31 January 2013

Nigeria: Opposition Merger Faces Intricate Legal Hurdle, Says Ajulo

Mr. Kayode Ajulo, a lawyer and rights activist, is the founder of Egalitarian Mission Africa and the FCT senatorial candidate for Labour Party in the last general election. In this interview with Onyebuchi Ezigbo, he spoke on the electoral reforms and some of the likely hurdles to face the on-going merger talks by the opposition parties

Do you believe in the ongoing merger talks by some opposition parties?

With our political orientation and the practice so far, the merger of some political parties is desirable and expedient. It is imperative that if Nigeria must move forward, there must not exist a party with a monopoly of things and power. It is expected that we have a strong party that will take the ruling party, PDP, head-on constructively towards achieving national development. As it stands, the situation of our parties is the case of having several Fingerlings and Minors attempting to fight a Whale called PDP.

Some parties therefore need to form alliance in the name of merger to achieve our collective desirables. However, without mincing words, let me quickly state that the proposed merger of CPC, ANPP and ACN is nothing but a 21st Century construction of Tower of Babel in Nigeria.

I arrived at this conclusion having taken into consideration, the background of the parties proposing the merger; the personalities involved and their motives.

Birds of the same feather flock together but the difference is the case in the proposed merger. How are we going to explain the merger of two factions of APP now called ANPP represented by Buhari's CPC and the new ANPP represented by Ogbonaya Onu? How again will you introduce Tinubu's ACN to sit with two old rivals? As said earlier, this Tower of Babel will be destroyed by cacophony of personal interests, ambitions, egos, mistrusts and envy. That merger of the ACN, CPC and ANPP in a plain language will not see the light of the day.

So, you do not see the merger succeed much less a threat to PDP in 2015 elections?

I am not a prophet, but a lawyer of the realm and discerning citizen of Federal Republic of Nigeria, who for over 20 years has been watching and participating with keen interest, the political developments in the country. It is on this premise that I will take recourse to what our laws say about the exercise. The process is regulated by Section 84 of our Electoral Act 2010, with combination of the sacred provisions of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and other enabling laws which in effect, allow two or more registered political parties to merge on approval of the INEC.

This approval, we should bear in mind, is not automatic as certain conditions must be met. I have, therefore, looked at the recent merger talks and can say that, the parties involved have not met the conditions stipulated by the statute.

Politically, the motive behind the merger too, I dare say will be the albatross of the merger as the main reason for the merger is anti-people and anti-democracy. The posture of self-importance by the leaders and promoters of the merger led credence to this submission. It is very amusing to note and read some funny reasons such as to take the power back to the North in 2015. In fact the promoters are yet to deny the allegation that they have distributed Nigeria to themselves. These are people who are yet to get to the reins of power but are already talking of sharing the booty.

As to whether the merger will pose a major threat to PDP in 2015, I did not see how a merger that is dead on arrival will pose any threat to PDP or any other party. Mind you, the Labour Party in Nigeria is a party that has its fortune soaring; the workers are waking up to reality and have adopted the party. Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State routed the entire war machine of ACN in the South-west of Nigeria, thereby signifying the end of the domination of ACN in the region.

What is the place of Labour Party in the 2015 power game?

The position of Labour Party will be that of a game changer as LP is secured for the pending political jostling. Mark my words, the Party will be the bride that will be courted by other political parties if they must succeed or the party goes to the election fully as an entity. Recall what happened in the 2011 presidential election, the political calculation became cleared immediately Labour Party pointed to where the way is and other parties followed.

We adopted President Goodluck Jonathan as our candidate and the party led by Governor Mimiko mobilised for him to the point that Chief E. K. Clark observed that Mimiko campaigned for his beloved son as if Mimiko is the one contesting for the presidency.

What threat- perceived or real- does a lone Labour Party state face against the ACN backed by opposition coalition?

We need not over flog this issue of merger as it is non-starter. It ultra-vires all known democratic practice; it is not in accordance with our law and all these made it dead on arrival. The merger cannot stand and any parochial permutation and speculation will never stand again in Nigeria. The greed and blind ambition of the merger promoters will even tear them apart. It therefore poses no threat to Labour Party. Let us recall what happen in 2011 Presidential election: what tore apart the then ACN and CPC merger? Let us ask ourselves, what is the end this merger will meet, tell me? Is the merger for a common cause? Is it to ensure that we get out power and gas problem right? Is it that the merger will ensure improvement in the transportation, educational and security services?

The answer is no. Nigerians' attitude towards political structures is changing; the People of Edo State did not vote for ACN but Adams Oshiomohle due to what he represented. CAN, with all its noise about controlling the South-west was beaten silly in Ondo State because the people identified Governor Mimiko as a performer. I must also warn that it is proper to emphasise that Labour Party being the only one in the whole of South-west has come to stay.

Everything in life is a phase. There was a point in time that for four years, Action Congress of Nigeria was only controlling Lagos State but today, they have virtually taken over the whole of South-west until the emergence of Labour Party. As at now, the result of election in Ondo State is clear indicator that the Yoruba has come to accept our party, the very reason the likes of Governor Aregbesola is jittery and has embarked on shadow boxing.

What are some of the changes and reforms in Electoral Act that should be in place before the 2015 election?

Virtually all segments of our electoral processes are begging for reform but let me touch on a fundamental one. Section 153 of the 1999 Constitution established INEC, but its administration and operation is regulated in the third schedule, Part 1. Community reading of this provision shows that Independent national Electoral Commission is not independent.

Politician who are seeking to win election at all cost are the ones regulating their election regulator. This area needs reform. The funding of INEC also needs reform. I look forward to a provision in the electoral law that prevents the use of public funds by incumbents to finance campaigns and re-elections. I look forward to a provision that will check the abuse of the role of money in politics.

Do you think zoning of the presidency should be encouraged and even made a constitutional matter?

I am a stickler for egalitarianism, the very reason we founded an NGO, Egalitarian Mission Africa to propagate the concept. I preach equity, equal opportunity in every part of Africa, the very reason I contested for senate seat in Abuja instead of Ondo State- my state of origin. Zoning of political position is an anathema to democratic tenets.

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