Saturday, 2 May 2015

APC Can't Hold Power For 16 Years---Minister Reveals

The Minister of National Planning, Dr. Abubakar Suleiman, in this interview with SUCCESS NWOGU, bares his mind on the last general elections and other issues.
Minister of National Planning, Dr. Abubakar Suleiman
Are there lessons to learn from the just concluded general elections?

The outcome of the presidential election calls for concern on some critical issues. While everybody is happy that Nigeria is developing politically, maturing and has gone beyond its past democratic level, we should not forget that the pattern of voting in the election was on the basis of ethnic and religious affiliations.
June 12, 1993 election depicted a united country. It depicted a politically conscious people. But what we had in the last elections was a reincarnation of the kind of politics we played in the time past. It was politics of tribalism, sectionalism and religion. It was an election where the All Progressives Congress had overwhelming votes from the core North, while the Peoples Democratic Party had majority of its votes from the South-East and South-South. It is disheartening that the last presidential elections portrayed Nigeria as a divided country. If what accounted, so to speak, for the loss of President Goodluck Jonathan is because he is not a Northerner, then it is too bad for this country. The only place where there was a semblance of marriage is the South-West, but I am at loss when I look at the result from the North. I believe that, though I am a northerner, I have gone beyond sectionalism.
Moreso, some governors in the PDP worked against the party and they did it openly. So, what are they trying to say? If a governor in the North voted against Jonathan because he is from the South, what lessons are we sending to our brothers from the South? How will they feel?
How will you react to the victory of the APC in the general elections? Will the party’s victory not lead to one party system in Nigeria?
I don’t believe that the APC’s victory can lead to a one party system in the country. In fact, it will not take APC too long to collapse. The party is a marriage of incompatible people. It is a marriage of strange bed fellows. Many of them that have come together have come because of their selfish interests, not that they have a common ideology. I do not see how the marriage between a former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; the senator representing Kwara Central Senatorial District, Dr. Bukola Saraki; and the President-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, will last.
What you are seeing now is the level of political socialisation in our country. You will see someone defect to another party just a day to the election or even a day after an election.
How do you see somebody like former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar working together again? How do you see somebody like a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who had criticised Buhari countless times now work harmoniously with him? They do not have the same ideologies?
What made you arrive at that conclusion?
I give the party just one year, it will fizzle out. APC does not have what it takes to stay in power for 16 years or more as the PDP did. How will Atiku, Tinubu, Obasanjo and others work together for long? It cannot last for long. They do not have anything in common. Many of the people in APC have come together for their selfish interests and when the expectations are dashed by Buhari’s government, they will scatter.
Does it mean that Buhari is an instrument with which they have seized power?
Buhari is just a platform and an instrument used by corrupt politicians to gain power. He is a shield and a manipulative tool used by corrupt and greedy politicians to gain power. Immediately that shield does not dance to their tunes, they will all scatter. Buhari should guard himself well and govern the nation well so that he can last.
How then should he govern the country?
He should stand above board. He should also be a statesman and not a president for APC. He should unite all Nigerians and render good governance and ensure the delivery of dividend of democracy to the masses of this country.
Do you agree that Nigeria has made great achievement because of the peaceful conduct of the election?
Truly there was apprehension over the elections. Nigerians resorted to prayers and God granted us peaceful elections.
It is also important to appreciate the role played by President Goodluck Jonathan which led to the peace in the land today. Jonathan is a leader that believes in democracy, the rule of law and sanctity of a transparent electoral process. He is a leader that assured Nigerians and the international community that nobody’s life will be lost because of his political ambition. He is a leader that gave Nigeria an independent electoral body.
He insisted that election would not hold without Nigerians having their Permanent Voter Cards so that people will not be disenfranchised. More importantly, we have a leader that mobilised the Independent National Electoral Commission, security agencies and other stakeholders to ensure that we had free, fair, credible and transparent elections. I think the bulk of the accolades go to President Jonathan. If he did not allow the genuine democratic process to prevail, we would have been telling a different story today. Without waiting for the final results to be announced, he congratulated Gen Buhari. That singular act doused any tension that could have led to post-election violence in the country.
We should also congratulate Nigerians for coming out to vote and for their conduct during and after the elections.
But some people believe that it was actually the pressure from the international community that made Jonathan to concede defeat?
That is perception. The international community is not a sovereign country. Nobody can tell Nigeria what to do. They can as well mount pressure and it would be rebuffed. The worst that could have happened would be protest and violence here and there.
That he caved in, according to you, to international pressure, is something that should not be treated with levity, After all, it happened in Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya. There were international pressures against their leaders but they resisted it and there was bloodshed here and there.
Lobbying, persuading and putting pressure here and there on a sitting government are done within the context of international relations. It is not binding. That Jonathan accepted defeat when the results had yet to be announced is something that we need to applaud.
Are you saying that the presidential and NASS elections were faultless?
I have talked about the input of President Jonathan in ensuring a good democratic process. But what we have not discussed perhaps are some of the things that need to be corrected.
It is wrong for governors to sponsor INEC commissioners. Some of the governors were the ones who appointed some of the commissioners and they are more answerable to the governors. Even if they are sent to other states, they will still do the bidding of the governors that sponsored their appointment in their new states of engagement.
Secondly, in Kwara, we protested against a certain INEC official. We requested that he should be transferred to somewhere else and a replacement made. But that request was not acceded to and the man continued to be there and he wrecked electoral havoc.
Also having polling units in a residential building is against the electoral guidelines and law. The guideline is that polling units must only be in public buildings. INEC violated that. I complained to INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, that voting should not be done in residential buildings. I complained to him about the place where I was to vote which, from available information by then, was to be in a residential building.   He later promised me that he would do something about it, but failed to fulfill the promise.
I also told Jega that some polling units were merged together. For instance, where I voted, we had polling unit 06, 05 and 021. 021 should not belong to that centre. They brought it from another place and merged them together apparently to promote an interest. We complained against it to INEC but nothing was done about it. When you look at this kind of things, they are contraventions of the law.
There were also insufficient security operatives at the polling units and even in some areas, they were not there at all and in some areas, electoral frauds were committed. It was surprising that we did not have enough policemen because some police personnel were drafted from Ekiti State, where there was no governorship election. At the point of collation at my polling unit, the policemen were withdrawn. So, these kinds of lapses on the path of INEC and security agencies leave much to be desired.
How do you look at the gale of defection from PDP to APC?
The outlook shows that the system in Nigeria is not ripe for democracy. It is an indication that we have not got to where we should be. It is an indication that, perhaps, what we have in Nigeria are not political parties. Because a political party, by definition, is a group of people who come together and establish the same ideology for the sake of gaining power through electoral process. One key component of a political party is the existence of ideology. If someone is leaving a party, a day after the party lost an election; you know that person is not a politician in the real sense of the word. The gale of defection is not good for the nation.



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