Activist lawyer and former chairman of Ikeja, Lagos State branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Monday Ubani, has advised the Nigerian government to consider approving electronic voting and electronic transmission of election results. Ubani also frowns at the way the Nigerian government is fighting insurgency and expressed the belief that the country can be greater than it is at the moment. He speaks with OLADIPUPO AWOJOBI in an interview. Excerpts…
Electronic transmission of election results was rejected by the majority members of the National Assembly, would you say the country is even ripe for that in the first place?
We are more than ripe for electronic transmission of election results, this is the era of technology; we need to eliminate the interference of human factor in our electoral process in terms of what we have suffered over rigging and manipulations of electoral results in the country. Where we have problem is the collation of the results after they have announced the results at the polling units and the result will change automatically before it is announced. Many countries have eliminated election rigging, even smaller African countries. Many countries have embraced the technology of electronic voting and electronic transfer of election results.
For instance, Ghana has eliminated rigging in their electoral processes. The new Ghanaian president lost election four years ago, but now has won another election. Though he lost then, he is satisfied that the electoral process is now genuine. They have redefined their electoral process. We cannot get it right as a nation if we cannot determine leadership through the mandate of the people. The people should decide who rules them.
The issue of the sovereign mandate of the people that is given in a fair process is what everybody should be fighting for. Human interference in the electoral process has not allowed us to produce credible candidates or public officers that can make Nigeria fly. It would take us many years to catch up with the rest of the world with the way we are going.
We don’t need men who are backward in thinking to occupy positions of authority because with such men we won’t make progress as a nation. That is why people leave the country in droves for greener pastures elsewhere. That is why we need to get our electoral system right. I believe in electronic voting and electronic transmission of results. Now, the law, which they wanted to amend states that electronic transfer of election results could be done whenever and wherever practicable.
But a member of the National Assembly told us that the NCC said they could not guarantee more than 50% network coverage in the country…
He is lying because as at 2015 they told everybody on their website that they have over 80% network coverage in the country. We don’t even highlight what is in the law. It states that INEC should make electronic transmission of results wherever and whenever possible. It means that in any area that there is no network they can go manual.
The INEC should carry out their responsibility of organising, supervising and undertaking electoral processes. They do not share power with anybody that is what the constitution states. INEC doesn’t owe any allegiance to anybody other than the people. They are supposed to be independent, why would they now subject this to members of the National Assembly, who are prospective participants in future elections. I am participating in an election and I would be the one to determine the mode of conducting the elections. It is madness.
Away from that, we discovered that in many local government elections in Nigeria it is the ruling party that wins all the seats in the local governments in a given state, why is this so?
That is what we are saying; there is nothing independent about the state electoral commissions. If they are amending the constitution they should amend that aspect. If they allow this process to continue there would be revolution in this country. No person from another party other than the ruling party can ever win election given the manner we conduct election at the state level. No matter how good you are, if you are not in the ruling political party, they will rig you out. Who appoints the head of the state electoral commissions and the members in the first instance, it is the Governor and they owe allegiance to him. We are operating a faulty system and that system, if care is not taken, will destroy the country. Nigeria is on the verge of collapsing with the way it is being run. They will not allow candidates from any other political parties to win, they will rig the elections, and they will manipulate the processes.
Nigeria is bedeviled by serious insecurity; does it mean that there is no solution to the security crisis in the country?
They don’t want to have any solution to it. See the way they deploy DSS officials to deal with Nnamdi Kanu or anytime anything happens in the South East to show seriousness. But the banditry and kidnappings that are going on in the North, the people in charge in Nigeria told us that those guys are in business. Sheik Ahmad Gumi said that they are in business. It is a business that the people in power approved. Gumi has said it and nobody is questioning him on that. Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and the SSA Media to the President, Garba Shehu, have said the same thing and nobody can question them. They compared them with IPOB that they are in business. Gumi has said it that they should negotiate with them and settle them.
Can’t they be traced?
You are asking me, they use banks to transfer money. The ones that kidnapped school children said that they should come and drop rice and beans for the children so that they would not die. Is it not somewhere they dropped the rice and beans? Somebody has also said there are security check points all over the North, yet these guys would go to schools and spend hours there to do what they want to do and they escape without anybody disturbing them. There is collaboration in all of these. These guys have discovered another way of making money and they will never stop. But I know that there would be judgement upon this country. God will judge all those who are using evil means to accumulate wealth, their children would never enjoy that wealth. As long as they continue to do evil, their families would be under curse perpetually.
