My June 12 Story – Humphrey Nwosu

My June 12 Story – Humphrey Nwosu

Friday, June 29, 2018 5:16 pm


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Professor Humphrey Nwosu, a former chairman, National Electoral Commission, NEC, rarely granted media interviews since the 12 June 13 presidential election, won by the late Chief MKO Abiola, was annulled by former military president, Ibrahim Babangida. However, last Wednesday, he fielded questions from KUNLE AJIBADE, Executive Editor; ADEMOLA ADEGBAMIGBE, General Editor and IDOWU OGUNLEYE who took pictures.

You’ve been keeping ponderously silent since the annulment of the 1993 election. Why are you breaking the silence now?

Thank you. I think by June 12 this year, it will be exactly 15 years since the June 12 1993 presidential election took place. You know its annulment and the dissolution of the National Electoral Commission, NEC, generated a lot of controversy. There were sentiments, prejudices, people protested. There was even loss of lives in some cities in the country. We all are Nigerians and we want this country to be great. I just felt it was so necessary to keep off and allow sentiments to die down and then come out at the appropriate time for all the parts to be known and made public. Besides, when you are given any national assignment, especially a sensitive one like the boss of the election management board, one must be careful, knowing that none who had ever occupied that position had come out without his personality smeared by one controversy or another since 1964. Eyo Esua had a distinguished career before coming to the seat. I thought I could conduct a free and fair election and break away from that jinx. But somehow along the line, even though it came after the election had been conducted, I just felt that I had to keep off and allow other people to manage the body and since I left office, I think there have been Professor Okon Uya, thereafter late Dagogo Jack, who worked under me as national commissioner, and then, Chief Ephraim Akpata, Dr. Abel Guobadia and now Professor Maurice Iwu. Yet, in spite of all these people and what they did, people are still asking: how do we reform our electoral process? And the President himself has set up an electoral reform committee, meaning that something is wrong with the system!

And people started talking about the reforms I instituted between 1989 and 1983. People started talking about modified open balloting system, Option A4, meaning it worked and you will also recall that I didn’t score myself; it was the national and international observers that adjudged the elections we conducted as the freest, most credible and peaceful in Nigeria’s political history. And I said it is now time to talk to help reform the electoral process. It is time to revisit those reforms and for Nigerians to know exactly what happened in the past and how it could be revisited. And those things that worked could help us reform the system. And so I thought the time is appropriate for me to break my silence.

Some people felt you were afraid to speak up. They expected you to come up with the facts earlier to help with the revalidation of that election. What’s your reaction?

When the book comes out, you will find step by step approach, what the commission under my leadership did. You will recall the court order, given by Justice Bassey Ikpeme on the night of 10th June 1993. She said: don’t conduct elections, I was alone in the commission. Most in fact, all the national commissioners had gone into the field to supervise and monitor the elections. I was alone with the secretary of the commission, Alhaji Umar and the Director of Legal Services, Buhari Bello. It was quite a problem what to do, we couldn’t summon the commission. But you will find out from this book the initiatives and courageous steps taken to make sure that the expectations of Nigerians were met. Nigerians wanted the elections. I wanted the election and you will now see in that book who didn’t want the election and who helped to make the election possible. There may be surprises; people you may think didn’t want the elections actually wanted the elections, but who did everything to prevent the elections. So, the elections were conducted and we were just collating the results when there was another bombshell: stop announcing the results of the elections. There were also counter injunctions; some said ‘announce’ some said ‘don’t’.

We felt now that the most important task had been done, what was left was to release the results and that we should challenge the order of the Abuja High Court because we felt it had no business stopping us. We went to the Kaduna Court of Appeal for that order to be vacated.

And perhaps it would have been vacated. NEC’s Director of Legal Services challenged the order on behalf of the commission and the court directed that there should be accelerated hearing on 25 June. Chief Moshood Abiola, presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party, was there. His lawyer was represented. Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention NRC, was represented. Unfortunately, even though the hearing was scheduled for 25 June, NEC was dissolved on 23 June. It was not a question that one was afraid. What the Appeal Court would have done was allow NEC to conclude its job because no court had the right to stop us.

It was after the results perhaps were released that there are procedures of tribunals for challenging the results. But the high court intruded. So the commission and I did what we considered appropriate at that point in time.

