Mark Adebayo is the immediate past acting national chairman of the recently deregistered Kowa Party. In this interview, he speaks on the delisting of the party, the next line of action and what need to be done to give credibility to elections in the country. PATRICK OKOHUE reports.
*********How do you react to deregistration of the Kowa party by the INEC?
We received the news with shock and disappointment; because judging from section 552 of the constitution as amended it is clearly stated that the minimum requirement for you to remain a registered political party in Nigeria is for you to win a councillorship seat, and Kowa party won a councillor seat in Amo ward of Okigwe Local Government Area in Imo State.
We have written to them, but with their characteristic institutional arrogance they are yet to respond to our letter reminding them that we wrote to them with the certificate of return of our Councillor in July 2019, just to avoid this kind of situation, but that was not taken into cognisance in their illegal act.
Kowa party was illegally deregistered, if not for this Corona virus thing we would have been in Court. We would go to Court after this lockdown to get our party to be enlisted.
Though, INEC defense was that they do not recognize local government election because it is not conducted by them, which is a futility, it is an unambiguous creation of law.
The state Independent Electoral Commission is the creation of law, and the constitution is very clear that if you win a councillorship seat you would remain listed as a political party in Nigeria. What INEC did was illegal and unconstitutional to set the record straight.
***********Some stakeholders said deregistration was inevitable due to the pressure on INEC because of the poor performance of several of the small parties in the 2019 general elections, do you see it that way?
Whatever pressure they are under does not mean they should be acting under illegality. I have no problem if a party is deregistered if such party did not meet up with the requirements of the law, so be it. If you don’t have a national secretariat, don’t win 35 per cent of votes in governorship election, if you don’t have a member in the House of Assembly, or a councillor.
But why deregister a party like Kowa party that met that condition? Whatever makes them to act like that is a minus to our democracy. Their action is illegal, it’s bad, you can only deregister a party that does not meet up with the law. We cannot allow that to stand, ones you register a party and the party wins a councillorship seat it cannot be deregistered.
Who cares if it is not INEC that conducted that election, it is what the law says, and that is what matters. We won a councillorship election in a state and it is the state electoral body that conducted that election, we do not accept this.
************But have you thought about merging with bigger political parties?
No, that is not even in our thought or so ever. We are working; if we are not working hard we would not have won councillorship election in 2018 and House of Assembly in 2011. There is no election conducted in the country that we have not participated in.
Our argument is that we have won a councillorship position and INEC have no authority to deregister us.
*************It is presumed that large number of parties was part of the problems that bedeviled the 2019 election. Stakeholders say delisting number of smaller parties is part of the way to sanitise the electoral system towards 2023, do you agree?
You seem not to believe what I am saying, that a minimum requirement of the constitution is that you should win a councillorship position, I am telling you that we have a councillor, if we are not working hard how come the party won the seat.
We have no problem with INEC delisting parties who do not meet up with the law; but why delisting a political party who has met up.
The issue of party been too many is a function of the constitution; for you to prune down the number of parties you have to amend that chapter of the constitution that says that any party that meet that condition should be registered by INEC. So, now we have about 200 parties waiting to be registered.
So, don’t be surprised that if in the next three or four months, INEC register more political parties, until it get to 1,000.
Let me tell you, registration of parties would continue until there is an amendment to the law which would say; that Nigeria cannot have more than two, three, or four political parties. The issue of whether the ballot is long is immaterial, it is not a matter of opinion it is a matter of law. It is the fault of the constitution; that says any group that apply to INEC and meet certain condition should be registered.
It is the fault of the 1999 constitution and not INEC. The constitution is the course of major problems now, which is why a lot of us, including Kowa party are advocating for a restructuring and a new constitution. We need a people’s constitution, we cannot continue with the decree 1999 that we are using.
********What is your view about the recent lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and FCT over the Covid-19?
What is happening is a function of irresponsive government, incompetent government. The lockdown though is necessary; we know that, but the way it is being done by the government of Buhari shows high level of irresponsibility. You want to lock people at home for a month, you need to give them palliatives and that is where the local government comes in.
You cannot have a Minister of Humanitarian Affair going round the country carrying cash and saying she is giving palliatives and giving one loaf of bread to a street, that is not palliatives, that is madness.
The best institution that would have distributed the palliative should be the CDA’s working with the people. The CDA knows the street, the entire tenants, they do know this, but because we have incompetent people in the helm of affairs look at what they are doing.
Before you know it they would say they have spent trillions that is uncounted for and fraudulent. It is unacceptable, the lockdown is necessary, but the lack of palliatives for the people would make it fail and it has failed.
*************Could that be the reason for the increased in criminal activities in Lagos and Ogun states during the period?
Yes, it happened in my areas too, there was no sleep in the night and in the afternoon too you have to be vigilant. They were going around with POS; if you claim you don’t have cash they empty your account through it at gun point.
People had to organise and attack them, when they saw the number that came out they ran away.
It was after they left that police came with their siren. Honestly, there is no name to what is happening in Nigeria now than to say it is a failed state. With the Coronavirus people had to stay at home, it is unfortunate that the government is not providing palliatives to help people in this lockdown.
The Police is rather extorting the people, some of the governors are already complaining about this. Imagine, somebody travelled to Kaduna State from Lagos, how he passed through all the roads, because he had to bribe the Police officers.
************Do you think the lockdown will affect the Edo and Ondo states gubernatorial elections slated for October and November?
If the Coronavirus extends beyond May, INEC would have no choice than to reschedule those gubernatorial elections. I hope it would not lead to constitutional crisis in this country. Because even the United State presidential election is this year, because we cannot put people’s lives in danger by asking them to go out and vote. So, there has to be doctrine of necessity, which has to be activated to get things done, it is a necessity here.
I am not among the people that would endanger the lives of Nigerians; the elections can stay for now till all this is over. Doctrine of necessity would come in so that governance does not stop in these states.
************The process to amend the 2010 electoral Act has started what changes would you like to see?
Power of the president to appoint the chairman of INEC must be removed, whoever becomes the chairman of INEC should be within the commission and it should be removed from political appointment. Secondly, there should be creation of a commission that would punish vote-buyers and election offences.
I also want a situation where we have electronic voting; that you can vote from your house, and vote from your phone, electronic voting should be used.
Our party used that electronic process to elect its presidential candidate for the 2019 election. So, with this method there would be zero opportunity for manipulation of the votes, the 2019 election was not a reflection of the will of Nigerians.
You cannot have a Minister of Humanitarian Affair going round the country carrying cash and saying she is giving palliatives and giving one loaf of bread to a street, that is not palliatives, that is madness. The best institution that would have distributed the palliative should be the CDA’s working with the people. The CDA knows the street, the entire tenants, they do know this, but because we have incompetent people in the helm of affairs look at what they are doing.