Nigerians must help INEC deliver in 2023

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David Sentonji is the member representing Badagry Constituency II in the Lagos State Legislative Assembly. He is chairman of the House Committee on Information, Strategy and Security. In this exclusive interview with INOBONG IWOK, he assesses the state of the nation, the APC’s chances in the 2023 general election, among other issues. Excerpts:

What do you think of the promulgation of the amended electoral law by President Muhammadu Buhari?

It’s a very positive development, you know, people want changes in the electoral system and these changes are necessary. If you look, we’re in a modern world now, where people use ATMs to withdraw money and people believe that when you use electronic systems, ballot box theft and some of those issues would be greatly minimized.

You see what happened in Anambra State, in one of the gubernatorial primaries; one party candidate received more votes than he had in the main election.

I believe to a large extent that this new amendment would reflect the will of the people and that other anomalies could be checked and the results would be published in time.

But the question of the modification of certain clauses arouses controversy. Is it necessary at this stage?

It is democracy. The President can propose his idea and the legislator has the prerogative to say yes or no to the requested proposal.

Law making is a dynamic process, as society improves, we will continue to improve our laws to make it better. The world is a dynamic process as society changes and electoral law would change to reflect those changes. Well, I believed that the deficiency noted would be corrected in the future.

The National Assembly said that the amendment it made is what it wants; I thought we would keep changing our laws to make it bigger. This amendment is what would get us through to the 2023 general election.

Observers say APC could be consumed by internal crisis until 2023; we saw it before the congress. What is your opinion?

For now, APC is the largest political party in Nigeria and Africa. So you don’t expect everything to be rosy all the time. It is normal in political parties that people disagree, agree and that there are crises here and there, but that would be settled between us like internal problems.

Differences are not abnormal in politics, you call it a crisis; to me, it can happen as long as people conform to party rule. I think we would come out with a stronger group before the 2023 general election.

I can tell you that the APC would produce the next president of the country next year and that would be Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, our national leader would emerge the presidential candidate and the APC would win.

Do you honestly think APC deserves to come back in 2023?

Yes, we did not do badly, APC deserves to come back in 2023; I’m sure some Nigerians would admit that.

The question of insecurity is dealt with; it was worse during the Goodluck Jonathan era when a particular part of the country was taken over by Boko Haram. So let’s look at this from a global perspective and from what they’ve done.

For example, our economy depends on the world price of oil and we know that is not up to us to determine. Nigerians know that only people can deliver them. Even the PDP who ruled for 16 years, what did they do? I’m optimistic about APC’s chances in 2023.

Your second term in the House is coming to an end, what impact are you having on your constituency?

I have done a lot for my people in my constituency over the past four years, my people are happy with me. They want me back in the House for another four years and some leaders have convinced me to consider returning for a third term in the House.

When INEC lifts the ban on political activities, I will, but so far I have not given them feedback. I’ve been doing a lot of things lately; my flagship project is the construction of a block of six classrooms in my constituency. I did it only through my efforts; it was commissioned by the president, and several legislators were present during commissioning.

When I took office, I walked around my constituency and found that several schools had infrastructure deficiencies. I also facilitated several projects; for example, in Olorundare LCDA, before I came to the Chamber, there were only two secondary schools, can you imagine they now have more secondary schools. Over the past few years, I have facilitated the construction of more schools.

What is your take on the presidential zoning debate, particularly the Southeast’s clamor that it’s his turn to rule?

We are all Nigerians and for peace to reign, we understood that the presidency should move to all major regions of the country.

The western and northern regions produced the president, but western Nigeria supported the APC so much by winning the elections for the APC in the south west.

So how do you want to pay them? The other region that claims the president, what is his contribution to the victory of the APC so far? West supported the APC. It is right that the western part of the country produces the president for his contribution.

I believe the next president should come from the western part of Nigeria and Asiwaju should be the president and we are working diligently to make sure he wins.

It is fair and just that the South West gets the presidency, because we have contributed to the growth of APC more than any region.

To read also: The New APC: How rejected stones become cornerstones!

Don’t you think we need a younger candidate, given the rigor of the office?

It’s not something to worry about for me, will he carry a block? It’s brain work. So what are you talking about? He is a man who travels, lecturing and consulting across the country. Look at America, the president is on the move, he’s also in his sixties and he’s very nimble.

What is the difference with that of Tinubu? He is strong and mobile; what Tinubu does at his age, I can assure you that some people can’t even do it.

It’s not just for talking; he would make a good president for the country. He looks very healthy; watch it go from one state to another. I don’t know what else you need to be president other than that.

Do you trust INEC to deliver next year?

There is no need to be alarmed. Look what they did in Anambra: the election was free and fair; it is up to us to continue to support them. I am convinced that they will do a good job in 2023.

I think that the recent modification of the electoral law would strengthen their performance. I trust them, they are Nigerians and they know the implications of not giving us free and fair elections next year. i want to believe INEC is here to do what is right.

What are the major bills passed by the Lagos State Legislature in recent times?

The House has passed many laws, we are the best in the country and we do a lot for the country. I firmly believe that we are at the top of the game in the Lagos State Legislative Assembly. We have a good manager; I mean the President and we are very happy with him. He is the most senior legislator; we encourage it to continue, which is why Lagos is ahead of other states in terms of legislation.

Why are you running for a third term in the House, why not give others a chance?

You know, the older the wine, the better. In the Legislative Chamber, the longer you stay, the more experience you have. Experience matters a lot and people are already asking me to come back to the Chamber, I want to leverage that to continue doing what they asked me to do for them.

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