THERE MAY BE TROUBLE IF BUHARI LOSES THE ELECTION – George Eke

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38-41 Interview  with GEORGE EKE 3

As tension intensifies ahead of the 2015 general elections, politicians and their various parties have been strategizing on how to corner the electorate and emerge victorious at the polls.  BRANDPOWER sought the opinion of an astute Brand Nigeria stakeholder and respected political analyst and lawyer, Mr. George Eke of the PDP on the activities heralding the elections, the readiness of the electoral umpire and intricacies of the political actors.

We present his well-articulated views below:

We are on the verge of yet another general elections. With the goings-on around, how would you say the different stakeholders across the divide have honed and perfected the Nigerian democracy brand?

Democracy generally is an international phenomenon and the way we understand it both in political science and in law is like the simplest example of the government of the people, for the people and by the people. But that does not take away the fact that every system of government is environmentally specific in the fact that it takes cognizance of the culture of the people, the idiosyncrasies of the players and other normative factors.

The framework of democracy requires that there must be an executive, legislature and judiciary and the system of interplay of these arms of government. But how they work out is a challenge to different environments that is why I have always disagreed with those people who keep talking about true federalism. There is nothing like that. Federalism has to do with the environment, what the people have agreed and what their terms are. That is why the federalism in Australia is different from that of U.S. I do not also agree that it is as nascent as people think it is.

If we have had democracy since 1999, by now we should be getting to a certain level of maturity even though it takes time for a country to mature. But we shouldn’t be making any more excuses about our failure in democracy. Looking at how we have fared, I can also say that we have done quite well. Given the fact that in 1999 when the military handed over to the civilian administration, the quality of players in the political scene cannot be compared to what we have now.

At that point in time, nobody had confidence in the genuineness of the handover. To that extent, a lot of people looked away and that opened the door to quite a number of people who for want of a better word I would call charlatans. But now, a lot of professionals are coming into the game. At the level of electoral empire, you will also find out that we tumbled and fumbled in the first few years but anybody who is fair enough should be able to say that INEC should have gotten 60% to 70% pass mark with regards to what it has done this length of time.

38-41 Interview  with GEORGE EKE 4Let us not be blinded by the recent challenges as regards the distribution of voters’ card. We should recall that the INEC we used to have was purely under the dictates of the executive. But you and I now know that votes are not only counted but also count. People are now voting the individual contestants. INEC has proven that if a credible character comes, he’s most likely to win elections on the platform of whichever party he represents. Even we as party stakeholders say in our caucus meetings that the days of rigging are gone! That is why people now try to be popular with the electorate. It is now important that you sell the programmes you have for the people to the people. That is the grudge I have been holding with the opposition.

They have not come out to tell us what they would give as alternative. When the other parties came together to form the APC, I was quite elated because I like competition. But all they do is wait for bombs to go off and throw their hands in jubilation blaming the ruling party and abusing the president.  They keep saying the president is clueless and run with it. This is a man that has a Ph.D from a Nigerian university; not from Toronto. He was also a lecturer; meaning he must be somebody that has brain in his head. So that is the quality of the man ruling us.

If the opposition is reasonable enough, they should be able to articulate what they would do if they are to be at the centre. As an NGO, you can go ahead and criticize the government but as a political party, when you do that you must provide an alternative because what you are as a party is an alternative platform.  Intellectual contribution is what should constitute a reasonable opposition not just rallies and celebration of the country’s misfortunes. With what is on ground, it is obvious that the opposition is more interested in the business of politics than governance.

You just mentioned selling of manifesto, with current INEC provision where campaigns only start about three months to the date of election. Do you think candidates have enough time to sell themselves?

At the level of candidates, it is enough because at that point in time, the much anybody could do is to identify the problems and state how they would solve them to the people. But what we are saying is that it should flow from a body of ideas which the party is already selling and want to be known for.

If you look at the nature of governance of different parties in the states, you find out that we have APC, Labour Party, PDP, APGA. And you cannot say earnestly that this variegated nature of governance is reflected in the level of development. For instance, most of the APC states, they have better educational programmes. So why can’t they be known for just education? Now that oil prices are falling why can’t a party be known for agriculture?

38-41 Interview  with GEORGE EKE 1You accuse the opposition of not structuring their message, would you say PDP has done that?

Yes, PDP has what is called the transformation agenda. Whether you like it or not, there are issues that are coming out of it. They have been able to revive the railways to a certain extent, they have also expended energy in the privatization of power sector with regards to the policy and road map they have done. These are things the opposition can pick up on and say yes you’ve done this but you have not done well. This is what we would have done. There is also the creation of employment through the YOU WIN and SURE-P programmes.

The opposition can also say yes this programmes have not done well. Let’s scrap it and put up a more credible programme that will generate employment for about 3 million people in the space of two years and also explain how they would achieve that. Throw up the issues and let us discuss them. That is how it is done in other climes where we claim to be copying from.

Another problem is the issue of internal party democracy which has often led to instances where you see cross-carpeting both before and after elections. How do you think we can resolve this?

The issue of cross-carpeting underline the earlier point I made about parties not having very clear programmes through which they can be identified such that if you are traveling by road let’s say from Lagos to Calabar, there are certain states you’ll pass and by intuition you will say this state must belong to this party based on things you see. Maybe school students with bubbling school uniforms or number of good farms you see on the road sides etc. This lack of identity or ideology is the reason people can move from party A to B and in the evening move back to A and they have lost nothing.

