Former Governor of Kogi State, Chief Clarence Olafemi tells Yekini Jimoh that the All Progressives Congress is jittery over the increasing popularity of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state
Why have you chosen to be in Atiku’s camp?
Alhaji Abubakar Atiku is one of the rare persons God has given to us in this country. He demonstrated it when he had the opportunity as Vice President between 1999 and 2007.
Since he left office, he has been trying to be the president of this country, first because as an insider during the Chief Obasanjo’s regime, he has acquired knowledge on how to govern this country.
As the Vice President, there are one or two things he could have done, but as second-in-command he cannot do it. If he becomes the Number One, he will have the capacity to improve on the governance of Nigeria. In my personal interaction, he told me how he encouraged his children to remain in this country and as such, he will never allow or support any thing that can plunge the country into war.
Atiku is a man who has a great acumen in the area of business and he has been controlling chains of businesses within the country successfully. He has also created enormous jobs for Nigerians.
So he knows how to grow the country economy. If he can manage his businesses, there is no doubt that he will be able to manage Nigeria’s economy effectively to become one of the best in Africa.
In terms of security, he once told me his personal view on how to constitute a very vibrant and viable security outfit in this country. I was convinced. If you have an interaction with him you can easily be convinced.
Some of us are really worried about where Nigeria is today compared to where we anticipated the country should be when we were voting for this present government, which we hoped would bring the desired change to the people of this nation.
Atiku and I were among the forces that brought President Buhari to power and we had a lot of expectations that convinced us that we must change the government of PDP at that time.
Unfortunately, after four years we seem to be helpless and hopeless because we have a clueless government that has no solution to any problem of this country.
Coming to the area of unemployment, there is a clear evidence today that over 30 million Nigerians that are capable and strong to be employed are out of job. They have no jobs and in my own little way I have four of my children with masters’ degrees in various viable disciplines like petroleum engineering , information technology, industrial management, but they have no job.
It is pathetic and the alarming rate of unemployment is what has given birth to armed robbery, kidnapping and ritual killing because people must survive. If there are jobs, I don’t think someone will risk his life in carrying guns for robbery and people will not kidnap because they know the implications. If they have jobs they will rather go out and display their skills and earn money.
I hear that the rate at which children drop out of school is growing astronomically into millions and we have a new phrase called Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) which is strange to Nigerians. This came up as a result of bad government. It came up as a result of a clueless government. We expected that by now, all these anomalies should have been fixed and the government would have start reversing the trend.
Even if the present government claims to have inherited all these mess, we voted him to stop whatever was bad and to start reversing it for us. But the government started growing it negatively which is why the suffering is becoming endemic to the level that Nigerians can no longer bear.
How many families can boast of feeding three times daily? How many parents can conveniently pay school fees for their children without passing through hell?
That is why whatever it will cost us legitimately and legally to change the government we will not hesitate to do it in the interest of suffering Nigerians. This government has brought so much suffering and hunger that people have never witnessed since Nigeria’s independence.
One bag of rice was N8000 when this present government inherited governance from the PDP administration. Today it cost over N19,000. Every consumable item in the country has tripled in price to the detriment of the masses whose take home pay remains the same. In some states, salaries are no longer regular.
Malnutrition has entered Nigeria. We must reverse poverty. We must reverse hunger. These threats should be expunged from the country before it degenerate to an unbearable situation. With the level of wealth, potential and the population of this country, we seem to be totally at a loss in finding solutions to all these problems. That is why I am earnestly supporting Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. I have not seen an alternative for now.
We must change this government and bring to power somebody who will give us a better performance in terms of economic development, in terms of food security, in terms of security of lives and property and the only person that can do that among the candidates vying for the position is Atiku that is why I am supporting him come rain, come sunshine.
As the Atiku Abubakar Presidential campaign director for Kogi state, how will you shoulder this herculean task considering the political situation in the state?
To you it is a big responsibility, but for me it is a very familiar responsibility. In 2008, I was the Governor of Kogi state when election was cancelled. I was charged to ensure that PDP wins the election. I had no campaign council and in the history of elections in Kogi state, that was first time the state had a candidate winning with a figure of over 600,000 votes while the opponent had over 120,000.
I supervised and directed all the affairs of that election which was adjudged as one of the most peaceful elections in the state. Also in 2015, I was a member of presidential campaign council of the APC in-charge of Kogi state.
Meetings and planning were done in my house and we defeated the sitting PDP marginally with over 361,000 votes against over 130,000 votes. The new responsibility given to me is a familiar job and I think the PDP has put a round peg in a round hole by asking me to do the job.
