Let Constitution of INEC team be partisan – Uche Onyeagocha
Wants clauses of age, minimum academic qualification, tax clearance certificate, age barrier be expunged from our electoral laws – Ex- Federal Lawmaker
“Yes! The reason why I have some issues with the professors is that, these same professors we are seeing, some of them are the ones who expelled us from the universities. Yes! They would sit down in the Senates of various universities and expel the brightest students on campus simply because the student is against the aquake system that they had in place,” Sowore.
Former Presidential Candidate in Nigeria and pro-democracy advocate, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, and former House Representatives Member, Barr Uche Onyeagocha, have separately made categorical statements about state of the nation with issues arising from the post-2023 elections in Nigeria.
They spoke on Thursday at the “National Seminar on Targeted Electoral Reforms and Enhanced Judicial Integrity in Post-Election Litigation”, organised by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and attended leaders from across civil society organisations, the media and the bar among other stakeholders.
To Sowore, who contested for president on the platform of the African Action Congress (AAC) and spoke in the conve4sation sharing his experience in active participation, the exposition of judicial scandal in the Kano’s governorship election judgments of both the Tribunal and the Court of Appeal is clear indication that the Nigerian political situation is beyond mere reforms but requiring that every wisher for truly better Nigeria must be ready for change.
Adding, he said it also meant that the judiciary in Nigeria has, itself, come to justice this year after having for long escaped all the blames for the evils that they perpetrated in the country.
Omoyele Sowore said although because judges, who not be seen but heard, have now become “seen finish” because the nation now have an “Owambe judiciary” where justice is for the highest bidder.
The fearless, through and straight talking Sowore was specific abd direct in his submissions.
“I want to say two more things and one of it is the judiciary. We must understand that the judiciary in Nigeria has come to judgment this year. Before, the judiciary used to escape all the blames for the evils that they perpetrated in Nigeria because judges are usually not seen but heard. But because we now have an Owambe judiciary, we have seen our judges more and we have reached a point where the judges have become from being seen to being seen finish.
“And the judgment that they have come to, if you look at it historically, at least from the contemporary history, in 1979 it was the judiciary that truncated the transition of power to a more stable in this country with their mathematical agenda the 12 2/3. It was perpetrated in this Lagos.
“In 1993 that we were involved in, it was the judiciary that truncated the freest and fairest election in this country and made sure that Abiola did not become President. A judicial officer said the election should not hold, another officer said the election was not legitimate, another judge pronounced that Abiola should stay in detention. The Supreme Court couldn’t meet. They claimed it was because Chief Gani Fawehinmi accused them of collecting Mercedes Benz from Babangida, which was true. They are all sitting on voters but they are destroying the country.
“In 2007, the judges met in this country and said ballot papers don’t need serial numbers. And you can pronounce all the elections the judiciary has mortgaged and destroyed in our democracy here. And that is why the judiciary is also very confident when in 2023 they were confronting some of their customers saying that, “When they were doing governorship, are we not the ones who rigged for you?” So the Atikus of this world did not have any respect in front of them because they were the ones arranging judgments under Obasanjo time.
“Even our brother who had two elections he won in Anambra, Peter Obi, they were telling him, “Didn’t you win before, so if you lose this one, calm down now.” That is what I am talking about ‘see finish’. And those of us here, too, that you are seeing, we have been victims of the judiciary. There was a time were expelled in this Lagos. We met one Justice Kensington, he is late now, he told us he said, “You want me to rule against the Vice Chancellor, are you mad? First he told Mayekun, “Go and cut your hair. That your Dada, I don’t want to see it. When you finish with your Berber and you are properly dressed, I will take you to and see your VC at the National Mosque on Friday.” He did not even pronounce on our case.
“A judge sent me to jail, granted a bail condition that I could never meet. When we come back and asked for variation, Justice Ogungbe said, “You mean Sowore doesn’t have N100 million?” That was what she said in an open court. Till today, they have not given me back my passport. I’m still undergoing trial for treason. The person they said I wanted to overthrow has gone back to his Katsina State, that is Buhari.
“When I reminded the judge, he was looking at me he said, “Sebi you have lawyer” and I said “I’m a lawyer too by way of how many times I have been in and out of court.”
On a motr serious note the former University of Lag9s Students Union President said, “Tthe serious matter here is that, the Nigerian situation, I will say lastly, has gone beyond reforms. This is an unreformable system. Don’t let anybody deceive you. And there is no amount of conferences you can hold and seminars and workshops that can reform the electoral system in Nigeria.
“It’s impossible! Because, the system in the first place was not designed to hold elections, it was designed to select people into power from within the political class that has been holding this country to ransom since 1960 and beyond. Except we are ready, nothing will change.”
He had responded to Mrs Olajumoke Anifowoshe, former Ondo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, and daughter of late former Governor of Old Ondo State, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, about her mention of Ondo State crisis.
Speaking to that Sowore said, “The problem with Ondo State is that the moment we get the degree we leave the state and, as a result sometimes which is the case with Nigerians, charlatans take over the state. You can imagine Ekiti, for instance, with all the professors that are there, one of the best governors they had was Fayose, who introduced stomach infrastructure. Stomach infrastructure has now become an infrastructural problem in the country. Everybody that accepted it had stomach problem and had no infrastructure.
“The other aspect of what she is saying about women is that, women also have to decide to take power. Nobody is going to give you power, whether you are woman, man, young or old, you have to go for it. And if you look at it statistically in the country today, look at the electoral roll which is the voters register, there are almost 57 percent voters who are women. If you want to get power, all the women need is to nominate a candidate, support a candidate and get a few men to vote for the woman and we have a woman president.
