Kenny Ashaka, Kaduna
Former President Shehu Shagari’s Liason Officer to the National Assembly, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, has cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari about the consequences of putting away the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar in the power equation of the country.
Yakasai, a founding member of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and Northern Elders Council said whereas the president won political power in the last election, Atiku won economic power. He spoke exhaustively on the 2019 elections and concluded that the results from the poll have vindicated him.
What would you say about the results of the February 23rd presidential and National Assembly elections? Did the result come to you as a shock because I know you are one of Atiku Abubakar’s supporters?
Not as a shock because I have been seeing election results for so many years, more than 50 years; so it will be difficult for any result to shock me. But I expected Buhari will be declared the winner even though I am for Atiku. Listen to me. Why did I say I expected it? It is because Buhari has prepared all the grounds he can for him to be declared the winner. I said it before that when he decided to extend the tenure of the security chiefs after the mandatory period of their retirement he didn’t do it for nothing. When he was appointing people into INEC he must have had his re-election issue in mind. People didn’t know that in this kind of thing you are thinking of the next step. This is what politicians do. If you win election now your mind is cast towards the next one. And if you are well placed to prepare for it you will do so. I said it before that I will be very surprised if INEC as it is presently constituted will standby and allow Buhari to lose. I said it and I have now been vindicated. I may not have evidences but if somebody is breaking the law and Police is there without arresting him, what do you say? Where people buy votes openly and the Police are not arresting anybody, would you say Police are not conniving? I have been in this business for a very long time. The first time I contested an election was in 1951. It was not to go to the legislature but to be in the Electoral College. This is about 67 years ago. So I have contested many elections, held key positions in political parties. I was at one time Commissioner for many years, Secretary-General of a political party for many years, financial secretary, organising secretary and so on; so I know all these things. There are very few people in Nigeria of today who have the kind of experience I have. My contemporaries are very few. I am going to 94 years now. How many people of my age are active in politics now? Very few and this is the reason I can remember what happened before and tell you what will happen in future.
I know you have said it before that INEC is likely to work in favour of Buhari, but what did you see in these elections that vindicated you?
No, I didn’t say that. I said a lot of them cannot afford to allow Buhari to be defeated.
Because he appointed them.
But appointing them does not mean that…
(Cuts in) Now if you do not want to continue this interview just say so. How can you say people will not return favours? Somebody appointed you and when you have the opportunity to favour him you will favour him. Ah! We are human beings. Somebody did favour to you and you have the opportunity to favour him you say you are not going to favour him. Do you think that it is for nothing that the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal is doing what he is doing now?
Let us look at the issue critically. The last time they postponed the elections, Buhari was not happy to the extent that he said INEC was incompetent and…
(Cuts in) No I am talking about the original mindset. Buhari is the president and he appointed them and if they fail he would be blamed, but in order to exonerate himself he too will blame them. But ultimately he knew they will do his bidding.
What then do you think is wrong with the election?
There are reports that votes were reduced from those of one political party and added to the other. I know it has not been proven in the court of law; so it remains an allegation, but you don’t dismiss it by a wave of the hand unless you go to court and the court says otherwise. Now, how can they explain the low voters turn out in the South East, South-South and South West compared to high voters turn out in the North? If they say the North is the support base of a contestant the other side is equally the support base of the other contestant. They are as interested in the success of their candidate as well as the other people are interested in the success of their candidate. I am sure you have not taken part in elections of this nature. There is a simple way of doing it. Delay the commencement of the election so that some of them will be jittery and pull out of the queue. Two: supply voting materials bit by bit. There is a process. They will give you 20 or 30 percent of the materials; after certain time they add 10 percent, but if they start by giving you 15 percent, the next thing is that instead of giving you 20 they will give you five. That makes it 20. By the time the election is over you have only been given 25 percent of the ballot papers. So what are you going to say?
Do you have reservations about the smart card reader too?
The card reader itself I don’t have reservations about it. But the allegation I made in 2015 is the same thing that has been repeated. It was judiciously enforced in the south and not enforced in the north. And people who have nothing to do with me said it too. So if you bring the card reader as your watch dog then your watch dog has only watched in one place and not in the other, do you think the dog has done the job very well for you? I am not saying do away with the card reader but if you must use the card reader you must make sure it is used in all places and not discriminately the way it is being applied now. If you go to Lagos you enforce it, then if you go to Kano or Sokoto you look the other way, then the purpose of the card reader is defeated.
What then do we do in order to have a free, fair and credible election?
We all believe in the day of judgement. This is the reason people are afraid of God because they know one day they will meet Him. If they don’t fear Him altogether they will fear Him somehow. And it is the same thing in all the religions. One day God will ask us to account for our deeds on earth.
Let’s take a look at the results from Kano, a place touted as the political base of Buhari; were you surprised about the votes that he got from there?
No. I am not surprised. However, I am jolted by the report of international observers about the 400,000 votes belonging to the PDP that was taken from them and added to the APC votes. Because Kano gave Buhari the highest number of votes in 2015, I expected that to happen but not to the extent they went during this election. If the 400,000 votes were added to the votes of PDP as the people gave it, it would have been about 700,000 or so votes for PDP. There was a time when Kwankwaso or Shekarau won elections here; they got about that if you go through past figures. So I will not be surprised if Buhari wins Kano, but not with this margin. In the 2015 there were three factors that worked in Buhari’s favour that failed him in the last election. One was the question of religion. In 2015, Buhari a Muslim ran against Jonathan, a Christian. In that election Jonathan was from the south, an Ijaw man while Buhari a Hausa-Fulani, is from the north and then one other factor is that there was agitation for power shift to the north because we were all talking of Jonathan truncating the zoning formula which Obasanjo started. So we said Obasanjo did two terms and instead of allowing the north to do two terms since Yar’Adua was there for the first term only, Jonathan truncated our second term bid. So these grievances were there. These grievances are no longer there now.
Did you read what Alhaji Ali Modu Sherriff said after the presidential election?
I did not read it but I told you it is natural that in the North West zone from where Buhari comes, given Nigerian politics it is expected that his people would vote for him but not with this margin. So whatever Modu Sherriff may have said doesn’t nullify my argument. Out of the six zones in Nigeria today, Atiku won three and Buhari won in North East and North West. He didn’t win all the North Central states; the same thing with the South West. He didn’t win all. Now we are talking of majority. The areas where Buhari won hands down are North West and North East. Ali Modu Sherriff should take note of that. Don’t forget I said the voters turn out is higher in the north than in the south. But a lot of the officials in INEC are from the north.
Are you in support of Atiku’s court case on the election matter?
I always support people to go to court because the court is the final arbiter. I do not want anybody to be shortchanged. He should go to the full extent of his opportunity.
Now that Buhari has been pronounced as the winner by INEC what do you think he should focus on this time around?
Even if Buhari is allowed to go the way it is, what he has only won, is political power and even if Atiku did not win the election he won economic power. The economic base of Nigeria voted for him. The oil producing areas of Nigeria voted for Atiku. What I am saying is that Buhari should not dismiss Atiku. No Nigerian can dismiss the support base of Atiku. You know when the Niger-Delta militants were active, how revenue went down in Nigeria; every local government was affected, not to talk of federal government institutions. So he needs to use that power of government very carefully. You cannot now order the military to go and shoot people in Rivers, Delta and Akwa Ibom at will. Whoever wants to do that, should think of the consequences.