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Bad economy, poverty aiding secessionist agitations, insecurity – Ananaba

Nothing prevents Obi from receiving campaign donations from the diaspora —Ananaba

Paul Ananaba, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), is a professor of law and former chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) section on public interest and development law (SPIDEL). In this interview with INIOBONG IWOK, he spoke on the state of the nation, electronic transmission of election result, insecurity, among other issues. Excerpts:

How did you receive the news that the National Assembly has given INEC the power to transmit election results electronically?

The news was well-received by me as an election petition practitioner. As a lawyer, I have been involved in a series of election petitions. You can see the entire country virtually rejected the initial position of the National Assembly; when you transmit electronically and when you do electronic voting you would save the country a lot in terms of litigation that go into ballot snatching, change of scores, violence and other collation issues.

But what the constitution says is that INEC should be left to determine how to conduct election, which is why it is called the Independent National Electoral Commission. So, there are many elections that are conducted in Nigeria. The best way is electronic voting. I would have expected that it would be done earlier, so that it would be tested in the by-elections.

Do you believe President Buhari would sign the Amended Electoral Act?

Yes, the president would sign it because he knows that it is the will of Nigerians that the section 49 of the Electoral Act that is being amended. Manual calculation of election results has not helped us, it has compounded our problems.

Our election should be free, fair, credible and acceptable. Election can be free, fair but not credible; election can be free and fair but not acceptable. This would bring about an acceptable election in Nigeria.

But some Nigerians are still skeptical that the process can be manipulated. What is your view?

There is no election done by man that cannot be manipulated, let us not bother ourselves, and let us do our honest part. What we do is to eliminate the chances of being flawed, we are not looking at a perfect election, it does not exist anywhere even in America.

Donald Trump questioned some parts of the presidential election, but the institution saved the day, when we have the institution electoral offences would become minimal, and we can cope.

Not in a situation where ballot boxes are snatched, people are killed.

So, with this process when you conduct an election the result comes out quickly you don’t need to go and change the result to favour a certain person.

Read Also: 2023: What Nigeria needs to conduct successful election via e-voting

Are you advocating for the electoral offenders commission?

That bill has not been signed, and we don’t have it officially, but I would expect if the electoral offenders commission is not in that law it should be set up to have a court and trained judges to prosecute election offenders.

Elections done in this country are so huge, look at all the states, nobody is talking about the massive corruption in the local government elections, that commission should have jurisdiction to act in state elections.

The judges should be well-trained and all of them coming together would give us a better country and elections.

Do you support the indirect method of conducting primaries in view of the controversy it is generating?

I endorsed that because I have participated in indirect elections, I have been a delegate to national conventions, and the practise is to buy delegates, I believe our election should not be monetised.

It is easy when we have electronic voting so that people don’t go lining up and then you have low turnout. At the NBA we hold elections and I vote from my office. When the electoral list is ready and we know those qualified to vote and you have your number. You put in your identity number and you cannot vote a second time.

Are you worried that violence may mar the Anambra gubernatorial election?

There has always been violence in Nigeria, INEC said they are ready, the security agencies said they are ready there is no reason the election should not hold.

But there is the IPOB threat; does this not give course for worry?

Why do you have security agencies, it is because there are people who would go against the law. The security agencies have a duty to instill confidence in the people and to ensure that the election is held.

In one of the elections national security in the UK made a point that the electoral body was not ready and the election was shifted.

We have not had that now; we don’t have so much violence in Anambra to warrant the election being shifted. I believe the stakeholders, traditional rulers, the youths should be engaged, that should be going on a daily basis now to instill more confidence.

What is your take on the rise of secessionist agitations?

Everybody knows it is a worry, it has not happened before, it is not only in the South-East or South-West there is restiveness across Nigeria and everybody knows what is happening. No state is left out everybody knows. I knew I had come to maturity when the exchange rate between the dollar and the naira was equal, now it is over N500 to one dollar.

