The Senator representing Oyo-South senatorial district, Olufemi Lanlehin, in this interview with OLUFEMI ATOYEBI, calls for a review of Nigeria’s electoral process
What’s your view of Nigeria’s electoral process?
Let me start by saying that the average voters in Nigeria are desirous of the simple things of life. Their expectations from the government are not complex or extravagant. But because they have been thrown around and battered, they find themselves in difficult situations where they find it difficult to meet basic needs in life. When a man is faced with such a problem, his choices are limited. Election credibility will be threatened because politicians will take advantage of the poor voters.
That is why Nigeria must reform its electoral process to have free, fair, acceptable and violent-free elections. That is when credible people who are ready to serve the people would be involved in politics. The will of the electorate must be respected.
Do you think the recent Ekiti State governorship election was free and fair?
Judging by the impression that people have, one can see that the election was free and fair even if it was not perfect. Once you put together a process that is able to measure the people’s wishes, we should accept the result of such an election. That is what the Independent National Electoral Commission has achieved with Ekiti election.
What are the problems of the present process by which Nigerians leaders are produced?
In a situation where candidates need to break the bank and keep an army of thugs to protect themselves or their votes, a large segment of intelligent, competent and patriotic Nigerians will be kept away from sensitive positions in the country. In the olden days, politicians needed not have so much money to contest for positions. Once the party identified your attributes and competence and the community was satisfied with your representation, the party would finance the campaign and all financial obligations.
That was why the best came forward to contest at the time and not moneybags with godfathers. Unfortunately, I am a part of the new system. We cannot do anything about that but we should trace our way back to the happier times when poor people and teachers with no bicycles were elected as leaders. Today, politicians who invest so much in elections expect to make gain and save money for future elections. It’s a vicious circle and it keeps going on like that. That is why delivery of services and democratic dividends to the people will continue to suffer.
How do we get out of this?
Like I said, the electoral process must change. We must have an INEC that is truly independent and honest. The state electoral system is poor. When you allow a governor to control an electoral system, he will do everything to ensure his party wins all the councils’ chairmanship and counsellorship positions in the state. The win-at-all-cost syndrome is deep in the minds of our politicians and that is why the state police proposal will never be popular. The politicians will use the police at their disposal as a weapon of oppression.
You were a loyalist of the late Lam Adesina who was a pioneer leader of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, which later merged with other parties to form the All Progressives Congress. Why did you dump the party for Accord Party in Oyo State?
As politicians and political parties, human beings should be at the centre of anything we are doing. Our activities must revolve round their welfare, comfort and happiness. This is an area where I think that the APC is not doing enough. The people are complaining because they are not the focal point of this administration’s agenda. I am close to the people and as a former member of the party; I know what is going on. I know that our people are not happy with the party. I had to obey the wishes of the people and move to a party that has the people’s interest at heart.
Apart from the political aspect, I am familiar with everyone in Accord Party. I left the APC because of Governor Abiola Ajimobi. I was elected a senator before he was elected a governor. I worked hard for him to emerge as governor. We told him to make the people his central focus but he refused. We told him not to demolish shops and buildings but he was adamant.
We all want roads and all those good things but those are contract-driven development that we could have achieved easily. Education, infrastructure and people-oriented policies are what we need. I told him the truth but he refused to listen. People came to my house many times to complain and I presented them to him but he would not listen.
But Nigerian politicians are known for leaving a party for another party when they feel they are not getting what they want.
Nigeria’s politics has yet to build political camps with straight ideologies. Our problems are so vast and sometimes you find people of different political ideologies moving to a party with another ideology. They deviate from a stated intention. When this happens, you will discover that circumstances bring change to individual and the society. However, some make the attempt to move to a camp that has ideologies similar to their own. When people deviate from the path that has been agreed upon and you cannot change them, the best thing is to leave.
Are there things you did not get in your former party?
The leadership style of the Accord Party attracted me. The internal democracy in the party is unequalled and members have the same ideology aimed towards bringing governance to the people. The leadership is stable and vibrant.
We must have stable and democratic leadership for our politics to be stable. I have bought two new buses for the party because I believe we owe the party a duty to help make it stronger and ease the mass movement of its members at this critical period. It is a very popular party that identifies with the grass-roots and as loyal members, we must all contribute to its success.
Would you say that these qualities are not present in your former party?
I don’t want to comment on that. The APC is trying to get together but there is more to do.
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