Deployment of soldiers for elections unconstitutional – Agunbiade

Sanai Agunbiade, is a legal practitioner and a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, representing Ikorodu Constituency 1. In this interview with Senior Reporter, AKINWUNMI KING,  he condemned the planned deployment of soldiers for the forthcoming elections. He also spoke on the governorship election in Lagos State and other issues. Excerpts: 


Being the representative of Ikorodu Constituency 1 in the House, there have been allegations that the developmental projects in Ikorodu Area of Lagos are coming too late, especially when election is around the corner?

APC government is properly rooted in Ikorodu area and more so Ikorodu people are democrats. They are progressives and they have been voting for the progressives since the days of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). So any day anytime, Ikorodu remains progressives. The government of Lagos State has actually executed a lot of projects in Ikorodu and one of the projects, which is outstanding, is the Mile 12-Ikorodu Road. When the road is properly completed, I would be waiting to see a road that is better than it in Lagos State based on the construction, the quality of work done and the design, taking into consideration the population of the people around that axis. We have about six pedestrian bridges in the area; we are having BRT Lane and bus shelters there.

Aside from that, it is going to be lit and you can drive from Mile 12 to Ikorodu under a well illuminated environment. Don’t forget that this is a Federal road that should have been done by the Federal Government. There are three federal roads in Ikorodu; one from Mile 12 to Ikorodu Roundabout; the other one from Ikorodu to Shagamu, the Lagos boundary there is Ita Oluwo after the Army Barracks; then the one from Ikorodu to Itokin.

These federal roads have not been attended to as they should be and we have the office of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) on Shagamu Road and what is disgusting is that there are pot holes few meters to that office and few meters after the office. Move down Oriwu Club Road there, the road is entirely bad, the state house of Assembly had to write letters before they could rehabilitate Okegbegun-Odogunyan axis of the road, which has gone bad again because of the shoddy work done there.

Also, the Ikorodu-Itokin Road got terribly bad and it was rehabilitated, but it has gone bad again, only God would help us, when the rain starts properly. What we are saying is that Ikorodu people know which government is their own. The same APC government did the road from Ipakodo to Ibese; the state government is now taking the road from Ebute to Igbogbo, and the same APC Government has done the road from Eta Ona to Itamaga, a road that was last done in 1958. They did not stop there, they have linked it to Itokin Road; they are taking the road from Itamaga to Ijede. This is a government that has rehabilitated schools, a government that has given us housing schemes amongst others, a government that has given us a pediatrics hospital that is taking care of the children. This is a government that has added to the value of the people.

Whether it is coming late or not does not matter; we must not forget that the government executes projects based on its income and Ikorodu is one of the several areas in the state comprising 20 Local Governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDA). You may start a project this year and it may take three years for it to be completed. Look at Awolowo Road in Ikorodu, we started agitating for the project in 2008, the government commenced the construction in 2010 and because of the enormity of infrastructural needs in Lagos State and the pressure that is being put on infrastructure in the state due to the large the population of the state and also since the Federal Government has not been alive to its responsibilities, there is a lot of pressure on the expenses of the state government.

So, the Ikorodu-Itamaga Road has to be divided into phases; Phase 1, Phase 2 and the third phase is going on. What is important is that is the government alive to its responsibility, yes it has been. Let the PDP-led Federal Government come and tell us what they have done in Ikorodu. They have federal roads in Ikorodu, they keep telling us they have awarded the contract for their construction, but all that we have been seeing are palliatives.

Some people have claimed that  the fact that the Governorship candidate of the PDP, Jimi Agbaje is from Ikorodyu would limit the chances of your party in the governorship election. What is your reaction to this?

The Governorship candidate of the PDP, Jimi Agbaje is claiming to come from Ikorodu, you cannot just suddenly remember your father’s house when you need something from the people. How would you describe a son that abandoned his father’s place for years only for that child to remember the place or when he needed scholarship from the government? There are prominent clubs in Ikorodu, let him tell us which of the club he belongs to. Let him tell us how many times he has attended Ikorodu Oga Day since we started holding it 27 years ago, let him tell us the one he participated in.

He claimed to come from Ikorodu, he did not register in the area, he registered in Apapa or somewhere, so the man would not be voting in Ikorodu, and he claims to come from the area, when you claim to come from a place, you must identify with the place.

As far we are concerned, he is not from Ikorodu. When he came out for the governorship election in 2007, he did not claim to come from Ikorodu, he claimed to come from Elegbata Area in Isale Eko, Lagos . How come now that the election is near that he is claiming to come from Ikorodu, it is strange to some of us why the man is now claiming that he came from Ikorodu. He is not voting in Ikorodu and so he is not proud of Ikorodu and some of us are not proud of him and we doubt that claim. Everybody knows I am from Ikorodu, I schooled in Ikorodu and I also live in Ikorodu.

The issue of violence is something that is giving people a lot of concern as this election is approaching and there are fears all over the land, do you think the electoral process would go smoothly?

The polity has been unduly charged by the desperation of some people and I feel we don’t have to get desperate to get to power; all we need to parade is our credentials for the people to give us votes. How long have you been in government? What have you done with the mandate of the people? How do people see or judge you? You cannot garner votes by violence; you can only prevent the people from voting for who they would have voted for by violence. We keep saying that it is only the living that can aspire, if you allow yourself to be used as thugs and get killed in the process, nobody would do anything for your family. Death marks the end of a man with all his aspirations and yearnings in life, if you are not killed and maimed, the injury would be there till eternity, you would not be happy with yourself. Good luck to you if you are only injured and not incapacitated.