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There was the allegation that part of the pressure you were under was not just from the judiciary, but the fact that you were slapped or that a gun was pointed at you…

Well, you will read in the book. It is just a couple of hours before you know exactly what happened. I wasn’t slapped or beaten, but there was a lot of controversy and we thank God the nation didn’t break into anarchy. It was a very trying period for all of us in the country, especially the principal participants in the drama. Any untoward behaviour would have escalated the conflict and it might have resulted in a total war. So there was a lot of responsibility on those who took part in the drama to hold themselves and behave appropriately to calm down the tensions and feelings, especially when my commission was dissolved and I had no more official capacity to talk.

But now that everything is over, I know that June 12 is a kind of movement and that date, in my view, was the Democracy Day. Because it was at this particular point in time that Nigerians, irrespective of ethnic or religious divide, all came together in a very high spirit of national consciousness. They didn’t mind Moslem-Moslem ticket and all indicated that Nigerians wanted a stable democratic order, a government that would meet their basic necessities. Many people do not really care about the ethnic group of any good leader. They just want a good leader. You could recall when Murtala Muhammed was on the scene, people supported him, especially when he cancelled the controversial 1973 Census that would have favoured people from his own area. He became an instant hero. He was one of the charismatic leaders this nation has produced.

So you’ll find that June 12 as a movement was indeed the day Nigerians opted for a democratic political order. They didn’t care and the parties cut across ethnic, state and regional boundaries. And Nigerians were highly mobilized and they expressed their choices freely without interference. There was no stuffing of ballot boxes and there was no manipulation, intimidation or harassment. Nigerians came out as a body, just like people in the United States and Britain, and voted freely. No intimidation, no one lost his life anywhere, it was God-ordained. And so in my own view, June 12 was the day Nigerians decided freely for a democratic political order without any hindrance. That day should be Democracy Day. I don’t see anything that makes 29 May, 1999 superior to June 12, 1993. Without June 12, there wouldn’t have been May 29. In my view, it was an offshoot of June 12.

With the passion that you speak about the success of that election, there is a hint that you regret the annulment. And looking back, what exactly would you say about those who were responsible for the annulment of that election?

I have no regrets whatsoever. You see it is important when you are given a national assignment, you do it well. Then, no one consulted me and I had come to that job with a lot of experience. I never anticipated or hoped or lobbied to be made chairman because there are other distinguished intelligent Nigerians.

It is a privilege, not a right that General Babangida – I don’t know what made him do so-of all political scientists in some states and in the public service, to decide to make me NEC chairman. We’d never met before and the only time I met him was when I was the commissioner for rural development. I felt I had to do my best to this nation to also convince the person who appointed me that I could do my best for Nigeria and satisfy my conscience and my constituency-the university community. You know when members of the academic community are given a public assignment; people say they’re just talking theory and that you have to blend theory with practice.

You know before the dissolution of NEC, national and international observers had covered more than 23 states, as you’ll read in the book, and they came out with a verdict of free election. I have attached letters written to me and Professor Omo Omoruyi, the director-general of the Centre for Democratic Studies, CDS, stating that from what they saw on ground, it was a wonderful logistic arrangements and that there was cooperation with election and security officials. They thanked me and said everything was free and fair. That had given me a lot of joy. So there is nothing to regret.

The annulment is a different thing and it is unfortunate it happened. But the fact is that the deed has been done, election was conducted and could be conducted again if there is positive political will on the part of all Nigerians, including the Presidency and the National Assembly.
If you ask me the way forward I would come to it. I have my views as to what could be done to repeat the success of 18 to 193. We could do it again.

I read somewhere that Chief Ernest Shonekan who now came in, after the annulment of the election, to head the government was showing some diplomats copies of cheques presented to you by MKO Abiola to say that you were actually induced to declare Abiola the winner of the election. What’s your reaction to that?

Absolute nonsense and lie. No one gave me anything. I challenge any person to come out with proof. There were dud cheques circulating and all that kind of nonsense. I never flirted with either of the contestants because it was an open, transparent election.

Right there on the spot-and it’s not the case now-during any elections, accreditation is done and you know the number of people who are likely to vote and you have a copy of the voters register. I’m not sure that’s the case in spite of the ‘electronic’ voting system. You know rigging of elections and free and fair elections start with the voters register. In this book, you will find the number of registered voters throughout the federation. I think it was about 39,942,000 at that point, divide them into then 30 states (because Abacha added six more states) and the Federal Capital, the number of local governments, wards and 110,000 voting centres. Each voting centre had a register, so even before election took place, SDP and NRC had copies of the register so you could verify in each voting centre throughout the federation those who were entitled to vote. And usually, you might not have more than 500 in a particular voting centre.

