Ayoola Lawal is the Scandinavian Coordinator for the All Progressives Congress, APC. In this interview with Daniels Ekugo, he speaks about the election postponement and change Nigerians really want
How did you take the postponement of the general elections from February to March, taking into congnisance that you travelled all the way down to Nigeria to monitor the elections in February?
The announcement of the postponement of the election earlier scheduled for 14 February, 2015 was a sad event in the history of our nation´s democracy. The announcement marked the day our nascent democracy was openly and seriously threatened, though it was schemed within the context of constitutional framework. We are all aware that the Presidency and the National Council of State had a seven-hour meeting in which INEC assured of its readiness for the February election. In actual fact, the umpire, the INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega in a press conference, stated the readiness and arrangement for displaced electorate in the North –East of Nigeria to exercise their civic right of electing the candidate of their choice. The switch of the election date a few days to the election due to the issue of security and PVC completely altered the entire four-year plan. Truth be told, the postponement was a blow, which was never envisaged because we believed the present government, and INEC will for once consider the fragility of our nascent democracy and the image of Nigeria in the league of nations. Unfortunately, it was quite disappointing because most Nigerians both at home and abroad were already expecting a beginning of a new Nigeria of our dream on 14 February. The election postponement was such a psychological thing to us now, because we are now very much skeptical about the words of INEC Chairman and Mr. President regarding the conduct of the elections in March. We are praying and hoping that they will not drag our nascent democracy backward again.
What about the insecurity and the state of the nation given as reason for the postponement?
There are no words to describe all the senseless and extra-ordinary lunatic killings in the name of politicking by masked war against Western education by evil-minded people. Nothing in this age would have prepared us for what the nation is going through now, except good and authentic leadership with the committed and thoughtful weapon of true patriotism. To all the bereaved, we know that no words can ease the pain and loss they are feeling right now. They are all in our prayers. Regarding the state of our nation, frankly it is appalling. Travel round to see and experience what I’m talking about. Some will argue, Nigeria is still a young country, still growing, positive. However, why grow in pain and suffering? Why can‘t the leader make the growth and development pleasant for the citizens? We are a blessed nation with abundant natural resources and human capital. Unfortunately, we lack a visionary, decisive, focused and authentic leaders. We have a president who can´t protect and promote the welfare of all citizens but only that of his few cohorts. I often think out loud, asking others and myself these pertinent questions: how did we find ourselves in such a terrible mess? How did we become a failed state, where learned and informed people became slaves of a clueless and auto pilot leader? We now have a country where the office of the First Lady, not in the constitution is even more powerful than the office of the governors. A country where sixteen is greater than nineteen; where militants are the agents securing our oil pipelines; where the president prefers to defend corrupt and political rogues. A nation where millions are spent on cars, billions embezzled, yet none is prosecuted. A nation where over 200 innocent schoolchildren were kidnapped by terrorists and till this date, we are still waiting for their return. Brave and courageous young men (soldiers) that were sacrificing their lives to protect us but complained of being ill-equipped were quickly sentenced to death, while the apprehended terrorist and mentioned sponsors were yet to be prosecuted. A country where youth unemployment is more than 60%, where more military and security operatives are deployed for elections than to combat terrorists. Where pensions are hardly paid, where lack of electricity is a norm. A country where anyone who criticizes the actions and inaction of the government is an enemy of the state, a country in which a single individual threatened to destroy certain regions of the country, if his kinsman loses election and the security operatives take no single step to interrogate him.
Since the beginning of campaigns, there has been series of hate campaigns, how does your chapter react to the campaigns from the parties involved?
It is quite unfortunate that the political atmosphere is full of hate campaigns rather than dwelling on clear manifestoes. You know, the manifesto of the All Progressives Congress is very clear and decisive about certain issues such as corruption and the consequence of corruption is jail for anybody found guilty. Since the hallmark achievement of PDP during President Jonathan Ebele is corruption, they will do anything, I mean anything, to win the election and that is one of the very reasons the election is full of hate messages and innuendoes during the rallies. The few elites or the ruling class want to maintain the status quo but the majority and average Nigerians need a change. A complete change of system, party and leadership.
Will Nigerians in Diaspora vote or be voted for?
Over 15 millions Nigerians in diaspora will not have such a privilege to cast their votes come March 28. It is very sad that our constitution was designed that way. You know, it will be quite difficult to rig election in some countries abroad, specifically the advanced countries and any non-performing sitting government will not want a situation or condition which will be out of the control especially the electoral processes and procedures. On the agenda of APC is that come 2019, every Nigerian in diaspora will be able to exercise his or her civic right to vote for the candidate of their choice. They will not be disenfranchised no matter where there are residing. One of the very reasons Nigerians in diaspora are remitting over N26 billion into the Nigerian economy should persuade and influence their people to vote the APC government come March 28, 2015.
Are you satisfied with INEC’s preparations for the elections so far?
The very good thing about we Nigerians anywhere we are is that we are always very good and impressive if we commit to something. So far so good, the entire electoral process has been quite encouraging. Prof. attahiru Jega, the man at the helm of affairs is quite impressive in the way he is executing the process and his leadership is far better than that of his boss, Mr. President.
What about the controversies surrounding the use of the Card Reader?
Just like I said about the man at the helm of affairs of INEC, he knows what to do to prevent rigging. Part of it is the use of the card reader. If it is just to authenticate the real owner of the PVC to prevent rigging, then what is wrong in its usage for the election? I strongly believe it is a very good development but people that are afraid that they will lose the election, and are ready to rig will not want it to be used. They will always come up with a thousand reasons why it is not proper or rather okay to be used for the election. Quote me: the party (PDP) that made Nigeria a failed state will not want us to use it because they are preparing to rig the election. They want to maintain the status quo but unfortunately they are very unpopular because of their inability to seriously deliver on their promises of making our lives better, and Nigeria a greater and prosperous nation. Rather, they have made us synonymous with corruption, terrorism and bad governance. Nigerians want a change and the change is now and surely, we must have it. The APC Scandinavian countries’ members shall resist any further change in date of the election and call for sanctions against Jonathan government in Scandinavian countries and European parliament. It baffles me sometimes, when we make issue out of nothing. In the Scandinavian countries, and so many developed countries I have been to, card reader is a common machine for the authentication of identity cards, permits, tram and bus cards. So many agencies use card reader for control. What is so special about a card reader?
The APC Presidential Candidate was in London recently and made a remarkable speech. How do you rate his speech at the Chatham House?
I called the speech, the speech of hope and inspiration. It was very impressive, well articulated and perfectly delivered. One of the very best speeches delivered by any leader in Nigeria for a very long time. It clearly depicts that the party, APC is well ready and prepared to rescue Nigeria from sinking further and make it a land of our dream once again. I‘m quite optimistic that some of the critics of General Muhammadu Buhari must have come to the reality and start to have a paradigm shift regarding their negative and myopic thoughts about him and the APC agenda after the Chatham House event. Furthermore, the Chatham House event enabled Muhammadu Buhari and All Progressives Congress to further enlighten the world to have a better-informed understanding of APC’s clarity of vision, seriousness and authenticity of the style of leadership it is ready and prepared to offer Nigerians. The APC Scandinavia members strongly believe we can start to influence our own democracy back home gradually by getting involved and start to make contributions in terms of knowledge and technological exchange. The APC Scandinavia members want to be a platform to connect best practices, experience, ideas and visions between Scandinavia countries and Nigeria.