By Ismail Omipidan
Garba Yedimakudon, journalist-turned politician and a former caretaker chairman of Lamurde Local Government Area of Adamawa State is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is also the North-East Coordinator of Peaceful Movement for Atiku 2019, a support group for the actualisation of the presidential aspiration of the former vice-president in next month’s elections. He speaks on why Nigerians should vote for Atiku.
In less than 40 days from now the much awaited 2019 general election will hold barring any unforeseen circumstances. What are your thoughts and expectations?
My thoughts and expectations are that the polls should be held as planned and that the electorate will be able to exercise their civic duty to vote for the candidates of their choices in a secure environment devoid of violence and intimidation. I also expect that the electoral umpire-INEC will be given a free hand to organise a free and fair poll. But so far, the events in the political arena do not give one a real hope of a hitch-free and credible poll when compared to the 2015 exercise. For now there haven’t been much activities and actions in terms of robust electioneering by the political parties; issues- based campaigns have been relegated to the background more especially by the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) who instead of showcasing their achievements in the last three and half years in order to convince Nigerians on why they deserve a re-election, they rather continue to attack the personality of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar and blaming the PDP for their monumental failure to fulfill their own campaign promises.
Nigerians have not forgotten that the APC, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, had promised to fix the security challenges facing the country, fix or improve the economy, create jobs, restructure the country and fight corruption. But you and I know that a sincere and honest assessment of the government of APC clearly shows that they have failed in all scores. Today the nation is more divided than before. Killings, kidnapping, armed banditry, insurgency and the nefarious activities of armed Fulani herdsmen militia among other security challenges in the North- East, North –West and the Middle – Belt regions have in the last three years assumed a more scary proportion; youth unemployment remain on the increase; corruption still thrive under the APC watch while the war against the menace is being fought selectively with mostly members of the opposition at the receiving end. But there is hope in the horizon as the February 16 presidential election draws nearer, and once Nigerians get it right by voting for Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, it will be a new dawn for Nigeria and Nigerians.
You’ve restricted yourself to only two presidential candidates, President Buhari and former Vice- President, Atiku Abubakar, whereas there are many others vying for the position. Why?
Yes, there are more than two candidates. I’m not belittling the others. None among the array of presidential candidates should be dismissed with the wave of the hand. They are men and women who are qualified and have what it takes to be voted the president of the country. That is not in doubt. But if you conduct a vox-pop among Nigerians in the streets, the result will be a near consensus among the respondents that President Buhari and Atiku Abubakar lead the pack. Yes, we have the YY. Sani (ADP); Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, Peoples Trust (PT), Fela Dutrotoye (ANN), Dr. Oby Ezekwesili (ACPN) and lately Prof. Jerry Gana (SDP) among others are in the race.
You also suggested in your opening remarks that the polls may not be credible after all. But President Buhari has consistently assured of his government’s resolve to give Nigerians one of the best polls ever in 2019. It appears you’re still not convinced. What are your reasons?
I wish to be proven wrong when the polls are eventually conducted. I doubt if Nigerians are convinced by the president’s repeated assurances of a hitch – free and credible poll, when such assurances are juxtaposed with the actions and steps he has taken so far to achieve that. Has it not bothered you that a president who in a breathe would promise the best election and yet refused to sign the Electoral Law that would guarantee a free, fair and transparent poll even after several delays when the bill was presented to him by the National Assembly for his assent? Besides, how can a president promising a transparent poll appoint an electoral officer he has a relationship with to a sensitive position in the election process -talking about Mrs. Amina Zakari. It has been alleged that the woman was his niece, even though the presidency and INEC have both denied any linkage. But the family of the woman have come and told the world that there was indeed a short- lived marital relationship without a child. Actions it is said speak louder than words. The only way President Buhari can convince Nigerians that he would conduct a transparent and acceptable elections is for him to match his words with actions. He should first and foremost address the Electoral Act issue and reverse the controversial appointment of Zakari. It is not surprising that both the PDP and the Inter -Party Advisory Council (IPAC) have rightly threatened to pull out of the peace accord put in place by the General Abdulsalami Abubakar – led National Peace Accord Committee. Another factor I believe that may be standing between the president and his assurances is his apparent desperation for re-election.
How do you mean?
Take for instance what is playing out in the APC, his own party in Ogun State, where he is engaging in anti-party activity. Only last week Mr. President openly endorsed the candidature of Adekunle Akinlade of the APM during a courtesy call at the presidential villa. He did that all in his desperation to get the support of both the APM candidate and Prince Dapo Abiodun of the APC. To me, that was the height of political desperation by a man expecting his country men and women to believe that he would give them free and fair poll.
But the presidency has issued a statement clarifying that despite the courtesy visit by the APM candidate, the president would still work with only APC candidates in all elections. How about that?
That’s an afterthought. The massage has already been passed and decoded appropriately by those the message was targeted at. It was simply an open endorsement of Amosun’s candidate. The photograph of the president, Amosun and Akindele taken after the courtesy call says it all. One feels pity for Prince Abiodun who is left in the lurch.
Let’s talk about your support group, the Peaceful Movement for Atiku 2019. What are your motivations and reasons for the formation of the group?
Peaceful Movement for Atiku 2019 was formed almost immediately after the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the standard bearer of our party, the PDP at the Port-Harcourt presidential convention. We saw the need and imperative to form a group whose sole purpose is to galvanise support and votes for the former vice president at the 2019 general election. Among other motivations by members of the group were that we are interested in working for someone whom we believe will take Nigeria out of its present sorry state of affairs vis- a-vis the high level of insecurity across the nation, rising youth unemployment, hunger, suffering and other social challenges the nation is faced with under the APC- led Federal Government. We believe that Atiku can make Nigeria work again, improve the economy, address the social drift, unite Nigeria by providing equal opportunity to Nigerians irrespective of religion, tribe and gender. He will also create a peaceful and egalitarian society where the youth and the old can realise their potentials to the fullest and above all ensure adherence to democratic norms and best practices as well as observance of the rule of law.
Members of the peaceful movement cut across the six- geo political zones and all the states of the federation. We are registered by the National Headquarters of the PDP. We have also been liaising with the party at the exco levels in the states, local governments and wards. Ours is to embark on a door – to – door campaign for the PDP candidates in all the elections. Our group will follow with keen interest the campaigns of the APC especially after the presidential debate in order to enlighten Nigerians more on the programmes of the party so that they cannot be deceived into voting for the wrong candidates.
Recently the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) endorsed the candidature of President Buhari against your candidate. What is your take?
I do not expect the Miyetti Allah to act otherwise. I never also expected that they should be neutral on this matter. Let me tell you one of the low points of the Buhari presidency is the condoning of the excesses of the Fulani herdsmen who are members of MACBAN. They have been savouring the loud silence of the president who has never reprimanded them even after their outburst owning up to some of the atrocities. The number of attacks, the killings of farmers, destruction of farm lands and farm produce as well as settlements left in the wake of those attacks allegedly by MACBAN is too many to count, yet, no prosecution of the leaders of the association.
The current leadership of MACBAN believe that Atiku, though a Fulani would not condone or turn a blind eye when members of the association engage in criminality against fellow Nigerians. Under an Atiku presidency it will not be business as usual, they clearly understand that. So, it is natural that they will not support anybody that will take away that ‘freedom’ from them. But then Meyitti Allah is not the only Fulani group in Nigeria so I don’t think Wazirin Adamawa will lose sleep over the endorsement of Buhari.