executive to account safe only for institutional memory? Does Nigeria actually need the type of rotten institutional memory of the present crops of legislators across the country? 
Ordinarily, retention of legislative experience is good and preserves institutional memories but, in the circumstance that we find ourselves as a country, where the most unqualified get to become legislators, coupled with the zoning and rotation of offices at various levels, it will be difficult to have people stay in the parliaments for very long periods of time. Perhaps, with time, this tendency will be a thing of the past when the focus becomes competence and not the turn-by-turn syndrome. (NOTE: Interview conducted by Onwuka Nzeshi of New Telegraph and originally published in that paper)

Source: News Express

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