Show competence now you’ve fulfilled your life-long ambition, Adebayo tells Tinubu

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The presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the last election, Prince Adewole Adebayo, in this interview with BLESSING ANARO says the tasks President Ahmed Bola Tinubu must face are daunting and that how well he does in fixing Nigeria is up to him. 

What areas do you advise President Tinubu to concentrate on in order to move the country forward?

It is up to President Tinubu on whether he wants Nigeria to move forward or not; he has his ‘Renewed Hope’ manifesto which I still insist is not up to one-third of my ‘Hope Again’ manifesto. More Nigerians voted for Tinubu to be President, and I wouldn’t assume that Tinubu spent all these years preparing to be President without having his priorities. I have studied his manifesto, if he keeps to it, but I doubt whether he will, his government will be better than all the administrations before him put together. But if he decides to do the same thing APC did when they brought Change and Next Level, it will be unfortunate. It is up to Tinubu now because once you grab power you will become a different person.

The Tinubu I know does not have the problem of capacity; his problem may be ambition; so, it is up to him now to decide whether he wants to use power to implement his programme or whether he will say now that election is over, let me stabilize myself and become a permanent feature of Nigeria’s politics, I have achieved my life ambition. I pray that Tinubu’s motivation is that he wants to be  great leader that Nigeria and Africa will remember because any Nigerian President that succeeds in fixing Nigeria would have fixed the whole of Africa and the black race.

Tinubu is the first President since 1999 to get elected with less than 10 million votes, in fact he polled 8,794, 726 votes out of the 24.9 million votes cast at the election, what does that signify?

It signifies that democracy is maturing and penetrating in Nigeria, it may even be lower in the next presidential election in 2027. In the past, politicians could cook any numbers  they wanted during election but with the Bimodal Voter’s Accreditation System (BVAS), it is impossible to cook numbers. This signifies that the numbers at this election are realistic. Secondly, in the past, whoever was contesting on the platform of the ruling party it’s most certain that he would win the election, it was different in this election.  The figure is not an indication that anything is wrong with President Tinubu, it just shows that the excitement of voting is tied to the state of mind of voters at each electioneering time.

Former Predident Buhari has said that though his eight years were tough, his administration succeeded to put Nigeria on the path of economic prosperity, what do you say to that?

When you evaluate an administration, you do that from your angle of impact, attack, and frame of engagement. People inside the administration will look at it from the efforts he put in, but people outside will look at it from the result, so both can be right; but the efforts of the president or anybody in public office should be linked to their capacity. Buhari may be right to say he has put Nigeria on the path to economic prosperity, but that path is full of thorns. If I am to evaluate President Buhari, I will do it based on his innate abilities and capabilities; you cannot expect a man to turn into a lion just because people are hailing him ‘lion’. The second perspective from which we can evaluate Buhari is based on what he promised or what was promised on his behalf, and thirdly on what would have been the alternative if we didn’t have Buhari. I think Buhari tried to work honestly but was inhibited by his capacity, secondly, he did not have input in many of the things that were promised on his behalf. If you look at the three major promises, the economy, security, and anticorruption, the one area in which Buhari did not do anything at all is anticorruption; it showed that Buhari could be anything but the one thing he is not is anticorruption, the notion of Buhari as an anti-corruption person is fiction. 

Are you saying that there were significant improvements in the economy and security?

The security situation is not what it used to be; you cannot accuse Buhari of not having the sincerity of purpose to fight insecurity, but he did not have the competence and dexterity to command the armed forces. Anything about insecurity now could be attributed to Buhari not having the competence. Nigeria’s constitution makes the President the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, it is not so in some countries. In Nigeria, the moment you take the oath of office as the president, you have become a soldier even if you are a civilian and major decisions in the armed forces would be taken by you.

Buhari was an army General, a former General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3rd Armoured Brigade of the Nigerian Army…

The fact that he was in the army and was GOC at one time does not mean he has the competence. Buhari tried as much as possible to comfort the armed forces and  gave them almost everything but they lacked direction and Buhari did not provide that direction. Boko Haram has been degraded; the potency of the Islamic State of West African Province  (ISWAP) is not as effective as before. All these groups have given way for banditry and other criminal groups and for some reason Buhari has failed to get the police to tackle these issues. All the gaps we have in the security system presently have to do with capacity, there were lots of failures in intelligence. Buhari did his best, but his  best was not good enough. In the economy, Buhari had real interest in providing infrastructure;  his administration had the ability to complete projects compared with the administrations before him; the costs of the projects could be cause of worry but the administration finished projects even those it inherited.

