For Itse Sagay, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Tinubu, won the 2023 presidential election.
In an exclusive interview with THE WHISTLER, the legal luminary said the widespread votes secured by Tinubu showed clearly he won the election.
A distinguished scholar ,Constitutional Lawyer, author and human rights advocate, he was born Itsejuwa Esanjumi Sagay on 20th December 1940 in Ibadan, Oyo State.
He’s the founding Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Benin and an author of The Nigerian Law of Contract, regarded as an epochal publication, which remains ‘The Bible’ on Nigerian contract law.
The legal luminary has served in ad-hoc capacities in a number of Nigerian and international institutions, including: the OAU, UNDP, Nigerian Law Reform Commission, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Nigerian Council for Legal Education, UN Special Committee Against Apartheid, amongst others.
In this interview, he bares his mind on the election where he berated Nigerian politicians for not having the spirit of sportsmanship to concede defeat among, other issues in the country.
‘This Is One Of the Best Elections We Ever Had’
Sagay rates the 2023 elections as one of the best that had been conducted in Nigeria noting that Nigerians and critics generally have been very unfair to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
He said, “I think people have been very unfair to INEC. I still think this is one of the best elections we ever had.
“A few incidents in Lagos and so on where there was violence cannot result in condemnation of an election conducted in over 176,000 polling stations.
“So, it’s an immense task. And the problem we had was less than point zero one of the magnitude of the exercise.
“So, I think it was a good election. The results reflect the wishes of the people of this country. And I know the court will confirm that.
“The fact that they didn’t upload the results simultaneously with the declaration of results at the polling stations does not affect the validity because at the end of the day, it is those sheets at the polling stations, which are supposed to be uploaded that would be used in computing the manual one, that was done. So it is still the same source.”
‘INEC’s Failure To Upload Results From Polling Stations Not Deliberate’
The legal expert said INEC did not act deliberately when it failed to upload results from the polling units to its server which was specifically created for the purpose.
He noted while absolving INEC of any complicity that it was a glitch which happens even in advanced democracy, but which does not affect the legitimacy and transparency of the election.
“The so-called failure to obey (Electoral Act and Election Guidelines ) was not deliberate. They had problems; it’s technology. And you know we have so many lapses in this country where there’s no data or whatever; no capacity to transmit because of the situation in the country. So, you can’t blame them for that.
“That’s number one. Number two, we’re talking about results. If at the end of the day, the originator of results, is the results from the polling units; that’s where everything comes from, so if you can get it manually… which in fact is being done all over the world … in America when there’s any dispute about the electronic results, they go manual, they go and count ballot by ballot.
“So, I don’t think the validity is affected in many ways by that electronic glitch, which made it difficult for them to upload the results.”
‘It’s Desperation To Say The Winner Must Have 25% In Abuja’
Speaking on the status of Abuja that for any candidate to be returned elected he must score 25% of lawful votes before he is declared the winner, Sagay declared, “Forget the status of Abuja and the 25%. Forget that!
“That is desperation for anybody to say, everybody has to have at least one-quarter in Abuja before you can be declared winner, there’s no such thing.
“It is only illiterates and in fact, I will say crazy countries that will base results of an election on one particular part of the country.
“So, if you win like 99% of the votes in all the states, and then you don’t have one-quarter of the votes in Abuja, you have lost the election?
“You know, that’s a crazy, a very crazy idea. And it’s out of desperation. I think we should just forget about it, it has no effect,” he said.
‘Those Who Have Seen Supreme Court Judgement On Abuja Said It Doesn’t Matter ‘
He acknowledged that he has heard of an extant Supreme Court judgement concerning the status of Abuja that a candidate must score 25% before being returned elected, explaining that those who have read the judgement said it was not true.
Sagay said Abuja is recognized as the 37th state in the country.
“I’m told there is a judgement like that and the judgement, according to those who have seen it, (I didn’t know there was), is that Abuja doesn’t matter on this issue.
“It has nothing special, it’s just like a state in the country. So effectively, we have 37 states, if you get one quarter of the votes, in two-thirds of those 37 states then you’ve fulfilled one condition.
“The second condition is that you have more votes, the highest votes not majority, highest votes, so even if the other two combine is more than you, it doesn’t matter.
“If you have the highest votes, and you have 25% of the votes in two-thirds of 37, you have won. So as far as this law is concerned, Abuja is like a state when you are dealing with that aspect.
“We have this scenario many times. You inaugurate the candidate as president, the case goes on.
“I give you an example. Remember the case of Ngige (Chris of Anambra State) when Peter Obi challenged him, it took almost three years. Ngige was there for about three years before Obi was finally declared the rightful winner.
“The same thing happened in Osun State when this former military man (Olagunsoye Oyinlola) was the governor, it took years for the former governor, Rauf Aragbesola, to be declared the rightful winner.
“That’s why you have off-season governorship elections in Osun, Anambra. So, it doesn’t matter. Government goes on. The right of the winner to be in office is confirmed until the Supreme Court finally decides that he did not win.”
‘Security Should Be Number One And Tackled From Day One’
Setting the agenda for the new president, he said security should be number one on his agenda and should be the focus from the very day he takes over as president.