And before the election took place, there was a period of accreditation. I don’t know why we should not, because if you allow staggered voting that is when all the atrocities are usually committed. But there is nothing wrong. I must say, with secret ballot system per se, but it has been thoroughly abused in this country, starting from the federal elections in 1964, October 1965 Western House of Assembly elections, 1979 and 1983. Why should we continue to use what didn’t work? It works for Britain. No one would go and stop elections in Britain; no one would go and write results before it is released.

Nigerians should begin to ask questions about systems that work, not mentioning theories- transparent this and electronic that. Nigerians want something that is real; that can restore confidence and that their choice is respected. So if you don’t have valid voters register, the rigging starts. And if the ballot papers are not serialized, then what are you talking about? So that with accreditation, you know the number of people who have assembled to vote if you are really serious out of a voting centre where you have 500 voters, only 300 might appear because some may have died and some may not want to vote. Out of the 300, all those who have assembled to vote should know that it is 300 because it is a peculiar problem facing us in Nigeria. It is not a question of coming, voting and going, because if you vote, when you’re gone, people will continue to manipulate the figures. That’s part of the problem and sometimes, the press does not hammer on this aspect. And that’s what the open ballot system was conceived to solve -first restore confidence, that it is their choices reflected. People said it is primitive. But is it not primitive to fake ballot papers, write the figures or have the election result before voting? It is primitive. It is not done in any civilized society; thumb printing and so many things. It’s better to queue up behind the candidate of your choice. But we even modified it after the conduct of the local government elections of December 8, 1990 and governorship and state houses of assembly elections of December 14, 1991. People wanted their choices to be protected, because it is your right to vote for a candidate of your choice. And what did we do? You still had to register and still had accreditation. It is during voting that you are issued with ballot paper, you go and mark secretly the candidate of your choice because, as you’ll find in my book, Nigerians tried to do away because they might have liked the platform of SDP in Kano at that point in time than NRC. So they voted freely, marked secretly and came out in the open to vote. And people were advised to wait for the result on the spot; you don’t carry the box away. And that is immediately after voting.

That’s what Nigerians should talk about in this reform. If the reform panel the President is instituting does not address this aspect, no matter how beautifully written, given my own experience, we would be back to square one. It is when you allow staggered voting that all these happen. Do you know that most people would rush to the voting centres between 8am and noon, and from then to 2pm, nothing happens? It is between 2pm and 6pm that people can tamper, thumbprint, substitute, do multiple voting and fake anything. And if any result has been written before, it could now find its place. But in my own experience, staggered voting has not led us anywhere over the past 60 years. Why should we continue? Any reform that does not address this aspect the problem will still be there. People have been criticizing the elections of 2003 and 2007 and I believe it’s between the afternoon and evening that most atrocities were committed. Even those who man the voting stations could be induced, especially if you have a dominant party and other parties do not have resources. I mean you can see how democracy can be constrained. And people should really attack the problem where it is and that’s why I’m talking. That’s why we had the modified open ballot system. Why should it be thrown away for something else? You bring a transparent box. Is it the transparent box that makes the voting transparent? No. what happens after 12’O’clock when they rush and people begin to come one by one?

There were even allegations that some of these transparent boxes were snatched at gun point …

The press has a lot of responsibility because they supported me. You could recall between 1989 and 1993, I was always tagged loquacious. But I was explaining to Nigerians to get involved in the voting process, and they were involved. Because the Babalakin Report said elections are the civic responsibility of all Nigerians, they should know what is going on and they should monitor. Otherwise, you will have no democracy. I challenge people to address the issue of what happened in our electoral system between noon and 6pm and that is why I said we limited the time of accreditation to between 8am and 11am and elections are usually on Saturdays. Any person who wants to vote in a voting centre that has only 500 people, three hours are enough to identify those whose names are on the register-that is accreditation. You tick and public announcement is made. And that is why it is good to have two parties. When you have these so-called 50 parties that have no resources to know what is happening elsewhere, it is no democracy. They don’t have resources to monitor, do they? They don’t even have membership. They don’t have structures, why should we deceive ourselves? And people said democracy; how? When you cannot finance your goals, when that party cannot be a national movement and cannot cross-check, it cannot constitute an alternative government to PDP. You can see the problem. I have said it openly that we are moving towards one party system. It is dangerous.

For the sake of the book you’ve written and for the sake of our readers, we want you to name the collaborators in the annulment of the election.

