IDEAS Radio 4 January 2019

 

Aghogho Oboh: Right, welcome back.  Welcome to Countdown 2019 on 99.3 Nigeria Info, where we discuss all the big and significant issues on the road to the 2019 elections.  Incidentally we’re just a month away. You can follow the programme on Twitter. You can also watch on visual radio on Facebook as well as on Twitter.  Tweet questions at us or comments @Countdown2019NG, @RotimiSankore, @NigeriaInfoFM, @ideasradioNG. You can also tweet at @aghoghooboh.

 

Today we’ll be speaking with a number of candidates.  We have with us Hassan Taiwo Soweto, Socialist Party of Nigeria, Ifo Two, Ifo II …

 

Hassan Taiwo: Ifo Two.

 

AgO: Ifo II, Ogun State House of Assembly.  We’ll get – I’ll get to link you up with Hassan Taiwo Soweto soon.  Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour is on his way here, he’s Lagos West Senatorial Candidate for the People’s Democratic Party.  And there’s one other candidate, I’ll let you into him once he shows up: Kolawole Taiwo, we’ll confirm whether he will make today’s Countdown 2019.

 

You can also send questions to our WhatsApp number which is 08095975805 if you’ve got questions and comments you send us.  

 

Let me tell you briefly about Hassan Taiwo Soweto, who is a socialist and long-standing working class and youth activist.  Graduate of Fine and Applied Arts from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He’s also a member of the Democratic Socialist Movement, National Coordinator of the Education Rights Campaign.   Through this group he’s played major roles in the struggle for better funding and democratic management of public education in Lagos, Ogun State and across the country. He says if he’s elected he intends to bring all his experience as an activist to fight for development in his constituency and defend the interest of the working class youths and masses.  Welcome to Countdown 2019.

 

Hassan Taiwo: Thank you and good afternoon Nigerians, and Ogun State people.

 

AgO: Alright, and of course IDEAS with Ayo Obe begins.  Ayo Obe, Happy New Year! Great to have you join our segment and to begin.

 

Ayo Obe:  Happy New Year Aghogho and Rotimi and to the candidate.  I guess that that was just to whet the appetite of the listeners, so that they would hold on and make sure they survive the IDEAS section, because they know that something good is coming after we’ve dealt with some of the major issues that have arisen in the campaign, which I’m going to be discussing with Rotimi, my co-presenter.

 

Rotimi Sankore: Yeah.  So, one of the big issues, risks or challenges or however we want to describe it now, is issues around misinformation now arising.  We’ve seen the two main parties especially, making allegations against each other, and so far none of them has been able to substantiate the allegations.  You just have spokespersons saying: The candidate of the other party has done this or that. The other one responds: Your own candidate has done this or that.  

 

And alongside this, you also have other related information, which is not clear, you know, whether it is accurate or not.  And the most prominent of these so far has been the talk around an INEC official, Amina Zakari, who is said to be a niece, is it alleged?

 

AO: Well, I mean, the thing is Rotimi …

 

RS: … alleged to be the niece of President Buhari and she’s now said to be in charge of the INEC collation centre, and the PDP is kicking.  But, are we really sure that she’s Buhari’s niece?

 

AO: I think the point is that when we talk about misinformation and the way it’s being used by the combatants in the battle, is the problem that the … much of the media is just accepting and regurgitating what – quite frankly – may amount to nothing more than gossip.  And the Nigerian people are then left in a situation where we don’t know what to believe or not.

 

Regarding the INEC Commissioner, Amina Zakari, Bala Zakari.  Her … This claim that she was the President’s niece, and you know, let’s remember the way we use these expressions  ‘egbon’, ‘aburo’, you know, it’s the same sort of thing, and it’s not always, it doesn’t necessarily signify anything.  But, the allegation surfaced in July 2015. She was already a Commissioner having been appointed by the previous PDP government and according to her Wikipedia …

 

RS: So she was appointed under Jonathan?

 

AO: She was appointed to the INEC under Jonathan.  And in fact, according to her profile on Wikipedia which I admit, I accept is not a clear source, but it certainly hadn’t been updated since this latest controversy arose, was that she was actually a Special Adviser to the government of President Obasanjo on health.  On health matters related to AIDS and so on and so forth. So she has that. But the allegation was made when she was, when she succeeded, when she became the Acting Chair of INEC, and you know, it was: Ah, this is the President’s niece! Now the allegation apparently arose from something said by, an interview given by Alhaji Tanko Yakassai who was a supporter of the former President Jonathan, and his claim, and I’m just going to read from it because it’s a bit difficult to know what else to do.  

 

“The relationship between … ”  she said that “… her father worked with me as my permanent secretary before he became the Emir of Kazaure.  We maintained a cordial relationship until he passed on. However, the relationship between him and Buhari is something I know of.  He, the late Emir, married the senior sister to Buhari and he, Buhari, started his childhood in the late Emir’s house. The mother of this woman, Zakari, was either the first or second wife.”   So already it’s not clear – was she the sister that was married or not? Aside from that, “Buhari stayed with him for some time in Kazaure”. Then he said “The relationship is true”.