“Security, that’s number one so everybody can feel safe, can travel by road again; can travel by rail and so that we do not crowd the airport as we all do now.
“People can go to farms and do their farming and all the other activities that they cannot do now; we need security very badly.
‘New President Should Sack CBN Governor Emefiele On The First Day’
He pointed out that the new president should immediately sack the governor of the Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele, concerning his handling of the naira.
He said the new CBN governor should engender new monetary policy that would reverse Emefiele’s policy that has caused stress and is a source of woes to the people.
“Let me say as the old notes are being withdrawn and the new notes are being brought out for public use, they should be equivalent, there should be no change in volume.
“In other words, if they were to introduced N20 billion worth of new notes, they can withdraw N20 billion naira worth of old notes so that there can be seamless interchange, and nobody will notice, you just see less and less of the old notes and more and more new ones and so nobody would be affected.
“Secondly, I think the first duty the new president has to carry out is to sack Emefiele (Godwin) and put somebody who has feelings for humanity, who has humanity in him. And will not bring stress and pain and devastation to poor Nigerians as he has done. So, the first thing is to sack him if he has not left by himself voluntarily.”
‘Emefiele Misled The President ‘
He averred that Emefiele must have misled the president into taking the monetary policy, which experts have said has wrecked the economy .
“I think he misled the President, the president trusted him. He misled the president to think that it will bring sanity into the electoral process. That people will not buy votes. That’s the main thing.
“Secondly, that those who have money hidden at home would bring the money out and that such money will be in circulation again.
“Ultimately also those who are hiding money in their premises and so on, each time there’s a time limit and if they don’t bring it out they would lose and lose out completely.
“I think those are the reasons he just persuaded the president who in good faith now allowed him to do what he’s doing.”
‘Emefiele, For Contempt Of Supreme Court Ruling Should Be Arrested And Imprisoned’
The PACAC Chairman further noted that Buhari has immunity and cannot be held accountable for disobeying the supreme court decision on the naira.
He however pointed out that Emefiele should be the person that should be arrested and jailed for not honouring the apex court ruling.
“The Supreme Court rulings are binding on all of us, they are binding on everybody, and they are supposed to be enforced by those who have power of enforcement in a country.
“So, Emefiele is bound, the President himself is bound but this is a situation where you cannot put the person on the spot because he has immunity. So, there’s no point facing that direction.
“The person we should face is Emefiele who, in contempt of court, ought to be arrested and imprisoned.”
‘Atiku Should Accept He Lost And Congratulate Tinubu’
Speaking on the final outcome of the 2023 presidential election, he berated Atiku for going to court, and advised him to congratulate the APC candidate who INEC has declared as the winner.
He said, “Lack of sportsmanship, lack of a good spirit. It’s so obvious that he (Atiku) lost. Obi drew good votes from him massively in the Southeastern states, massively, and also in the South South. He could see in the South West, all the votes that used to go to PDP went to Obi. It’s so obvious.
“And he should just accept that, that’s what happened.
“And he quarreled with five governors.
“Look at what happened to him in the West, particularly Oyo and Rivers and of course, Benue.
“See how all the votes were sucked away! Benue the votes went to APC , Rivers, it went to APC. In fact in those two states it went to APC.
“Then in the other two states, the votes went to Obi. He should see all these things, the logic is so clear.
“He should bow out and respect himself, he should bow out with dignity.
“He is an old man, I believe, in his middle 70s.”
‘Atiku Should Have Some Self-respect And Dignity’
He further said, “I mean, one should still have some self-respect, he should bow out with dignity and leave Obi who should say, ‘Look at me, I’m young. This’s my first attempt, see what I have done. I’ve done very well as a first time (candidate). Let me now go and consolidate what I have and plan for the future where I will increase my outreach’ because the present outreach of Obi is very limited. It is mainly in the South East and in the Middle Belt belt, not in many places in the middle belt. In Plateau for example, he did well.
“And of course in the Southeastern states and Delta, he did very well.
“So, Obi’s base is narrow. He too should sit down. His base is very narrow; you cannot win an election in this country without winning substantial votes from the North.
“And you know in the North where people were getting 500,000, 400,000, he was scoring 25,000. I mean, that is devastating.
“So, he should go and work on that, he should see where his limitations are, try to expand.
“You can see that the winner of the election won everywhere. Tinubu won everywhere, the spread was all over the country.
“Where he didn’t win in a state, he always had a substantial quantity of the votes, except in the South East.
“So that is how to win. And I think those two should accept the fact that they lost the election. Nigerians should learn how to accept defeat like former President, Goodluck Jonathan did.
“It’s so obvious that the two of them lost and Obi took half of the votes from Atiku, yes, he drew all the votes from him, even in Lagos where PDP used to be heavily second suddenly lost and became…totally lost. There was nothing left.
“So, they should admit that this has happened. It shows that if they had combined forces, this disaster would not have befallen them. So, they should accept that they have lost and congratulate the winner
“And of course, Atiku is too old to contest anymore. This was his last chance, he has lost it.
“So, it’s left for Obi to withdraw, call his collaborators and plan for the future but admit that they have lost this election,” Sagay said.