Come to Abuja Sheraton Hotel on June 12 and get seated. I said the press should be there between 8:30am and 9:30am. So we can start the function by 10 O’clock. The book tries to identify what happened on the night of 10 June 1993. I did mention names; I mean those who did want the election. I think Nigerians ought to know and should rather wait. When people buy the book, they will like to know the conduct of the June 12 election and there is a chapter on that and its details, apart from other preparations by political parties, NEC and so on, including what happened state by state. I know people will also be interested in looking at the section on annulment, stages involved, including the commission and myself, who played what role. Wait to get a copy of the book; you will know what led to the annulment.

Principally, you and Professor Omo Omoruyi were called to some meetings. Professor Omoruyi earlier came out with details of June 12 and all that, so some of these facts we are already aware of. What were those things discussed at the meetings between you and General Babangida concerning the elections?

Well, that’s a good question. But part of the answer has to wait until you see the book. Prof. Omo Omoruyi is a good friend of mine, a distinguished Nigerian in many respects. In fact, both my commission and his centre accredited journalists who were involved in monitoring. He believed and congratulated me and all that. But he wasn’t in the meeting where decision was finally taken and what should be done. And that’s why I said I’m not agreeing with everyone. You see, I will hold myself responsible for all the facts in that book. I will not say he was there in that meeting. But when decisions had been taken, he was invited to appear with me, along with Adeniji and we addressed an international press conference around 3:00pm on June 11 1993 to say that election will take place. My good friend wasn’t at the meeting.

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You were reportedly invited to a meeting on 10 June 1993, at the National Defence and Security Council where you were allegedly asked to make the election end in a stalemate…

That wasn’t what happened. The meeting wasn’t even on the 10th, it was on the 11th. Again, I would anxiously appeal to you to wait. I was in the meeting and that’s the meeting I said my good friend wasn’t part of. But you will know the details and that’s part of the crux of what is in the book. So, wait.

You were extremely kind to President Ibrahim Babangida i
n the sense that he gave you the job of chairman of INEC. And you said in the course of this conversation that you were grateful to him…

(Cuts in)… But I didn’t ask for the job. I didn’t lobby. We Nigerians are good at lobbying for jobs. I must tell you the gospel truth. I have always believed there is a
Divine Being superior to all of us. And you find my background in that book. I think it was necessary to dedicate over 20 pages to let people into my background, my experiences and what led me to do what I did. So, it’s not a question of being grateful to him. He was the number one servant of the nation, I was a sub-servant and we were all serving the nation. It’s not a question of appeasing anybody in order to do anything because if this country collapses, it will collapse on all of us and all our children will suffer.

I’m actually heading towards a question. That’s just one leg of it. The other leg is if you were appreciative of your choice among all other professors who were equally as brilliant as you are, wont you also be very, very critical of the man who did not allow you to finish the job that you were chosen to do?

Because I know that after the book is released there will be a lot of disputes, that’s why I ask the people to patiently wait to know who did what and who even helped me in conducting that election. You know there may be some surprises here and there. There’s no doubt from my account in the book that there were some who didn’t want the election, while others wanted it. You will read who helped me and those who didn’t want the elections.

The point is that even the ingenious system that you came up with, most of this information incidentally is known because there was a scoreboard detailing state-by-state the results of the election. Are you implying, given the kind of statements you’ve made here, that Babangida helped and was very much interested in getting the results out and not interested in annulling the election?

Your question is properly addressed in the book. Who helped? Who assisted and who didn’t help me? You’ll be surprised. You were right we had a big board and we were writing and international observes, journalists and Nigerians were happy at what they were seeing. There was transparency. We even allowed the British deputy high commissioners and other foreigners to be in the collation group, and we were looking forward to announcing the winner. But suddenly, there was a court injunction saying don’t announce. The copy of that is contained in the book. Who did what and what we did as a commission. Simply, I felt and I think the commission felt, too, because it was a lawful body that I ignore the other court injunction because Decree 13 of 1993 that authorized us to conduct presidential elections (because elections are based on law), there was a provision that stated that once a date and time had been fixed for national elections, no court can stop us. And this particular provision was, in fact, inserted in all the decrees that enabled us to conduct previous elections, especially the of 1991 governorship election, when there was a spate of court injunctions and counter injunctions.

