• Friday, July 19, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Why electoral reform in Nigeria is not possible now – Lagos4Lagos

Jandor (1)

Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran, initiator of the Lagos4Lagos movement and leader of Team Jandor, spoke to some editors on the group’s preparation towards the planned registration and revalidation exercise of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He also touched on other issues, including the determination of the Movement to ensure that new ideas and thinking would be injected into the party in Lagos State. ZEBULON AGOMUO brings the excerpts:

For over three years now, you have been in the struggle for a better Lagos, or the project to return Lagos to the real owners. At what point are you now?

We have been very vibrant at what we have set our eyes upon. You are aware that our party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is starting registration exercise for new membership and revalidation of membership exercise. At the level of Lagos4Lagos Movement, as soon as the registration and revalidation of membership exercise was announced, we put up a committee of 852 members across the 20 local governments and 245 wards. In each local government, we also have LGA committees of five members. If you put this side by side with six in every ward by 245 and five in each of the 20 local government areas.

Aside that, we have also saddled our ward committee of six each to ensure that we have one person per polling unit; because it is an exercise that will be carried out by polling units. So, in the over eight thousand voting points and other units that make it nine thousand, we will be having one person in each –a member of Lagos4Lagos that would be manning each of the polling units, collecting data.

What is the reason behind putting your members in those points?

It is because, this new registration happens to be one of our prayers to the national body of the party. We said to them that we are ready to populate the party with young energies, the youths. And we said we want to be part of the new registration exercise because there are things we believe we need to do at the level of the party. The first thing is that we need a total overhauling of the party. We have been running a party where we cannot say this our very good strength. For instance in Lagos, you see us doing primary we turn in almost two million votes for the president and over one million votes or more for the governor; which is a primary election solely reserved for party members. But at the general election you see us recording five hundred thousand or seven hundred thousand votes. That shows that something is wrong. Are we going to say that even our members do not vote for us? For us to get it right so that we do not sit somewhere and be assuming this is our number, or this is what we are, we need to get this done so that we can be assertive of the numbers that we have.

This is where we are. We have had enough of say; what we want to have now is our way. We are not unmindful of the fact that there are some elements within the party resisting or trying to frustrate this process. But don’t forget, you can only complain or not comfortable with what we are doing if you are benefiting from the bad system. The truth of the matter is that we need to rijig the party. A situation where somebody will just rise up and during a primary and imposes somebody on the party; these are some of the things we want to see if we can discourage going forward. But how do we do that; we do that by bringing in people who are ready to attest to defend democracy.

We can’t stay out and be shouting we need to populate the party with these people. So, across the 245 wards; across the 20 local governments, as far as Lagos4Lagos Movement is concerned we are ready for the registration and revalidation exercise.

We did not just put together those committees. Throughout last week; we went around the 20 local governments to sensitise our people; to educate the people on what is required of them and to tell them this is how it is going to play out.

All our leaders across the five divisions of Lagos state we went round from one local government to the other. The good thing for Lagos4Lagos is that before now we have done pre-registration. We have those who have registered to be members of Lagos4Lagos; we are not just going around. We are going around capturing data; we are going around getting people to be part of this. So, already in-house, in our two major structures of Ibile Eko and Team Jandor, we have over 50,000 (fifty thousand) registered members. That is outside the number of people we can call interest group and independent group that have also registered to be part of Lagos4Lagos Movement. We are commencing the party registration from our pre-registered members. What they will need to do is to first call out all the names of our registered members in the individual wards.

This has helped us a lot. In our current data, everything we are preaching about registration is what we have done at our level of Lagos4Lagos registration. What they used to do was to give forms to some party leaders and they would say everybody in the ward should go to the houses of such individuals. It will not happen that way this time around; the national body of our party, the caretaker committee has said that it is not going to be business as usual.

We want, for the first time, a party that will be that of the people; not a party of an individual; a party that we can all call our own. We want a party where I can contest in my constituency if I am popular, and get the people’s vote to fly our party’s flag, not a party where somebody will say, no, sit down, irrespective of your level of popularity, and let another person go.

You said it would not be business as usual; what measures have you put in place to check imposition?

It is not my job to put measures in place to check imposition; but it is our own to ensure it does not happen at our own level. At our own level, what are we doing in that regard? For the younger members, those with fresh ideas in the party, our proposal is to populate the party; overhaul the system from ward level to the national level. Thankfully, NEC heeded to our prayer by dissolving the National Working Committee (NWC) and all that; and this registration exercise is part of it. What we are used to was where people did all manner of things to control the party.

Is it possible to rig registration and revalidation exercise that is purely intra-party affair?

The answer is yes. That is what is needed to have a total control of the party. We saw a situation where people were printing forms and taking them to the ward level or sharing them among themselves that you should bring this number of people and all of that. But this particular one, we are going to have it at the polling units; everybody is mobilised to that polling unit to get your own people to register. This is just like starting afresh. This time around everybody will be a financial member, not a situation, where one person will be sponsoring everything and doing all sorts of things; and other people will not get money to run for an election. It gives so much power to an individual. You look at it as an intra-party affair, yes, but some people appear so powerful in the party, controlling everything; but the idea today is that the party belongs to all of us; let’s start afresh and see what we can do.

The PDP recently raised the alarm that the registration exercise was to jack up the numbers ahead of the 2023 election with the aim of rigging the election with fictitious figures. How do you react to that?

One thing to understand is that it is an intra-party affair; so, I don’t know where that allegation is coming from. The registration and revalidation exercise is not a general election. It is a party affair. I don’t know how that translates to the eventual figures at election. Take for instance, in 2019, Lagos State gave Buhari over 2 million votes at the primary election; but during the real election, it was just about above five hundred thousand votes. So, this is just a matter of somebody who is cooking stones and says he’s cooking beans. He will eat whatever he is cooking at the end of the day. I want to emphasise at this point that we are here to join in rebuilding the party; and if these cats with nine lives try to say they want to swindle us, or do anything funny, well, we are not going to end here. Whatever numbers we have brought to the party can be taken elsewhere. Lagos4Lagos movement is not just for us to be a party flag bearer, but to be in the party so that we give Lagosians breath of fresh air. If it is not going to work where we are now, it is going to work elsewhere.

Do you see that repentance happen so soon by those who have held the party hostage, so to speak?

Well, when you have a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, I would advise that you embrace the devil because if you jump into the deep blue sea that may be your end. But if you embrace the devil you can repent. So, who is the devil here; and who is the deep blue sea here? Deep blue sea is for us to do nothing which is going to change nothing. The devil is for us to embrace this existing political party to see how we can populate and get things done the proper way. So, there is hope that something good can happen. A lot of people actually criticised us when we rolled out our mobilisation strategy for the APC registration; but they have forgotten that whether they like it or not, I keep saying it, PDP, APC will still be the party to beat in 2023. That is not to say we can’t do something outside the two political parties, but these are the issues:- yes, we can fly a new political party with our numerical strength, with the aim of dislodging the status quo; but despite the numbers, you will still be at the mercy of the status quo to register you. As young people, we want the National Assembly to give us an Electoral Act that will enable us vote and see our votes count. But it is the same National Assembly where you have over 60 to 70 percent of them entering to that office via underage voting. Already, we know that underage voting is illegal; but they show it to us every time, all the time and nothing happens. So, you want them to pass an Act that outlaws it? But now, what else can we do? We don’t need to go out of the system. It is a fight that we can win from within. It is either we populate the PDP or APC and see how we can get this thing done and do the reform on our own. Nobody will give you that reform.