2015 Presidential Poll Massively Rigged – Okoko
Despite the national and international commendations accorded the organizers of the 2015 general elections believed to have been free and fair, a retired Professor of Political Science from the University of Port Harcourt and former President of the Ijaw National Congress, INC, Professor Kimse Okoko, says the election was the most rigged election in the country’s history. In this interview with senior, DANIEL ABIA, in Port Harcourt, Okoko calls on President Muhammadu Buhari not to spare the administration of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, in his expected probe. He also speaks on other issues. Excerpts…
As a Professor of political Science, how do you assess the image of Nigeria in the international arena after a very successful transition from civilian to civilian government and the role played by former president, Goodluck Jonathan?
There was a huge apprehension on the part of many countries in the world that the post 2015 general elections in Nigeria will be very problematic. That would have also affected the survival of the country as a nation. That was the feeling of quite a few countries. But we overcame all that. First of all, I will agree that the election was generally peaceful and I thank God for that, but they were massively rigged. Secondly, conceding defeat by former President Jonathan was a total surprise to me and many observers both nationally and internationally. For those who know Jonathan, he is a man who means what he says. He said nobody should spill anybody’s blood for his political ambition. He meant it. He has always said that even when he was the governor of Bayelsa state. I think this statement was what saved Nigeria from the chaos that would have followed the election, chaos that would not have known where it would have led Nigeria to. It would have led this country to a situation where the very corporate existence would have been adversely threatened. That singular act on the part of Jonathan demonstrated his love in democracy. And it is a legacy that will stand the test of time. It was statesman-like. It was courageous. I said courageous because there would been people who would have encouraged him to challenge the results in court. But he stood firm and damned all that by conceding defeat. That is the greatest demonstration any politician in Nigeria especially giving the implication of the act. It is the greatest demonstration of his love for the country. Jonathan will be remembered for that legacy by the whole world for a long time. Nigerians must be grateful to him for saving our citizens from untold hardship.
In the pre-presidential election, there was this mass movement, rooting for Muhammadu Buhari. Why did Nigerians suddenly become so attached to a man that truncated democracy before now?
As far as I am concerned, there is no question in my mind that the election was massively rigged. There is no doubt about that at all. If you listened to the post-election comments it became very clear from North, West, East and the South, that elections were massively rigged. When that becomes obvious, it is therefore clear that no serious analyst will say that there was an overwhelming support for a particular candidate. No. The elections were massively rigged and there is absolutely no question about that. In saying so, I am not saying that he (Buhari) does not have support. He had support in his constituency which is the North, in particular. It will be wrong to say he (Buhari) had overwhelming support from Nigerians, because the elections were rigged. It implies that we have to still work very hard if we want to reap the benefits of democracy. The citizenry of this country are sufficiently educated to appreciate the need for elections to be free and fair. We must have to resist the rigging of elections in this country. If we are not able to do that, then we will continue to wallow in this pool of sectionalism that does not do anybody any good. We will continue to play the ethnic cards in our political process. It will continue to draw us back. INEC in the future should go the whole hog to take the bull by the horn by introducing e-voting. This will eliminate the problem of rigging. Electronics voting must be part of our solution to ending rigging in Nigeria. INEC must strengthen itself and have the system to institutionalize e-voting. They introduced permanent voting card and car reader machines, yet there was this massive rigging. The permanent voting cards in some cases were given to a particular individual and not distributed to their owners. Rigging started right from there. Thump-printing is still widespread. Changing of election result is still widespread. Under-age voting is still widespread especially in some parts of the country. These are the ingredients of election rigging. So long as we remain the way we are, this country will continue to be under-developed.
Besides insecurity and economic low turn, what do you think is the main problem Nigeria is facing today as a nation that needs to be fixed immediately by the Buhari government?
Security is a major problem itself. But to me, if we don’t tackle corruption in this country, we have not started. Corruption is so ingrained in this country, and the civil servants that were supposed to be the engine room of government are very corrupt. They implement policies and if they so embroiled in corruption, what do you expect? Corruption has even permeated the private sector, so we are in a real dilemma. It will be worse if the leadership of the country does not live by example. If there is doubt by Nigerians that a certain leader has failed in the integrity test, then we should do something about it, otherwise we cannot tackle corruption. Throughout the entire gamut of this society, we have created a mindset that corruption is here to stay. Everybody wants to be part of that process. There are exceptions though. Those in position of authority, those in government have all have their hands soiled by this incredible level of corruption in this country. The situation is systemic. And if it is not treated systemically, we will fail in tackling it. When something becomes systemic, it becomes difficult. I hope the present leadership will muster the courage to tackle it right from the root. We are watching.
Within and outside Nigeria, Buhari is the man that is believed to have the magic wand of fighting corruption, yet he is alleged to be surrounded by about 80 to 90% of corrupt people who aided him to power, don’t you think his hands are tight already?
Being a military dictator or head of state is different from being a democratic president. There are so many checks and balances and you cannot act with a magic wand by giving orders and expect them to be followed. Even the Nigerian military now is something else. You saw when some soldiers deserted. That is unheard of anywhere in the world. Buhari knows and he ought to know that those around him are basking in corruption. He knows that he would be confronted with the forces that encouraged corruption. It is heart-warming to say that he said he is for everybody and he is for nobody. Only time will tell. If he sticks to that statement, he should be able to damn everybody and do what is right especially in the fight against corruption. I want to appeal to him that he keeps to his promise of publicly declaring his assets. That will be the beginning of people’s perception about him. The perception may change from that very moment. He should damn every bad advice from the people surrounding him. Declaring his assets publicly will beat his minister along the line and people will begin to see his seriousness in fighting corruption. I don’t want to over-labor myself on insecurity. My greatest concern here is the systemic corruption that has crept into our national fibre.