No election in the world is without flaws – Moyo Jaji

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In this interview, a public affairs analyst, former banker and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Ahmed Moyo Jaji, dismissed the recent European Union Election Observation Mission report on the 2023 general elections. He insisted that no election in the world is without flaws, saying that the victory of President Bola Tinubu is a fait accompli. He condemned the proposed proof of ownership tax that requires vehicle owners to pay N1, 000 annually, saying it is ill-advised. He also discussed other national issues. Excerpts:

The 2023 general elections are done with but a lot of issues still surround the conduct of the Independent National Electoral Commission and how promises were made and not fulfilled, especially regarding the real-time upload of the presidential election result on the INEC viewing portal (IRev), which gave room for doubt and suspicion on the integrity and transparency of the election, what is your take?

People may accuse me of bias because I am an All Progressives Congress member but I think what happened was that the Independent National Electoral Commission outsmarted the politicians.

The courts have affirmed that INEC is at liberty to decide how, when and the manner of declaring election results. Intelligence report suggests that there were sinister plots to manipulate the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) by some political parties so that whatever INEC uploads to the IRev the BVAS will download a different thing that will favour those behind the manipulation.

There is an audio tape where some principal opposition leaders were discussing how to beat the system before the election. We are not surprised by how some of the opposition reacted because what INEC did was a surprise.

We are happy that the matter is at the Election Petition Tribunal and at the end of the day we will see what it will decide. Some of us believe that going by precedent the lawyers know what the eventual outcome will be, but some lawyers decided to appear at the Election Petition Tribunal to grab their share of the remaining funds left with the petitioners.

The snippets emerging from the sitting of the tribunal are proving us right; it is a fait accompli, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has become the President of Nigeria and nothing can change that; we are talking of leading the entire country of 36 states, not part of the whole. For anybody to contemplate to upturn President Tinubu’s victory will have a lot to do with societal well-being and cohesion.

You said President Tinubu’s victory has come to stay, without drawing any conclusions. What if there is overwhelming evidence that clashes with what you call societal well-being?

Put the spirit of the law and societal well-being side-by-side and ask yourself what the purpose of the law is. We make laws to guide the conduct of man, and to protect man, to calibrate the interpersonal relationship between him and his fellow man. So, no matter how you look at it societal well-being will take precedence. We cannot plunge the whole country into confusion.

We cannot have a repeat of June 12, 1993, we all remember what happened; to date, we are suffering the after effect of the June 12, 1993, annulment.

If Chief MKO Abiola had been allowed to become president maybe Nigeria’s situation may be better by now, I don’t know but the voice of the people is the voice of God, and I will still insist that societal well-being should take pre-eminence over the spirit of the law.

A report by the European Union Election Observation Mission released a postmortem report on the 2023 general elections suggesting that the polls lacked credibility, what is your opinion on that?

The EU EOM can pontificate all they like, but there is nowhere in the world that you can have a flawless election.

In the case between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump in the United States, there was the belief that the Russians manipulated the polls but despite the allegations, Donald Trump was sworn-in as the president.

All we can do is ensure that our elections are near, it cannot be perfect.

In some places, cultural practices hinder democratic participation, Saudi Arabia for instance is not a democracy but the best thing they can do is to make sure the citizens are taken care of. China is not a democracy but, look at its developmental strides.

The APC lost in Lagos the stronghold of Tinubu and those complaining about the election are comfortable with the results there, but they are complaining about the result in areas they didn’t win.

It was a shock to see the APC lose Lagos State, what do you think was the reason for that defeat?

That the Labour Party defeated the APC in Lagos had nothing to do with religion or tribe. If you do a thorough introspection of how the party is run in Lagos, you will see that the grassroots, the engine room of the party was neglected. Anybody that wants to contest an election must use the party as a platform, so anybody in power that is produced by a political party must make sure that the grassroots are taken care of.

Many people are in politics because of what they want to benefit and they support parties for that.

What we discovered in the last four years of APC in Lagos was that the wrong people, mostly children of the party big wigs, were placed in sensitive areas and they were disconnected from the grassroots. The APC should sit down and look at how things were done in the last four years and do the right thing.

