Elder Statesman Tanko Yakasai has predicted that the 2019 presidential election will be a straight fight between President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He warned that the sentiments that appealed to majority of Northerners who gave Buhari victory over former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, are no more there for the president in the 2019 election.
In this interview with VINCENT KALU, Yakasai, a founding member of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), called on President Buhari to act like Jonathan by not interfering with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the conduct of the coming elections.
What are you expecting from the political parties as the presidential and National Assembly campaigns kicked earlier in the week?
Unfortunately, in Nigeria political parties issue what they call manifestoes. Most of these manifestoes are the creation of the political parties themselves. They contracted people to write anything they feel will appeal to the masses, and they put it there just to get the votes. As soon as they got the votes, they forget their manifestoes, and we have seen it so many times. I hope that the two leading contenders will make realistic manifestoes that they can implement, and not general statements, but concrete issues.
The issue that is very critical is power. Without power, we cannot develop. People come and say they were going to provide power, but they don’t, and we still remain where we were.
I remember when APC said that in matter of six months that they were going to provide power, but how many years after, it didn’t come to pass.
Also, either early this year or late last year, I read that we were adding additional 9000 megawatts of electricity, and recently, I also read that Power Holding Company of Nigeria is struggling to reach about 4000 megawatts. What happens to the remaining 5000 megawatts?
Let the politicians that are contesting elections make honest, genuine promise that by the end of their tenure, they would be proud to say this is what I have achieved.
Corruption fight is going to be an issue in the campaigns. The ruling APC will insist that it is fighting corruption, but the opposition PDP will likely taunt them with unresolved graft cases in government circle. What do you say to this?
Look, I have said it many years ago that corruption fight by this government is only to intimidate political opponents and perceived enemies. If you are honestly fighting corruption, why is it that somebody who was questioned yesterday on account of billions of naira, the day he declared for the ruling party nobody remembers his alleged corruption again?
In fact, the moment anybody talks of corruption fight, my head aches; I just develop headache; the lies are too much for my head to accommodate, until I see the real thing. For instance, there are 36 state governors in Nigeria; I don’t remember the number of ministries we have, I know that a governor was fighting a senator of the same party, and eventually he emerged recognised candidate by INEC of that party in that state, the man has been serving senator and is alleged to be corrupt and he is not invisible all these days, that he could not have been arrested or questioned.
If there were going to be any promise to fighting corruption, at least with the people in power today, people would have seen the result. It should not be only members of the opposition party or opponents of the government that should be arrested, but everybody. To me, in all honesty, I cannot see this government fighting corruption. The case of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Lawal Babachir is enough to convince any doubting Thomas that the government is not sincerely fighting corruption. The case of the SGF was discovered by accident by an ad-hoc committee of the Senate, and he was indicted over the award of grass cutting contract at IDP camp.
A committee was set up in which the EFCC chairman was a member, the Attorney General was also a member, and other members, and they concluded their investigations and unfortunately the president was away for medical treatment, and when he came back he accepted the report, but didn’t see the reason to believe that the SGF has committed an infraction, even though he was removed. How many months now, what has the EFCC done in this matter? Since then, nobody has heard anything about it. Honestly, I see something better in the future, but now.
The DSS investigated the APC National Chairman over bribery allegation, and some people argue that the Secret Service doesn’t have the power to investigate him. Do you align with them?
I don’t know why it should be DSS, but whether they have the power to do that or not, the question is that what have they done? They invited him and he went, has he been arraigned? Why should it be shrouded in secrecy?
Kano State governor is also accused of alleged $5 million bribery but the state Assembly has stopped the investigation, and nothing is heard from the ruling party. What’s your view on this?
The matter is before the court, and I wouldn’t like to comment so that it would not appear that I have decided to swing the opinion of the court in one way or the other. When the court starts hearing the proceedings, then people will be free to discuss.
What is your projection of the February 16 presidential election, between Buhari and Atiku, who do you think has the chances of winning?
As a matter of fact, Buhari has been given the mandate for about three and half years, and most Nigerians didn’t see any change. This is a fact. Atiku has not tried, but we know that he is a former vice president and he has some experience, no doubt about it. Buhari is also a former head of state, and he too has some experience. Most of the factors that made Buhari defeat Jonathan in 2015, are no longer there.
One, in 2015, Buhari was a Northerner, while Jonathan was a Southerner. Two, Buhari was a Muslim, while Jonathan was a Christian. Thirdly, Buhari was Hausa/Fulani, while Jonathan was Ijaw. Those factors that appealed to the sentiments of majority of Northerners are no more there because both Buhari and Atiku are Hausa/Fulani; they are also Muslims, and Northerners.
So, it is everybody’s chance between Atiku and Buhari to succeed if they can win the hearts of the majority of the people, but the problem is if INEC will conduct credible elections. It is a fact that Jonathan appointed the chairman of INEC in his time, the INEC chairman at that time confirmed that Jonathan never interfered in the conduct of the presidential election, and everybody agreed because if he had interfered, he wouldn’t have been defeated.
So, my concern now, is the enormous powers in the hands of Buhari, and if he should act like Jonathan and avoid interference with INEC, that is number one. Number two, will INEC be bold enough like during Jonathan to commit itself to conducting free and fair election next year? These questions will determine the outcome of the election next year. If it’s determined to conduct free, fair and credible election in the country, then there is hope, if not, then there is no hope.
You are an elder statesman, you have seen it all and you know the two leading candidates, Buhari and Atiku; you also know the problems of this country, between these two candidates, who do you think can fix or reposition Nigeria?
There are two things. One, Atiku is a politician, while Buhari is not. He is a military man. Not that a military man cannot be a good politician, but experience has proven that Buhari is always a military man.
This is my assessment of the two men. However, I believe Atiku has the capacity to reposition Nigeria, since Buhari has tried, Atiku has not tried, so, let us give him a chance.
Between Buhari and Atiku who do you think that the north will queue behind?
Like I told you, Buhari is a military man, and experience has shown that he has not changed. If it is between Atiku and Babangida, for instance, I will tell you that both of them are politicians, but Atiku and Buhari, one is a politician, the other is a military man. The difference between the two is that the politician will listen and respect other people’s opinions, while the military takes order and gives order.