The then Attorney General, Bola Ajibola and NEC were directed by the president to find a provision whereby his transition programme will not be derailed by court injunctions. But also that we should not ask the jurisdiction of the court but reconciles it. We came out with this ingenious provision that once a date and time has been fixed, no court can stop us. And this particular provision was challenged and it went to Court of Appeal, Ibadan. I cited the case in the book. And the Court of Appeal sustained our petition that this is right, but that doesn’t mean that after the election if it was not properly conducted or a candidate wasn’t properly nominated, it can’t be cancelled. This implied that the Abuja High Court should not have overruled the Federal Appeal Court. In any case, your question hinges on whom? Why? You can see we followed the law. Another court said: ‘don’t release the results.’ All you could do, because you’ve already conducted elections and the whole thing could have ended June 25, we as a commission met and agreed we should quickly challenge the Abuja High Court order by a superior court injunction. Because we felt the Abuja Court didn’t have the authority or power to set aside the results of the election and there was a tribunal provided in that decree. That’s why we went and the court saw the urgency in it and gave an order. I was even surprised and we submitted all the results and we were just praying the court: Please, Abuja High Court didn’t have power to stop us. Allow us to conclude the announcement of the result in keeping with the law that set up NEC and that enabled us to conduct the election. It was a simple prayer.

I think Abiola’s lawyer, GOK Ajayi, was there and the rest of them and the hearing would have been 25th June. But on 23rd June, NEC was dissolved. The story is in the book: who did what, to the best of my knowledge. So, you couldn’t have gone ahead with the court order to conclude the results when we have a legal procedure. We were advised by our Director of Legal Service to seek redress and challenge that order. And we were almost getting there.

While you were almost getting there and busy trying to conduct the best elections that Nigeria could ever have at that time, Chief Arthur Nzeribe was busy doing other things. Through the Association of Better Nigeria, he worked to have the election annulled. Have you met him since then and what were those things you discussed?

””

We’ve never met.

So what’s your view of what he did?

We would like not to conclude what he started. We thought it was a big joke when ABN went to court. We never took him seriously. We never thought that any court will give judgment in favour of ABN and you will see it happened in the night. You will read in that book what happened after the court judgment, especially when the commission and national commissioners were on the field and I was alone.

And if the elections hadn’t been conducted, it would have been said that the military gave me money or that I was bribed not to do so. So my concern with that judgment is that the election must take place. Nigerians looked forward to it. Christians, Moslems had prayed for peaceful transition and I believe God heard our prayers. And that was why there was no loss of lives and Nigerians voted as one nation and integrated. And that’s why June 12 is a movement, a date that no person can wish away. You may have a different view. I’m talking freely. People may say May 29 and they are entitled to that, but I made it clear in the book that I think those who hail June 12 are right considering how collectively Nigerians acted as a single nation in a way that had never been experienced in this country.

In this particular instance, we had a two-party structure and national integrative movements. Some people say it’s not democratic, but democracy is not an entity. Human beings steer it towards ends and that’s why when people say you’re bringing two-party structure by fiat, yes, remember there was a political bureau. Military rule is not an aberration, but they are nationalists. They are Nigerians; they are not from Ghana or Senegal. Their children are here. They have their moments, who are civilians. So they want to make sure that things are all done properly. My commission, in May 1989, released guidelines for formation of political associates, out of which two were recommended. Remember there was even a movement during the First Republic –NNA and UPGA – showing a tendency to court a two-party structure. These 50 or so party structures are not natural. There was a tendency and the parties came together during the First Republic and even when the Action Group broke up, there were elements that joined each group. There were two broad movements and that was the tendency in 1989. Two parties were to emerge out of the 13 political associations. None of them had national spread, the way SDP and NRC had. We verified their claims throughout Nigeria and the press was part of it. Some copied our voters register to make up the membership of their party, some claimed to have structures where there was none. We told government that those who rule should be able to steer the nation towards the right direction.

What the Babangida administration did in 1989 was just to help Nigerians realize their own intentions. They wanted two parties. I think Nigerians still want two parties. What are we doing with 50 parties? I think what we now have is one party, in my own view. Others are weak. They don’t have the resources the spread or capable of constituting an alternative government to PDR so government steered NRC and SDP and they cut across.

Some of our readers may say, reading this, that if that is the role of leadership steering the nation on the path of rectitude, justice and fairness, shouldn’t the same Babangida also steer the direction of the nation to the result of the election?

