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‘I enjoin Nigerians to opt for what is right’

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Professor Toyin Falola. PHOTO: UT College of Liberal Arts

Professor Toyin Falola, an international scholar and public analyst, currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas, Austin, United States (US), spoke to MUYIWA ADEYEMI in Ibadan on the effect of last week polls shift on today’s Presidential and National Assembly elections, vote-buying and ballot-snatching among others.

Do you think INEC still has the, credibility to conduct free and fair election?
It depends on what values the leadership of INEC and the ruling government hold in high esteem. The sudden postponement of the election has naturally given a bad signal and cast in doubt, the overall outcome.

Apparently, the commission has lost some degree of credibility, based on its decision to postpone. A commission with the sole mandate of conducting elections that could not manage logistics and tell the world about the number of registered voters in each state is generating doubts in the results.

If voter turnout is low today, we will see the impact of distrust. Apathy may mean that millions of people want to go about their own businesses and care less about what politicians do. We do not have answers to many questions.

The electorate have naturally become suspicious and diverse analysis of the postponement and myriad reasons have been flying around. The atmosphere has been poisoned.

For instance, voters were intimidated in Ekiti and Osun States during their governorship elections and INEC could not really stand up to the truth. Card reader issues were rampant and many obvious problems which were avoidable.

With all these parameters, do you think we should expect a better performance from INEC? Are Nigerians satisfied with the state of the nation? As Nigerians, what do we really want? How can we come together and insist we don’t deserve this treatment from INEC.

We all look forward to the process of the election on Saturday (today) to really come to a conclusion that will be seen as free and fair.

What is your opinion about voter inducement and its implications for democracy? 
Voter inducement is a threat to democracy. None of the major political parties is immune from this practice. It thrives in Nigeria due to the high level of poverty and the lack of political education among citizens.

I feel strongly that Nigerians still need an orientation on the myriad of “ripple effects,” especially in relation to this negative practice. Regardless of whatever amount people are induced with, I enjoin Nigerians to opt for what is right. While it doesn’t cease to amuse one that even all organs of the government are entrenched in incompetence, it is certainly a dangerous path that had already tilted to a dangerous dimension in Nigeria’s democracy.

If voters are induced by cash or rice, that is no longer democracy. This is the height of corruption and it should be discouraged and rejected by the people. But in a situation where the people are hungry and poor due to bad governance, then when you dangle N10, 000 before them, they will collect it. When you pack foodstuffs, like rice and gari, they will collect them. Our people have been oppressed by the corrupt leaders so as to make it easy for them to be trampled upon. Buying votes in any form is a bad omen to the polity, to our future.

The implication is that the person who bought him/herself into government wouldn’t add any value to the people’s standard of living. It would be corruption as usual, because the politician got in there through fraud. Thereafter, the people will experience more poverty, backwardness and oppression. Nigeria is now in a vicious circle.

What are your expectations from whoever wins the presidential election? 
Nigerians are tired and have had bad times. They need a leader who is humane, who truly means well and is strong, healthy and mentally sound to bring the desired progress and development. We need development, jobs, security and infrastructure. Corruption will set us back.

Unfortunately, one might not be able to change the current structure of governance. Maybe we will inch forward. Maybe good leaders will emerge in decades to come. May be strong institutions will be created. Let me engage in more wishful thinking: the president of a nation could do more by upholding humanity, selflessness and service as elements of governance.

Whoever wins the presidential election should show a mature understanding of the complex nature of the Nigerian state, in terms of the history of its formation, the feelings of exclusion, the high rate of poverty and insecurity. The victorious person must be bold enough to lead a campaign for both moral regeneration and political restructuring of the country.

The value system in Nigeria has crashed, as people have lost faith in the system. The current 36 state structure is not sustainable and the President must be ready to ensure that the country is restructured along the six regions proposed in the 1994/1995 constitutional conference.

The current federal structure is not working well, which is not sustainable in the long run. Those sections of the country who are feeling cheated in areas of revenue allocation, number of local governments and so on will continue to threaten secession unless they have a sense of belonging.

Beyond the current platitudes of integrity and anti-corruption campaigns, there must be a clear effort geared toward arresting and prosecuting those who have stolen from the state. The current George Orwell’s Animal Farm approach to fighting corruption would need to be jettisoned for a more comprehensive onslaught against looters of public treasuries.

No development can take place under the atmosphere of insecurity. The President must address this problem frontally without consideration for religious or ethnic sentiments.

Jobs need to be created to stem the tide of poverty that is so prevalent in the land. The massive potentials of the youth can be unleashed through investments in infrastructures, especially electricity.


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