So, why would you not be worried? How many Nigerians get two dollar a day. People don’t feed on less than two dollars and you want peace in the country, if you are earning N50,000 it is three dollars a day.

Do you agree that Buhari’s appointment, style of governance is what is fuelling these secessionist agitations?

The facts are there for everybody to see, I can’t go to my village now because of insecurity, and if I must go I have only one choice but to fly. If I get to Owerri or Port Harcourt I would worry about how to get to the village and I cannot even go and sleep.

So, if that is not a course of worry for anybody then the person is subhuman. People come in from abroad and they are killed easily. For now you cannot drive on the road, except for Lagos and Abuja, there is no city in the country where you can go anywhere and nothing would happen.

People are angry, human life has no value again, the value has diminished.

Is the president doing enough to check the spate of insecurity?

That would be determined by statistics, but the handles of the President when they speak they expressed concern about insecurity, restiveness everywhere. I grew up in this country at a time when you could wake up and go anywhere and nothing would happen.

You are not even sure, if you wake up you can go from your house to the airport, or airport to your house if it is a little bit out of town. Lagos may be within the town, people have lost their lives just going to the airport or coming out.

I hear they are borrowing again, borrowing has never been an asset, the bible does not encourage borrowing; the bible says that the borrower is a slave. If you borrow too much it is a problem. We should be lending to nations, not borrowing for a country that has too much resources.

Some people are of the view that the NBA has remained silent on contentious issues. why?

It is understandable, a lot happened in the NBA but they are up and running now, the current chairman is trying. It stated from the former chairman, there was this gap that the NBA saw in 2006 and set up a section of public interest and development law.

That is the section that was supposed to address those issues and it went down but Mahmud brought it back and I became the chairman then.

And you can see in the last three years that the NBA is stepping up the game. There are public interest litigation teams now, there are a series of suits by the NBA now, the NBA is vocal in various issues, that is not where we should be but we have left Egypt.

Where should the NBA be?

The promise land in the next few years; we would have stabilised our public interest litigation and institutionalised it. And the NBA is encouraging every lawyer to join and be the voice of the nation.

What is your take on agitations for zoning of the presidency in 2023?

Zoning is a product of Nigeria’s experience. Remember in the 50’s there were concerns about domination that led to the Willins Committee to address fundamental rights which became part of our constitution.

We are one of the few countries that lose what we can export to the world and it was the option A4 for election. It was novel to Nigeria and it worked. We ought to have improved on it to become our political philosophy to be sold to the world. We should not run to America all the time to borrow their style; even Americans did not copy from Britain?

Zoning has become acceptable to Nigerians, we know that there are six geopolitical zones and that is always the fear of everybody.

Appointments by the country were done by the zoning, there are concerns that when it gets to the service chief my zone is not represented and people ask why?

What is your take on clamour for Igbo presidency in 2023?

After the Ironsi regime the Igbo’s have not been allowed to rule and because of the civil war Igbo’s think they should be integrated into the country, although a lot of that is being done, but there is no reason why Igbo’s should not be president.

If you are practising the quota system and federal character, why can’t Igbo benefit from it in terms of politics and political power?

It would not change anything if an Igbo is the president; it would only improve what we have. The people who ruled from other regions are not angels. The president has come from other regions and the world did not end.

Since the North has ruled military and civilian, let’s allow the South-East to rule, so that we can have a voice to say what are you advocating for again?

But I don’t think it should come by threat, it should be by understanding; just like we say if the president is from North-West, the vice should be from South-West, we are practicing it just so that when it gets to the South-East they jump.

What is your prediction for the Anambra governorship election?

I think it is the hands of Soludo, Andy Uba and Ozigbo, three of them. There are defections lately; it is too close to call. But there may be surprises, some people in Anambra may be thinking of being president they may weigh in. But I think Anambra people are educated, intelligent and they will make the right choice.