You have been part of the local government system as an Executive Secretary, how best can the grassroots be carried along in the democratic process?

It is more psychological, what you need is to give the grassroots a sense of belonging not what you see now whereby politicians remember the grassroots only during the elections.

The APC should be careful now that President Tinubu is a on national assignment and may not have the time to keep his eyes on the APC in Lagos; the Lagos chapter of the APC is in disarray.

The APC has over three million card-carrying members in Lagos but they were nonchalant during the elections because they were not carried along.

President Tinubu has removed the fuel subsidy and Nigerians are currently groaning in hardship, is that what we bargained for?

The Yoruba say that when you circumcise a child, he goes through severe pain but the moment the area is healed, he uses it for enjoyment, the fuel subsidy is similar.

There will be initial hardship and groaning, but why should Nigeria be subsidizing something we have in abundance? We have refineries that were deliberately rundown so that some private racketeers will benefit from importing fuel. We are told that some big men in Nigeria have refineries abroad, as close as Niger Republic and Burkina Faso where they send our crude oil to refine and bring back. I hope the government will push the money it saves from removing subsidies back into the economy and provide palliatives to the people.

The government has also imposed proof of ownership tax that requires vehicle owners to pay N1, 000 annually.

“The APC should be careful now that President Tinubu is on a national assignment and may not have the time to keep his eyes on the APC in Lagos; the Lagos chapter of the APC is in disarray”

I will say it is ill-advised. What do you want me to prove to you again about the ownership of my vehicle, all the documents are there with my name and they were procured from the government?

There is no argument you can use to convince me that proof of ownership is necessary.

They will make billions from the tax but the money can come from other areas if the loopholes are plugged.

It doesn’t sound compassionate as it is coming immediately after the removal of subsidies.

There is also the increase in electricity tariff; I wonder why we don’t have a Consumer Protection Agency. This is a carryover from the previous administration, not that of Muhammadu Buhari that privatised and sold the electricity DISCOs to their cronies and they reached an agreement and signed the contract that the tariff would be reviewed every four years.

The Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission is looking at increasing the salaries and allowances of political office holders at a time Nigerians are of the view that these people already earn too much, what is your take?

It is still a proposal; the president has not assented to it and I hope he will not assent to that.

The benefits of office being enjoyed by the members of the National Assembly were deliberately inserted in the military decree we call the 1999 Constitution.

They did it to bribe the legislature hoping that General Sani Abacha would transmute into a civilian president but unfortunately, that could not be and the RMAFC could not do anything about it.

The National Assembly on its part cannot commit a political hara-kiri by cutting down the allowances allocated to them.

Tinubu’s focus is almost similar to that of Buhari as security, economy and anti-corruption. Buhari’s key focus areas featured prominently in his inaugural speech, what is your advice to the president if he is to succeed where Buhari failed?

Buhari didn’t fail, those that surrounded him failed him. In the office of the United States President, the plaque on the table reads ‘The Buck Stops Here’.

Buhari was the president so the blame would go to him. The same thing that happened to Buhari may happen to Tinubu. As president, his own responsibility is to give instructions, whether the instructions are carried out effectively is a different thing.

In the area of anti-corruption, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was effective during Buhari’s first term, it investigated crimes and charged the perpetrators to court but the cases died a natural death not because the charges had no substance or merit but because of technicalities. We remember the case of a former governor who the court in Nigeria discharged but he was convicted by a British court.

In security Buhari was handicapped, we were told that the herdsmen are mainly Fulani and Buhari Fulani and didn’t have the political will to fight his people yet after the 2019 election everything about the Fulani herdsmen faded away which meant there was more to it than met the eye. There was a time Lagos was a dangerous place to live but Tinubu handled it while he was governor of Lagos State.

What is your message to Nigerians on how to live in peace and unity with one another?

We don’t have any other country but Nigeria and those who think Nigeria will disintegrate should perish the thought. Nobody is going anywhere, the Biafran war has put paid to Nigeria’s disintegration. When Chukwuemeka Ojukwu tried secession in 1967 the entire country faced him and the entire country will likewise face another part of the country that tries to secede.

What is wrong with Nigeria being together? It is only those that benefit from the divisive politics that talk about disintegration.