Prince Adewole Ebenezer Adebayo was the flag-bearer of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 2023 presidential election. In this interview, Adebayo, who is an international lawyer, disagrees with the proposed Electoral Act amendment by the Senate, arguing that the quality of the character of our leadership is what should be examined.
What is your take on the resolution of the Senate to amend the electoral act so that our elections can be strengthened?
One thing we need to know in legislation is that the eyes of the legislators are always at the back of the heads as they always like to solve new legislation with the problems of the past.
So, the assumption is that the problem of the next election would be the Independent National Electroal Commission’s Result Viewing (IReV) portal.
From what I know, the problems will not be IReV, it will be another thing. Let us say this is the beginning of the conversations of what we can do legislatively to improve our electoral system. But the problem we have isn’t a shortage of legislation.
There are three things I observed. The first is that there is nothing in the 2023 elections I participated in that suggested to me that anything went wrong because of IReV. None of the petitioners has been able to complain that it is because of the problems with IReV that results that were declared at the polling units were different from the results that were ultimately used.
When you go through the filings, proceedings and judgements of the court, you will find it hard to find one record where they said that in this particular unit, this was the result, but because it wasn’t immediately transmitted to INEC website, the result changed. I don’t think you would find anything like that. That isn’t the problem.
Like I said on October 1, 2021 and was widely reported in the media, they would just be disturbing you with issues of technology, which on the day of the elections, someone might just decide to switch off in INEC and say it didn’t work. Even if it is in the electoral act (assuming it is passed into law) that the result must be immediately transmitted, if on that day something goes wrong, for example, there is a nationwide network problem, or VPN isn’t working, or the system is corrupted, and things like that, the constitution would still want you to find out whether you can otherwise establish the actual winner of the election.
I think integrity at the polling station is what we should pay attention to. Things like making sure that people don’t buy votes. You cannot commit violence, making sure that the distance between the polling booth and the nearest third party isn’t less than about 100 feet, so that anybody who is voting can be in doubt that they are out of sight and hearing of the people.
So, if a person decides to influence you by giving you money or anything of value, they will not ultimately know what you are doing in the ballot box area.
But if you commit fraud, you buy and sell votes, you distort the outcome and electronically transmit that abomination to IReV, what have we gained?
So, I think reform of character is what we are afraid of doing, and we want to be tweaking with technology.
Nigerians have had cause to question the independence of INEC as all members of the board, including chairman, are appointed by the president. Its former chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, wants the president to strip off the appointing power so that it can truly be independent.
There are quite a lot of things to strip the president of, but who do you give it to? Remember that our founding fathers expected that we would look for the best among us and make him president.
The president is our head of state, so he would think clearly for the country and be one of the most honourable men in our midst who is willing to take up the job.
For that reason, even in the most important positions, constitutional positions that are more important than INEC, for example, the Chief Justice of the Federation, president of the Court of Appeal, Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice of Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, the entire judiciary, the president is the appointing authority. If there are more sensitive positions that are even expected to be more independent than INEC, they are left in the hands of the president to select. Then, what is special about the INEC chairman and the commissioners?
I think the problem isn’t about taking it from the president. Who do you give it to?
So the Senate should look at itself as a chamber and ask if they had done their best in vetting nominees to INEC?
The National Assembly has the constitutional power to oversee INEC. It has powers to approve INEC emoluments and budget, including conducting a hearing to remove an INEC commissioners or national chairman that is not living up to his performance. So, I think the system is robust enough if we can have men and women of character to run it.
The economic team of the president is in full swing. In your view, have they lived up to expectations?
They are on top of the situation they created for themselves. There isn’t anything happening in the economy presently that I haven’t predicted.
What they are facing now is what is called factor cost stabilisation. If they can deal with that, then they would have reduced most of the crises they have on their hands.
The trajectory of the economic choices they have made cannot change anyone from where they are today. I predicted this. There are many options. Economics is about choices. And the choices they have taken would naturally lead to this. Whoever is the president, if you take the choices they have made, you will have the same result. Economics does not discriminate against your politics. It looks at the facts. What is the state of affairs? What are the options? What are the alternatives you want to forgo? So, you have to live with the consequences of your decision.
Now, the price of money will not be stable. The exchange rates will not be stable. The price of commodities will not be stable. The price of factors of production will not be stable. The only way out is to plan ahead for that instability.