interviewBy Sufuyan Ojeifo
Lagos — Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, Senator Timothy Adudu (representing Plateau North) is a member of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP, who opted out the 2007 general elections. In this interview, he takes a dispassionate look at the elections and suggests that, in the light of the perceived shoddy manner of the polls management, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be probed by the Senate
You have observed the conduct of the April 14 and 21 elections. What is your sincere and very objective assessment of the exercise?
First, let me state that whatever happened before and during the election, I had tried to capture this thing on the floor of the Senate. You remember that I did bring in a motion that I was not convinced that (INEC chairman), Professor Maurice Iwu, was ready to conduct this election in a free and fair manner; that he was not prepared to conduct the elections in a credible manner. I did say so and I brought a motion to that effect that he should be removed and replaced if we were going to have credible, free and fair elections. Now, one would with the advantage of hindsight say that I have been vindicated. We are witnesses to what all the international observers have said, but for one that was headed by the former Prime Minister of Tanzania who said he was going to make his recommendations known next week. But of all the others that we have had, what they have said is that the elections had fallen below standard, which is a shame for this country. It is a disturbing development that after eight years, instead of us to improve, we find ourselves in what I would call a recess-going backwards instead of advancing or progressing. But all these are human errors which we could have averted but unfortunately, when we made a clarion call that we should address all these issues, the call was ignored. So, it is quite unfortunate that the elections were not in line with the expectations of Nigerians and the international community
So how much damage do you think this has done to our political re-engineering process and the exercise of enhancing the integrity of the democratic process?
I would say that it has gone to the very foundation of our political system, which would require high intellect and maturity to come over. It is like a precedent has been set and whoever is coming would want to believe that the subterfuges and the undercurrent machinations that were employed, once they are allowed to sustain themselves, they become like nectars and they would always be there as indices for those coming behind. So, the incoming politicians, if they want to live above board, must jettison what we have seen today and employ the true meaning of democratic process in order for us to move forward.
You talked as if the problem was with the INEC Chairman. Should not the blame be placed at the door step of the Federal Government that appointed him?
As far as I am concerned, Iwu is the driver of the vehicle; he was the leader of the institution that was responsible for elections in this country. So, whatever happened, whatever is happening, he is the first person that the accusing finger will be pointed at and what are my reasons? When he came to the Senate and at all times that he came out to talk to the nation, all the things that he said were ready and available for the elections were not there when we went to the field. For instance, the Direct Data Capture machine, which was flaunted all along, we discovered that they were not there in the field when we went there. The Automatic Finger Print Identification System (AFIS) was not there; the printing of permanent voters card is also without the AFIS; and the collation of the result system, GSM was used. All these were things that Professor Iwu said were readily available. So, depending on how you are looking at it, the position is that the man who was responsible for the exercise whom we should hold responsible primarily did not live up to expectations and it is quite unfortunate that we had to go through this because he did not tell us the truth.
The absence of all these things that you have mentioned and the totality of the absence could be said to have led to the alleged manipulation of the system. Is that the point you are making that the process was manipulated?
That and many more but let me break it into two: these things that I have enumerated were the things that the INEC chairman said were in place and they were going to be used. That is one side of the argument and then the other one is that, assuming that we had these provisions in place, were we supposed to have the massive rigging that we had in the first place? I think to a very large extent, the answer will be: No! This is because supposing you had the AFIS in place, that would have checked double voting because once you vote, automatically your finger print is stored and you cannot vote the second time; that was what we had in the mind and that was what he came and said he was ready for, but unfortunately the thing was not there. So, break it into two: the provisions were not made and if they were made, perhaps, they would have had a very large, substantial check on the outcome of the election; so, my answer, I would say, is yes.
Would you say that was deliberate against the backdrop of the fact that all monies for the procurement of these equipment were appropriated by the National Assembly?
Of course, yes! Why would it not be deliberate? It was definitely deliberate because there had never been any point in time that the Chairman of INEC said that these things were not available. At all times, he would say he was prepared; that all these things were available and to an extent of demonstrating to the National Assembly that these things were available. So, at what point in time did they not become available? And what explanations have we got from the INEC chairman? We have not got any explanation; so, what reason do I have to say that the situation was not deliberate?