Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
Two very politically active Nigerian nonagenarians have noted that the just concluded presidential election was characterised by an orchestrated disenfranchisement of voters in the strongholds of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Speaking with THISDAY on the process and outcome of the election, a former Liaison Officer to former President Shehu Shagari and a founding member of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), 92-year-old Alhaji Tanko Yakassai pointed out areas of irregularities and alleged disenfranchisement of opposition supporters.
In another reaction, 91-year-old leader of pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, bemoaned the electoral process, saying the outcome is not a true reflection of the wishes of the Nigerian electorate.
According to Yakassai, after receiving the result of the election, his observation was that it was a repetition of the election of 2015, which he said was characterised by religion, ethnicity and sectionalism. Though he noted that they are not present at the moment, but it seems that the elements that are in the mindset of the electorate, particularly in the north, are still working.
Yakassai stated that the manipulation in 2015 was based clearly on religion, ethnicity and sectionalism; Buhari was a northerner, Goodluck was a southerner; Buhari a Muslim, Goodluck a Christian; Buhari Hausa-Fulani, Jonathan is Ijaw and on top of that there was agitation for power shift, which generated tension and intimidation on the grounds that Jonathan did not allow the rotation started by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to complete its circle.
Noting that this time around, the two candidates are northern Muslims and both from Hausa-Fulani and the fact that the determining elements are no longer present, he said: “The strategy is still sectionalism, ethnicity and so on but the ethnicity did not play a strong role; religion did not play a strong role, but still, element of ethnicity played a role.
“The electoral commission is headed by someone appointed by Buhari and among them there are people who are closer to Buhari. They would not like him to lose. All these elements are there. So, what happened is that they changed their strategy. What they did is to down the voting ability of areas where PDP are in control, which is known to be three geopolitical zones — South-east, South-south and North-central and also boost the voting strength of APC support base, which is North-east and South-west.”
He said the result of the areas where PDP is strong registered lower voter turnout as compared to what was obtained in 2015, while the areas where the APC is stronger were given better opportunity to come out, adding that: “If you go through the analysis of the voter turnout, you will find out that the voter turnout in the South-east and South-south is much lower than the voter turnout in the North. So, the amount of votes secured by the APC percentage-wise is higher than they did in 2015 and the amount of vote secured by the PDP this time is far lower than what it has been in 2015.
“So, it is a manipulation of the process. They did it because they are in control of the process. Buhari and his supporters are the people who are in government and control the security operatives; they are in control of INEC, so the outcome goes their way.”
Admonishing Nigerians to retain their belief in the country and its potential, he said if Nigerians want to take over power from those working to preserve the status quo, it is best that they begin to work far ahead of time.
“We can’t give up. Nigeria is a very important country. Nigerians must work hard to sustain democracy because it is in the best interest of everybody. In Nigeria we need each other and all of us need democracy so that we can actualise the potentials of the country for the benefit of all.”
Advising his northern kinsmen, who he acknowledged has the larger chunk of the Nigerian population, the elder statesman said it is high time Northerners realised that democracy would serve their interests better, stressing that: “To do that you have to fight their illiteracy and poverty.
“If you were in the North on the day of the election, you will be surprised how votes were bought at peanuts; N500 per vote; people lined up and it was done openly. Security people looked the other way. You cannot arrest thousands of people without the help of the security. If they are not there to help you, what can you do? Vote buying took place all over the place without any problem.”
Asked what is his reaction to the election and the result declared by INEC, Adebanjo said: “There is no other reaction. I condemn the election. It was brazenly rigged and criminally aided by the military. This is not an election. At everywhere the opposition is strong you go and create violence there and cancel the result and then you want to say that is a reliable result? If they had won openly, well, the people would have deserved the government they get but that is not under this circumstances. This is a criminally rigged election.
“We saw the stream of teenagers voting in the north. They used card readers in the south, not in the north and then you came with bulk posts. And you see any rational man that says that is an election. It is not acceptable!”
According to him, the fight to get Nigeria right is left to the younger generation from all over the country to emancipate themselves, saying: “Where the country is going now, I don’t know.”
He was particularly unhappy that the rule of law is not respected.
He noted with disdain that when President Buhari was asked if he would congratulate the opponent if he wins, the president said “I will congratulate myself.”