In this interview with ADELEKE ADESANYA, Prof Oluremi Sonaiya, the presidential candidate of the defunct KOWA party in 2015, said Nigeria stands a chance of being better if the electorate is ready to vote for the right person in 2023. She also advised the electoral umpire on how to achieve free and fair elections that will bring true democracy to the country. Excerpts.
As Nigerians are preparing for the 2023 election stakeholders have been raising concerns on the possibility of the general election not holding as scheduled due to the raging insecurity in the country. What is your view on this?
Sincerely speaking, everyone who truly has the love of this country at heart will be concerned. With the situation of things in the country, you will wonder what will happen, if the election will ever take place. But I hope that our security agencies will do their work and ensure a peaceful atmosphere in which the elections can be conducted because even the president has reiterated his commitment to end the menace. Let us just wait for him.
All the political parties have conducted their primaries after the parties sold the nomination form at a very higher price. What is your view about the people that have won different political parties’ tickets?
I see people with different levels of abilities as should be expected. I am not impressed by many and would not love to see them as the Number One representative of my country. I think we do not place enough importance on that fact – that the president represents us to the world. What image would the world get about us based on how we are represented? There are so many aspects to it: How the person carries himself or herself; is he or she strong and in good health? Will he or she be able to hold conversations intelligently and intelligibly with other world leaders? Are they up to date on recent technological developments which drive communication in the present era?
How will you compare the current political situation in the country with back then when you contested for the position of president?
Things are not getting better in the Nigerian political terrain. What we have now is more greed on the part of the politicians unlike back then.
With their disposition, one gets the impression that people are desperate about something. Why should so many politicians rushed to pick up forms at such exorbitant costs? And not a single one of them could protest publicly about it given the serious economic distress in which most Nigerians currently find themselves?
Many Nigerians faulted the exorbitant costs of forms of some political parties. What is your take?
As many people have commented already, it shows that our politicians are uncaring people, without any feeling for the generality of Nigerians. All they care about is getting to positions of power obviously for personal advantage. Otherwise, they would not agree to those humongous fees. All of that does not augur well for our democracy. They are turning the country into one that works only in the interest of the rich and powerful.
In the last presidential primary elections, both APC and PDP didn’t make zoning their priority. They threw the door open for all contestants. Do you think this is good for the country’s unity?
Honestly, I have never supported the zoning arrangement which they have been doing. This is just because it demonstrates a lack of focus on what is truly important in the running of public affairs, which should be merit-based; that is, demonstrable competence and capacity. Has the practicing of zoning delivered good governance? So, I am actually happy that it has been jettisoned. Although, I recognise the fact that those who believe it is their turn now, and who have supported zoning all along, have a right to feel offended and betrayed.
How will you advise the INEC on the preparation for the coming general elections in 2023?
Let INEC be truly impartial in administering the rules and regulations. I think they should be monitoring how much money is being spent too. Although it might not be quite within their jurisdiction, maybe they should have issued a statement on the high costs of forms, because it definitely disenfranchised those who do not have that kind of money. They should be interested in ensuring that parties conduct their affairs in a fair and sensible manner. They should protect the interest of all Nigerians and their right not only to vote, but equally to be voted for.
It appears the laws of the land do not favour women’s involvement in politics. However, how will you encourage women in Nigeria to get involved actively in politics?
This has been on a great concern to the women, but women will continue to demand for their rights to be full participants, not mere spectators in running the affairs of our country. Of course, one thing we must do is to vote out most of the current legislators who see women as second-class citizens. Some of them are people who are marrying girls they could have as grand-daughters. They don’t believe that girls and women should be educated and enjoy the same rights as boys and men. We need to get them out of our National Assembly and vote in people who are more fair in their judgment and who believe that women have much to contribute to the development of our country.
As the election draws closer, what will you say is of a concern to you?
My concern is actually that we might not be seizing the opportunity to make the fundamental changes needed in the country as we go into the elections. Personally, I really don’t think we should be conducting the elections under the current flawed constitution. We need to renegotiate the future of our country so that we can know peace and prosperity. The centralized government bequeathed to us by the military is simply not going to work. How wonderful it would if we agreed to come together and redefine our co-existence, and begin to practice a truly federal system, where the federating units will be able to develop the resources found in their localities for the advantage of the whole country.
What would be your advice to Nigerians ahead of the coming general election?
The electorate should begin to truly occupy their position as citizens of this potentially great nation. Luckily, there are several initiatives and CSOs that are engaged in this efforts to create the awareness among the electorate on how to approach the elections. That is, they cannot continue to succumb to “stomach infrastructure” and keep electing people who are not going to provide them the services they need to improve their quality of life. So, everyone should make sure they get their PVCs; especially most of the so-called elites who tend not to come out to vote on Election Day. Let us all get involved and vote for people who have capacity, competence and character – not the corrupt and selfish people who are parading themselves as leaders.