This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Yar'Adua Used Reform to Buy Time, Says Mohammed

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President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua set up the Electoral Reform Committee to address the flaws in the electoral system. The government has issued a white paper on the report of the committee which is now generating controversy. Now, do you think we are on the right track?

I am not as optimistic as you are about the so called reform committee. I had objected to the composition of the committee from the beginning. I questioned the integrity and versatility of the committee chairman and the quality of the members. How do you attempt to reform a system without the operators of the system? There was no politician of any consequence in the committee. Whether we like it or not, it is the politicians that would work with the electoral laws and determine whether the law works or not. Democracy's delivery vehicle is the political parties. If there is something wrong with the electoral process, politicians should be the one to examine it and make recommendations on the way forward.

But Yar'Adua was misguided. I am not surprised that the whole thing was a waste of time. This goes to prove my point right from the beginning and this is that in life, you don't legislate goodwill or political will. Even if you give man the best laws in the world, if he is not determined to make them work, the laws would fail. As far as I am concerned, the whole electoral reform thing was a con game; it was a fraud. And if you go through the report of the committee, you will see that they had very little to say about the Electoral Act of 2006. This means the rigging we witnessed in 2007 had nothing to do with the laws but with people who were determined to subvert the will of the people. So, we are back to square one. Members of the committee knew the purpose of the whole exercise was to buy time for Yar'Adua to consolidate his hold on power.

Most people believe our main problem is lack of viable opposition?

At a very basic level, politics tends to show people with ambitions. When you see a political system, the first thing you ask is whether the system is run in such a way as to give top grade people the opportunity to run for office. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, it is a money-making machine. People don't join politics because they enjoy the engagement or want to serve. These days, people go into politics to make money. Success in politics is measured by how rich you become. People like us are labelled failures because we don't have money. My two cars are 20 years old. Now, when you talk about opposition, you must look at the quality of the people.

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