‘Defection, a feature of developing democracy’

Dr. Akin Ogunsakin is an Akure-based legal practitioner. In this interview with Abimbola Akindunbi, he speaks on proliferation of political parties, many of which are without ideology and the need for the electorate to ensure they vote in people of integrity into power, come 2019.

 Excerpts:

Can we meet you sir?

I am Dr. Akin Ogunsakin, a lawyer by profession. I am from Ogbagi-Akoko in Ondo state.  l attended St. John Anglican primary school, Ogbagi-Akoko. (1976) Irun-Ogbagi Anglican Grammar  school (1982). Then I proceeded to the  Ondo State College of Art and Science, Ikare -Akoko (1984) and later Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, where I obtained LL.B in 2005. I was at the Nigerian Law School (2006 ) BL University of Lagos. LLM(2014). I did my PhD at the lnternational University, Bermenda, Republic of Cameroon.

 As a lawyer, what inspired you into politics?

I am inspired into politics because it is difficult to separate politics from law. Law is a twin sister of politics. The political scientist borrowed tremendously from law. My being in politics is part of fulfilling my obligations as a true democrat and giving back to the society by rendering services.

Looking at the Nigerian politics, some people are of the opinion that politics is a game. Is that true?

It depends on individual perception. Some see politics as a means of enriching their pockets. While some politicians believe that politics is all about service to the people. Nigerian politics is not an ideal meaning of what politics should be. Our politics is locally tainted towards malice and lack of clear cut ideology.

Some people believe that  most politicians do not have integrity, particularly, in terms of fulfilling their promises during their electioneering campaigns. How would you react to this?

Let me say this with all sense of humility, that integrity is a relative word. It has to do with peoples’ orientation, and upbringing. Honestly, it is not all politicians that are bereft of integrity. Our Elder stateman, late Chief Adekunle Ajasin, was a Governor of this state without blemish. All the manifestoes of his party( UPN ) were carried out to the letter. I was a beneficiary of his free education policy. Ajasin was a good example.

Is proliferation of political parties good for our democracy?

My answer to that is No. Why? For the multiplicity of parties, a number of them are not viable. No followers, no offices, as stipulated by the Electoral Act. To me,  they are wasteful and very unnecessary. Advanced Democracy of the United States harbour only two political parties. Republican and Democrat with net GDP of $16 trillion.  In Nigeria, it is only PDP or APC that can be given accommodation at  the villa. No other smaller parties can lay claim to that. It is sacrosant.

But despite the  proliferation of political parties, why is it that only two political parties in Nigeria, APC and PDP are popular?

 I have said it before. We are dissipating energy unnecessarily. The recent events in Nigeria show that there is no third force in our political landscape. The two giants political parties have come to stay.

Is Nigeria ripe enough to have a female governor or president?

This is a funny question. You may ask me why? Chapter VI section 131 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended says,  “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of president, if  he or she is a citizen of Nigeria by birth.

It is clear from the above postulation that, a citizen of Nigeria, either as a male or  female, is qualified to be president or Governor. Women must be proactive in their bids to be either President of the nation, or Governors of their states.  l think they have what it takes to lead us. Nigeria is ready because some of them are in the National Assembly already. Hope is rising and surely, sooner than later, they will get there.

What is your position on the failure of  executive and the legislature at the federal level to comply with the rule of law?

It is unfortunate. The three arms of Government derived their powers from the Constitution. Sections 4, 5, 6 respectively of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, attested to this. The fountain head of our Constitution is Rule of law. Rule of law presupposes that the three arms of government must be separated with different responsibilities. None of the arm is allowed by law to usurp the duties of another. Deductively, if the executive is truly flexing with court orders,  well, wait a moment,  they will soon have themselves to blame, because if citizens follow government’s bad example and refuse to obey court orders, it will not only lead to disruption of justice, but also to chaos, anarchy and ultimately, disemberment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

There have been series of constitutional amendments, is there any need for further amendment of our constitution or we should have a brand new one?

It is a normal occurrence to amend the  constitution. Amendment will only correct imperfection inherent in the draftmen. No constitution is bad. It all depends on its implementation. Bring the constitution of the  United States of America to Nigeria today, we are going to mess it up. I think amendment is a normal legislative duties to correct fundamental imperfection in our laws.

As important as amendment could be, it is quite surprising, that while drafting the Constitution of  the American Union  in 1789, the founding fathers forgot to enshrine therein, the Right of man on which they rested their case for rebellion against  the Mother country. It was not until 1791,  that the Congress passed the ten amendments to the Constitution guaranteing to individual, the following rights, among others :  right to life,  right to dignity of person, freedom of assembly and association, right to  vote and be voted for, etc. Amendment is essentially to correct fundamental mistakes in any constitution.

How will you rate our democratic experience?

We must appreciate that all the military the administrations in Nigeria have operated under decrees. There is still lacking those elements of constitutionalism democratic rule where political groups are free to organize in opposition to the government in office. We have effective legal guarantees of fundamental civil liberties enforced by an independent judiciary. You will agree with me that the nature of military administration does not admit all these requirements. I  make bold to say here that it is a government under law, but certainly not under the rule of law.  It is often said, the worse democratic rule is better than the most benevolent military administration. Therefore, we are on course. We shall get there. Definitely not now.

What is your advice of vote buying and selling and the right on the electorate?

Let me admonish all eligible voters to desist from selling their mandates to undeserved leaders. Our 8th National Assembly has been the most turmultous ever, since the independence of our great nation, because  a lot of undeserved men were voted for having collected peanut from them. Go get your permanent voter’s card and vote wisely. Stop mortgaging your life and that of your children yet unborn.

In recent times, we have been witnessing series of defections. Would you say this development is a plus for our democracy?

Defection from either APC to PDP and PDP to APC or any other party, is not unusual.  It is part of features of developing democracy. Our democratic norms are not based on ideology. We are driven by our pockets and selfish interests. Our democratic institutions are not growing. Money is the determinant. We refused to learn from our forefathers, who were politicians with ideologies. We are sitting on a gun powder that will surely explode. Honestly speaking, l do not see Nigeria thriving under the two main competing forces.

Our democratic norms are not based on ideology. We are driven by our pockets and selfish interests. Our democratic institutions are not growing. Money is the determinant. We refused to learn from our forefathers, who were politicians with ideologies.

Owena Press Limited (Publisher of The Hope Newspaper), Akure

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