- There won’t be free, credible polls in 2019
Elder statesman, Tanko Yakasai was his usual self-frank, blunt and unsparing, in this interview with VINCENT KALU, where he expressed his fears over 2019 polls.
According to him, Nigeria may not have free, fair and credible election next year. He also noted that President Muhammadu Buhari is bent on having a second term, stressing that the fear of EFCC is driving southern politicians to APC.
Politicians are defecting from one party to the other. What is your view on this gale of defections?
This is the consequence of politics without ideology. If people are committed to an ideology, you don’t change ideology. This is the reason why people are cross carpeting all over the place
because there is no commitment.
If you look at the array of PDP members and APC members, what is the difference? This is the problem that is facing Nigeria. Unfortunately, the way we came through this from 1999 till now, was just a transition without a programme.
We transited from military in 1999 to what is supposed to be a civilian democracy, unfortunately, we started with a retired military person, who had no idea of what partisan politics was all about.
You can’t impose it on him, it was not part of his training, and we kept on going along that
line till today.
In our days, it was a taboo for a member of one party to cross over to another, because you would look like a leper, even if it was accepted in the party, but the party members themselves would look at you like a leper, but not now; not anymore. Who is not a leper now? This is the problem.
Nigeria needs a political party with ideology, a programme, committed membership and leadership because it is only through a political party with programme, leadership and members committed to its programme and ideology that can transform Nigeria. There is no short cut to it.
Political activities have started fully; we are at the stage of party primaries, what are your expectations for 2019?
There are two things that give victory in contest for political office. One is the platform, and the second, is the candidate. If the platform is popular but the candidate is unpopular, the platform will not win. You require the two to be popular and accepted.
Now, I don’t think there is anybody, who will tell you outright what is going to be like in 2019, regarding the presidential election until we know the candidates.
As at today, there are no candidates for both APC and PDP. We know Buhari is incumbent, until his party adopts him as a candidate, he is a mere aspirant. In the PDP, there are so many of them, and nobody can say who is
going to pick the ticket.
To do that objectively, you have to wait to see the candidates of the two parties to emerge and then you will be able to know the popularity of the two platforms, APC and PDP, and also the popularity, acceptability and the programmes of the candidate. Those are the two requirements that will make a political party to win election.
Are you satisfied with the situation in Nigeria?
Nobody is happy; nobody is satisfied. Anybody who says he is satisfied must belong to the tiny minority, who is enjoying the fruit of political patronage, but even if he were sincere, he would know that nobody is happy with the way things are going in Nigeria.
I lost a very good friend, and I went to see his family, but on my way to their house, as I looked at the faces of the people, you would know that they were not happy, and everybody is looking for an answer, which they don’t know what it is.
If you see ten people, you can be sure that nine of them are not happy and they are looking for an answer and they don’t know what it is. That is my assessment of the situation, and I don’t know
how it is in Lagos. You the journalists, look at the faces of people in Lagos and tell if they are
If you are in trouble and you have an idea of when you are going to get out of it, there is a glimmer of hope in your mind and you endure until that time, but when there is no light at the end of the tunnel, then that hope is not there; nobody is thinking of when he is going to get out of it; nobody knows, nobody can say unless such person wants to deceive you. What is the projection of getting out of it?
It is a known secret that Buhari is going to emerge APC presidential candidate; given the power of incumbency, do you think any candidate will defeat him?
I will rather put it this way – if INEC will do its job, the police also should do their job and other security agencies and the courts will do their job, will the APC win the election, I will tell you no.
Our predicament is how are you sure that INEC will do its job and the police will do their job because when you see some of the policemen you see the APC. What happened in some by-elections is sending a wrong signal that we may not have free, fair and credible elections.
What is also worrying me the more is the attitude of election observers both the local and the international observers.
When they come to a country, they concern themselves with the way people queue to cast their votes, they don’t concern themselves with what happens during counting, collation at the counting room, this is where the havoc is done.
People can line up morning till night casting their votes, which is all right, but in a minute, the officer counting the votes can change all these troubles they have undergone for the whole day.
In a blink of an eye, if it is 100, he adds a zero and it would be one thousand, and there is nothing
you can do about it.
I will like to
the question of counting of votes and collation room because that is where the devil does its work. Not only in Nigeria, but everywhere else.
