AgO: Welcome back to Countdown 2019 on 99.3 Nigeria Info, we’re discussing all the big and significant issues on the road to the elections.  You can follow the programme @Countdown2019NG, @RotimiSankore, @NigeriaInfoFM, @ideasradioNG. You can tweet at the different handles, you can also watch live on Twitter as well as on Facebook.  Send questions, comments to our WhatsApp number 08095975805.

 

Ayo Obe is still here with Rotimi Sankore, continue your discussion.

 

RS: Ok, welcome back listeners.  So, still talking about information or misinformation, or lack of it.  The INEC guidelines are not particularly clear at the moment. Different people have their interpretations of what’s going to happen, especially regarding the smart reader and the incidents form.  What’s INEC saying?

 

AO: Well, I think that INEC is coming out with fresh guidelines, or they’re going to be released on Monday, according to reports, and I do hope we’re going to be able to get Festus Okoye who, apart from being a veteran of the civil rights pro-democracy anti-dictatorship struggle, is also an expert on election matters, and that presumably is why he’s now a Commissioner of INEC and he’s actually the Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Publicity.  So I hope that he will be able to shed light on it. But I think that the information that had been given out remains the same, which is that the card reader is what is going to be used to authenticate voting in this election. And what will, what the, what it says, is that the guidelines make provision for a possible failure of the smart card reader, stating in Clause 3, that “if the smart clar … smart card reader fails, a replacement has to be procured, and where that is not achieved by 2 pm, polling would have to be postponed till the next day for a functional card reader to be provided.”

 

So the implication is that if the card reader doesn’t work, you can’t just fill out an incident form and then say the, “We couldn’t use the card reader, we used  the manual reader to authenticate”. You have to use the card reader. However the incidents form is still retained for a situation where the PVC is read but the fingerprint is not authenticated.  Now, maybe we need some clarity about that because our understanding is that if the fingerprint is not authenticated, then it means you’re not the person who owns the card! But the voter, it’s in that situation that an incidents form can be filled out, and the accreditation is supposed to continue, and then it says that “the matter should be referred to the presiding officer for issuance of ballot papers”.  Where a voter’s PVC is read but the name of the voter is not on the register, the voter “… the assistant presiding officer shall refer the voter to the presiding officer who shall issue a tendered ballot to the voter.”

 

RS: Which means what?  What is a “tendered ballot”

 

AO: Well, in the event that it fails to be read by the smart card reader, the voter is required to thumbprint the appropriate box in the register of voters and give his or her phone number.  It’s not really clear what happens. Well, and it makes an assumption of course, doesn’t it, that the voter has a phone number to be …

 

RS: Are we, are we …  Is there a possibility that …

 

AO: No, I’m only … I’m going by a newspaper report and since the newspaper report itself alleges that there’s nothing to make … it says “It left opposition parties with little to cheer about as it retained the main features of the guidelines used to regulate the 2015 elections”.  It’s only a newspaper report that I’m going by, and … because at the end of the day it’s those guidelines that led to the ouster of a sitting President. So, we can’t say. And I do think, as I said, that we need a lot of clarity from INEC about this, because a newspaper may select what appear to it to be relevant points, but INEC needs to do a lot in terms of voter education.  And not just voter education, all the agents of political parties need to know these rules, because they can be very arcane. If they see somebody not being recognised by the card reader and yet a ballot paper is being issued, they will need to know what is going on and be able to either challenge it or to mark it in their own … in their own reports to their own political parties so that they can take the matter up if necessary.

 

RS: And importantly we should be able to see the big picture.  How many such ballots there are?

 

AO: Of course, Tendered ballots and so on.

 

RS: Yes, to see how it affects the voting if at all.

 

AO: I think that … in the end Rotimi, it’s in the interests of all of us that the elections should not just be credible, and free and fair, but it has to be honestly run, and it has to be something that voters, whether you win or lose, will accept.  And as I’ve said, if INEC doesn’t get on top of these stories, then, the end result is that we don’t feel confident about the …

 

RS: The rumour mill swings in …

 

AO: And in these days …

 

RS: .. and people will start believing whatever they choose to believe …

 

AO: And you see, we need to understand that we are in a … an era where the type of rumours that you see circulating on social media can be so erosive, and they have a particular narrative, and this is not just something that is peculiar to Nigeria.  We’ve seen that even in the United States, the president there doesn’t seem to be able to accept that he didn’t get more votes than the person whom he defeated in the election. But he didn’t! And yet he keeps on talking as though … Yes, he won the election, but he got three million fewer votes.  

 

RS: Through the electoral college.