I have accepted to do it for two reasons, first because of my principal, the man I believe in and trust. We went together to APC. I was his campaign director for Kogi and we defeated all aspirants, again went together to PDP I was his campaign director and he won. When you combine all these facts, you will see that it is normal to continue my support for Atiku.
I am appealing to Governor Yahaya Bello who is the chief security officer of this state to take a look at the Nigeria constitution that spell out clearly that every security issue in the state lies squarely on his shoulders and he owes the state that great obligation to make sure that elections are peaceful and the will of the people is allowed to prevail.
He must write an undertaking that as the chief security officer of the state, he will allow Kogi elections to be free and fair. It will not do him any good to allow innocent blood to be shed because of election.
The people of Kogi state are watching with keen interest to see how the governor will handle the security of the state because nobody has the monopoly of violence. Let that be said loud and clear, that all political parties in the state need a level playing ground for all the participating parties. He should discourage violence of any type.
What is your comment of the electoral amendment bill which the president has declined to sign into law?
His refusal to sign the amended bill is an impeachment offence because the first question we should ask is why do we have a legislative arm? The major responsibility of the legislature is to look at events the way it unfolds especially in the past and to correct the anomalies by making laws that will improve on it and once the National Assembly has done the amendment, the president should sign into law.
Nigerians are craving for free, fair and creditable 2019 general elections, therefore the National Assembly has taken a look at those areas that can hamper the quest of the people and those areas of concern are; accreditation and voting after some hours, in this process some people may not come back to cast their votes and the amendment now is to do accreditation and voting simultaneously which is a good amendment to correct the past problem.
Secondly, there are scientific ways of doing things nowadays because to make elections credible which led to the introduction of card readers to determine the genuine voters. Nigerians also seek for the removal of incidence forms which can also give rise to rigging and somebody there said no because he wants to continue rigging.
If you insist on only card readers, let the card reader be linked to a system that will record the votes that is being cast directly online to a central collation centre and somebody. They are looking for opportunities to perpetrate rigging.
I have not seen anything extraordinary in the amendment presented to the president, but he wants to throw the bath water and the baby away without considering its implications.
If we are trying to avoid violence and the ingredients for tackling the crises are jettisoned because of personal interest then we are not ready for the positive change Nigerians crave.
Honestly, this situation is so bad and unfortunately it will be difficult for the National Assembly to get the two-third to override the president as spelt out by the constitution, but there is no patriotism in Nigeria where legislatures will see reason to vote even against their party.
Imagine, INEC has made a statement that they will use the old electoral laws which means in the last four years we have not been able to correct any error in our electoral process, it is unbelievable!
This is a clear indication that the APC government is not sensitive to the need to improve the lot of Nigerians. We must grow the country and we must not stagnate the nation for personal interests.
What is your comment on the perceived clampdown on some prominent personalities in opposition parties by the ruling party?
When we were in the APC then as an opposition party nobody searched my house and we were free to hold meetings in any part of Kogi state. I was free to use my personal office to campaign for Muhammadu Buhari then and nobody ran after me. What they are doing now is an invitation to chaos. We will not be perturbed because a political party that knows it can win elections will never indulge in a war.
I am appealing to members of the PDP not to retaliate any attack or nasty behaviour from the ruling party because people are already tired of their antics. We must build a security that nobody can abort the elections. The elections must hold because it is sacrosanct to Nigerians.
It is a simple fact that Nigeria as a country is greater than any individual and Nigeria is too large to be plunged into a war by few individuals who do not believe in the unity of the nation. We will not allow anything evil to happen in Nigeria because no country in Africa can help us if the goes up in flames.
The international community has a big role to play in the 2019 elections. The way they persuaded President Jonathan to accept defeat in 2015 election, they should also come in a harder way to persuade President Buhari and his people to allow a free and fair election in the interest Nigerians.
The issue of security in Kogi State is paramount and we must hold Governor Bello fully accountable. We have received signals that APC in the state is out for violence.
Senator Dino Melaye’s posters in all Yagba West including Koto has been destroyed which is not ideal. A responsible government will not condone or tolerate such actions.
The other time it was Senator Ogembe in Ebiraland holding a peaceful meeting and he was attacked. He was giving out tokens of empowerment to his people they went there and attacked him.
The most recent is the attack on Barrister Natasha Okpoti the candidate of Social Democratic Party for senatorial election, it is sad because the whole world is watching us. Kogi state has been existing since 1991 and we have been holding peaceful elections.
The governor has to stop his supporters from unleashing terror on the opposition parties otherwise we will hold him responsible for whatever happens in the state.