“This is ungodly and bad. We must not celebrate the current government on this, but in other areas they have tried.”
Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
Amitolu Shitu is a human rights activist. He is based in Osun State and he is the national coordinator of the Committee for Democracy and Rights of the People (CDRP). He had on several occasions been remanded for fighting against injustice in the country. He was one of those who fought for the actualisation of June 12, 1993 presidential election.
He speaks on the just concluded Osun State governorship election, saying it was conducted in a free and fair manner. He also spoke on a number of other issues.
As one of the observers that monitored the September 22 governorship election in Osun State, what is your general assessment of the exercise?
We had a very peaceful election in Osun State and it was unprecedented in the history of the state. We have never had such a peaceful election in the state. Notwithstanding the hues and cry before the election, the election went on peacefully in all the 30 Local Government Areas of the state. I will advise you to ignore some messages posted on the social media by those I refer to as social media miscreants.
But some observers claimed that the rerun election was marred by vote buying and violence. What is your take on that?
Some people don’t know that observing election is more than sitting than in one place and using a particular polling centre as basis for report. General overview of an election is what is used as general report of findings by election observers. Before you can condemn an election you have to tour the three senatorial districts of the state, you do not stay in the state capital alone. Riggings are usually been perpetrated in rural areas and in all these places there was no report of rigging. No one reported rigging in any of the villages in the state.
Observing election in the state capital is not enough at all.
I was in Iwo, Ede, Osogbo and some remote villages in the state and in all these places, there was no report of rigging. There was no problem in Ife federal constituency that used to be known for election violence. In the urban areas where there was heavy presence of people, there were issues which had nothing to do with the conduct of the election. The rerun election took place in only one unit of a single ward in Osogbo, so if there are issues in other parts of Osogbo on the day the election was held, that could not be said to be related to election.
Besides, our electoral system in Nigeria is a gradual process. In 1999, it was not like this, in the previous elections we had in Osun State; it was not as peaceful as the September 22 election. And, I want you to know that the next year election and other subsequent elections in the state will be more peaceful than the last governorship election.
However, I want to submit that option A4 remains the best system of election. With the way things are going, Nigeria is already improving in terms of election matter and that will really assist our democracy to grow well.
How will you rate the performances of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the conduct of the election?
Going by the words of the Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC in the state, Mr Segun Agbaje, that he would voluntarily resign if it is discovered that the election was fraudulent, one can say that the election was well conducted. The statement credited to Agbaje was strong and only a committed and reliably person could say that. All the staff of INEC did well, except for some few ad hoc staff that are not on the payroll of the commission, the INEC officials conducted themselves creditably well. The REC did well and ensured that the election was credible.
We need to tell our politicians the truth and the truth is that they should learn to accept defeat because four years is not too long. In the next four years, there will be another election in Osun and I am telling you that four years is just behind us. Also, politicians should learn how to respect the electoral Act and the election guidelines. Electorate too should also make up their minds and vote out any political office holder that fails to perform to their satisfaction.
Will you suggest that the Osun governorship election be used as template for the 2019 general elections?
Yes, I will strongly advise that the September 22 governorship election in Osun State should be used as template for the next year’s general election because the election was conducted creditably
and all officials including the security operatives did their best. We don’t need to deceive ourselves, that election was a ‘liberation election.’ The workers in Osun State government also played vital roles
in the election and I want to call on the workers to continue to show interest in future elections. The era of half salary has gone and we want to thank the state government for not considering the option of retrenchment. We in the human rights community will fight any government that retrenches or fail to pay workers their salaries.
Also, we must all learn to be truthful. God has no colour but His colour is truth. Everybody must learn to be truthful and demonstrate it because honesty is the best legacy.
What advice do you have for the various political parties that participated in the election?
All Political parties must embrace internal democracy. The political leaders must also fear the Lord Almighty and shun hypocrisy. Righteousness is one of the cardinal principles that political leaders must embrace. Political parties must learn to accept defeat and the winner must also be magnanimous in victory. There is always a time for everyone. That a party does not win today does not mean the party cannot win tomorrow.
What should the people of Osun State expect from the incoming governor, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola?
This man is coming from the corporate world and he has the needed experience, having seen it all in the private sector.
He was the Chief of Staff to Governor Aregbesola for seven and half years, so he has the necessary experience to develop the state and strengthen the economy of the state. He has the ideas and he knows what to do.
He cannot be a pushover. There are leaders that we think are strong, but they are weak intellectually and they are weak in strength. Small boys can push them around. But Oyetola is not like that. He cannot be pushed by any individual. He hasamindofhisown.Icanputmylifeon the line on the fact that he will perform well. He will perform better than his boss.
Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State recently threatened to quit the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). As an activist, how would you react to the threat?
As a Nigerian, Ayo Fayose has the right to join any political party of his choice. However, how can a state government owe workers for months? That is the case of Fayose. Fayose should not be taken serious by any rational person. Anyone that takes Ayo Fayose serious needs to be examined. I don’t pray that any of
my children is like Fayose. He believes in deceit and believes he can get away with anything on earth. Fayose has many cases hanging on him and he will have no hiding place at the end of his tenure. He had embarrassed the Nigeria Police at different times. The man is looking for a soft landing but I know the system will take care of him.
President Muhammadu Buhari will be contesting against Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, how do you see the battle?
President Buhari is not contesting against Atiku alone. He will be contesting against many people including, Alhaji Tanko Yinusa of the National Conscience Party (NCP). Many notable Nigerians will be contesting the election. But the evils that PDP did for 16 years are still there and the room PDP messed is still stinking. However, President Buhari has done a lot in Nigeria, especially in the areas of road construction, power and employment. Today there is power in the country for several hours. He has restored the glory of the Nigerian airlines. Also, in the area of insecurity, the current administration has done a lot to reduce the dastardly acts of the insurgents in the northern part of the country. God has given him the opportunity to employ honest Nigerians like Prof. Isiaq Oloyede who returned huge sum of money to the coffers of the federal government. The same thing also happened in the Nigerian customs and today we have a better Nigeria.
The PDP messed up the nation’s economy for 16 years and inflicted pains on the masses. The PDP printed money and put in the circulation not minding its hazards on the economy. We knew all the evils that the PDP did especially the idea of printing money and putting it into the circulation. That was the beginning of the nation’s economic problem. The introduction of Treasury Single Account (TSA) by President Buhari has also helped to salvage our economy. That has never happened in the history of our country.
Some individuals are still in EFCC custody and many still have cases to answer before the EFCC. Should Buhari losses the election, what will happen?
I disagree with the Federal Government for not granting Col. Dasuki and others bail. Why keeping them permanently in detention? This is wrong. El-Zakzaky should be granted bail and other Nigerians who committed bailable offence. What type of system are we running in Nigeria? This is ungodly and bad. We must not celebrate the current government on this, but in other areas they have tried.