 

AO: Yes.  So these are things that, when people start talking in this way, that it’s not right, it’s not fair, it’s not true, we end up with a situation where everybody, instead of a situation where after an election, which is for a period of four years, and which gives you an opportunity to come back four years later.  Instead of doing that, we spend four years dividing ourselves more, being bitter and so on. And the fact is, that whether we win or lose, after an election, a nation needs to come together.

 

Now, we can say that in the aftermath of the current election, of the election which brought the current President to power, some of the statements that he made, the notorious “97% areas” and the “5% areas” can hardly be described as statements designed to bring a nation together.  But to the extent that we are not combatants, or INEC is not supposed to be a combatant, it needs to do its own part in the things that will bring us together rather than allowing some things to fester as they have been doing.

 

RS: OK, alright, thank you so much Ayo Obe for that overview on issues around information, misinformation, clarity, what INEC needs to do and what the regulations are, which we hope will be clarified by Festus Okoye.  

 

AO: Well, we’ll have to get hold of Festus, he dare not refuse us!

 

RS: Yes, he makes the official clarification on Monday.

 

AO: Well, he makes the official release on Monday, and then …

 

RS:  On Monday, and then we’ll reach out to him …

 

AO: Absolutely

 

RS: … and say, you have to help us clarify.  I mean, we know him.

 

AO: No, I mean and I say that because here are people like Festus Okoye in the Independent National Electoral Commission, that some of us because of our confidence in him, believe that they would not stand idly by and watch INEC compromise an election.  But he’s only one of how many Commissioners? Twelve Commissioners. So we can’t, but we also have Resident Electoral Commissioners. At the end of the day we don’t expect them to see things being done wrongly and to cover them up, or to keep quiet.

 

RS: Ok, alright.  In the few minutes we have on the IDEAS segment we should speak with Hassan Soweto before we go into his manifesto later.  So welcome again.

 

Hassan Soweto: Yeah, thank you.  I’ve been really enjoying myself, listening to …

 

RS: Yes, I can see you’ve been taking notes.

 

HS: Yes.

 

RS: Figuring out how to better defend your votes in case …

 

HS: Well, not exactly.  It’s because … I think that as a member of a political party, there’s a way one has a view of INEC different from someone else who is looking at things, you know, from outside.  And from the little we have seen in our party, I must say that we have very little confidence in the integrity of the process. Like we have told INEC, on different occasions, we don’t think that an election is about what happens on the voting day.  We think it’s a summation of all activities. And if you go by the voters’ registration, this election is as good as already rigged. I can talk about Ifo for instance, and that is why when …

 

RS: Which is your constituency.

 

HS: Which is my constituency in Ogun State.

 

AO: And what is it that you’ve noticed there?

 

HS: The voter registration exercise was completely messed up, compromised, you know, with INEC …

 

RS: Could you be specific?

 

HS: … with INEC, you know, unloading its responsibilities on other political parties in terms of taking care of the logistics for some of these things.   We know in certain places where INEC staff were put in hotels overnight. We know how the calendar or roster for registration were changed overnight, because some big elements somewhere decided to take the thing to their doorstep …

 

AO: You mean the machines by which the voters’ details are captured?

 

HS: The machines, the staff, and everything were compromised in that manner.  And we made all of these complaints at different levels. We wrote a petition which INEC gave the impression they were going to address.

 

RS: So you formally complained, stating what the allegations are …

 

HS: They invited us, they invited us to a meeting which turned more or less a shouting match because people were not prepared to even treat the petition, but they were only interested in defending the integrity of INEC, and then we got the understanding that we were going to be invited back to identify the INEC staff that we alleged to have been responsible.  Up till now that has not happened, this over three months now, or thereabouts.

 

AO: And these are not ad hoc staff, these are full time employees of INEC?

 

HS: Well, it’s hard for us to know who is an ad hoc staff, who is a … because like we also complained in our petition; you have a registration exercise going on, and  the INEC staff they are not with their identity tags, so that you can even identify who is who. All of which gives, creates the impression that …

 

AO: And yet they are in possession of INEC’s machines?

 

HS: And yet they are in possession of vital documents and all of these.  So when you look at that and then we say that the main election will be credible I mean it’s a, I think it will be an illusion.  If you see what has happened in Ekiti State, what happened in Osun State, then you can also see that it’s a foretaste of what will happen by February.  And I think beyond the question of, whether you use card reader or you don’t use card reader, Osun and Ekiti election have shown that vote buying is a big issue.

 

AO: Well, vote buying is function of the fact that card readers are using because you now have to have people to actually come and cast votes.

 

HS: That’s what I mean.  But it does show that …

 

RS: Unlike before when you could be just allocated in a back room.

