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Restructuring is achievable within context of legitimate presidential leadership, says Aguda

By Seye Olumide
13 November 2022   |   4:02 am
The three major contenders whom you highlighted, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Mr. Peter Obi, against partisan and subjective analysis, are eminently qualified personalities that can lead Nigeria.

Aguda

Oluwole Aguda contested for the gubernatorial ticket of Kogi State chapter of African Action Alliance (AAA) in 2019. A technocrat and elections operations consultant, he spoke to SEYE OLUMIDE (Southwest Bureau Chief) on the 2023 general elections, how the New Electoral Act 2022 could help achieve credible elections results and Kogi State governorship poll scheduled to hold in November next year.

What’s your assessment of the three major presidential candidates, Atiku, Tinubu and Obi?
The three major contenders whom you highlighted, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Mr. Peter Obi, against partisan and subjective analysis, are eminently qualified personalities that can lead Nigeria.
   
Atiku comes with huge political experience and has held the highest political office yet amongst all the candidates. He has been a party man and vice president. He definitely is a highly qualified candidate, who for three decades now has pursued the Nigerian presidency.
 
Tinubu, at his own dimension of play, will be Nigeria’s first chance at having a progressive lead the nation. What does Tinubu not have going for him? He sits atop political strategising and mastery in Nigeria. He was governor of a mini Nigeria, Lagos State and has the unquestionable capacity to spot talent in governance. I refer to him as the Simon Cowell of Nigeria’s political talents. He is a keen observer of capacity and skill and that is essentially what progressive leadership entails because whoever is president must be able to replicate his values in his lieutenants, who will be assigned to deliver on national projects. He had his eye on the goal way back while others were sleeping and is now looking positioned to reap from being a political visionary.   
 
Mr. Peter Obi represents the enlightenment – the age of reason where Nigerians now express belief in their ownership of the nation state. He has been able to sustain the interests of youths in national politics and, win or lose, Nigerians will remember him for being the flagship of youth mobilisation in the country. I, however, think that the exciting and highly energised movement started a bit late under this political dispensation. So, we will likely be seeing a two-horse race between Tinubu and Atiku.

Some people are saying the 2023 elections shouldn’t hold but that Nigeria should dialogue on restructuring. What’s your position?
The only legitimate channel of power change remains elections. We have a chequered history of succession errors, which we do not need to repeat as a nation. We must grow our democracy with whatever currency of sacrifice it demands and so, I urge all Nigerians to promote peace, dialogue and peaceful co-existence. The call for restructuring is also a valid call but who says it cannot happen within the context of legitimate presidential leadership? It certainly can. 
 


It is only contentious to the extent that it demands a large portion of legislative consensus. But who says it is unattainable? The hurdle is certainly high, tough and almost impracticable under the political circumstances at play today, but political education matters a lot for such strides to be achieved at a national scale. Enlightenment will also galvanise that dream faster. So, let us not think that consensus is unattainable. Strong political leadership, evidenced by community-based dividends of democratic governance can propel such lofty dreams.

Kogi State will be going for a transition governorship election precisely one-year from now, do you plan to contest the election again and under which platform. And how certain is it for All Progressives Congress (APC) to retain the state next year?
No, I will not contest. On whether the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) can retain Kogi State or not in the next gubernatorial election, I will say it depends on a number of converging factors. Chief among these would be the direction of leadership at the national level from the presidential election. Whatever party emerges presents great opportunities to take over states that are off cycle like Kogi, Ondo, Edo, Anambra and the likes. I think that voters will take a lot of direction from the play of votes in the general elections, which are barely four months away.
   
A new president will create new stories, new narratives and create a new environment of political leadership from May 2023. Whatever party wins at that election, will likely win Kogi because the parties would have been worn out in November while the ruling party would be energized.
 
Again BVAS presents new realities, and that in itself is a game changer. We will likely witness increased participation but not necessarily larger numbers of voters. There are around 10 million new voters in the country and 50 percent turnout of these can swing voting outcomes for some elections. For Kogi, it will remain a battle between historically entrenched political interests and the new wave of younger tendencies.

