The 2023 general elections may have come and gone but the conduct of the polls by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has continued to generate diverse reactions in the polity. While the electoral body has continued to defend its action during the elections, especially the presidential poll, not a few stakeholders believe that the INEC’s conduct during the general elections fell short of expectations.
One of those who share this view is member of House of Representatives, representing Esan North East/ Esan South East Federal Constituency of Edo State, Honourable Sergius Ogun. Ogun, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP), says INEC lost an opportunity to send a signal to the international community on the country’s democracy.
The lawmaker in this interview with Sun Daily, said that while the electoral body raised the hopes of the citizens that there will be electronic transmission of results, it did the reverse.
The outcome of the 2023 general elections has generated diverse reactions, especially as it concerns what INEC did or failed to do. How will you describe the elections, owing to the fact that the Electoral Act 2022 raised so much hope that elections will be more free, fair and credible?
The INEC issue is something that should be addressed holistically. On paper, they were ready to work. But I also think because we are in a hurry to see the outcome of a good election, we didn’t interrogate certain things.
If you cast your mind back to 2015, Attahiru Jega had the Card readers. We had the likes of Mike Igini. They had gone to Ghana, gone to Kenya; spoke about the card reader. How it would work magic and all. Even though PDP approved the thing but towards the end, they were kicking against it. This is where I am going to.
Jega ran the Ekiti and Osun elections, he could have tried that Card reader. I guess because he wasn’t sure, they didn’t use the Card reader. People even suggested, why don’t we use the Card reader in this off season election. He didn’t. He came to the general elections, using a device that you have not used before. The sitting President then went to his polling unit; three times, he couldn’t vote. It was the fourth time he was able to vote.
Jega at that time has told everybody, okay discard the Card reader, fill incident form. This is exactly what Mahmood Yakubu has replicated. He gave the impression that everything will go on. We will do this. We will do that; went to Chatham House, told everybody this will happen. We are not fools. These things were agreed on long before.
You remember when we were going to pass the Electoral Act, the debate back and forth was transmission. The APC said they shouldn’t transmit. What happened, Buhari agreed and said fine, INEC you choose the mode of transmission. To the world that was settled.
I believe there was a conspiracy. Remember the PDP walked out in the House of Representatives when the APC majority said there should be no electronic transmission, that there was no network and all that.
It went to Buhari, Buhari returned it. And there was agreement that INEC should choose the mode of transmission. I strongly believe that there was a trade off then. This is the suspicion.
But my greatest pain is that when you have another chairman that wants to do the right thing, who will believe him?
But the bottom line is that we have squandered the opportunity we had to do a perfect election and send signal to the whole world, to say look, we are ready for business. So, we would have elected the president of our choice ,the whole world will see it that we can do something good in Nigeria and Africa.
Would you say that the whole hope invested in the new electoral act was a misplaced one?
I won’t say so. I won’t. This country is a great country and people have worked hard to make laws for this land. It is just to have the right people that have conscience. That belief in this country to be head of such agencies.
If everything Yakubu told us and went to Chatham House to tell the whole world, if he had seen them through, like I said, the election would have put Nigeria on the map of the world, that look, an African country can conduct a free, fair and credible elections and produce a government that everyone would be happy.
Reduce the human interface; that was what we were trying to do with the electoral Act. Reduce the human discretion and allow technology to do it.
I still have faith that if we can reduce the human interface and get people to abide by the law , we will get there. We will achieve that. And I don’t think we are far from there at all.
Your party the PDP lost the general elections for the third consecutive time. And prior to the election, there was disagreement within the party, non-adherence to zoning and all the rest. What lesson do you think the party can draw from the polls?
There must be holistic reconciliation. Not window dressing. Everybody will have to sit down and we ask ourselves questions. What happened? And then agree to resolve those issues. All these suspensions and expulsion will not solve the problem.
There must be reconciliation. Holistic reconciliation. Genuine reconciliation. People have to sit down on the table and apologize to one another and build a strong party.
There are equally fears that the PDP may slip into a major crisis like what happened after the 2015 polls. If that happens, what would it portend for the party?
Like I said, it is reconciliation that will take care of all that. When that happened then, what happened? When that happened, people sat down and said okay let’s move this party forward. We need to sit down together as a family, like we always say, and resolve these issues. It is not the law court. It is not individuals that have over bloated egos. No. If we must make things work in this party, we have to sit down and discuss like a family and resolve things and it is doable.
Several members of the National Assembly will not be returning in the 10th assembly, what does this portend for the National Assembly as an institution?
Many might not return. It is a great loss, because the country has invested much in the old members. Talking about institutional memory; you have to start retraining people. But that is where we are in our democracy today.
I think we are going to get over that, in a short while. Because the responsibility the legislature is saddled with, shouldn’t necessarily be their responsibilities. We are to make laws. But now we have been reduced to building roads, providing water, buying vehicles for people and all what not. But that is not the responsibility of a legislator.
Until we sit down and clearly spell out the responsibility of a legislator and allow for a benchmark to access a legislator based on his legislative responsibility, we will be wasting time. And legislators will be becoming more desperate. That is why you see people are fighting over the chairmanship of committees right now. You want the juicy committees, you want to make money. You want to do all manner of things in your constituency so that you can remain( in parliament). But that is not the work of a legislator.
Ahead of the inauguration of the 10th House, the jostling for the speakership is already on and the opposition is making moves to either influence the choice of the next speaker or even take a shot at the speakership seat. Do you see the possibility of the minority wielding such influence?
I don’t see it. It is not possible. One of the guys spearheading that, Abdulmumin Jubrin, I saw the interview where he said that he is Tinubu’s son. He is a member of the opposition. Ordinarily, those are the kind of guys that will want to become speaker; because he has worked as DG to the last speaker, Dogara and Gbajabimiala. So he might want to give it a shot. If he does that; he is still going to be working for the opposition. And rather than work for the opposition as speaker, he would give a huge chunk of the opposition votes to the government in power to win.
So, I don’t see the opposition producing a speaker. But they will play a huge role in who emerges as a speaker.
Do you see the opposition lawmakers speaking with one voice; supporting a particular candidate?
No. No. They cannot. There is so much at stake. And they are all in different camps to the best of my knowledge. They cannot speak with one voice.