Interview

Our plans for Kwara in 2023 – INEC

 

The Kwara State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mallam Attahiru
Garuba Madami in this interview with HEAD POLITICS, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM
speaks on court pronouncement that nullified the House of Assembly
election of the All Progressives Congress (APC), plans by the
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),  for 2023 election
among other sundry issues. Excerpts:
How would you react to the Appeal Court judgment that declared the PDP
candidate winner of the House of Assembly election in Ilorin South?
There was the primary election issue of APC just before the election
and they substituted the name of the candidate that won while the time
had elapsed for such. The APC nailed itself in court by denying that
the candidate they put there was not the candidate that they are
putting in for the election. But all these are legal issues that can
be properly deduced and understood when the judgment is properly read.
So what the court said is that since APC itself has disowned their own
candidate as the candidate for the election automatically, the person
that has the second highest number of votes becomes the winner.
Initially, the tribunal had said that we should conduct a new
election, but when an appeal was filed at the Appellate court which is
higher than the tribunal, we had to tarry. Just like what happened in
the case of Zamfara with the APC, same thing applied here in Kwara.
However, I have asked my legal team to go and get the judgment… and
then we will set aside a date for the issuance of the certificate of
return.
During the process of litigation, didn’t INEC enlighten the concerned parties?
The politicians know the rules and regulations, but most of the time,
they are of the opinion and always think that the law will not catch
up with them. INEC has nothing to do with primary election of the
parties, it is their business and ours is just for them to give us the
names of the candidates and we are good to go. That is why primary
election is an election process where the parties themselves practice
the conduct of election and they don’t do it as desired. Party primary
is one of the reasons we have major problem in the country because
they most time have so many issues. You can understand why there are
over 700 litigations on party primaries in the 2019 election because
there is no internal democracy among the parties. It is either they
are forcing a certain candidate or imposing another one on a group of
people and even routing for someone that is not even qualified to run
in the first place. The sad thing is that they refused to learn their
lesson. If not, what has happened in Zamfara could not have happened
in Rivers and now in Kwara and so on. But I am happy that the Governor
was the first to congratulate the opposition PDP lawmaker that was
declared winner which shows democracy at work.
What is the implication of this judgment?
First is that the APC candidate will be withdrawn and then PDP
candidate replaces him as a beneficiary of that judgment to represent
Ilorin South in the State House of Assembly. But his tenure would not
start afresh but start counting from the day the sacked lawmaker was
sworn in to tally with the four years mandate of the other members.
That is the law as stated in the electoral act and the constitution.
What is the process of swearing in of the PDP lawmakers in this instance?
We have dispatched out legal unit to collect the legal judgment and
once that is done, a report will be written to me and I will in turn
draft a memo to the legal unit of INEC at the headquarters who will
then give me the go ahead to issue the Certificate of Return. It is as
simple as that. INEC obeys court order and by (this) week, we will fix
a date to present him with his Certificate of Return. It is as fast as
that and then the House will do the needful by swearing him in. I
believe we will give him certificate by this week. We don’t waste time
with court judgment. Any other legal issue is not in our purview.
What are we looking at from INEC in the next LG election, is the
commission cut out for any role?
INEC has nothing to do with that, it is strictly the business of the
state INEC and that is why even before I came, the first image problem
I had was this issue. There was a Local Government election before my
coming that (people believed) was not transparent and they where
associating that with me. But I made them realised that I am different
and for the first two weeks of my arrival, I kept telling them that
INEC national is different from the state INEC and it will interest
you to know that sometimes, politicians are even appointed to head the
latter. How do we expect somebody that is part of the government to be
fair? INEC national is not like that and in fact if you are found to
be partisan, you will be fired. We are supposed to be neutral in this
job and give level playing ground to all the political parties.
What are the next round of activities for INEC in Kwara?
Well, the continuous voter’s registration will start next year and
then the issue of the Permanent Voters Card (PVC). We had wanted to
wait for all the court issues surrounding the presidential election to
be solved because they can request for any material while it lasted
