Yomi Dinakin is a law professor and immediate past Dean, Faculty of Law, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA). Dinakin, now Chairman of the newly inaugurated Ondo State Independent Electoral Commission (ODIEC) in this interview with BABATOPE OKEOWO, speaks on his experience as a law teacher, planned local government election in Ondo state and sundry issues
You have taught law for over three decades, how has the experience been?
No doubt, it has been pleasurable. I have enjoyed my stay at the university and I will still go back after this assignment. I have enjoyed because I have become more knowledgeable in the law and helping to build a nation.
No doubt, some of your students are now judges and Senior Advocates of Nigeria. How do you look at this?
I mean, what comes to your mind? It is joy in my heart and I feel proud to have contributed to their lives and to be part of their training. I am always proud of their accomplishment and reception they gave to our product wherever they go, especially within the state and beyond. Those that have passed through us at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko are making waves and contributing to the society both in Ondo State and outside the state.
Do you share the view that the five years and one year in law school be increased to two years in law school and six in the university?
I do not have any specific view but my own argument had been, we should ask ourselves for how many years do we want to keep these children within formal education? We must have in mind that, no matter how long, they cannot be trained all that they would know. What they need is the background information, the teaching of laying the foundation for the recipient of the education to go out, meet challenges and equip them adequately with the ability to solve problems. So, it is neither here nor there. But again if you compare with all other jurisdictions, we should be looking at how long does it take to produce a lawyer? For instance, for people in the United States of America, you must do a first degree, some four years after college and then before you come to read law for another five years. You keep a child there for about nine years in order to become a lawyer. Do we mind to keep our own children for nine years? What is the course content? What benefit is it? Do we want to run a degree in law as a postgraduate programme? Or do we want it a straight master’s programme? We must decide for how many years do we want to keep children after college in the university before they move to the law school. Do we remove the theoretical content in the law school and bring it to the university so that the law school becomes more or less practical training ground in which the period of years there, they are doing practical work, like drafting, court appearances, and so on? So, it becomes more of practical training and less of theoretical training at that level.
How do you compare the practice of law as a law teacher and in the public service?
There are two terrains. The university has its own doing. I am used to that university system. This is my first outing in the public service arena, though the commission is not entirely a public service but has some intrusion from the civil service, knowing full well it is not completely independent. Be that as it may, we run a bureaucracy too in the university system; it is not like I am like a fish out of water within the bureaucratic system of the civil service. It is all administration men and materials, setting goals and be able to achieve the intended goals and working along with people to arrive at the same destination.
There is this belief that many people in the academics do not always do well in the public service. How are you going to dispel this insinuation with your appointment?
I want to disagree because at the university level at faculty and departmental levels, you combine administration with academics. You administered men and materials, you run administration, and you run bureaucracy. So, it is the individual temperament that determines the success or otherwise in the public service. You deal with people, you relate with people, you have to provide leadership, you have to ensure there is cooperation among the workers and then you will be able to achieve. You don’t come as a boss looking down on others and the university system equips one with the ability to listen to other parties because, in the university system, it is a debating thing. You don’t take anything as giving, you have to look at the pros and cons, and you will look at so many issues before you ultimately reach a consensus. It is more democratic.
There is this argument about what form a quorum at the National Assembly. Some are saying it is the people at the sitting and others argued it is the entire members of the house to impeach their leadership. What is your take on this?
A basic principle about the interpretation of the Constitution is that you go about the literal rule of interpretation.When the law is clear and unambiguous, you apply the literal rule. When the Constitution says two-third of the members, then you proceed to ask what constitute members. It means all members whether present or not present. They are members. So, if it says two-third of members of the Senate or National Assembly as the case may be, it is two-third of the membership of those who are members of that house. But if it says, two-third of members present and voting, that is the qualification. It excludes those who are not members. But you know when it says of the members, a profession of the members, it means all the members, otherwise, you will be interpreting it to be the absurdity.
How do State Electoral Commissions (SIECS) maintain neutrality in elections?
First of all, we have to remind our people that they have to get out of this mindset or rely on rhetoric that this is what they do and at the end of the day, the majority of them do not participate, the majority of them don’t ask questions. So, if they want and they should, they must follow the procedure and they must follow the processes, they must ask questions, they must participate. So, if you say, the government has decided and you leave it alone. If we get to the field on the day of the election and not many people turn out, it is not the duty of the commission to force people out to come and vote. But if they ensure they vote and they ensure their votes are counted and collated. It is the participation that matters. They should come out of the mind that it is the government that dictates everything and writes results. They should participate and monitor every stage and ensure we are doing the right thing. If they go along with whatever we do, they should ask questions. It is all about participation.
What is your relationship with the Ondo State Governor, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu?
I did not have any special relationship with either the government or the governor of the state. I can assure you I have been in Adekunle Ajasin University since its establishment. In the last eight years, I have confined myself to that university and I have nothing to do with Akure or Government House. My business has been strictly my classroom at Adekunle Ajasin University and my research efforts.
What assurance do we have in ODIEC conducting a free, fair and credible local government election fixed for December 1, 2018?
We will do that because that is our mandate and that is what we are working towards. We want people to monitor with their benchmark and judge our activities. We are ready to conduct a free and fair election. The fear of the people where they come out to vote is that government appointees always write the results against the wish of the people. If they are there in their numbers to vote, will the electoral body drive them away? Let them file up on the queue and cast their votes. Like I said earlier on, this idea of giving up that government will dictate is not good for our system. For me, we have already released the timetable and we are ready to follow it as it is. It is for everybody to participate and raise election petition later but you cannot boycott and complain. ODIEC will not go out and do the casting of votes. People must participate and work towards the success. Election will be conducted according to the rules. We have drawn the guidelines. We have set the timetable conscious of the law establishing the commission. It is the people’s election and I want to urge people to participate and be concerned with it.
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