In Zimbabwe, where election took place recently, I can see from my sitting room, not as a fortune- teller, that something happened. The result of the parliament was announced the following day,
but it took about five to seven days to announce the presidential election result. Why the delay. Is
it to pad the figures?
This is the problem, and observes are not paying attention to it, and to my greatest surprise, I saw the leader of the foreign observers praising the election, that people conducted the election peacefully.
I was pissed off, because these people are said to be observers. How can you observe only the line up of voters but you didn’t observe the counting and the collation of results.
Even the body language of the officials responsible for conducting the election, why did you announce the result of the legislature within 24 hours and you delayed the result of the presidential election for five to seven days, why the delay?
It’s the same day, the same time that people cast their votes, one for the National Assembly, one for the state Assembly and one for the presidential. Why should the other one take more time to count?
Why is it that many of those opposed to Buhari’s re-election are Northerners, you have groups like Northern Elders Stakeholders Forum and others?
By and large, the complaint is that Buhari is not performing. Even Ango Abdullahi, the leading figure in campaigning for Buhari during the 2015 election, has now come out to say that Buhari has not performed.
What is surprising is the way the south is changing, if you look at the calibre of people who are crossing from PDP to APC, they are mostly from the south.
I have never seen a situation whereby a minority leader of the opposition who is supposed to be the leader of majority next year crossed over when election is around the corner. I have never seen such in any country. Don’t be surprised the way politicians are behaving, but what is more surprising is the way southerners are behaving.
I know that there is threat by the EFCC, but the issue of EFCC chasing people is all over the country. It is happening to Northerners and is happening to Southerners, but why is it that you see big people who can be president of Nigeria changing their party because of the fear of arraignment before a court of law. It is rampant in the South.
For long, the Northern Elders Stakeholders Forum has been so quite, what is happening with the group?
We have been so quite because we said we are not working for any political party, and this is a period of electioneering and we decided to slow down so that we allow the politicians to do their things because we don’t want to be seen as if we are playing a second fiddle to one party or the other.
Our programme is beyond election; our intention is to get an agenda for Nigeria and entrench northern interest. Entrench northern interest means getting into the national agenda items that are critical for the transformation of Northern Nigeria, which will help in the transformation of Nigeria as a whole.
If anybody comes to change Nigeria, take agriculture for instance, knowing that about two third of the land mass of Nigeria is from the North, the region will be the major beneficiary.
If some- body comes to provide power all over the country, the north will be a major beneficiary because when the power is available in the country, in the North we have three industrial centres – Kano, Kaduna and Jos, while at that time, only one place in the South was considered an industrial
area, which is Lagos.
If you get enough power to go round the country tomorrow, the north will be the most beneficiary because of its landmass, and huge population, though most of them are unemployed.
Once power is everywhere, industries will spring up that even people without skill will get job; you can get northerners and others employed, and the economy will be moving and everybody will benefit.
With all you have highlighted, why is your group still accused of working against Buhari’s reelection?
We are not aligned with any political party. I have never heard of anybody accusing us of that,
maybe, you as a journalist, know the people who are saying that, but I don’t know.
There is this fear that if Buhari loses the election, he may not accept defeat like Jonathan? Buhari is bent on getting his second term, but I think with the people in Nigeria and the international community knowing how his predecessor conceded defeat to him, they will also bring pressure on him to concede if he is really defeated.
What is important is for the electoral commission to do its work and the security agencies shouldn’t be partisan. Once the election is credible, the international commuinty will voice its support for the outcome of the election, and Buhari or anybody else will have to accept the outcome.
In PDP, we have many presidential aspirants – Atiku, Saraki, Kwankwaso, Tambuwal, Makarfi, Dankwambo , David Mark, etc, can you do a very brief assessment of each of them?
That is too big a question for me because I don’t know most of them. You have given me an
assignment, it is for another day, and by then, the candidates must have emerged.
Among all these PDP aspirants, do you see any of them defeating Buhari?
I told you earlier that two things make a party wins an election. One is the platform – how popular it is, and the second, is the candidate. The two combined win an election.
APC and PDP are both popular, but it depends on the individuals, that is why I zeroed my question on individuals?
We don’t have candidates yet. Just wait till the candidates emerge.