Elder statesman Chief Mike Ahamba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has said that the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, will have no difficulty defeating President Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in next year’s general elections. According to him, it is a great risk to re-elect the ruling party.
In an interview conducted by VINCENT KALU, the former associate of Buhari also warned Southeast PDP governors about jeopardising their positions by fighting the Atiku ticket.
What are your expectations for next year’s election?
If the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) does not get neutral, it can put this country in very serious security jeopardy. All the parties are strong, particularly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and when two elephants fight, the grass is bound to suffer.
I remember during the cold war, the Communist and the West set themselves in Berlin and about 50 years after, nobody fired a shot because both sides realised the consequences of fighting a war, as everybody would be doomed.
I want to make it clear that nobody should think that he would be the survivor if we go into political violence, and it is something we must avoid by all means. Everything according to the provisions of the law should be applied and the electoral umpire should be as neutral as it can.
President Buhari is an incumbent, does the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar have what it takes to defeat him?
Yes, Atiku can defeat him. From APC team and PDP team, take for instance in their states, APC has destroyed itself in Imo State, and there is no campaign about that, it is not in contention. And if the component state cannot hope to manufacture hope, then how can they go to the main point?
Someone came and said these people were not doing well, give me a chance and I would change everything, which they have done badly in a short while, but he came in and things get worse, and continue to get worse and worse. It is only a foolish electorate that will tell that person to continue.
I don’t think Atiku will have any difficulty defeating Buhari in this election because for the first time, Buhari is going to face a Northern opponent; it’s not a time he is fighting opponent, that is North versus South, where he could clear the 19 states in the North; it won’t happen that way this time, they now have to share. What I told them last time they have to come and find where they will get votes in the South to combat Atiku and that, they are not even doing. I don’t see why Atiku shouldn’t win this election; particularly he has equipped himself with a very articulate vice presidential candidate. His first decision in his march to Aso Rock has been very positive in that he chose a befitting material. If he has chosen a man who has all it takes to help him in engineering the economy of this country, I think we should give him chance; the economy is tattered, everybody knows it. I believe Atiku will win the next presidential election.
Without prejudice for my support for Buhari for eight good years in two presidential elections, things have changed; the team, which he is playing now, is not a team of size, so, he can’t win.
APC says the battle is between integrity and corruption – Buhari representing the integrity team, while Atiku is heading the corrupt group. How do you react to that?
That is what they say, but go and check the meaning of corruption. It does not begin and end with taking bribe. Bias, denial of what is the people’s right and being seen as defending the interest of one side all the time, is an act of corruption. Selective pursuit of presumed corrupt people and making a political party a concrete defence of any corrupt person, that itself is corruption.
Right now, who are the people doing this type of thing, of course, it is APC; all you need to do to get protection is to declare for APC, the day you move from that party to PDP, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will come after you, is that not corruption? Check the meaning of corruption; we are misusing this word, and I don’t think they represent themselves the way they are talking about.
Let us take it that we have repentant team and an active team in the field right now, the people are going to cheer the repentant team, because the APC has failed to do better than the people they came to remove. Take for instance, in Nigeria, we like sports, particularly, soccer; you go and bring a new man into the team as a very good striker, and you bench the existing striker, and the person played ten matches and he didn’t score any goal, then you put your old striker in and he may score more goals.
You don’t have to say that he came to change and so you stick with him, APC failed in its mission of change; APC failed in its decision of doing something better and they lied to the people when they said that fuel would be N45 because they didn’t know exactly the working of the petroleum industry, that is ignorance. When you look at all those things, bringing the man back is a risk because the nation can continue in the downward slide.
APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole said voting PDP is going back to Egypt, what is your reaction to this?
Voting APC, what is it going back to, is it going back to decency, is it going back to pure governance, what is it going back to? We are saying that APC has proven that it has no solution to the problem. Ask the average Nigerian on the street, they say they are happy with the PDP even though there was no perfection then, they were happier than they are today. What is governance? Is it not creating happiness for the greatest number, now we are creating greatest unhappiness for the greatest number in the country. Our people say that anybody who does not shift his sit when the sun changes direction has a mental problem. The sun has changed direction and they must change their sits.
APC has promised that 2023 Igbo person will succeed Buhari if the Southeast supports the president, while the running mate of the PDP presidential candidate is from the zone. Which direction should the Igbo go?
We should follow PDP because they are more realistic. For somebody to say that if you vote for me, I will give you the presidency in 2023, is it his property? It is not his property. If we want to be democratic let us fully be democratic. How can voting for one person decide who can be the president of Nigeria; why should someone say that I must vote for him before an Igbo man becomes president, that is an insult as far as I’m concerned.
I told my fellow Igbo to stop begging for the presidency, it belongs to all of us, and anyone who thinks he is qualified for it let him stand up and be counted not wait for the donation of the presidency, nobody will donate it to us.
It is electoral fraud to say that once you elect a particular person that his successor must be Igbo. It is not true, and we have to believe that because we are very fond of believing falsehood in this part of the country, and we must stop it in our own interest.
Igbo person can be president whether in 2023 or anytime, it is by selecting a credible candidate acceptable to the whole country, and not acceptable in Igbo land alone, and only the PDP has the potential now of presenting such a candidate. I say no more on this now.
How do you mean?
I say no more on that. If I say anything on this I will be behaving like the APC who are forecasting what they cannot control.
PDP is accusing INEC of bias, while APC says the opposition is already making excuse for its defeat. What do you say to that?
