The More Nnamdi Kanu Is Kept Behind Bars, The More He Will Draw Public Sympathy, FG Has Inadvertently Popularised Him, He Should Have Been Released A Long Time Ago, Ken Nnamani Says
Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Electoral Reforms and a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, speaks on the ongoing electoral reforms, economic recession, the detention of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, and other national issues in this interview.
What necessitated the ongoing electoral reforms process?
You will recall that in the inaugural speech of President Muhammadu Buhari, he mentioned that he would take a close look at our electoral system. He had been through the presidential electoral process more than three times and he won in the fourth one.
So, he had probably noticed a number of things that went wrong. Each time, cases ended at the Supreme Court. Of course, during the process, a lot of money would have been spent. People had voted using the ballot box but in the end, only about three or four persons would sit at the tribunal to give a ruling that would declare an individual as the winner, thereby making the popular votes cast to be of little or no use.
People have realised that instead of spending so much money campaigning, they would do whatever is humanly possible to win an election and then they wait for the court process where they spend the greater part of the resources to achieve victory. It is easier to do that through the court than going around selling your programmes to the electorate.
Some critics have held the view that your committee on electoral reform might not come out with anything different from the Mohammed Uwais report. What do you think about that?
I have listened to the remarks made by some professional commentators on television and I cannot get tired of saying that no matter how excellent anything is, you can still improve on it. The Uwais report was good and part of it has helped our electoral process. Those who claimed that the Uwais report was never implemented should hear this: It was Uwais that recommended that the Independent National Electoral Commission should be on first line charge – meaning they should get their money directly from the Federation Account, and that is the standard now. We saw the improvement on elections in 2007, 2011 and 2015, there has been steady progress. Part of the Uwais report is being implemented. Again, do not forget that the Uwais report is more than eight years old and I am sure that report did not anticipate what happened in Kogi State. A number of challenges have been thrown open since the Uwais report was incorporated into the Electoral Act. For a country like Nigeria that is transiting into a full blown democracy, it will require constant electoral reform until such a time that it becomes a routine. You cannot say the National Assembly has made laws last year and therefore should not continue this year. The human endeavour in the electoral process is dynamic and not static. It is very necessary that we take another look at it from time to time. Even with the ongoing electoral reform, in the next three or four years, there may be some issues that we never anticipated. Those who criticise the ongoing process are those who find it easier to criticise but cannot proffer useful solutions. They do not have any fresh thinking or contribution.
What’s the assurance that your committee’s report will be implemented?
Given the disposition of Mr. President, I have no doubt in my mind that he will implement the recommendations of the committee. Remember what he went through at the hands of INEC, the electorate and other political parties. Right now, he will like to leave a lasting legacy on our electoral system.
What motivated the Igbo leaders to press for the release of the leader of the Independent People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu?
This word called ‘leader’ has become overused in the sense that how do you know a leader when everybody is assuming to be a leader? However, I do not know about the mobilisation by Igbo leaders but my personal view is that the Federal Government has inadvertently popularised the man and I do not see what harm he would have inflicted on the government.
I think he should have been released a long time ago. The more he is kept behind bars, the more he will draw public sympathy to his side. He has no soldier, no police and I do not see him as someone carrying arms. He is only agitating, which is the beauty of a democratic system. I think that he was just expressing his mind and may have some followers. If he was not engaged in any violence, I have always advocated that he should have been released a long time ago because by keeping him behind bars, you are drawing too much attention to him.
What are the agitations of the Igbo people?
I think the Ohanaeze Ndigbo will be in a better position to respond to this matter. In my view, I think the Igbo people are not asking for handouts. They are asking for a level playing field that will allow them to compete. From all indications, the Igbo people are feeling that they are left out in the scheme of things. Some of it is their own fault while some others are not their fault. These people are contributing in no small way to the economic growth of the Nigeria. There is no part of this country that you will not see an Igbo man struggling and showing entrepreneurial attitude. Look at the number of buildings and hotels in Abuja and Lagos; they are largely owned by the Igbo people. They have done this to show that they believe in the country called Nigeria. They have more investments spread across the country than any other ethnic group. -PUNCH