However, Buhari failed in anti-corruption, Buhari was lied against; Buhari was presented to Nigerians as a man that hated corruption just to make him sellable. 
Another area the Buhari administration did well in is the notion of multi-party democracy, either by conscious decision or otherwise, the Buhari government was the first that did not exercise negative influences in the activities of opposition political parties; during the President Olusegun Obasanjo era the ruling party had the tendency to sabotage the internal workings of other political parties.

In one of your recent engagements, you said that the electoral commission in Nigeria is not designed for free and fair elections, can you elaborate?

If you look at the way the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is configured, you will discover that it is not looking at the best way to conduct free and fair elections; the transition is always managed to conform to certain parameters that comforts the status quo.

Look at the 1999 transition, it was managed in a way that even before it started, the military had narrowed it down to two contestants or three at most, and they had settled for Obasanjo before the election was conducted. Obasanjo later appointed Abel Guobadia as INEC chairman to help him realise his second term; then he appointed Maurice Iwu to manage his PDP to PDP transition. Even when you look at political party registration, you will discover that it is all part of the same narrow space. The state governors have a role in the appointment of the INEC chairman, the National Commissioners, and the Resident Electoral Commissioners, so the INEC is part of the political process. From the process of registering a political party to nomination of candidates, INEC is the one responsible for monitoring and certifying all the business of the political party and it’s responsible for what a political party becomes.

What is the way out?

I have concluded that the way INEC is currently configured those in the status quo cannot be surprised by the political outcome. If we want to do something about the political space, we must first do something about the overbearing influence of INEC in the internal affairs of political parties. Prof Mahmood Yakubu will finish his second term and leave and Tinubu will appoint the next INEC chairman. The implication is that the future of our election will reflect the philosophy Tinubu has about elections. If he thinks elections should be free, fair, and credible then he will look for people who will fit into that, and hope that members of the National Assembly of which his party is in the majority will agree with him.

The 2023 elections did not go the way you anticipated but you learnt some lessons, 2027 is a long time away but I must ask, would you take another shot when we get to that point?

I had wanted 2023 to be a time for us to take a break from the past, unfortunately, we couldn’t do that. I have learnt a lot of lessons, and if we don’t make the mistakes we made this time, I believe something great will come, I believe if we all learn from the mistakes of 2023, we would reach a point in where we will have a nation in which everyone will be happy. For 2027, the first duty is to be alive, secondly is not to lose touch with the people because I don’t have any other objective for being in politics except the people. Thirdly, I hope and pray that in 2027 we would still not be talking about poverty and insecurity, it will be bad if we are. If the conditions that made me contest the 2023  presidency disappear, I may not run, but if they remain, I will look around and see if there is anyone thinking about unaccountability in governance like me or who has better prospects than me, we will work together.

The Justice Mohammed Uwais Commission made recommendations on electoral reforms some of which have been implemented in the Electoral Act 2022, are there any other areas we should work on, especially since in today’s Nigeria the judiciary decides winners of elections?

The reforms we need are not cosmetic changes, if other institutions, including the judiciary, political parties, the media, among others work well, INEC’s mischief will be minimised. The INEC should be limited to conduct elections, all other supervisory role over political parties should be removed. We have the BVAS which is stored in INEC’s central database, should we not be exploring how a voter can, irrespective of where he is registered cast his vote anywhere in the country, at least, at the national polls like the presidency and the governorship from anywhere within the state of registration?  Americans vote during their election from anywhere in the world; many other countries do; the technology is not the problem; it is a policy issue. Maybe the framers of the constitution want to make the electorate certain, at the time we were making our laws may be the framers of the constitution were perhaps suspicious of technology and  ignorant of the capacity of technology. We came from having as our benchmark June 12, 1993, the Option A4 of Prof Humphrey Nwosu; we could only believe what we saw with our eyes; how would we trust one server somewhere in the cloud to tell us how the votes went? In the United States Fox News had to pay heavy fine to Dominion Technology over accusation that the voting machines were rigged against Donald Trump in favour of Joe Biden. If some people in America, as enlightened as they are believed such story, imagine what people in Nigeria would believe. You remember how Nigerians reacted to the inability or unwillingness of INEC to upload the results from the presidential election into the IReV.

President Buhari said that Niger Republic would come to his aid if Nigeria troubled him, what do you think of that statement?

Many people don’t know that Buhari jokes around a lot; I think it is one of those jokes. However, geographically, we must understand that Nigeria and Niger are one; traditionally, there is no boundary, both countries on that border speak the same Hausa language, they are the same people. It is just the British and French boundary partition after the Berlin Conference of 1884 that separated them. I think what Buhari was trying to say was that he would not be interested in Abuja politics after handover.