and that may disturb our process and planning. But now that the issue
of the presidential election is over after going all the way to the
Supreme Court, we will start the continuous voter’s registration next
year to capture those that were not privileged to be registered in the
first place. Those that have reached the age of eighteen will have the
opportunity to do so. But that is one of the big challenge I am going
to have in Kwara because people have observed that we had a free,
credible and peaceful election the last time in the state, many of
them will look forward to 2023 and be willing to cast their votes. The
population will increase this time around because the people will come
out en mass for the next general election in the state. Even right now
as I am talking to you, people are eager and have been calling on us
to collect their permanent voter’s cards because they know that it
counted the last time and I kept telling them next year.
How has INEC improved on its performance since the last poll?
After the last general election, we did a post analysis of the
election local government by local government which was ordered by our
national headquarters. It involved all the Resident Electoral
Commissioners (RECs) across the country. Then we organised a training
programme for our staff which ended last month. But I also want to
take it to the next level in Kwara and what I intend to do is carry
out voters education in the areas of school debate, quiz for both
secondary and tertiary institutions so that we can start catching them
young and children and students at this level who aspire to be
politicians in life will understand and know what it entails to do so.
INEC job is to explain what is about governance and how politics is
supposed to be played so that by the time we catch them young, in the
next 6 years or thereabout, we will have people who know about what
governance and politics is all about and how INEC operates and
function, how things can be done right among others. That is one of
the legacies I want to leave behind especially now that we have had a
good foundation, we should build on it. For instance, just last
Tuesday night, the thought of organising a seminar for women and
politics in Kwara State came up because I observed that no women won
election during the polls across the state  which the Governor tried
to compensate them for by appointing nine women as commissioners. We
want to take that to the next level by sponsoring a programme of such
with the plan of inviting people like Mrs Paulen Tallen who has been
in politics for a long time and get her to tell us how she did it, how
was her husband support throughout and her emergence as minister and
as one-time Deputy Governor. We also plan to bring in people like
Abike Dabiri who has been in Politics for long, Remi Tinubu and even
our lady of the soil and Minister of State for Transport, Gbemisola
Saraki who has been in politics for quite a long time. How did they do
it? It’s going to be big seminar next year for the entire women of
Kwara and maybe it will change their orientation and we will be able
to get more of them coming into politics as another of our legacies. I
was not too happy with the last narrative were the men just took
everything despite women having about fifty percent or more of the
voting population in Kwara. So we are going to be very busy next year.
Do you have any fear as regard your tenure here?
Not at all because I will not compromise my integrity but my only fear
perhaps is that all my five years tenure for INEC might not be spent
in Kwara as the national body might decide to change him. That I have
no control over but for the number of years I will spend here, I am
going to build on the success story of the election in terms of INEC
and even my staff at the local government and we will see how to
empower them with internet facilities for personal development. I have
quite a number of lofty ideas where I want Kwara INEC to be in the
next three years.
What is your message going forward?
I want to continue to thank Kwarans for the peaceful manner they
conducted themselves during the last election. To us, the success of
the 2019 election is to the entire people of Kwara State. They should
continue to follow that line. I am not in a position to assess the new
government but from the feelers one is getting, people are saying he
is doing well and I only hope he should continue in that direction.
Sometimes when you are in government like this, the first setback you
always have is from your party with different complaints and sometimes
if you are not very principled and firm, you will dance to their tune
and lose control and you decide to do the wrong things. I have read in
the papers with people  saying the present Governor does not
distribute money, but he’s there to serve the people and not to
distribute money.  However because politicians are used to money being
distributed, they will see that as key, he should not lose focus in
delivering service. If I am him, I will name myself Governor-Servant
to the people of Kwara. We should give support and prayers for him to
succeed because if he succeeds in delivering good governance, it’s the
entire Kwarans that will enjoy it and it will cut across parties and
religions.

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