 

But in September of the same year, he denied criticising her appointment or talking about her relation and said that his words were manipulated: “Yakassai stated that he was responding to a reporter if Zakari was related to Buhari, which Yakassai admitted was not related.”

 

So the point that I want to make is that, it’s like something that I’ve noticed about  the Independent National Electoral Commission. They have this sort of blinkered approach to things.  They don’t keep their eye on the pulse of what is being said about what they do. So they come out and say: “Yeah, we’re appointing this person.”  and they don’t immediately respond to the … but later they now come and say: Oh, but she’s not going to be …” It’s …

 

RS: She’s not going to be counting votes …

 

AO: Counting votes.  Now …

 

RS: As if that’s the real issue!

 

AO: You see!  So I think that, so there’s that problem.  That they needed to have been on top of this at the time when the allegation was made in 2015, but all we have is statements made by one set of politicians and then the same person who made the statement coming out to say something else.  But we don’t actually have either the woman herself, or the Presidency …

 

RS: …  or INEC, yeah, or the Presidency

 

AO: … or INEC coming out to say: This is my relationship …

 

RS: She’s not the President’s niece or she is and we don’t think it matters.

 

AO: Yes.  Then of course, I think that we need to also look at the question of perceptions, because there is … and this is really the problem.  When the perception is that INEC is dilly-dallying over the attacks on its own impartiality and integrity, then by the time the results of an election come out and somebody doesn’t like them,  it’s very easy to criticise or to challenge those results, not simply by going to court, but by whipping up public sentiment, which could result in violence. And that’s why many people continue to say that INEC needs to wake up and be on top of some of these things.  Because the integrity of the election is not just something that INEC thinks it is doing in its own corner by itself, and then looking up later: “Yeah yeah, everything’s ok.” No. The integrity of the election is something that is a matter of perception as much as … With regard to this, I can’t say.

 

RS: But who should we be hearing from most now?  Should we be hearing from INEC to say Mrs. Zakari is or is not the President’s niece, and then they can add whatever else they want, or is it the Presidency that should come out and say, this is misinformation.  She’s not my, she’s not the President’s niece,

 

AO: Well, I would say that from what I’ve …

 

RS: … or from Mrs. Zakari herself? Or all three?

 

AO:  I think it’s INEC that should … because you see, I’ve heard I’ve seen from the Presidency and all they’ve said is that people keep on saying the niece without producing any evidence to support that allegation.

 

RS: What kind of evidence?

 

AO: Well, you would say: Her mother is the President’s sister.  But if what you’re saying is that her mother was one of the wives of …  

 

RS: … of the Emir

 

AO: … the father of …   it becomes a little bit …  The word ‘uncle’ and ‘niece’ can certainly be applied, but as to whether that constitutes a blood relationship?  And of course, let’s not pretend that to be a blood relation means that you are necessarily about to …

 

RS: … accomplice to …

 

AO:  … everything that they do.  But as I said, for me, it’s one of the things that the, that it’s something that INEC itself should come out to defend its own integrity.  As to the woman, I don’t think there is anything that she can say. Whatever she needs to say, she should say it to … but INEC also, by coming out to say that she’s not going to be counting votes …

 

I’ve said again, that the biggest guarantee of the integrity of the election is transparency.  And we’ve also heard from the Situation Room, the convener of the Situation Room, Clement Nwankwo, that they have applied to be able to be present at INEC’s e-platform, which is where the results start coming in and any collation …

 

RS: In other words so that the Civil Society Situation Room can see the results as the come in from all the constituencies live …

 

AO: Yes.  Yes, that is …

 

RS:  … and can guarantee that there’s no tinkering going on.

 

AO: Mm hm, and I think that these are the sorts of things that can be done by INEC to bolster the confidence in the integrity.

 

Of course, we know that every political party or every candidate should have their agents on the ground to be able to be doing their own parallel, whatever, but, I have to say that it does seem to me that some appear to have an interest in discrediting anything that is done by INEC, and we all have to be careful.  As I’ve said, when a results sheet is declared at a polling station, every agent is supposed to get a signed copy which is signed not just by the presiding officer but by every other agent, and the police and the, any security agencies that are present. So that when it comes to giving evidence, that signed document is primary evidence for the purposes of court.  I know as I say, in common parlance we talk about ‘originals’ and ‘copies’, but because these are all going to be made by the same process, they are all primary evidence. And when it gets to the collation centre, the … at every level the same thing happens, and every party needs to be on board with the need for that. It’s a fact that many of the smaller parties, particularly in a presidential election, may not be able to do that, and we’re probably going to hear from our guest how he in his own constituency is going to be able to monitor the integrity of the vote as it’s being done.  But I think that these kind of stories and misinformation are, that the media also has a role to play, particularly where you have journalists who can investigate and do some fact-checking, as we’ve seen some of them attempting to do in the run-up to the election.

 

RS: We have to take a short break for ads.  When we come back we’ll finish with the IDEAS segment, and then dive straight into the manifesto of Hassan Taiwo Soweto of the Socialist Party.  So stay with us, we’ll be back in a few minutes.