By Daniel Kanu
Martin Onovo, activist, social commentator and renowned petroleum engineer, was the 2015 presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP).
In this encounter with Sunday Sun, he speaks on the 2023 election and the danger ahead, the sins of INEC, assessment of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, and way forward for Nigeria, among other critical issues. Excerpt:
What is your assessment of the presidential campaigns so far for the 2023 election? Are you satisfied with the issues on conversation?
We are satisfied with the issues particularly the issues around the moral, mental and medical fitness of the candidates. We must be proactive and apply the fact that the Nigerian Constitution has provisions in Section 144, for a president to cease to hold office for permanent medical incapacity. We do not need the instability that will surely result from permanent medical incapacity of a president. Belatedly, we are not satisfied with the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It can be safely concluded that INEC is the greatest enemy of democracy in Nigeria. Previously, INEC violated many of its own requirements for free and fair elections. Currently, INEC has neglected serious issues around the qualification of a particular candidate in one of the three frontrunners party, to participate in the elections based on allegations of forgery, perjury, identity-theft and involvement in criminal narcotics trafficking. INEC registered underage voters, tolerated the violation of election finance limits, tolerated perjury, allowed under-aged voting. INEC has falsified election results in the past and needs to be monitored very closely. INEC lacks integrity and no system can work effectively without integrity. We know that INEC has gradually become extension of the ‘Election Committee’ of the ruling party and works to aid the ruling party to rig elections in their crude agenda. How can we believe the same INEC under its current chairman? INEC deceived the entire country with its ‘Electronic Collation Manual’ and electronic card readers in 2019 only to bypass them in the North and deny the opposition access to its server to show the evidence of the massive rigging of the 2019 presidential election. The same INEC claimed it accredited over 900,000 voters in Boko Haram infested Borno State alone. The same Borno State that Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (Vice President) said was largely inaccessible due to the Islamic terrorist insurgency. INEC has no credibility looking at its antecedent. We cannot believe INEC under its current chairman that appears more of a puppet of the ruling party. We have seen many videos of PVCs of Christians dumped or buried allegedly by INEC to suppress Christian voters in line with the Islamization agenda of this government. Also, we have identified four bobby-traps set by the ruling party to disrupt the 2023 general elections. They are; firstly, proposed 2023 irregular census, secondly, reintroduction of the obnoxious Water Resources Bill, thirdly, INEC manipulations and lack of transparency with its IT systems and lastly, orchestrated insecurity and southwards move of Islamic terrorists. Any of these bobby-traps can be used to cause crisis to disrupt the general elections. With the four then, the ruling party has ample ammunitions to disrupt the elections.
How do you see the Peter Obi campaign on the Labour Party platform? Critics say it’s a social media celebration by Obi-dients and with no structure…?
(Cut’s in) Every campaign has strengths and weaknesses that must be managed. Social media are critical campaign tools in contemporary times. The need for a campaign structure is also critical. The Labour Party structures, the organized labour structures, the support group structures and the Presidential Campaign Council are all structures for the campaign. They simply need to be better managed for better results. But above all, the people are the structure and if they are with you, it is what matters the most.
How would you rate the outing of the APC presidential candidate at the Chatham house?
Alhaji Bola Tinubu’s performance at Chatham House was clearly poor, normless and dishonourable. First, he made a short presentation of generalized objectives without any remarkable value proposition. Then, he evaded most questions by abnormally assigning the questions to others to answer on his behalf, thereby confirming his inability to answer the questions himself. Again, he mumbled and babbled in some of his responses. Finally, for the questions he attempted to answer, he was receiving scripts from his assistant, which is similar to examination malpractice and cheating. In addition, he avoided many aspects of the question while brazenly making unverified claims contrary to information in the public domain. He is obviously too old and sick to the point of medical incapacitation. Similarly, Alhaji Tinubu has clearly been avoiding public meetings except the ones arranged by him or his associates. He avoided the signing ceremony of the ‘Peace Accord’. He also avoided the Arise News debate. It is his right to avoid such, but the voters must determine why and use such anomaly to assess his moral, mental and medical fitness. It may be obvious that he has serious flaws he wants to hide from voters. At some of his public appearances, the serious flaws have manifested. At his Delta State rally, he said his party’s candidate will become the Governor of Niger Delta State. There is no such state in Nigeria. At another event he indicated he would recruit 50 million Nigerians into the military. At another event, he claimed that PVCs have expired. On many other occasions; he was simply incoherent and\or blabbering.