Now the APC says they are progressives, yes that’s a good word of appeal but what makes them progressives? This is a party that is peopled by those who decamped from PDP. As a matter of fact, one of the big wigs in APC today, AuduOgbe was a former chairman of PDP. So the name is more of a nickname and does not reflect what is on ground. In the climes where we are copying from, a particular family is known with the Democratic Party and it becomes news when a member of that family chooses to become a Republican. But here, lack of ideological basis makes it easy for people to jump from one party to the other.

Another underlining factor is selfish interest. After the primaries, you will see that there will be an exodus of those who thought that they were going to get a platform in APC for instance back to PDP and what are they shopping for; platform for their selfish interest.

38-41 Interview  with GEORGE EKE 2 Does this portray that most of them lack personal integrity?

I once said it on national television that one of the qualifications you must have to be a good Nigerian politician is that you have to be shameless. The reason being that you need to have the capacity to rationalize every bad thing that you have done and even when you are caught doing that bad thing you’ll say it was done by the opposition. Even when you say a wrong thing, you say you are wrongly quoted.

The proposal by INEC to create additional 30,026 polling units created quite a stir with stiff opposition from sections of the country. What in your opinion was really wrong with that proposal?

My opinion about that proposal is that INEC did not think through that proposal. Here is a situation where they were trying to increase the number of polling units by 30,026 and they said 22,000 of those polling units were going to be put in the north and 8,000 will be in the south. Like I said earlier, every democracy is environmentally specific in the sense that certain essentials traits of the country must be put into calculation.

This is a country where ethnicity is almost like a religion. We have not gotten to a situation where people give their loyalty to the country more than their ethnic group like we have in America. Here, our loyalty is pyramidal in the sense that from the base, you are bothered about your family, village, town union, local government, your state, and your country takes the least of your loyalty. In such a scenario, if INEC comes out to say this number of polling units in the north where population, religion and ethnicity have been politicized and have become a major issue, he’s most likely going to be interpreted wrongly.

It is not like Jega the INEC Chairman has a fresh population figure which he’s working on. The suspicion now arises, if you give this number of polling units to a certain group of people, the chances are that about 500 people are registerable in that polling unit, where did these 500 people came out from within this short period? That was what shut it down. There were spurious population figures at that time that only Jega understood as regards those who have died and those who have gotten of age to vote. And he tried very hard but unsuccessfully to convince Nigerians including statisticians and demographers.

Recently, INEC came up with measures to ensure that politicians don’t spend beyond the budget cap stipulated by the constitution during campaigns for the 2015 elections. Do you think INEC can see this through and can this prevent a typical Nigerian politician from spending spuriously in the coming elections?

From the legal stand point, there are certain laws that are not enforceable; they would just be there for the sake of it. Just like we know that marrying two wives is a criminal offence as contained in our criminal code. How many Nigerians have been jailed for that? So, if Jega says don’t spend this much money, how would he monitor the politicians with regards to who they meet in the supermarket and probably gave N10,000? Now there’s a huge market for delegates and every aspirant is looking for delegates. Some people say they are going to buy the delegates and they make it so obvious. In other words, it is who pays more that they will vote for and delegates themselves know it. So if a delegate says to an aspirant “give me N100,000 and I will vote for your governorship aspiration” multiply that by the number of delegates that will make him a flag bearer of the party and you’ll have an idea of how much he’s going to spend.

So how does INEC monitor that? The much INEC can do is monitor the amount spent on campaign offices, branded cars etc. So it is a bad law and it’s there for the sake of it because at the level of implementation, there’s a huge question mark.

38-41 Interview  with GEORGE EKE 5Looking at 2015, what will be your projections on the outcome of the elections?

I make no apology that I am a stake holder in PDP. The PDP will win the presidential election and there’s going to be a ripple effect of that victory on other elections. I said so because the opposition has not gotten its act together. The reason is this, PDP has long has its own candidate even if it hadn’t been declared but we knew who was going to be the candidate. He has been evaluated based on what he has done and what he’s capable of doing if he’s re-elected.

The opposition has not been able to identify their candidate. What we have now is speculation; what if it’s Buhari what can he do? I have always maintained that Buhari will be a bad candidate for the APC because some thirty something years ago, he was head of state, so based on ideological gap; it won’t be easy to convince the youths to vote for him. Secondly, they say he’s an anti-corruption crusader why doesn’t he lend his skill to the country. Buhari can run the EFCC; it won’t be too small for him. I give you this example; Obama was picked up by a man called John Kerry and was useful to Kerry during his Presidential campaign in Illinois in 2006. Today that Kerry that Obama was campaigning for is now the Secretary of State in Obama’s administration. It doesn’t take anything away from you. The whole idea is that you love the country.

This is a Buhari that you invite to a national council of state meeting where all ex-heads of state are supposed to come and contribute, he would not attend. So he cannot give the country the benefit of the experience and qualities he says he has until he becomes president. With that kind of person, we are not too sure that we are safe and the backlash is that if he loses the election, we are going to be in trouble because those who love him love him fanatically. Even when he loses genuinely, they take to the streets.

The next person would be Atiku a man that has been jumping from one place to another. Can we trust such a man? The next is Kwankwaso who I don’t know much about. So I can sit down here in the comfort of my office and tell you that all we need do is give more advice to Jonathan because he doesn’t have a contest; he has won the election.

On a scale of 100, how would you rate the Nigerian democracy?

I would say 65%

Tell us more about yourself?

I am a lawyer and I am also interested in a chain of businesses essentially in banking automation and oil and gas but I majorly practice law. I am a politician and like I have always said, politics should be a vocation where if you contest an election and you are unlucky not to get a ticket like I didn’t get, you can always go back to the business you are known for so that it doesn’t cause so much mayhem and it removes you from the do or die group.

Any future plans to aspire again?

Right now we are doing power brokerage …Laughs

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