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Prince Kassim Afegbua is one of the spokesmen for the PDP presidential campaign organisation. A former member of APC and commissioner for information in Edo state, he bares his mind on a number of issues bothering on the preparations for the 2019 elections. Bayo Akinloye presents the excerpts:
There’s been so much hoopla about the 2019 elections and the preparedness, the PDP. What fresh ideas are you bringing on board that would make Nigerians trust your party again?
It is not about what fresh ideas we are bringing aboard. It is about the commitment and determination to see through fresh ideas to make their impact felt by the people. The APC in less than four years has shown a manifest incapacity to manage the collective patrimony of the country. It has been running from pillar to post without any discernible policy framework to confront the developmental challenges threatening our very foundation. The PDP has the reach, network and spread across the country to recruit capable hands that would drive governance and the economy. It will create jobs, open up the space for more private sector involvement in the economy of the country. The business of government in contemporary times is to amongst other things create enabling environment for businesses to thrive, build the necessary infrastructure and provide security to safeguard the people’s investment. Once those critical infrastructure are in place, they would naturally stimulate enterprise. The level of insecurity now is alarming and quite frightening. The job losses in the last three years have remained the highest in the history of the country. We cannot continue to rotate on the same axis and expect different result. We must take deliberate actions that would responsibly address a couple of these challenges.
What different approach do you intend to apply to mitigate the scourge of insecurity in Nigeria?
Well, it is quite unfortunate that we have come to this sorry pass. A situation where killings have become the most visible item on the menu list of government engagement cannot in any way provoke development and investment. The PDP intends to overhaul the security architecture of the country in terms of personnel and technology. We will explore the technological resource to device ways and means to combat crimes and criminalities. We will carry out training and retraining in critical areas of counter-terrorism and motivate our security personnel with incentives that would make them committed to the task of securing the country. The security agencies under this government are working at cross purposes. There is no synergy and proper coordination. Information sharing is limited and the tendency for one agency to try to outshine the other has been most prevalence. Once such scenario exists, you cannot get the desired result.
This government of Muhammadu Buhari has shown clearly that it lacks the capacity to contend with insecurity and other developmental challenges across the country. The country is heavily polarised along ethnic and religious lines. This is a government of blood and killings. There is too much of bloodletting and mindless killings. We have become mourners on our land. We write condolence messages everyday to assuage the feelings of those who lost their dear ones. There is no feeling from government quarters because the response rate is often too empty and drab, and in some instance, almost non-existent. This government has shown clearly that it doesn’t have what it takes to manage our disparities and forge a common national agenda. An Atiku presidency will introduce new paradigms in combating insecurity in whatever form they come. Technology is a key resource that would be exploited to get cracking. This level of assassinations, wanton killings, bloodletting, and kidnappings should worry all of us. From Zamfara, through Kaduna to Plateau and Benue, rivers of blood are flowing on a regular basis. From Taraba to Yobe, Adamawa to Borno, it has become a theatre of war. For how long are we going to continue to lament over the failures of this government presided over by a slow and sluggish president whose wife told us has been hijacked by two similarly old men. We are in serious dilemma and we need everyone who has the love of the country at heart to join in this rescue mission.
There are those who hold the view that 2019 elections might be rigged like other elections. How do you react to that?
The 2019 elections should be the responsibility of all those who share in the national aspiration of the country to come out and vote against the continuation of this incompetent government. This is a government of nepotism, cronyism, favouritism and selective amnesia. This is a government of provincialism and prependalism. It is a government that divides rather than unite. It is a government that has created a wide gap between the rich and the poor. It is a government of unemployment, job losses and killer of initiatives. It is a government of insecurity, economic stagnation, moral atrophy, and socio-political axyphixiation. This government thrives on hypocrisy, lies and double standard. Therefore, the 2019 election will be a referendum against all the ills in the system namely, hunger, deprivations, extreme poverty, malnutrition, insecurity and mindless killings which have all become the central themes in the life of this administration. It is going to be a contest between the APC and the rest of Nigerians captured in other parties and several others who want good life for themselves. We cannot continue to celebrate under-employment, unemployment, and job losses as if nothing is amiss. We must rise in unison to ensure that the votes actually count to usher in a new dawn in the way and manner that elections are conducted in Nigeria. They will attempt to rig especially now that the APC is not campaigning, but with the resolve of the people, we will overcome them.
I asked this question against the backdrop of the fact that the president declined to sign into law the Electoral Act 2010 amendment bill a couple of weeks ago?