You know, I don’t want to pass judgment. You’ll read the book and make up your mind. Who am I to pass judgment? I have my private views, but essentially remember this is a very complex country. You may be surprised who may be advising what including people from my own ethnic group. You don’t just take things on their own face value. You know I am a political Scientist. Remember people who have interest; in the open they will tell you a different thing. That’s what leaders suffer. People, who come to advise them, w3ell-meaning, may have their own private interest and they just appear to be projecting national interest. Sometimes, a leader can be isolated. I know that is true, and sometimes people don’t take all these factors into consideration. I have analysed in this book what I call centrifugal forces that pull apart, and centripetal forces that tend to bring together. They were at work. That’s part of the book. The fact that you appear in khaki or civilian clothes, you may belong to this or that way, and we are the same. Wait and read that book to see all these centrifugal and centripetal forces that impinged on the transitional programme. Sometimes people clamour for one job or the other or even that of the NEC chairman. Some come with different backgrounds. Some think being a lawyer or judge may be the best thing. You must be aware of these contend. And sometimes I’m not advocating for only political scientists. There are other social scientists that are familiar with the contending forces in a broad society like Nigeria. In fact, the theoretical thrust of the book is on these contending forces because before it, there had been Murtala/Obasanjo transition programme.

I pointed out the weakness in that and what Babaginda transition programme tried to address because I was the chief officer implementing that programme tried to address because I was the chief officer implementing that programme. So I was aware of these contending forces.

And you have to deal with the forces. And these forces will be in every institution of the state and one may not be aware of them. The isolated may even try to get out to see other view points of the common man on the street. So, you read the book and you’ll find all these contending forces from various ethnic groups. You’ll be surprised who played that role. For a leader to take that decision, these are the forces and many of the forces thinking of their own interest – not the interest of Nigeria. These are forces that are powerful and if you look in this book, you can find how all these forces worked from the beginning to the annulment.

Professor Maurice Iwu has described the 2003 and 2007 elections, which he conducted, as the best ever. With your own experience, just speaking honestly to Nigerians now, how would you compare those two elections, compared to the 1993 elections?

Well again, I’m reluctant to pass judgment. But you journalists are in a better position to evaluate his own effort and my own effort.

One thing I can bravely say that is I didn’t score myself. All these students at Ibadan, Nsukka, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo University won’t fail themselves if they are allowed to mark their own exam papers. Will they? I told you we came from the same university. I told you that I have been involved in political activities, but not as a politician. He is from pharmacy and has sundry knowledge about politics. The important issue is that we didn’t score ourselves. NEC, under my leadership, the elections we conducted were all conclusive. Then the presidential election was held and completed, concluded and we even announced the result. What happened was external, not internal. We conducted what international observers and national observers commended and you will find the evaluation in the book. But if those who score themselves said they have 80 or 0 percent, I have no comment. I, as a University teacher for over 30 years, professor of Political Science, I am not infallible. There must be one or two mistakes in the book. If people point them out as facts not known to me, I would accept. But I cannot score myself. And I don’t think it is wise to close their eyes to what independent observers, who have no other interest other than wishing the country well, said. So on what basis would the elections be compared?

Since you left NEC, what have you been doing?

Being a professor, I went back to the university. You know sometimes students like academics or teachers who are not only grounded in particular theories, but have had a stint in the field. I went back and wrote a number of books. It could be interesting because students do enjoy reading if you don’t intimidate them, but excite their interests. If you fix a class for 7am, they will be there. You make knowledge attractive. All my humble background is contained in that book. I love teaching and I retired and started gradually to put this book together, knowing that at the appreciate time, it will come out. You know about Ecclesiastes? Everything has its own time. There is time to keep quiet so that you don’t bore people, time to talk. It is the present President who said something is wrong with the electoral system. If it wasn’t he wouldn’t have set up the elections reform committee. I have submitted a comprehensive memorandum and have held discussions with them. I felt that I owe this obligation to Nigeria.

When have no other country and we have to put it right. I feel we should revisit the electoral reforms, modified open ballot system and option A4. We should go back to the two-party structure. We may even allow a third party for those who feel they cannot be accommodated in the two. You could see in the days of SDP and NRC that you can have integrated parties that look to value consensus, parties that raise national consciousness, parties that have spread all over the country, parties that cut across ethnic, religious groupings. I am seriously addressing this issue because I believe in it and I think that some Nigerians believe in it. As I see it, if we don’t, the alternative is movement towards one-party system. When one party is in control over 28 states and you even hear statements saying 60 years, there is danger.

You confronted Justice Bassey Ikpeme with Decree No 13 and stubbornly conducted that election. Did you notice that General Babangida was planting land mines on the path of this good intention?

That is your assumption. I hope you will read the book in a few days. When you read the book you will see what happened.

• This interview was first published in TheNEWS (hard copy) of 16 June 2008


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