If you know where I have been and where I’m coming from, and my attitude, I have always been worried about INEC. I have been a victim and I know what happens there.
I was watching television; I think it was after the Ekiti State election, where one electoral official was saying that she removed a result sheet pasted on a wall and changed the result because he got other information. The law is that once the returning officer has returned the result and given it to other people, his or her functions end. It is only the election petition tribunal that can change it and the Supreme Court has decided it at least, in three judgements that I know.
So, if we start changing results when we know we shouldn’t then the other party has the right to shout. After all, I was doing the shouting before and now they are shouting against us. The important thing is for INEC to be neutral so that everybody will see it. They should make history.
We must learn that to make history is the most important achievement for any human being. We remember the Wright Brothers for aero plane, we remember Michael Faraday because of electricity, we remember Mandela because of defeat of apartheid, we remember Winston Churchill because of the defeat of the Germans, we must have to achieve something so that we be remembered.
So, Prof. Yakubu, the present INEC chairman, for God’s sake, you were a member of the 2014 National Conference, you read the pulse of the people there; you knew what the people want, for God’s sake, be neutral, that is all we require from you, and don’t allow any of your people to make you to deviate from neutrality. Just do one thing and the rest shall be added unto us, let whoever wins win and let whoever loses lose.
In which direction is the political pendulum swinging in your state Imo?
PDP is the only party that is battle ready in Imo State; the others are still dressing up in their dressing rooms. The PDP is already on the field, lined up and waiting for the opponent to step in. We have no problem in Imo State; we will give them a thorough beating politically. PDP will give APC a through beating next year if the government steps aside and allows the votes to be cast and counted and what is given as the result recorded.
Some political pundits suggest that APGA might extend its frontiers by winning Imo
If APGA is going to extend its frontiers, definitely, it is not Imo. APGA is the last party any Igbo man should vote for because it is that party through which Igbo people are deceived and confused in every election year.
Every time, they say they are the people to negotiate for Igbo because, ‘Nkea by nke anyi’ (this is ours), but today their presidential candidate is a Northerner.
Secondly, how can you take a whole people and put them into a bus that has no kick starter, and at every election you bring the same bus that has no kick starter, and you keep fiddling with the kick starter until the election is over. Then what you now do is to present two or three people at the national level. Where is your caucus?
APGA is a fraud on the Igbo man and I keep saying it and I have told them if they doubt me let us debate. I don’t think Igbo will vote APGA, not Imo. I have nothing against their candidates, those parties have already lost elections here, and there is nothing they can do about it.
So, PDP is back in Imo?
PDP is being restored in Imo, particularly as APC has made a mess of political party. They were politically murderous, I don’t mean physical murder, I’m talking about mental murder. When you do a thing that makes people die naturally when they shouldn’t have died naturally, you have “murdered” them.
The pension that the government of Imo State has been orchestrating that they have paid… the other day at the opening of the Legal Year, they said that N5 billion had been used for the pension of old workers and the rest of them, that some were receiving alert now. It is only 50 per cent, what about the other 50 per cent? Is that what a civil servant bargains for after working for the nation for 35 years or more; at the end of it, he is exposed to dying because he can’t afford to buy N3,000 medication; is that what he bargains for; that his children would be thrown out of school? When they say there is free education, go to Imo State University and study free of charge, let me see you.
When we look at these things, this lying should stop and our people should learn to start asking questions. These are not the days of political banana, banana or political mango, mango; we deal with facts. These are no longer the days where people were told that somebody has the key to Atlantic Ocean and if you don’t vote for him he would open it and it will submerge the people. It is no longer that day. So, let us be careful, and not to expose ourselves as people who believe in the unbelievable. It will not be good for us.
What is giving some people concern is the apathy the Southeast PDP governors are showing toward the Atiku/Obi campaign; they have not been participating. How do you react to this?
I don’t know their reasons, but I’m sure that their attitude will not stop Atiku from winning the Southeast, because he is going with a song we all love and we shall sing with him. Let them not risk their own position by fighting Atiku ticket because when you start trying to give the impression that you are … in the place, and it is only your interest that is involved and if that interest is not concerned what is good will not be done again, people may rise up against you.
This is the truth of the matter; we are watching the pendulum, let any of them come out and say that Atiku/ Obi will not be voted for, then we will come out and tell them why they should be voted for and those kicking against them should not be voted for, let us see who will have more points.
Let them stop that mess; it is enough. Enough is enough. Obi was the first articulate decision taken by Atiku, and I doff my hat for him for that very correct choice. The last vice presidential debate shows it all. That is what we need and he has something to show for it. Look at Anambra State that he left behind; the modus operandi that he left behind is still what Obiano is using. He started paying workers at the end of every month, Obiano can’t change it, so the benefit goes back to Obi. He encouraged people to bring industries to the state; Innoson is an example, and others. When you retire you take your retirement benefits the day you are going, who else is doing that; it didn’t start with Obiano, it started with Obi. When you have a man who has a practical example in defence of his ability, you don’t go challenging him with oral words.
Why is Buhari reluctant to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill?
When a man does what he has the right to do I don’t criticise him, I tell the other party to do what they have the right to do. PMB has the right to reject a bill, while the National Assembly has the right to veto him, both of them would have acted constitutionally. However, when you are acting constitutionally, make sure it is in the interest of the people. The NASS is yet to override and could override if they have the appropriate number. If they do not override him that is not to say that Buhari acted contrary to law. What he did is constitutional.