What are those issues you think would dominate campaigns in the next governorship election in Kogi State?
I really wish we were at that political trajectory where issues determined election outcomes. I am unsure that we have attained that status yet in Nigeria’s elections. Can you not see the furore that the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC is generating? Is that issue-based? In Kogi, issues will only affect election outcomes in my opinion to the extent that they affect the national elections. People will be grossly concerned about purchasing power, earning power and general economic considerations. I hate to say that subsistence is still a driving factor of electioneering in Nigeria but it is. I think we will still see a strong play of ethnic politics in that election.

How would you assess the strength of opposition parties and candidates in Kogi State?
The opposition parties in Kogi State have remained significantly within the same range of strength.  The incumbent governor ran for the Presidency and hate it or love it, it significantly increased his political worth and value at the national scale. He was also actively involved with management of the party while a caretaker committee was in charge of the party. So, I will say that the more appropriate interpretation of nominal strength favours the incumbent, who in his second term obviously changed the tide of his political evolution upward.
   


Kogi State will soon begin to earn additional revenue from oil derivation, and that again presents opportunities for increased capacity for the state government.

Do you see the results of the presidential election scheduled to hold on February 25 having a bandwagon effect on the November 2023 gubernatorial election in Kogi?
Naturally, that is expected. Human psychology teaches us that there is affinity for success at almost all levels. There are no strict rules about jumping political ships yet in Nigeria and if history is anything to go by, expect defections to even begin shortly before the elections. This is because, as elections approach, the horizon becomes clearer. Campaigns would have expended huge sums of money, depleted resources and thus either exited the race technically or firmed up operations for victory. Politicians read the times and watch the waters. There is a concept, which I call ‘the likelihood of victory’ where when certain players are perceived as qualified for likely victory in the minds of voters, they attract more interest. It is at that point that politicians begin to make adjustments, they begin to change sides. First in spirit, then in body, before finally changing party. I suspect, based on my personal analysis, that there will be a pre-election bandwagon from late January 2023.

Southeast is saying it is its turn to produce the president in 2023 going by principle of zoning, what do you have to say?
In politics, you sail waters of idealism and realism. Certain subjects of political debate are won on a platter of idealism and the Southeast presidency agitation ticks the boxes there. It is a given fact that the need for national balance in political leadership and the unswerving deficiency of political inclusion of the South East demands restitution. Politics, however, sways to societies and their values. Today, political players in the Southeast have not presented a model that makes that goal acceptable to the Kanuri in Borno or the Fulfude clan in Katsina. They have been unable to manage opportunities at scale, such that the path becomes tougher rather than easier to tread. There must be articulated agreement from the political leadership of that region on that regional ambition. Do you see it at present? I doubt it. Atiku is a more likely presidential choice of the political elite of the Southeast than Obi and until local politics is understood, managed and developed, the nation will remain a mirage.

What’s your reaction to the New Electoral Act 2022 and the introduction of electronic voting to the system?
If you review my statements and positions over the last five years, and in some older interviews, I have always been an advocate of electronic voting and transmission of results. I am a player in the Elections Operations landscape in Nigeria today and I have sounded it repeatedly that our elections could be more efficient than they are.

The New Electoral Act basically resonates positions that I have long held as an Elections Operations expert in Nigeria. If polling units are the building blocks of elections in Nigeria, collation at RA level (Ward) and LGA can and should only be for control purposes. How do you determine the outcome of a polling unit result at Ward level? I am happy that the New Electoral Act (as amended) has dealt with that illogic.

Secondly, our national record keeping systems should begin to support election operations. Post offices, road safety offices, government offices, National Identity Management centres, immigrations, etc should be agile enough to provide support to elections operations. A centralised database only needs updates to handle certain roles for elections and these come at far lower costs and resources.

Are you sure that 2023 general would be free, fair and credible?
I am glad that we are now on the path to cleaner elections and I look forward to when we do not have to lock ourselves up on a weekend to vote in Nigeria. Technology enables cleaner electioneering and as a technology enthusiast, no investment is too much in that area as long as it advances our national objectives of cleaner polls. We do not need to have single day elections. They are prohibitive in a hugely diverse nation like ours. How long will it take elections officials to travel to the creeks? How long will it take to move around and achieve efficient logistics at the border towns? We need one week, at the least, for Elections in Nigeria and BVAS makes it possible. Voting centres should be opened with biometric validation at public spaces. The updates we have through the new Electoral Act are most welcome and more can be achieved honestly.