“And there is nothing in my view that shows that men in this country have demonstrated to show that they are better than the women as leaders. In fact most of this country who have been in power, either appointed, selected or force themselves into power have demonstrated that they have no gender. They have not favoured men or women. So, it is not a women thing, it is character thing. But I suppose that use your large numbers. Women should stop accepting percentages. Your percentage involvement in power should be equal to the percentage of your voting power and bloc. It’s as simple as that. It is a one man, one vote idea. That should resolve the issue of women.”
Sowore, in addressing the issue of credible elections, said it is easy to use the Nigerian professors to rig elections because their political science has become outdated. “And that is what is giving people like Obasanjo the feeling that he is the new political scientist in town. The other day he was telling about homegrown democracy, African democracy is they want. Anytime you are hearing homegrown democracy from people like that, they want to reinstate their own type of dictatorship. It’s not democracy.”
He saw no reason such people could tell the rest of Nigerians their own political agenda of political science “when our professors will be asked to go and announce rigged election on national television, some of them cannot even properly read the figures. And if country wants to develop, the academic environment, the intellectual environment must be strong. Our own intellectual environment is no longer strong. It has been weakened by hungers, starvations and compromises. Yes!
“That is why I will suggest that any university professor should not be made the next INEC Chairman. There is no law that says that electoral officer must be professors. Let the people who are handling election be election experts, not university professors who have not produced any paper in the 40 years.
“Yes! The reason why I have some issues with the professors is that, these same professors we are seeing, some of them are the ones who expelled us from the universities. Yes! They would sit down in the Senates of various universities and expel the brightest the students on campus simply because the student is against the aquake system that they had in place.
“A lot of the professors would sit in the university Senate, expel Sowore, they expelled me twice from University of Lagos, they expelled Uche Onyeagocha, they expelled Nurudeen Ogbara, Sam that is SAN today was expelled Ife. University professors expelled us and, today, world has embraced us. So, university professors must hold a meeting and they must upgrade their operative system so that they would not also become part of the victims of the revolution that is bound to happen.”
In his intervention, Hon. Uche Onyeagocha, a lawyer, former Member House of Representatives and Secretary to the State Government in Imo State, whose idea of reform bluntly addressed “Legislative Pathways for Effective Electoral & Judicial Reforms”, said all the criteria of educational qualification, tax clearance certificate as means to contesting election in Nigeria should be stopped.
Onyeagocha was straight and specific. He said, “Three things we need to do. One, all the clauses in our laws on who qualifies to run for an election should be completely removed, even the age barrier. The only requirement the person needs to contest is that you can vote, so you should have the right to be voted for. Every other person can now go ahead and say you are a criminal or you are not a criminal. If the populace chooses to vote for you when they know that you are a criminal, it’s their headache because, if you are a criminal, you should be actually be charged. This would serve the purpose of eliminating all these pre-election matters.
“Secondly on the issue of INEC, nomination into INEC should be made to be partisan. Every political party must have representation in INEC to follow all the processes from INEC headquarters to the last. Everybody should have equal access to INEC since the party in government is nominating people, all other parties should nominate their own people.
“The only difference is that, the person who should be Chairman of INEC should come from the minority political parties because he would not be in position to rig himself in and he will not rig another person in.
“Then finally the most sacrosanct item in an election should be the ballot paper. Anybody who tampers with the content of a ballot or ballot box is a criminal offence for which you will go to prison. At the end of every election, the contestation should start from recounting the votes. Court should preside over it. Let the court preside over the recounting. If there is no pre-election matter and they recount and you find out that the man has won, what are you arguing again. It’s all over.
“But we don’t want to hear that any ballot paper was destroyed by water or rain or fire or stolen or missing. Don’t worry about those who say they will stuff the ballot boxes. Any ballot box that is stuffed, you won’t know when you overstuff or under stuff it. But where what is contained in the ballot box does not reflect in the result on the paper, that one is cancelled.
“These three things, once you adopt them, you take away all these excessive powers of INEC to rig elections, you take away all the excessive powers of security agencies and you take away all these excessive powers of the judiciary, everybody would move. You would see that at the end of every election, everybody would move on.
“Why do you have to insist that people should be 30 years before they can go to House of Representatives. What has 30 got to do with it? Why do you say that everybody should have O’ Level? People of my father and my mother’s time who went to Standard Six are by far much more brilliant.
“It makes it simple let’s stop making this thing difficult for ourselves. Let us start to amend our Electoral Act but just add these items and amend the Constitution, remove all the causes. In fact there should not be any clause on age for any position in Nigeria any more. Like EFCC and he must be 50 year, what has that got to do with it? There 15 years old criminals. Anybody who is up to the age of 18, in fact voting age should reduce to 16 because most kids today are finishing secondary school at the age of 16. Most kids at the age of 16 are far much more reasonable in choosing a voter than many elderly people because their future is at stake. The voting age should be brought down to 16.
“And if the people choose to elect a 19 years old person to be President of Nigeria, so be it. If they choose to elect somebody who does not have tax clearance certificate, so be it. But at all times, if you don’t pay your tax, you go to prison so if a man is contesting an election we find out he hasn’t paid his tax, it shouldn’t be a ground to stop him from running and it shouldn’t be a ground to stop people from voting for him. If people want to vote for him, let them vote for him. At the end of his tenure, then take him to court for evading tax and send him to prison. But don’t use it to disrupt the electoral process.
“They like all these clauses they have introduced because that is what give people the opportunity to go to court,” Uche Onyeagocha concluded.