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Nigeria going into 2023 without reliable options from major parties, says Nwoko

By Guardian Nigeria
02 August 2022   |   2:36 am
Uwemedimo Nwoko, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), life bencher, activist and immediate past Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Akwa Ibom state, in this interview with AYOYINKA JEGEDE

Uwemedimo Nwoko

Executive doing everything possible to completely muffle, weaken the judiciary

Uwemedimo Nwoko, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), life bencher, activist and immediate past Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Akwa Ibom state, in this interview with AYOYINKA JEGEDE, bares his mind on the 2023 elections and the nation’s democracy.

Money politics and buying of votes have become deciders of winners of elections. What are your fears for 2023?
That’s the problem. We need to get it right during the primaries. If political parties can’t clearly sort out internal democracy to allow credible candidates to emerge, then we are going into the 2023 elections from a defeated standpoint.
Nigerians are going into the 2023 elections without credible options to vote for because the process that produced the candidates of the political parties is totally skewed in favour of money politics.

The votes of the delegates were purchased. Can we truly say that Bola Tinubu would have been a good choice among aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that stood for the presidential election primary?

Would you also say Atiku Abubakar was the best PDP option to the electorate during the PDP convention? Of course, no! If it were to be by merit, both would not have won the tickets to their parties, but here we are. They are now the options Nigerians would be faced with. What do you expect Nigerians to do? The law says they must choose somebody and on election day, the electorate will have to choose from what is available.

There is no way we can get it right before the 2023 elections. Nigeria is not mature enough for someone to come out now as an independent candidate no matter how credible or fundamental that person is. I don’t see him/her standing any chance in Nigeria because the electorate is still grossly led by the nose. They have no fundamentals or standards of their own.

The Nigerian electorate is a wheelbarrow that is being pushed from left to right and cannot take a decision for itself. An electorate that is purchased and controlled by power blocs, an electorate that neither thinks of its own nor has the future of Nigeria at heart, so they will all be carried away into the ocean of corruption, votes will be purchased, decisions will be compromised.

What are the qualities of your ideal electable leader?
We know the kind of leaders we should vote for, but we don’t have them. When we do, they don’t have the platform to stand. We know the kind of leaders we should vote for but they don’t have a voice to speak because the system does not allow them. The system is already skewed against them.

We are looking for people who will be thinking about Nigeria of today and tomorrow and not people who will be thinking of how to recover the billions that they have spent to get their tickets. We are looking for people of quality and of standard. We are looking for people that have integrity, and that have physical, mental and psychological health. It’s not difficult to know whoever we are looking for; it’s just that they don’t have the platform to step out for us to see them.

We are already enmeshed in the problem of vote-buying. That is what we are facing today. Vote-buying is pervasive in the internal structures and processes of the parties. In the internal process of the party, vote buying is there, we cannot deny it.

How will you assess our democratic system, are Nigerians better off after attaining stable democracy?
We are still operating a satanically monitored democratic system. Look at the congresses of all the political parties, particularly the two major ones – the PDP and APC, you cannot say the national conventions that produced their presidential candidates were democratic. They were not.
None of those people that won the congresses of both the PDP and APC won it based on merit. They won it on the strength of their purse and pocket. Nigerians will be going into the 2023 elections without even being afforded the opportunity of having a lesser evil between the two major contending parties.  We are going into a situation where Nigerians will be trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea.

It is very sad, but we must know, accept and understand the fact that there is something fundamentally wrong with our democracy.

Instead of our institutions getting stronger, they are rather getting weaker. The only institution that I will say today is managing to assert itself to some extent, is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). INEC is improving little by little. Outside that, I don’t think other institutions are doing well.
INEC is trying to create a system that is capable of producing some credibility in the electoral process. INEC is trying and if the National Assembly will help to enact laws and our lawyers would not turn the laws upside down in their interpretations and allow INEC to flow properly, I believe that in the next couple of years, we should be able to have a more stable democratic system because when we have a credible election, there will be a stable democratic process.
Also, we need to strengthen the security agencies beginning with the police. We need to recalibrate the structures of our policing system to create state police and not just create state police, we also need to create some very formal security structures at the local government levels.

We need to look at the economy because our economy is getting weaker and weaker. As of today, we are owing, to the extent that we are spending close to 90 per cent of our monthly income on debt servicing. That makes the economy weak.
We also need to look at the education sector. As we are talking now, our students from public universities have been home for months.

Politically, we need to have structures that are functional.
As of today, there is no legislature in Nigeria. The legislature both at the federal level and the state levels are operating like appendices of the executives.

We are running a “call him for me “ legislature. We are running a legislature where the President can say, call the Senate President for me, call the Speaker of the House of Representatives for me, every state government has the capacity to say call House of Assembly Speaker for me.
We are running a legislature that has no respect for the executives. A legislature that commands no power or authority of its own, a legislature that cannot speak for themselves because they are all operating like house boys to the executives and when you have a weak link in the system, automatically the entire system collapses because as they normally say, the strength of the chain will be measured by the strength of the weakest point. It is the strength of the weakest point that is the measure and standard of assessing our collective strength.

If you have a very weak arm of government like the legislature that is completely at the beck and call of the executives, the whole idea of checks and balances collapses and democracy is supposed to exist and thrive on the existence of the three arms of government. As we are talking, even the executive is creating and doing everything possible to completely muffle and weaken the judiciary as it has done to the legislature.
Our basic operational structure that is supposed to keep the democratic system at a fair and balanced table is not in existence. It is gradually being depleted because the strength of a key arm like the legislature has totally been taken away.

Some say the 1999 Constitution is one of the major problems of the country. Do you agree? 
Our Constitution is completely wrong. We don’t have a Constitution in the first place. What we have is a contraption that was fabricated by the military to suit their own purposes. It does not reflect the yearnings of Nigerians. It does not reflect the aspirations of Nigerians.
Our Constitution is lying. It does not reflect even what it calls itself. Our Constitution lies against itself by claiming it’s a federal Constitution, whereas it’s a unitary Constitution. Every of its content is a reflection of a unitary system. It carries the name “federal constitution” while every part of its content is unitary in nature. The Constitution is doomed because it lies against itself.

Corruption is still a big issue in the country. How can we get out of it?
We can only get out of corruption when we remove corrupt people. We cannot get out of it when the people that are operating the system are still corrupt. If we want to get out of corruption, we must first elect people who will not be compromised, people who have integrity and reputation, but now, we don’t have them.