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Only a constitutional review would solve the 25% FCT puzzle, according to PDP chief Pearse

Sep 25, 2023 | 2023 Elections | 0 comments

Dr. Adetokunbo Pearse, a public affairs analyst and member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Council (2023), believes a constitution review is the only way to overcome the problem over the 25 percent vote requirement in Abuja for the presidential election.

Pearse, the convener of Reset Lagos PDP, discussed the recent Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) ruling, the controversial issue of whether a presidential candidate must receive 25% of the vote in the FCT Abuja to be elected, and the 100 days of the President Bola Tinubu administration in this interview.

The PEPC’s September 6 ruling, which upheld President Bola Tinubu’s February 25 presidential victory, is still causing controversy. How do you feel about the court denying Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the PDP’s prayers?

The Presidential Election Petition Court’s ruling that Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) could not overturn Tinubu’s victory did not improve Nigeria’s judiciary. Before the tribunal’s September 6 announcement, many Nigerians thought judges were crooked. Rumours circulated that Tinubu’s friend, the Chief Justice of the Federation, had met with him in England to cement the deal.

It was incredible that the tribunal found no issues with INEC’s 2023 general election performance. The fact that the electoral authority was not punished for declaring Tinubu the winner with only 31% of the vote is ridiculous.

Did the PEPC result surprise you? Why?

The tribunal’s decision not to dismiss Tinubu was expected for several reasons. First, the tribunal’s decision to ignore Senator Godswill Akpabio and Senator Ahmed Lawan’s double nomination petition for senatorial and presidential offices signalled that Kashim Shettima’s appeal would likely be rejected. The standard was set. The court must rule the same for Lawan, Akpabio, Shettima, and Tinubu. The court must match its absurdity. That’s judicial custom.

The ‘powers that be’ were unwilling to question the current quo after Judge Mary Odili said Atiku and Obi had no case.

The decision to broadcast the judgement live contrasted with past opposition to live PEPC proceedings. What happened?

Many top lawyers opposed televising tribunal proceedings because it would have exposed the court’s actions. The judges recognised the matter was sensitive. Most certainly, national security was threatened. For instance, I feared one or more presidential candidates had hacked INEC’s server using advanced AI technology. INEC would be humiliated to admit it lost the election. This may explain why it released the results quickly, with only 31% of results in. Televising the final verdict reading would not allow public scrutiny like televising the processes.

What are your thoughts on the court’s judgement prioritising technicalities over justice?

Famous saying: The Law is made for man, not man for the law. If a murderer is apprehended with a smoking gun, but his counsel pleads insanity, he may be pardoned on a technicality. Judges determine justice. This is why only the most honest judges should serve. Society suffers because judges are human.

Do you agree with the PEPC that a presidential candidate does not need 25% of FCT votes if he has received majority votes in two-thirds of the federation?

Due to the imprecise wording in the constitution, the tribunal’s ruling that a candidate need not score at least 25% in Abuja if they had won the most votes and scored the necessary 25% in two-thirds of the 36 states is hard to dispute.

Every presidential election since 1999 has faced the issue of winning at least 25% of FCT votes. No interpretation is universal unless it is reworded and the ambiguity removed.

Atiku, who did not get 25% in Abuja, had little motive to raise the issue, whereas Obi, who won, thought it was an excellent appeal case. This confusing FCT 25% or no 25% problem is another reason to examine the 1999 Constitution urgently.

President Tinubu has been in office for 100 days. How is the administration doing?

The first 100 days of Tinubu’s presidency were misery for Nigerians. His bold declaration of petrol subsidy withdrawal at his May 29 inauguration shook the economy. Petrol prices rose from N185 to N500 per litre. The price rose to N616 today.

Since petrol powers transportation and production, the skyrocketing price of petrol has devastated both the commercial and public sectors.

The increasing cost of living has hurt the public. After Tinubu became president, transportation, housing, health, and everyday needs like clothing and soap have cost two or three times more. Many Nigerians struggle to feed their families.

Living costs are at an all-time high. Around 24% inflation. Federal government schools and colleges have raised tuition, making it harder for parents to send their children to school. With 80 per cent of Nigerians earning less than N150,000 per month and over 60 per cent earning the official minimum wage of N30,000, People are suffering.

Tinubu’s economic policies hurt the private sector. The rising cost of petroleum, diesel, electricity, and raw materials has made production nearly impossible. Due to production issues, companies are closing or cutting jobs.

The weakening currency shows the dismal economic conditions. On May 29, Tinubu became president at a bank rate of 450/1 Naira to the US dollar. The open market rate was 750/1. The Naira has fallen to 740/1 at the bank rate and 900/1 at the open market 100 days into his presidency.

As well as his economic policies, Tinubu’s foreign policy has endangered Nigerian lives. In his first 60 days as ECOWAS chairman, he threatened war with the Niger Republic.

The administration has praised Tinubu’s recent trips to India and Dubai for attracting international investment. With the high degree of insecurity and the ongoing challenge to the administration’s legitimacy, especially by labour unions, foreign investors may not find Nigeria attractive.

Rapid military coups are sweeping West and Central Africa. What caused it in Mali, Guinea, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Niger Republic, and Gabon in the last three years?

Since 2020, military coups have overthrown democratically elected presidents in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Gabon. Poor government, poverty, and insecurity are common coup plotters’ justifications. These countries are former French colonies undergoing political transition. The military junta blamed their leaders for failing to free their country from France’s economic and political shackles.

History shows that the French colonial system of ‘Assimilation’ bonded former colonies securely to the colonial rulers, unlike the British ‘Indirect Control’ system. According to ‘Assimilation’, the colonised and coloniser owned a colony’s economic resources. Politics were also intertwined. The president of a French settlement was a French parliamentarian. The alliance favours France, unfortunately. The president of a French colony could sit in parliament but not vote. Yet, the French government could freely send troops and advisors to former colonies.

Economic relations with France are the former colonies’ biggest problem. France forced the colonies to sign an agreement giving them ownership of their mineral riches in exchange for freedom. The deal also required France to have first dibs on former colonial exports. French banks must hold all previous colonial foreign earnings.

France bought Niger’s uranium at 80 Euros per tonne while the market price was 200 Euros due to this exploitative relationship. France uses inexpensive Nigerien uranium to fuel its electricity, while most Nigeriens live in darkness.

Coup plotters have had widespread support in all former French colonies where coups have occurred. The citizens dislike France and seek partnerships with Russia and China.

Former French colonies want to join the New World Order, likely with the BRICS Union, which has no harsh colonial past with them. The military takeovers of former French colonies may be meant to end colonialism and foreign-backed regimes. Many African nations want friendly trade partnerships with international powers rather than political rulers.

How do you view former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent recommendation that African nations reconsider democracy and choose systems and governments that suit their needs?

Old President Obasanjo is incorrect to criticise democracy. Obasanjo’s frustration with the system is understandable, given his public image as a self-centred demagogue.

Sir Winston Churchill, a former UK Prime Minister, has said that democracy is the best political system society has ever had, despite its flaws.

Every democratic nation must discover its path to succeed. We must adjust the system to local conditions. The UK, USA, France, Spain, and Kenya have different democratic practices.

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