How worried are you about insecurity in the Southeast and the coming 2023 elections?
The insecurity is national. INEC offices have been attacked in Ogun State and an opposition party campaign convoy was attacked in Borno State. An LP woman leader was killed in Kaduna State. In all these, the ruling party has been accused or is the principal suspect. The case of the Southeast is clear. Agents of Islamization associated with the ruling party have been exporting terrorism to the Southeast. Over 400 northern Muslim militants were intercepted in Umuahia, Abia State. Many were intercepted in Oyo, Oyo State and elsewhere. More recently, some were intercepted at Ehamufu, Enugu State on a Dangote truck with arms and ammunition. Prior to the rise in terrorist attacks in Enugu State, the white helicopter sighted in many terrorized areas in northern Nigeria was sighted in Enugu. We raised alarm and the Commissioner of Police denied it even with the viral video evidence. All these and other super-abundant evidence confirm that insecurity and terrorism are deliberately being exported to the Southeast and that the security forces are conniving as stated by Gen. T. Y. Danjuma (rtd) and many others.
What is your assessment of the Buhari-led government as they wind up?
We are glad that an overwhelming majority of Nigerians now agree with us that this is the worst regime ever in the history of Nigeria. This was the position we published in 2015. Thereafter, in 2016, Dr. Femi Aribisala, Ph. D. (Oxford) published, ‘The
Worst Government in the History of Nigeria’. The Buhari regime has failed completely on all fronts, including its own three priority areas viz. anti-corruption, security and the economy. On security: Nigeria has never had this level of insecurity since 1914. Insecurity and terrorism that were a Northeast problem before the Buhari regime have spread to all six zones of Nigeria under Buhari. Currently, leading western institutions have classified Nigeria as a “fully failed” state. On Anti-corruption: Nigeria is currently suffering from the unprecedented corruption in the Buhari regime. The frequency, quantum and impunity with which corruption is conducted have grown geometrically. The $25B (N10T) NNPC contract scam remains the largest ever single contract scam in the history of Nigeria. The frequency, quantum and impunity of corruption as seen in the Auditor General’s annual reports have never been seen before. Currently, Nigeria has its worst ever ranking in Transparency International’s ‘Corruption Perception Index’. On the Economy: All national economic indicators have deteriorated sharply under the Buhari regime. Multidimensional Poverty Index has grown from 53.3 per cent in 2016 to 63 per cent in 2022 with 133 million Nigerians living in multi-dimensional poverty. Unemployment is unprecedented. Inflation is unprecedented and national debt is unprecedented. The Buhari regime is a catastrophic failure.
What is the way forward for Nigeria looking at where the country is today?
The way forward for Nigeria is clear and simple. Ease out the Buhari regime and elect a young, strong, new breed president with the vision, integrity and competence to unite the country and drive development.
Is doing away with PMS subsidy the best alternative?
No! Subsidy removal is the worst option. This same Buhari regime removed the subsidy in 2016 and celebrated the removal. Now, things are much worse. This is because, of the mediocrity and incompetence of the regime. They do not understand the economics so, they drive the country backwards with their incompetent and corrupt ‘trial and error’ approach. They prefer to listen to the IMF that has been misleading Nigeria for over 40 years than to apply established universal and sure economic principles of domestic productivity. The same Buhari regime in their manifesto deceitfully promised to repair the refineries and build new ones, but nearly eight years after, what we have is massive and pervasive corruption.