Olufemi Aduwo, the president of Centre for Convention on Democratic Integrity, is also National Coordinator of the Rights Monitoring Group (RMG). In this interview with Jonathan Eze, he speaks on his job as a representative to the United Nations, the need to empower women politically, as well as INEC's preparedness for the forthcoming elections. He also dismissed the furore generated by the alleged certificate forgery of the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun. Excerpts:
You just returned from a United Nations assignment. What was the trip all about?
My NGO, Centre for Convention on Democratic integrity Ltd/Gte, (CCDI), a not-for-profit organisation has a Consultative Status of Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN). The status allows the centre to send five representatives each to United Nations Office in New York, Geneva and Vienna yearly and by virtue of my position as the president, I am a Designate Permanent Representative of CCDI to UN. This affords us the privilege to participate in many conferences, meetings or draw the attention of any UN organ to issues and more importantly to carry out assignment for the UN or her agencies. The visit gave me opportunity to interact with some Security Council (SC) members and submitted a paper on the ongoing crisis at the SC.
The first half of 2018 has seen the council already in a parlous state after years of ugly diplomacy over the civil war in Syria, the crisis in Yemen and Gaza. The position paper I presented was published by a United States based newspaper and THISDAY. I also met with the Deputy Secretary General, Her Excellency, Ms Amina Mohammed, and presented to her an invitation letter as a special guest at Infrastructures Financing in Africa Conference slated for Dubai in August this year.
You have always advocated active women participation in the political process. Do you think the forthcoming general election would offer the womenfolk more opportunities to make a difference politically?
I doubt it, unless there is deliberate policy by political parties to give certain percentage of political office to women. How many of the women have the resources? In the past, majority of women that are political appointees or elected were either wives of retired generals or chieftains of the parties, unfortunately, the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the ruling party is not helping matters, the same thing is applicable to the youths, instead of not too young to rule, the youths could have as well lobbied the National Assembly to make it compulsory for certain percentage of political office to be set aside for the youth by the political parties. How many youths between 24-30 years have N3billion to contest for governorship election? Anyway N10billion is not enough to win governorship election in Nigeria. Mrs. Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General, United Nations, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili and many others are capable women that can manage the affairs of this country.
Still talking about women in politics, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, is under investigation over alleged forged NYSC certificate. What does this portend for her?
Let me start by letting you know my involvement in anti -corruption crusade during the tenure of Ibrahim Larmode as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). l singlehandedly uncovered what could be termed monumental fraud and reported to the EFCC not for any percentage as being paid to whistle-blowers now. l am a returnee to the World Bank/IMF Boards of Governors Meetings of Civil Society Forum since 2012. My organisations; RMG and CCDI, had organised sessions during the World Bank meeting in Washington DC on corruption and transparency to let you know that l don't condone corruption in any form. The issue of certificate forgery is being blown out of proportion and some people want to build cathedral out of it. From what l have read, the minister has no reason to forge the certificate. Her school certificates are not in doubt and also that she schooled and worked in United Kingdom is not in doubt. She graduated like many Nigerians. The same certificate was used especially during her confirmation and screening exercise at Ogun State House of Assembly and Senate, when she was appointed commissioner and minister respectively. The current controversy arose from the fact that the director general that signed the purported exemption certificate issued to her had since resigned from NYSC many months before the date stated on the certificate, hence it is alleged that it must have been forged. The NYSC in a press statement confirmed that she applied for an exemption. My investigation revealed that there are hundreds of such exemptions and non -exemption certificates signed by the same director general, around the same date the minister's own was issued. l have sighted many documents of such by some government agencies especially NYSC and CBN, pre-print of documents, certificates and currency with authorised signatories . Such documents will continue to be issued and in circulation as long as the stock last, let NYSC deny that. The truth is some people believe the infrastructural fund should not be under her control and also the manner she raised issue concerning the withheld billions by the NNPC did not go down with some people within APC. That is the simple truth.
Ahead of the 2019 election, there are merger talks among political parties. How successful do you think this can be and what are your predictions?
This is not the first or second time alliances will be announced. In the First Republic, the Northern People's Congress (NPC) led by the late Sardauna of Sokoto, had political dominance and influence in the Northern Region and principally dominated the government at the centre. To wrestle power from NPC, there was a merger not coalition called the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA) . The merger comprised the late Chief Awolowo's Action Congress (AG), Chief Azikwe's National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), late Chief Tarka's United Middle Belt Congress and late Mallam Aminu Kano's Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU). The NPC did not relax to watch the display of the merger; it formed the Nigeria National Alliance (NNA) with late Akintola's Nigerian Democratic Party (NDP) of the Western Region.
In the Second Republic, there were six dominant and registered political parties segregated along ethnic lines. There were serious allegations of massive corruption, unemployment and incompetence levelled against the Shagari government as is being levelled against President Muhamamdu Buhari's government today. Alliance was formed-the Progressive Parties Alliance (PPA). Shagari's National Party of Nigeria (NPN) launched a divide-and-rule strategy in the loosely knit PPA. Zik's NPP and Aminu Kano's People's Redemption Party (PRP) reeled under the divisions, with factions emerging and some merging with NPN, the rest is history, with massive rigging and lack of cohesion in the alliance, NPN won. The quest for political takeover through merger or alliance in Nigeria had never worked, that doesn't mean because it failed in the past it cannot succeed in 2019 only on one ground that personal interest and politics of 'my ownisation' is jettisoned. APC will not fold her hands. Many of those who witnessed the alliance MOU meeting days ago are politicians of bread and butter, monkeys who are ready to accept banana from the hunter. The situation requires serious work and dedication; many of the parties could have dissolved and formed a new party.
Many believe the Ekiti and Osun elections would serve as litmus test for INEC's preparedness. As a stakeholder, what are your expectations?
Probably the seriousness of the PDP and alliance force could be tested in Ekiti State election by narrowing the contestants to APC and PDP candidates, since some contestants may not get 20 votes. Now, Ekiti election is crucial in many respects to the PDP, APC and 2019 general elections especially the Presidential poll. ln 2015, Ekiti State was the only state Buhari lost in the South-west. To win the Presidential poll in Nigeria, two political zones were the determinant factors, North-west and South-west, the outcome of Ekiti State governorship election will affect Osun State governorship election in geometric proportion.
For free and fair election to be achieved in Ekiti State is purely the duty of political parties, INEC as an umpire for example, cannot stop vote buying. The vote buying started long ago, as an election observer since 2003; l witnessed such ugly incident in many states across the country. In some cases, it was done unnoticed but in many states in the northern part, the child voters collected their pay immediately after thumb printing. You would remember during APC Presidential primary election in Lagos before 2015 general election, over 8000 delegates who participated allegedly made $5,000 each from the candidates and in the last Ondo State governorship election, where l served as an observer, APC and PDP were given between N7000 and N4000 respectively. I am from the State; l saw it and took pictures with some of the collectors. The policemen at polling units cannot do anything to stop such incident. Such action in many cases snowball to fracas, destruction and commotion after counting, where a candidate believed he would have won, didn't. To stop such incidents, more awareness and vigorous enlightenment campaign by all the stakeholders is the solution. It can only be reduced because it happens in many West Africa countries, in a situation where poverty and illiteracy level are higher, such aberration would manifest.
If the security agencies can be above board, definitely the election would be peaceful. I still want to appeal to Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris to withdraw some police officers. Governor Fayose mentioned that they are working with Dr. Kayode Fayemi. In the same manner, the DG of the Department of State Services (DSS) should do the same, l hope the governor is correct.