It wasn’t an amendment meant for the opposition. It was an amendment that was meant to strengthen the processes of election to make them credible, free and fair. It was an inclusive law that tended to provide answers to some of the nagging issues of electoral misconduct and electoral abuses. It was meant to checkmate certain infractions and procedures that are capable of producing faulty election outcomes. But the president preferred to apply selfish rules than taking an altruistic position with respect to free and fair election. Having been a beneficiary of an amended Electoral Act in 2015, he feels threatened that if this bill becomes law, it will checkmate the intention for rigging. We find the position taken by the President rather curious. On the one hand he talks about commitment for credible, free and fair election, on the other hand, he turns down the law that should give birth to that free and fair election, a law that should ordinarily have strengthened the processes. That’s why some of us question the so-called integrity of the President. It is sheer hypocrisy. Sheer double standard. But as partakers in the electoral process, we will continue to insist that the right things be done, we will mobilise our people to keep vigil on possible areas of manipulations by the ruling party that appears scared stiff as 2019 beckons.
You issued a statement accusing the APC of ‘hawking’ the 2023 presidency? What did you mean?
Well, the 2023 election is not our primary concern. It is also interesting that the president and vice president of the same government will be dishing out different promises to different zones for the sake of wooing them for votes. How can the president be promising the South-east and his Vice-president promising the South-west. That’s simply fraudulent. It was just our own way to alert members of the public particularly those from the two zones not to take them serious. It is sheer opportunism for the APC to use 2023 to trade across the zones when they know in their heart of hearts that only a particular zone can produce the president at one given time.
The APC has suddenly become a party of liars, full of deceits and dishonesty. It is ridiculous for the President to assure the South-east that it will be their turn when in actual fact his Vice-president is also assuring the South-west of same position. This is what you get when government lacks focus, lacks understanding of the prevailing issues, lacks honesty of purpose and cannot possibly rationalise what is right at every point in time. To them, it is a do or die for 2019, whether they concoct lies, manufacture fake narratives or pretend over anything, it doesn’t bother them. They are desperately trying to cook up fake assurances to get votes knowing full well they have performed abysmally low in the last three years. So, Nigerians must shine their eyes very well. We cannot allow a government of “baba go-slow” to occupy the center-stage of leadership at a time when we should be running to catch up with other countries across the world. This is not a time for trial and error. It is not a time for cabals to dictate the leadership pendulum.
But some Nigerians believe that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar cannot be trusted because of the corruption tag put on him. Isn’t that a problem for PDP?
I find it funny that the APC has been running this narrative for sometime now. Funny in the sense that when Atiku was in the APC prior to 2015, they were blind to such perception. He provided the APC funds, vehicles and private jet to facilitate the campaigns. He donated money and also donated his spokesman, Garba Shehu, who is now one of the presidential spokesmen. They grabbed his money, grabbed his logistics and celebrated his support. Suddenly because he now decides to contest the presidential election under the PDP, they opened all their mouths in condemnation. That’s sheer double standard and contradiction which has become the hallmark of the APC. The president and the APC are behaving like the Chichidodo bird, who feeds on maggots but hates the smell of faeces. But we all know maggots are products of excreta.
You said you are fighting corruption, Nigerians are dying in the hands of grinding poverty and excruciating hunger. Who does that? The end product of anti-corruption is better life for the people. But in President Buhari’s world, poverty and hunger are the end product of his anti-corrution crusade. When a man sees himself as holier than thou, he needs to be properly examined. It is not possible to have just one man to be a saint in a continent of sinners. The corruption in this government has become monumental but the pretense is what confuses the public. Go to Daura and see new houses springing up, and check the ownership of those houses, you will then know that this government is synonymous with corruption. Atiku is a wealth creator who has been in business for over three decades. We all know him to be a rich man and no one has indicted him for corruption. Nigerians would prefer to have a man who can manage men and resources to preside over the country than a man who is reputed to have 150 cows that never multiply to create further wealth.
Are you confident that INEC will conduct free and fair elections in 2019?
We are hoping they would conduct a free and fair election in 2019 given the calibre of the chairman, Professor Mahmood. But we are not going to sleep and expect that miracles would happen. We will monitor INEC and its officials to ensure that they follow the right course to deliver credible election for the country. We are still calling on the parliament to veto the Electoral Act amendment Bill to give ample opportunity and legal backing to some of the innovations being introduced in the process. The APC should actually be ashamed of itself. Priding itself as party of progressives, yet being afraid of doing what is right to strengthen the processes for credible election, is to me a most unfortunate thing. We will insist on the right things to be done and the 2019 election is one that has attracted local and foreign attention hence we do not think the INEC will fumble. The media has a role to play. The civil society has a role to play. Nigerians from all walks of life have their different roles to play, because when we get it right, the Nigerians will all celebrate.