In this interview with HEAD POLITICS, MUMINI ABDULKAREEM, the Kwara State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mallam Attahiru Garuba Madami talks about the commission plans for the coming Voters Registration Exercise, women political participation and its programmes this year among others.
When will the commission conduct the bye-election to fill vacant post for the late lawmaker, Hon Rufai Ahmed from Baruten ?
Thank you very much, the procedure is that the House and his party are supposed to write to us informing INEC of the development for us to organise a rerun. But as I speak to you coming back from my one month leave, we have not received any letter to the effect. Penultimate Monday, when I sent two of my staff to the House of Assembly on the issue, the security men at the gate told them the Speaker and Clerk were not around. Rerun will be organised three months from the date we receive the notification. I am appealing to them to write us so that we can move ahead. My advice to all parties concerned and Kwarans is that we should play politics with decorum and be sincere with whatever we are doing. We should allow bygone to be and work to get the applause of the people.
The New Year has just started, what is in store for Kwarans from INEC under your?
In 2020, we are going to conduct free, fair and better election in Kwara and we will give all the parties concerned level playing field as usual and I believe at the end of the day, everybody in Kwara will be happy at the end of the election. let the candidates that will contest for that position of the by-election campaign with decorum as usual and not violence and everything will be in order. We promised to do better if people say the election in Kwara was good previously. Already we now have a standard and cannot come down but strive to make it better and that is why we are going to have a retraining programme for my entire staff before the election so as to refresh them before the election, that I can promise you and of course hold meetings with security agencies. You this is just a local government and not a whole state and all attention will be there. We do all we can to ensure it is peaceful and I believe that the security agencies will give me their maximum cooperation as usual. I don’t envisage any problem or challenges with the election in Kwara.
Where are we on the issue of the voters register?
My target this year is to start the issue of the continuous voter’s registration so that more people can come in since they now know that their vote will count and then commence PVC collection as soon as our INEC headquarters gives us the go ahead to collect our PVC in the CBN. We start the voter’s registration. The INEC chairman, Prof Mahmud Yakubu has said we will start early 2020 without any specific time but I know it may not be more than February.
Tell us what you intend to achieve with your “catch them young” policy in Kwara and how do you intend to go about it?
We plan to have voters education in terms of catching them young in Kwara. What we intend to do is to organise quiz competition and debate for secondary schools in Kwara State by dividing the state into zones. At the local government level, champions will go into senatorial who will then come to Ilorin for the finals. We are going to have maybe three schools in the debate finale and questions will be on INEC governance and democracy so that we can catch them young in schools and get them interested in politics and governing Kwara in the future. You will agree with me that this will make them well grounded in the rule of law, INEC and politics generally which will increase the awareness level of the politics and political discussion amount the student and ultimately make the state better. That is one of the legacies I want to leave behind so that even when I am no more alive say in ten years time for instance, people will say I build a structure when I was here and the politician that are coming up in the future will be more enlightened, educated and passionate about helping the state and its people. That will be started this year for those from 18years and above.
Last year, you said plans are on to invite top women politicians to Kwara for a summit to improve on women political participation and engagement. Where are we now on that project?
Yes, we intend to organise a programme that will be tagged women and politics in Kwara State. The reason for this is because after the last election we conducted, I was observed there was no any election member in the state from the state house of assembly to the senate in Kwara. If not for the Governor that later appointed about nine of them into his cabinet, it would have been worse. But there is the need for us to bring some top women politicians from across the country down to the state to share their experience and ideas with their counterparts in Kwara. It’s going to be in collaboration with the NGO of Hajiya Limota Goroso Giwa, International Women Communication Centre (IWCC). We intend to invite people like the Minister for Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen who has been a politician for years and also former Deputy Governor of Plateau State, women leader and all that. Also we intend to bring our own Minister of State for Transport, Senator Gbemisola Saraki to come and share her political experiences and ideas she had garnered over the years she had been there. Others include Senator Oluremi Tinubu from Lagos and the President of Women in Politic who I met in Lagos. We are also looking at bringing in Senator Uche Egbunife, and the Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora, Mrs Abike Dabiri. Then we intend to invite all the women from the local governments in the state. By the time we expose them to these about six national figures for about a day or two, we believe they will never remain the same again. And INEC alone cannot do and we may also seek the assistance of the state Governor to actualise it. What we are doing is not for INEC but for the people of Kwara.
What would you like to see in Kwara after the programme?
Our expectations and hope, and we pray it come to pass, is that in 2023, we should have at least three or more numbers of elected women in the state in both the state and national assemblies. That is the goal. I think that the governor’s has done well by giving them the chance. It is now left to them to make the opportunity count.
What is your advice to the commissioners especially the women among them?
Those women that are serving as commissioners now should be a model, that cannot afford to fail. If they do, the not only failed themselves but the women folks in the state. First, they should see themselves as representing the womenfolk in the state and secondly be very passionate to develop the state. We know women are good in this and moreover, they are less corrupt like men. Not that they are not corrupt but they are less and the tendency to be corrupt is not much. We believe with the support of the government and people of Kwara, the women should live above board and deliver for the people of the state.