Nnamdi Kanu’s case has been adjourned to October…
Yes that is what they want, they will not release him. They will be happy if the country goes down. The mentality is that if you don’t allow me to reign then I will destroy you. Nigeria is really on the verge so we should pray harder. They don’t mean well, if Nigeria goes down they are happy. They have houses abroad, they have money there, so they will escape there.
How do you see the call for secession by somebody like Sunday Igboho for instance?
Why will he not call for secession? Did he just wake up and say there should be Yoruba nation. He said his people were being killed and that they should do something about it and bring security men, but they did not do that. He said if you are here to do genuine business, you can do so. You cannot come and kill and rape our people, some others are doing genuine businesses here nobody stops them. He is saying I cannot be sharing a country that does not protect me. You now said that self-determination is secession. You said that Nnamdi Kanu has committed an offence, why are they detaining him? Why didn’t they start the case as expected? You said you have all the evidences against him, why can’t you produce them before an impartial judge? You think that the best thing is to keep him perpetually in detention without trial. Are you creating an atmosphere for peace? Are you not giving the people an impression that this is beyond prosecution and trial? People would now begin to conjecture based on what you are doing. They would not see it that you mean well. You should bring evidences against him and bring him before the court and let the court determine if he would be given a bail or not. Now, the court has adjourned the matter till October because you did not bring him to court.
What is wrong with Anambra State that the issue of governorship candidature has become so tense?
What is happening in Anambra State is that there are too many wise men there, they have too much money. All the cases go to the Supreme Court. Most of the electoral cases you see there have been on since 1999. Most of the controversial cases in the state have been there for long. Remember Peter Obi and Chris Ngige as well as Andy Uba and Ngige. After the Supreme Court must have determined their cases, they would still go back to the Supreme Court to overrule itself. They have too much money, wisdom and what have you. I don’t know what the problem is.
You have been an activist, a human rights lawyer and everything rolled into one, what has been your motivating factor?
What has kept me so far is God. He is the one that gives life, wisdom, wealth and makes people to know you. No one has the ability to give you wisdom. The Bible says that if anyone lacks wisdom let him ask for it. I always ask God for wisdom and I believe that whatever position I occupy I must show example. I believe that I must be able to lead my family well. I must be able to love my wife and be faithful to her and I must show my children a good example. If I find myself in a professional capacity, I must be able to do well. You know what I did as the Chairman of the Ikeja Branch of NBA in Lagos. I am now the Chairman of a new group of lawyers, within the two years God will help us. I am the Chairman of the committee that organised a conference in Ibadan, Oyo State and it was attended by four state governors. So many people came and we spoke on national issues and how to move the country forward. The topic was “The Role of Public Interest in Governance.” My role is to ensure that we hold the government accountable, we insist on good governance and that the government must respect the rule of law. We insist that people’s rights must be respected and that the people too should pay their taxes and obey the laws. Wherever you find yourself, do the right thing. We should not preach one thing and do another. Some people go on radio and say one thing, but when you go to their private lives it is zero. They steal, they are corrupt, and they are immoral. They sleep with small girls and other people’s wives, how can you now give power to such people, people who cannot manage their lives, emotions and desires. We want men that love God, men that have integrity to really mount positions of leadership to change this nation. This nation can be changed, we have the resources. Some of the people we have had were incompetent and corrupt leaders that do not want Nigeria for progress.
Was this what you wanted to do really?
I had this desire to fight for the oppressed. When I was young, I wanted to join the armed forces. They used to call me armed force in those days. When I was young and we were playing football, I had always been an organizer; if you don’t score a goal I would give you a knock. When I gained admission into the university, I wanted to study Political Science; I wanted to be like Nnamdi Azikiwe, and some other orators who stir people when they speak in public. When I got into the university and Muhammadu Buhari took over power from the civilians as a military officer then in 1983 and people were no longer coming to the university to recruit graduates unlike what they were doing when I got there initially, I said I cannot finish university and be searching for job. Then, I saw the likes of Gani Fawehinmi fighting for the people, I decided to write JAMB again to study law.