People should not throw Nigeria back into a barbaric period of electoral thuggery. What we should be talking about now are issues concerning what you have been able to do, people would judge, people would decide, people would vote. This looks irritating, somebody pasted a poster, you place your own poster on the person’s poster, that would not make people to vote for you because people must have seen the poster yesterday and they would see that you pasted your own on it or tore the poster. Can you tear somebody’s destiny and expect your own destiny to hold, so it is undue provocation and I would blame all of these on the National Orientation Agency (NOA), which keeps getting votes from the government, but is only relevant, when elections are around.

I have not even heard of them recently, may be they have even been scrapped. NOA is to give orientation to Nigerians before the election on what they need to look for in candidates, what they need to look for in campaigns, conducts, talk to the voters on how to make use of their votes.

Look at what happened in Okrika, Rivers State, it is barbaric. A candidate is entitled to canvass for votes anywhere in the country, a national party, registered in Nigeria should not be barred from campaigning in any part of the country. But what happened in Okirika, there were free for all shootings to the extent that a security man died, why? If that could happen during a campaign, how do we guarantee that worst would not happen during elections?

So, would you support the use of soldiers during elections to stop electoral violence?

I do not support it and I think it should not be a cause for debates any longer because two courts in Nigeria have given judgments concerning it. A Federal High Court in Abuja and the Court of Appeal in Sokoto have said that it is improper to use soldiers for elections. As far back as 2005, in the case of one Yusuf vs Obasanjo; and Buhari vs Obasanjo in the same year, the Court of Appeal held in two different judgments that the issue of security and safety during elections should be the responsibility of the police, and that we should endeavour to keep the military out of our nascent democracy or else we would be over-militarizing our democratic process, which is what we are saying. The 1999 Constitution in Section 217, describes the function of the military as including defending Nigeria against internal aggression, protection the territorial integrity of Nigeria and securing the boundaries of Nigeria on land, sea and air.

However, if the military is to do any other job aside the ones assigned to them, the President or the Federal Government can only give them the go-ahead subject to the approval of the National Assembly. It should not be whimsical, which means the President ought to have approached the National Assembly, which would set a condition for him, if they say ‘no,’ this means the people have spoken. The presidency should not overreach the National Assembly. These are the conditions, so with all of these and the constitutional provisions, we should not be debating the matter again. Unless you go to a court of higher jurisdiction to overturn the judgment, the decision is sacrosanct and whoever works against it is in contempt of the court.

So, do we now blame the National Assembly for some of these problems?

Well, in a National Assembly dominated by the party, whose alter ego is the one committing the blunder, how do they correct him? They might not even know until it came to the fore now. Now that we are testing the constitution, pronouncements are being made by the courts and we have to begin to do the right thing.

What is your view on the use of card readers for the general elections?

I am in support of card readers because the elections have to be free and fair. When you are doing the registration, your bio data was taken, you thumb was printed and now that you want to vote, to be sure that it is your card, one man, one vote, then there must something that would verify that this is your card. That would prevent a living from using the card of the dead. That would prevent a Jacob from using the card of Esau and it would be clear if you are not voting, which makes the election free and fair. It would also prevent the use of fake PVCs. Nigeria has gone so scientific that anybody can just print anything anywhere.

Are you satisfied with the distribution of PVC so far by the INEC, especially in Lagos State ?

What I know is that no system is 100 per cent perfect, if an appreciable number of people have registered and taken their PVCs, I want to say that the elections should hold. It is not everybody that registered that would go and collect his/her PVC, some of them would have died, will the dead collect their cards? Some people have relocated and some would not even go out to collect the cards. Yes, there are some lapses on the part of INEC; we the candidates have had to encourage many people to go for the PVCs. You would see the results of the election; you would come and tell me if it is everybody that collected the PVC that would vote.

Do you see your party, the APC taking over power from the PDP going by the power of incumbency?

Power of incumbency is nothing, when there are no credentials to parade for seeking office. Nigerian populace, the voters are more enlightened, they can ask questions, what have you done, some people have been asking me about what I have done and I have catalogued them, I have circulated it and I am still circulating it that this is what I have done before asking for another mandate. Since Nigerians are now looking for the track records of people that are contesting, they have been looking for the track records of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.) based on what he has done over the years that he has been given responsibility and because he is a man of integrity, the PDP is jittery and they came up with the certificate scandal, and the man has been able to prove himself.  Now, they are saying he is sick and that he didn’t go to London , we keep hearing all of these because they believe that he is a man that must be stopped. They went to court for his disqualification, leave Nigerians to judge who they want to vote for, the qualification of the contestants is stipulated in the constitution. Having done that, the next qualification is the people’s perception of who you are, the chances of the APC are so high. If that election had taken place on February 14th, President Goodluck Jonathan would have been humiliated with the number of votes he would have got. But now, they are tidying up, they are doing everything to give them a soft landing, but that soft landing cannot give them victory because Nigerians are yearning for change, and that change, by the grace of God, come March 28th, Nigerians would be rescued from the siege of unemployment, lack of electricity, lack of good education, siege of impunity and the rest of it. March 28th would be a day that Nigerians would be liberated by the votes of Nigerians that are yearning for change from all areas.