EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: The Electoral Process Should Be Transparent And Independent … Vincent Essien

Mr Vincent Essien is a Lagos-based legal practitioner and a member of the APC Professional Forum. He is equally a stakeholder of the APC both in Akwa Ibom and Lagos States.

In this online interview with our editor-in-chief of The Evangelist newspaper, Solomon OKPO, the Property law and Real Estate Development expert speaks on issues bordering on the upcoming general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission, the ongoing rift between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, the APC presidential flagbearer and his Labour Party counterpart, as well as other issues of interest. Excerpts:

Sir, Can you give us a rundown of your profile?

Mr. Vincent Essien is a Legal Practitioner with over 35 years experience with a practice based in Lagos and Akwa Ibom State. our core focus is Property Law & Real Estate Development.
Of course I am a member of the APC and a trustee of the APC Professionals Forum as well as a stakeholder of the party in Akwa Ibom State and Eket.

We had expected that you would be one of the top contenders for any position of your choice, but we heard nothing from you. What happened?

With regards to my political aspiration, I have focused more on working within the party and supporting candidates and tendencies that are in tandem with the original progressive ideology of the party as opposed to opportunistic politicians that have emerged in our political landscape. I was in contention for the House of Representatives ticket for Eket Federal Constituency, but the divisive political situation and uncertainties were a serious disincentive. I will usually only operate in an environment with clarity and you are well aware of the division and crises within the APC in Akwa Ibom State.

How do you describe the electoral process so far. Has INEC been truly an unbiased umpire?

I believe INEC has truly upped it game and it is critical that this trend is sustained, especially as we head towards the 2023 elections. More than ever, there is a critical need for the electoral process to be transparent and independent. The commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to free and fair elections will be truly tested and will be needed more than ever because of the level of interest generated in the elections, especially by the renewed political awareness amongst the youth and ordinarily apolitical segment of our population. Any shortcoming in this area could be fatal for the internal security of this country as the people are determined to produce change through the ballot box and any disappointment could lead to serious crises in the country.

How would you describe the present crux of opposition parties in Nigeria?

For the first time in many political cycles, this election is not going to be a two horse race, and the entry of the Labour Party, the NNPP, and even the YPP in Akwa Ibom State means that there will be surprises this time around.

ASUU Vs FG: Do you think that the National Industrial Court based on law that set it up has the jurisdiction to answer or to hear this matter being that it has not been first entertained by industrial arbitration Panel?

Well the National Industrial Court has original jurisdiction in labor matters and I don’t think that can be challenged. Of course there is a dispute and ASUU and the Federal Government have not achieved a resolution.
I also believe that there is no resolution through the current pathway because neither ASUU nor the FG is facing the real problem. The solution to our national public university system is to implement Autonomy, while introducing a national Student Loans Programme as is done in other countries. The Federal Government has no business employing and paying university staff and Lecturers. The Universities should be independent and employ their staff and lecturers based on their respective budgets and circumstances.
The current funding structure is unsustainable, and that is the truth. Lecturers are also not being truthful. So maybe that’s what Senator Ita Enang was talking about. I have written extensively on this issue because it concerns me. We need a total redesign of the University system and it can still be done, even if we have to shut it down for a whole year to get it right.

I know many lecturers in Public universities today who are simultaneously on contract employment with two or three private universities at the same time, which is partly why private universities are mushrooming all over the country.
So it is classic double speak for ASUU to condemn private universities without recognizing that they are also driving that trend.

Asiwaju Tinubu must certainly have strong points. What are they?

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Jagaban did not earn his title for nothing. He is a driving force of the Progressive political family in Nigeria, an individual who made huge efforts to challenge military rule and birth democracy in Nigeria. He will deliver a strong campaign for our party irrespective of reservations and challenges and he will be a formidable opponent for the opposition.
He comes with his track record of political and economy strategic development and he will build on the positive achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari with regards to infrastructure and economic expansion, especially in the area of agriculture.
However that is not to take the opposition for granted, especially the emerging third forces. The PDP has a major challenge to present itself as a viable option.

The expectation was that it would look towards the South for it presidential candidate and we can see the fallouts of that with the crises involving Gov. Wike of Rivers State. I don’t understand how a party that was criticizing the APC for paying just N10000 to traders and poor people, can justify paying N30million as housing allowance to national working committee NWC members. They have never really been in touch with the reality of the obligations they carry as the main opposition party in the country.

In quest for peace based on equity and inclusiveness, the Yoruba took the lead at the zoning arrangement, supporting Peter Obi to be the next president of Nigeria come 2023.
What is your view on that?

Finally, I would like to express my view on the resurgent political movement in Nigeria that has embraced the Labor Party and it candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, the Obidient Movement. I believe it symbolizes an awakening of the sleeping giant, which is the youth segment of our population that has stayed silent for too long on political process. Nigeria’s strength lies in it people and especially it youth, they have shown that there are various spheres of our national life, and they have the greatest stake in the future of this country. Unfortunately, our leaders have failed to build a country that will cater to their dreams, so now they have resolved to take the bull by the horns.

Anybody that underestimates this force or stands in their way should be prepared because quite frankly, we have left them with no other choice. Whether their choices are right or wrong is immaterial, so long as they bear responsibility for it. Former Gov. Peter Obi is merely a symbol for their aspiration, and quite frankly I sympathize with him because of the sheer weight of expectations he is being forced to bear, and which may be difficult to deliver.
The established political parties should be ready to confront an opponent, the kind of which they haven’t seen before. Their ability to organize and aggregate resources is superior to that of our traditional parties and they are not going to be easy to overcome.
Personally I will always stand by the people, and those people who think that the Nigerian political space is their personal playground should start to sleep with one eye open.

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