 

AO: Just write what you like.

 

HS: What it does mean is that for big time looters, what you have only done is to even make things easy for them.  Because technology now means that instead of renting thugs and co to be causing crisis on election day …

 

AO: Which still happens.

 

HS: … which still happens, but it only happens in the situation where a candidate feels that his opponent is having an edge somewhere, so the best thing is to disrupt things so that you can force a cancellation.  But the reality for us going by the Ekiti and the Osun election is that the election itself can be determined on the eve, by how much money you put out buying people going to their doorstep, using local chiefs and co.  So that you then, you therefore realise that the perhaps ultimate way to actually ensure that the electoral process is credible, is a mass mobilisation of the people, you know, to be prepared to stand by the candidate and the party they think has a clear programme to rescue them, and they are ready to use that as a basis to defeat the moneybags at the other end.  Without that …

 

AO: But does a party does a party like yours which is the Socialist Party of Nigeria, does a party like yours, do you feel you’re making that inroad to actually get the voters themselves?  Because at the end of the day, it’s the voters who either sell their votes or don’t. We’ve heard of cases where people will tell candidates, especially those whom they perceive to be money bags: “We’re not going to come out if you don’t pay us.”  But on the other hand, they may not tell a candidate who isn’t perceived as a moneybag that they’re not going to come out, they just don’t come out!

 

HS: Well, our own experience in Ifo has shown that where a people are  seriously deprived and they have been disappointed over and over, and they are so angry and they see a credible alternative, then they can rise up on their feet you know, in order to rescue their destiny.  It doesn’t mean that this is going to happen automatically, but what we have seen so far in the campaign, because just like you have said, the approach, and the way people respond to us and they respond to our opponents – very different.  When did the flag off of our campaign, and we were going about the communities. A woman, one old woman held my hand to declare me as a favourite candidate, and why? Because she asked pointed questions about the lack of public infrastructures in our area, and I’m talking of Olambe, Matogun and co, these are places, if you see the pictures, you will think that these are  pictures of Somalia or somewhere where a bomb had recently landed, and that is the result of lack of governance by either PDP or APC administration over the past sixteen years or eighteen years in that area. Now, she asked questions about fixing the road, and I told her clearly that I’m not part of those politicians who would declare that: “I would grade your road even without winning the election yet, because I want to use money that I have to deceive you into voting for me”, when I know that I have four years to steal ten times of that sum, and that rather than that, what I would do is that, together with the campaigning we are doing, we are going to start a process, a civil society action, to compel the present government to begin to take actions on those roads.  But more importantly, if we get there, you’re going to find an Honourable, a lawmaker like no other who will make the issue of public infrastructures a centrepiece of his agitation on the floor of the Assembly, and that where the legislative niceties fail to compel the government to do what is needed, I will be prepared to come down to the people to mobilise them you know, to take action, because we think that development is a right of the people.

 

AO: Now it looks to me …

 

HS: When I said that, she raised my hand and declared that any time we want to march over these issues, she’s ready to follow us.  Meanwhile, a week after, our opponent, because they wanted to also look pro-people, they now carried some construction equipment to start doing some haphazard grading of the road, something which even worsened the situation.  But people read through their antics, and said “When we needed this grading, you didn’t do it, during the rainy season when all of us will swim in an ocean of mud. A few weeks to election you are doing this, we know that you want to  deceive us all over.” And that shows that our people, they are not fools, even those who collect money from politicians, some of them think that they’re trying to punish them, that they want to punish these politicians who have been looting their resources, so let us take what we can get from them.  But what we tell them is that this thing does not hurt politicians. A politician can lose N20 million in an election, and the next four years you will see him contesting again.  These are low cost , these are crooks. I’m talking of capitalist politicians. The people must be prepared to rise up on their feet to throw them out  not by collecting their kobo and you think you are hurting them. It’s about using elections to …

 

AO: Well, can I … I need to, as the IDEAS  stands for Integrity Democracy, and it does seem to me as though your platform includes demanding Accountability if you get into the House and even quite frankly if you don’t, because one can be an elected politician and one can be a non-elected politician and still have a huge impact on the behaviour of a government.  But I wonder, with your campaign, is your party concentrating its effort in the whole of Ogun State or is it the whole of Nigeria, or is it in a certain few selected seats within Ogun State. Because it does seem that many of these states, the State Houses of Assembly seem to be a sort of … at most divided between two parties and generally, when the winning party takes over, we’ve often seen the opposition party now …  

 

RS: Often become a rubber stamp

 

AO: … joining because they want to share in the quote and unquote ‘goodies’ such as allocation of cars and so on, that the main party in power at that state is giving,  

 

RS: The Executive …

 

AO: So the State House of Assembly as you say Rotimi, becomes nothing more than a rubber stamp.  And people get discouraged because they vote for an opposition party, only to see that opposition party representative abandoning the trust that the people have reposed in them, expecting that they would go there and say “I’m not interested in these handouts.  I want to be … I want to make the point about accountability on the floor and I want that to be part of what I am doing for my people.”

