National Secretary, Labour Party, Mr Oluwakayode Ajulo, in this interview with some journalists, speaks about the decision by his party to adopt the candidacy of President Goodluck Jonathan in the forthcoming poll and calls for caution on the use of the card reader technology. WALE AKINSELURE brings excerpts.
HOW did your party arrive at its decision to endorse the candidacy of President Goodluck Jonathan in the forthcoming presidential election?
I must say that virtually all the presidential candidates today have been wooing my party. I believe that this is not unconnected with the fact that the Labour Party is only the party of the people. For you to win any election, you have to associate with the people. We are the one that always go with the people. Labour Party, as you know comprises workers, the real people; I am not talking about godfathers. That is why in this party, we have no godfathers. And when all this happens, what we have to do is to let Nigerians know that giving anybody our endorsement should not be just like that. We must discuss; the people have to be carried along. I can stand as Kayode Ajulo, national secretary of the party, to say that we are going this way. But, if we believe that our backbone is the people, everybody must be carried along. And that is why we had to call the National Executive Council (NEC). Some parties could get one or two persons, then call the press to announce the endorsement of a candidate. We do not do that in Labour Party. Everybody, the NEC, National Working Committee (NWC) must put it to vote, before we chose a preferred candidate, which is President Goodluck Jonathan. Then we presented such decision to the National Working Committee (NWC) and the entire NEC members across the nation to arrive at a resolution. What we have done is not just to endorse a candidate but also the entire party constituted a campaign committee. The campaign for the office of the president is a serious matter beyond parties just endorsing and going to bed. The Labour Party will determine who will rule Nigeria; who will be the president of the country.
What criteria influenced this decision?
We considered a lot of things. The two leading contenders are General Muhammadu Buhari and President Goodluck Jonathan. Two of them have been in the saddle; one has been there before and the other is there currently. So, the two have been tested. It is the antecedents that we considered: How did you come into being? We know for a fact that one once scuttled the democratic government of this country. You cannot deny that the regime of one of them was a nightmare in the history of this country. Evidently, he ruled Nigeria with an iron hand. These are the things we considered. We must determine your worth; what you have done vis-a-vis who you truly are.
And, let us be sincere with ourselves, age is a factor. As a party, we talk about dynamism; we talk about being a workers’ party. And for you to bring a pensioner, then we know we have an issue. These are some of the things we have to consider. I am a young man, then you introduce a 72-year old, or someone we are not even sure of his age, because he does not have certificate. If you have a certificate, then I could do some arithmetic to know your age. It will be a great disservice to this democracy to introduce someone who clearly scuttled democracy to be the beneficiary of the same democracy, particularly when such person, all these years has not been put to test of democratic experience. Senate President, David Mark, was a soldier but since 1999, we can see his movement on the democratic scene. Mark, going by his experience, can be considered for such position, not a Buhari, who is yet to have such experience. We really have to have a rethink. When former President Olusegun Obasanjo was crisscrossing the country, you would agree that during his first four years, he had to learn the ropes. Can we afford another Buhari to use his first four years to experiment?
As a lawyer, I know what the law says about age. Once you are above 70 years, you cannot hold the position of a company director, that is, a public quoted company, unless there is an exception and you have to provide some documents, file affidavit, make declaration, swear to an oath to all the members of the board so that they know the person’s exact age. That means by law, once you are 70 years, the way you function and reason will be entirely different. We can say that our law in Nigeria forbids holding certain positions once one is 70 years. If our law can be so emphatic on the issue of directorship of company, what about the Commander-in-Chief?
Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State talked about his mother using diapers, my mother will soon be 80 years. Once my mother clocked 70 years, I started giving her special treatment because she is someone we need to pamper, even check the way she thinks. Even, as a young man, the daily stress is killing, not to talk about a 70-year-old man. Endorsing Buhari means Nigeria will be one of the conspirators for someone committing suicide because if you allow an old man hold such position, you have just assisted such person to commit suicide. And, every Nigerian should know that our law frowns at a person holding such position of authority, like the president, at such age. We should begin to understand and abide by our Constitution.
Some Nigerians argue that President Jonathan lacks the competence to fight corruption squarely, as well as address the issue of insecurity among others.
This assertion is relative. I am not in a position to address such things. I think members of his cabinet and his appointees will be in a better position to address such issues. But, we must understand that during electioneering like this, people could accuse the President of lacking the competence to fight corruption. This election is to authenticate most of these claims. This election will ascertain whether President Jonathan is competent or not. Late Major-General Tunde Idiagbon, ruled the nation that time and if Buhari wins, Professor Yemi Osinbajo will also be in charge; someone who has the power of attorney. That is why sometimes what Femi Fani-Kayode says is not far from the truth. Buhari should tell us one single remarkable thing he then did. When people talk about corruption, is it not during Buhari’s regime that Idiagbon sent his son abroad while other youths were arrested? People were killed then; our law was messed up. Even, he committed the supreme crime of truncating the country’s democracy. He banished our Constitution.
Just because you led a coup in this country and became head of state, which is the only qualification he has, then you want to become president; it can never happen. We have to be serious. Out of the two options that we have, though, my party desires that we had more than two options, but we find ourselves in a situation where we are given two alternatives. However, if the alternatives are wrong, one will be better than the other. And as far as I am concerned, the person that can save the face of the democracy we practise is President Jonathan. Everybody is talking about change. Yes, Nigerians want change, but not a change in personalities. What happened in Libya should not happen in Nigeria. When the Arab spring started, everyone got so frenzy. They kept saying Muammar Gadaffi is bad, we need change. The question the people of Libya failed to ask themselves was, what kind of change is it? And, because they did not ask that question, today Libya regrets. Hence Nigerians must ask, what kind of change do we desire? If it is change to Buhari, Nigeria will regret it. He should point to one person in the party, if not the same Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) undesirable elements; they are the ones that came together to form APC. For Buhari to win the election, God forbid!
What is the party’s position on the use of card readers?
On the use of card readers, our position is that technology must not be used to disenfranchise Nigerians. Where the use of Permanent Voters Cards fail, we can go manual. We should do everything to ensure that every eligible voter is not disenfranchised. Sincerely, in any human device, there is the tendency for human error. Even in advanced countries, nothing can be 100 per cent. What matters most is that the security and party agents must be vigilant. And I believe that this all-important election should not be used to test-run such device.
Source: Nigerian Tribune.
Source: Nigerian Tribune.