 

HS: Yes.  Well, for our party as we have clearly enunciated, we do not intend to follow the route that all these capitalist politicians have followed so far, because the very essence for the emergence of our party itself, is because we have seen clearly that the route of capitalism can never develop Nigeria, and that we need a different developmental agenda for Nigeria, one that will include the collective ownership and management of the immense wealth of this country.  I mean by, I mean democratically by the working people. Because, for instance, in my constituency the issue of electricity is one of the biggest issues, and I’ve said that as a legislator I’m going to be very interested in the performance of the DISCO in our area. But not just in their performance, but also, I will be prepared to lead a movement to demand the renationalisation of the electricity sector. Because what is clear from the experience of all of us across the country, is that this privatisation has failed.  So, from there, you can see that we are a party that is very different, but unfortunately …

 

AO: But you may be different, but when, if you get into office, how will you resist the blandishments to make you keep quiet on the floor of the House?

 

HS: The party is a collection of activists, revolutionary socialists, people who have gone through the furnace.  I am speaking to you as somebody who has been trained, in the struggle over the years, in the blast furnace we were, I spent ten years in OAU.

 

AO: Tested by fire!

 

HS: Yes!  I spent ten years, a decade in OAU.  I didn’t fail a single course.

 

AO: And yet?

 

HS: Six years out of it, on different occasions we were thrown out of school by university authorities that insisted on pricing education …

 

RS: Rusticated for protests?

 

HS: For protests!

 

AO: No, I’m not going to allow you old radical students to be …

 

HS: At a point we were even thrown into prison.  I spent over five months in Ilesha prison. If I spent …

 

AO: And could you have come out if you had said the right thing?

 

HS: Could I have done what?

 

AO: Could you have been able to come out of prison?

 

RS: Could you have been released earlier if you had compromised?

 

HS: I would not even have tasted prison.  I would have been a rich young man, you know, who would be rich on the basis of using the pains and sufferings of other Nigerians and marketing it, just like our current leaders of NANS are …

 

AO: Well, we don’t really see that …

 

HS: … are doing at the moment.  You know, because you must also understand that many of these crooked politicians we are talking about, check their history in the campuses, many of them were equally rogue student leaders.

 

AO: Well, the thing is, that it seems to …  Of course, somebody of my generation is used to student leaders as radicals who are holding government to account, whereas the generation of student leaders, quite frankly going back to Ibrahim Babangida’s time in the 1980s, have been seen more as a group of people who wanted to get their feet under the table where the national cake was being shared.

 

HS: Yes.  And that is what we are seeing today.  And that is why my generation in OAU drew a …

 

AO: But they, those students looked at people like you and said: That suffering is not for us, and we are going to … we are going to chop the choppables …

 

HS: Yes.  Yes, but if there is anything I have discovered in this campaign I’m running, it is that it pays to stand on the right side of history, and that is with the people.  And you never can tell where you will meet people. In our backwood there, everywhere I’ve gone to, mentioning my name and my history has made a lot of people to even recognise us.  That: Are you the same Soweto? Because you can’t keep these things under the table. Even in your little corner fighting for people, you are making history. People also need heroes, especially in this period when you have, and I’m sorry to use the word, ‘crooks’ in many places masquerading as thought leaders.

 

AO: Well, I’m going to have to stop …

 

HS: So that for young people …

 

AO: … I’m going to have to stop because my section of the programme, the IDEAS section, but I think that when you come back, we’re probably going to look at how do you deal with the “He’s a Very Nice Person but He Can’t Win” factor and others.

 

But for now, I want to say, that as the IDEAS section comes to a close – of course I’m going to poke nose into the rest of the session – but as the IDEAS section comes to a close, please do follow us on Twitter @ideasradiong.  Me of course, with my own prejudice and biases you can find @naijama, and you can also go to the website of IDEAS radio, where you can get some of the past editions of the programme, and as my typing fingers catch up, you can even get the transcripts of those programmes, so, thank you very much.  Rotimi and Aghogho, back to you in the driving seat.

 

RS: Thank you so much Ayo Obe, and thank you Hassan Taiwo Soweto for your comments on the IDEAS section.